About ready to give up on Roon and my streamer


Last December I started a thread to address the question of whether a true AES/EBU cable would sound better than a standard XLR when connecting my Sonnet Morpheus DAC to a Sonnet Hermes streamer. As the discussion evolved, (and in the end I abandoned both connections in favor of I2S via ethernet cable) I began sharing my trials and tribulations setting up Roon and getting it to work. Though I was finally successful and did get to spend some quality time streaming favorite music through Qobuz on the Roon platform, I've never been entirely happy with the sound. Apart from the headaches of getting everything to connect together every time I turn it on, I've also experienced some bizarre intermittent sound quality issues with Roon that I'm becoming very frustrated with. Sometimes it sounds pretty good, and sometimes it sounds tinny, shrill, and no stereo image. I haven't changed any settings anywhere, but something's clearly not getting processed correctly. At this point I'm tired of fighting with it.

What I'd really like to do is take Roon out of the equation entirely and connect directly to Qobuz through a streamer, but the Sonnet Hermes is designed to be a Roon endpoint and as far as I can tell, nothing more. If there's a way to get it to connect directly to Qobuz, I'd surely like to know about it. 

Meanwhile, I'm happy to take suggestions for a streamer in the $1K to 1.5K range (new or used, happy with either) that can do this. I really don't want anything with a built-in DAC, as I'm really happy with mine, despite some minor shortcomings in its array of input connections. 

Advice greatly appreciated. Thanks!

cooper52

Updating the update: I’ve put some significant hours into this now, and I assume the Innous streamer has sufficient hours on it and it’s burned in and sounding as it should. However, my complaints about what I’m hearing remain unchanged. There are some things the streamer does really well, like its expansive image and a sound that’s somewhat more fleshed-out than CDs portray in my system. Transients are rendered exceptionally well--drums and percussion are realistic and sharply defined, and the bass is tightly controlled. The spatial placement of musical events is very precise (especially through headphones). So where’s the problem? Things begin to fall apart at about the frequencies where vocals live. Here the sound becomes glassy, occasionally shrill, and more forward than it should be. High frequencies generally (like violins, flutes, etc.) can be piercing, and if the music gets loud or dense as in many orchestral pieces, there’s a noticeable loss of composure. The sound actually becomes fuzzy (I hear this as actual distortion) with the musical events all bleeding together in a gelatinous blob. Yet weirdly, through all of this, the things that the streamer does really well, as described above, it STILL does really well. It’s just that upper frequency range that it can’t seem to control. (FYI, my previous streamer, the Sonnet Hermes acted basically the same.)

I tried Tidal for a short time to see if Qobuz might be the issue here, but they both sounded about the same as far as I could tell. So I’m sticking with Qobuz for now. Is there a weak link in my system somewhere here? The PulseMini is wired via ethernet cable from my AT&T router (300 MBPS fiberoptic internet) over a length of about 35 ft. using CAT5e cable. There’s an ethernet switch at the other end which also connects the TV and the Roku box. As far as I know, none of the cable is shielded (I might be wrong about this though). Would upgrading to CAT6 or higher and using shielded cable make any difference?

Truly not sure where to go from here, so I’d be grateful for any thoughts you may have. Thanks!

cooper52 OP

Things begin to fall apart at about the frequencies where vocals live. Here the sound becomes glassy, occasionally shrill, and more forward than it should be. High frequencies generally (like violins, flutes, etc.) can be piercing, and if the music gets loud or dense as in many orchestral pieces, there’s a noticeable loss of composure. The sound actually becomes fuzzy (I hear this as actual distortion) with the musical events all bleeding together in a gelatinous blob.

 

You’ve described digititus. Solution includes: power conditioning, separating digital from analog, LPS’s, etc. Search for more here.

Are you still using a PC to run Roon Core? If so, I’d consider something like a SonicTransporter from Small Green Computer.

You might also experiment with Logitech Media Server instead of Roon. I’m pretty sure the Innuos is compatible via Squeezelite. You’d have to give up Roon’s wonderful interface, but it could improve upon the sound quality. The LMS “Material” skin is quite good as a controller for LMS, runs right from your browser.

I've jettisoned Roon from the chain and am connecting to Qobuz directly through the Innuos Sense App, using a Samsung tablet. That was the principal reason for trading the Sonnet Hermes for the Innuos Pulse Mini. While I do miss the Roon interface, it's just one more paid subscription than I really need.

As for digititis, well, this problem only occurs with streaming in my system. Other digital media (CDs, DVDs, BluRays, and anything that comes through the Roku box) do not exhibit this problem and in fact sound really good unless the recording quality was bad to begin with (e.g. any number of YouTube videos). I have perfectly sufficient power conditioning--Furman Elite PFi15 and Core Power Deep Core on a dedicated circuit. Power cables are all upgraded and are definitely up to the job. 

I'm convinced that there's a weak link somewhere in the chain, but I just don't know what it is. Thanks, Steakster, for the discussion forum links. I'm still reading through those.

 

Maybe the expansion slot you're using for I2S / USB is defective since you're getting the same result as before. Try SPDIF between the Pulse Mini and the DAC and see if you hear the same thing.