Add External DAC or Upgrade to a New Streamer / DAC?

So upgrade-itis has struck again and I'm looking to improve my digital front end. Right now I am using the HiFi Rose RS250 (Quobuz - Roon - Ethernet - HiFiRose) which is fed into a PrimaLuna Evo 400 Integrated into GoldenEar Triton One.Rs Cardas and Wireworld interconnects and cables. My question is this. In order to achieve a marked improvement in digital sound quality (and being that I enjoy the look and interface of the Rose) is there an external DAC you would recommend running the Rose through (as cost effective as possible - pre-owned or demo preferred) or is there a Streamer / Dac combo product that would be the smarter upgrade move. I'd appreciate any input / advice. Thanks!


I’m unfortunately not a fan of Hifi Rose units. They look sexy, but the comprehensiveness of their builds internally are lackluster, and it’s easy to see what you’re not getting (because the innards are basically empty). This means no high quality power supply, cheap clocking, etc.

I am a big fan of separates, but if you do go the separates route, you should also be prepared to look into a streamer upgrade down the line. My favorite DAC that doesn’t break the bank is the Audio Mirror Tubadour IV SE. You may find one on the used market, but even for $3500 new, they are a steal. Other DACs I would recommend fall over the $7K range (e.g. T+A DAC 200).

For combination units, my current pick is the Cambridge Audio EDGE NQ, which for $5450 MSRP has a Roon-ready streamer, quality DAC, and very high quality analog output stage (similar to Class A circuitry) and power supply. While it is also a preamplifier, the volume stage can be defeated and set to line out. The noise floor is incredibly low, and I have no hesitations recommending this unit at its price range. Otherwise my next suggestion would be the Aurender A15 at $8400 MSRP.

I should also mention that the Cambridge EDGE NQ was recently named one of the best preamps with DACs $5K and under by The Absolute Sound. Of course, since the time of publishing, the unit did increase in price slightly:

For standalone streamer units, my favorite bang for the buck, near endgame unit is the Aurender N200 at $6300 MSRP. It will have a much higher quality linear power supply, improved clocking, and better design overall that results in a wider, deeper, more holographic soundstage and lower noise floor.

I am an authorized dealer for Aurender and Cambridge Audio and have chosen these lines based on extensive listening. I’ve helped a number of folks on this forum and would be happy to help field any other questions you may have. Feel free to PM me to chat.


Thank you Juan that's some good information I might PM with some questions thanks for taking the time.

What specific improvements are you looking for and what’s your budget?

I'd say I'm looking for a fuller sound. I have a modest vinyl setup and if I play it with a quality record through the same system there's a substantial improvement (to my ears) in sound so I know what's possible with the rig. So the best way to describe it would be trying to achieve a richer, fuller sound with the convenience of using Quobuz / Roon. If I could get a decent jump in sound quality with a 3500 to 4000 DAC (with an eye toward eventually upgrading the streaming source later) I would be happy. If I would need to spend much more than that for a marked improvement I would have to hold out a while and save (or sell the Rose and put toward a DAC / streamer combo).

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Yeah, the ESS SABRE DAC in your Rose is doing you no favors whatsoever. Sounds like a good R2R DAC is in your future. Here’s a nice example and would be a huge upgrade in what you’re looking for…

Here a review that might be helpful in discerning its sound characteristics in case it might be helpful…

Best of luck in your search.

I would definitely recommend separating the streamer and DAC function. Choose well and they will sound great and make future upgrades much easier. 

Two rules of thumb that I find useful. Only true if you do your homework and identify the best at the price range that are compatible both with your system and sonic values.

Overall system components are best roughly around the same value. So for instance Streamer = DAC = Preamp = amp. If integrated amp divide by two. My current system has my amp and streamer 20% more than my DAC and preamp… 20% is not much… see below.

Upgrades are successful when 2x or more in cost. So say $2K —> $4K. Less than this you can be left with a sideways move and disappointment.



soix thank you for your reply. I've been researching that Terminator it's in budget and seems like a promising option since I'm gathering that separates are the wisest way to go here and that piece would pair well with a future streamer upgrade as well. ghdprentice thank you for your thoughts on your formula for budgeting components. I've made a couple sideways moves in the past which is extremely irritating and is kind of why I started the thread to learn from people more experienced. The two comments complement each other and are helpful thank you both I appreciate your time.


The combination of the N200 and Terminator II 12th is killer.  I run that combination with the exception that my Terminator is the prior edition.  SQ is as good or better than my recently departed analog rig which cost more.

A better dac will get you better sound than getting a better streamer. Keep your streamer in a different room and don’t use usb. This will boil down your options

So even the Auralic all in one streamer/dac sounds good, but maybe even separate dac there would sound even better. I don’t know, anyone know about that?


My question is this. In order to achieve a marked improvement in digital sound quality (and being that I enjoy the look and interface of the Rose) is there an external DAC you would recommend running the Rose through (as cost effective as possible - pre-owned or demo preferred) or is there a Streamer / Dac combo product that would be the smarter upgrade move.

HiFi Rose RS250 (Quobuz - Roon - Ethernet - HiFiRose) which is fed into a PrimaLuna Evo 400 Integrated into GoldenEar Triton One.Rs Cardas and Wireworld interconnects and cables.

you would need to describe in some useful detail the nature of sonic improvement you hope to gain from the move you are asking about... your system has a number of arguably positive synergistic pieces in place... sharp sounding front end into a mellow-ish tube amp, into fairly well balanced speakers... so where you want to go with the sound?

there are several variables... one would be to remove the cardas cable and gain more transparency and apparent treble detail... another would be to go to a solid state amplifier to gain slam and cleaner attack in how livelier types of music would play

as usual the more info you provide, the better chance you will get useful, targeted advice on changing equipment cost effectively

I think that you could do either and I was definitely in the camp of just purchasing a new dac when I was ready to upgrade my music streaming. I talked to several people and salespeople when shopping and the hands down recommendation was that a streamer should have its own dac. I ultimately went this route and I’m now thankful that I did. I think I got superior performance in all areas and have a unit where I can also use its upgraded dac. Some streamers don’t allow you to use its dac so if that’s important to you look for one that does. Just a a side note my short list were Innuos, Lumin, and Esoteric, all fine components. I ultimately went with the Esoteric and I’m so glad that I did! Good luck.

