750$ Intel NUC vs $6000 Aurender N200: I don't hear the difference

I finally plunged into the source is as important as the DAC belief that is quite prevalent here and decided to test out Aurender N200. And given I have a very highend DAC, thought if the N200 pans out I would go for the N20 or N30.


I was expecting the N200 to blow away my Intel NUC which is 10th gen, core i7, 8GB and running Roon Rock BUT I am switching back and forth between USB playing the Roon Rock, and Co-axial playing Aurender N200, and I don't hear much of a difference maybe a hair, or not even that.


A few caveats: 1) Roon Rock is playing Quboz, N200 is playing Tidal (I am unable to get Qobuz login to the N200 for reason I don't understand).

2) I am comparing Coaxial on N200, USB on Roon Rock.

Caveat #2 can be ignored because I don't hear a difference between Coaxial and USB output of N200.


So either this is an "Emperor has no clothes" moment or I am missing something big. Any thoughts on what I might be missing before I send this N200 back to the dealer on Monday.


Rest of my system: Nagra TUBE DAC -> Accuphase E-650 -> Devore O96 and all Acoustic Revive wiring. 


@audphile1 That could have been clearer, I agree :) I had just typed it all out in the etherregen forum on AS. I might as well copy and paste it here too. 12 hours later it still amazes me the size of the sound improvement; and I thought I had good noise free internet!


"I first posted my listening impressions here 2 years ago, only 2 pages ago (page 57). Not much action since then I see. I have made many changes in my system last year: I since acquired a newer better built version of hypex amplifier, a better power conditioner, a higher resolving DAC, and have some more expensive and better sounds cables. 


Additionally, regarding the streaming/etheregen I previously simply had an Amazon cat 6 cable from router to etheregen, then cat 6 direct to DAC. I now have cat 5 to Cisco 2960 from the router, then optical to etherregen, then Audio Sensibility Supra ethernet to my Weiss 501. The etherregen is also powered by a Plixir BDC connected with an Audio Sensiblity copper DC cable. 


I had the Plixir LPS kicking around after selling my exasound player, so I decided to keep it and try it on the etheregen before selling it. I most recently added optical line as many have claimed it improving SQ. The DC cable that came with the Plixir didn't fit in the etheregen, so I ordered one from Audio Sensibility. 


With my new DAC I thought possibly it does a better job filtering compared to the older DAC, as this higher-end DAC has its own in house built power supply and renderer, so anything else in front of it might not be needed. So I just decided to unplug the etheregen/Plixir/optical/AS cat cable and go direct from the Cisco switch with the cat 6 cable to the Weiss and compare. 


Well turns out I'm keeping everything. I am shocked. The difference is HUGE. I just read my post from 2 years ago, I stated yes it made a difference, but it wasn't huge. I have since thought to myself over the past 2 years for the $700 US yes it made a noticeable difference, perhaps significant in how it smoothed out the treble, but I always thought a $700 upgrade in cables may have been money better spent. 


Keep in mind I didn't just buy this and post 2 hours later saying "OMG, this is night and day!" like we read from posters many times. I have owned this etherregen and it has been plugged in my system for 2 years,  🙂 But I will restate- it is unbelievable what a difference it makes. 


Track: LIberty by Anette Askvik: it takes about 3 seconds to hear the difference- with the etheregen (etc.) the song begins with there is swirling of sounds, finely resolved drums and various other percussion, in 3d space, and then her voice is beautifully and naturally rendered in space. The sax sounds sublime. Exceptional recording. With ER and everything removed the whole soundstage collapses- it becomes 2D-  the swirling is gone, there is just so much less to hear- her voice is sibilant and much less realistic. The sax first seems like it has more air, but the 'air' is distortion-poorly resolved air, and it no longer suspends itself in its own space, it falls flat. Seriously, it is obvious in mere seconds. If anything I thought it would be much harder to discern any differences. Now, it is not just a layer of grunge getting removed, but the whole soundstage undergoes a massive change, and with the ER/attachments my DAC goes from sounding like a $1000 player to the $10000 player it is supposed to sound like. 


Here is another way to define the difference: that track Liberty, using just Amazon cat 6, I listen, and about half way though I have the desire to stop it and put on a more familiar track. With the ER/Plixir/fibre I listen from start to finish, and then have the desire to listen to the track again. And again. So much more music is gained- so much more engaging. 


I am not inclined to see which part contributes to what particular percentage of overall improvement (etherregen 70%, LPS 20%, optical 5% Cisco 5% etc. ) I just wanted to know that this money spent for these streaming "tweaks" or components positively affect the sound quality compared to not having them. Yes, unequivocally! 


So I am happy! First because my ears are better than I thought they might be, and because I trusted many in this thread and bought this switch. Like we all know, the higher the quality and more resolving one's system the easier it is to hear differences. And I keep reading from those with much more experience than I, when it comes to streaming "everything matters".  "






I’m sure it was unintentional but you misrepresented my position.  I absolutely agree that different DACs sound different, and that the oft-cited measurements of DACs (e.g., by ASR) are woefully inadequate to accurately representing the complexity of the differences in sound.  But the process involving streamers - right up to where a data stream is introduced to the DAC - strikes me as fundamentally different.  There’s digital data, there’s jitter, and other sources of noise, and for these, there are rather straightforward measures.  I base this on my review of a significant number of what I believe to be credible sources - engineers, designers, etc. - who are infinitely smarter than me on the topic.  


I don’t think saying “everything matters” is a rigorous first principle.  A/B comparisons are really, really hard; aural memory sucks; confirmation bias is real.  I don’t fault people who think they hear differences where I doubt they exist.  I believe they are earnest and well-meaning.  We make these same mistakes in all walks of life - our views of people, politics, sports.  But I’m a big believer in starting from a shared set of facts - truths if you will - and I see an opportunity for one here.  So while our failure to come to agreement on this one isn’t a threat to democracy, I do thing it’s a lost opportunity.  

So let’s just agree to disagree, and agree not to move towards tribalism.  (Not saying you were, btw.)  And thanks for your engagement with me, and more importantly, the op. 

 @mclinnguy, you needn’t go all crazy reclocking the signal from your router to your music server if you don’t need to. I put two relatively inexpensive network switches between my CAT6 router and my server, and it really took away any trace of digital glare and harshness that makes streaming music sound less analog than when listening to records or music on tape.


So why am I doing this? Curiosity and the pursuit of better sound.... .........The sound of streaming is top notch- very, very good. I even put a high end power cord on the LPS and heard a difference. I can’t imagine the sound getting better, but I have to know.... ..How good can it get? I want to know.

That is called being an audiophile.

Let us know how your impressions of the K50. Looking forward to it. I am jealous. (well, if it sounds better that is :)

Curiously- why the K50 over the N20? Or other?