why expensive streamers

@soix and others

I am unclear about the effect on sound of streamers (prior to getting to the dac). Audio (even hi-res) has so little information content relative to the mega and giga bit communication and processing speeds (bandwidth, BW) and cheap buffering supported by modern electronics that it seems that any relatively cheap piece of electronics would never lose an audio bit. 

Here is why. Because of the huge amount of BW relative to the BW needs of audio, you can send the same audio chunk 100 times and use a bit checking algorithm (they call this "check sum") to make sure just one of these sets is correct. With this approach you would be assured that the correct bits would be transfered. This high accuracy rate would mean perfect audio bit transfer. 

What am I missing? Why are people spending 1000's on streamers?



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I have noticed a paradox among audiophiles lately: They place a tremendous emphasis on the streamer over the DAC. I run a $5K streamer into a $19K DAC. I would never do the converse; the DAC is the heart of the digital system. 

A little anecdote:

While visiting a nearby retailer who is a "straight shooter," I asked him about his home system ($125K) and digital setup. He chuckled and said his streamer is a Bluesound! He laughed at my expression! He sells far higher-priced streamers than that and has many choices at his fingertips. That was enough said for me. 


Within the context of my digital music playback system, which involves using Roon to stream Tidal and Qobuz, and to play stored music files, my hierarchy of  differences I hear is:

  • Server/Roon core: almost no differences heard between servers
  • Fiber optic vs. Ethernet: little to subtle sonic differences at most, but not reliably discerned
  • Switches, on-line tweaks, and decrapifiers: no reliably heard differences
  • Streamer/Roon endpoint: more substantial sonic differences and the ability for some streamers to significantly improve sound quality
  • DDC: Little to subtle sonic differences noted, at most
  • Digital cables including USB:  small differences between coax, AES/EBU, and USB, but very little to no differences between different cables of the same type 
  • DAC: Each displays its own sonic flavor and can sound substantially different from each other

In summary, I have noted differences in the sound of streamers and DACs, but not  much with anything else in the digital chain.

I don't have a streamer or a DAC and I am absolutely clueless but based on what it does, it sounds like the only reason why cheap streamers sound worse than expensive ones is because they are poorly designed and "create" issues. There should be no noise, no timing issues, a streamer just moves packages like a conveyor belt at the airport. The software would have only one way to put the packages together, in either a 500 dollar or 5000 dollar streamer. 

But again, that's just my wearing an IT hat, knowing nothing about music streamers.