Good discussion. I am drawn to the broad capabilities and the interface of the hi-fi rose. I’m curious if people think it is a good streaming option, worthy of keeping in play with an external DAC.  

Do people think the HiFi Rose 150, at twice the price, is a better streaming and DAC option?

Bliss, I was just looking at the Aurender N200.  Can it be used as a stand alone streamer with input from wired internet and then output to the amp with RCA's?  It looks like it only has usb and coax.


Gemoody, I asked the same question to Upscale and was told that the components are better so lower noise - although at double the price.  I would also like to find an upgrade, but I don't really need the 4k video screen that is on the rs150.  I just want better sound.  I use Tidal and use a wired connection from the router into my McIntosh 352 amp.


OP, when you say you are looking for a "fuller sound" it reminds me of some problems I was having with my room.

In my room, I wanted more fullness. There were some drop-outs (nulls) which I was able to specify and then address using room analysis software and microphone. I then made some adjustments to speaker positioning and room contents (including bookshelves and some room treatments). Changes to those factors were substantial and they allowed me to go ahead and compare gear confident that it was the gear which was now the thing-to-be-changed (or not).

Have you got your room as good as you can and have you measured it, would be my question.

Thank you for the feedback everyone it is incredibly helpful to have all this information in one place to help steer research and decision making. It sure beats the never-ending rabbit-hole of Googling endless articles that contradict one another and are borne of difficult to discern motivation. 



Many keen observations there. The synergy of the Primaluna with the GoldenEars is very good for basically the exact reasons you mentioned. It plays out in reality the way you explained it in theory. I've gotten there through a lot of trial and error with different pieces so I'm happy with those. In terms of Cardas I like those cables with the turntable and the Kimber Kable with the digital. To answer your question specifically, I'm at the point where I'm ready to really improve either my vinyl or digital front end but I only have the funds for one. I'm going digital for numerous reasons including OCD tendencies and funds. I can afford a good dac now to pair with the Rose. Or I could save for a better streamer / dac. After the input here I'm leaning toward separate dac. I actually prefer the sound of vinyl overall. My ears are a bit sensitive to very crisp sound especially treble. So what I'm trying to improve is the richness / fullness / warmth / smoothness of the digital. As close to the stereotypical attributes of good vinyl sound as possible with the variety and convenience of Quobuz / Roon.  




Thanks for the question and observation. I have done a ton setting up the room. It's not perfect but it's definitely as good as I can get it. My modest vinyl front end is letting me hear the system is capable of a lot more with a better digital front end so that's what I'm trying to capture. 

Keep the streamer and DAC separate, and sell the Rose and upgrade your streamer when you get the chance.  You’ll be much better off. 


i have not had a hifirose unit in my own system, but it seems that pretty much all reviews of hifirose gear points out that this brand of gear voices their sound on the leaner/clear/crisp side - this is also consistent with the typical sound of a dac section using ess sabre d/a chipset and standard solid state output stage implementation

given the above (and i agree it is more cost effective to upgrade the digital front end these days than a similar good sounding analog front end, so i support your choosing to improve the digital), i would suggest using your hifirose unit as a streamer and feed one of several possible candidate dacs

-- mhdt orchid (modded if possible, but the standard unit is perfectly fine to try)

-- denafrips pontus

-- audio mirror tubador

all three should have a notably warmer tonality, a richness to the sound, without sacrificing too much in the way of treble detail and effortless resolution compared to your hifirose dac section

each of the above appear on the used sites fairly often and can be purchased and resold pretty easily (if necessary) if the trial does not lead to a sound you desire - i especially like the orchid (or similar mhdt tube buffered dacs, they have several models) since you can affect the sound additionally through easy tube rolling

other point i would make is to make sure your internet feed is reasonably well cleansed coming to the streamer... there are plenty of threads on this on this forum, there are numerous cost effective options to do this

good luck have fun

Streamer is a computer and needs to be evaluated as such - mostly by features available in software. DAC is evaluated on quality of a single function it does - digital to analog conversion. Software and features are changing much more often, that is why it makes more sense to separate streamer and DAC. But with that separation you should choose streamer with USB output and DAC with USB input. If there is not USB and you have to use AES/SPDIF/TOSLINK, then to deliver bits perfectly from streamer to DAC you need to choose DAC that has master clock OUTPUT and streamer with master clock INPUT. This is the only solution (other than USB) to make streamer slave to DAC clock.

Ap1-not true. Like others that have stated above, The best interfaces to a dac are Ethernet and i2s. Most dacs don’t include these interfaces except for the better ones. Toslink would be good except it limits what can be sent thru it. Nobody uses coax anymore. Most people will use usb even though it’s flawed, so the user ends up buying all the gimmicks/tweaks to try to make usb better. You don’t see femto clocks, reclock pieces, or usb splitters to separate the power from the data on Ethernet or i2s.

If you’re into reading reviews, check out some of the latest dac reviews where the reviewer stated Ethernet sounded better than usb. Also some of the more expensive dacs don’t even come with usb, as others have stated and documented in reviews.

I2S is equivalent of SPDIF from clocking perspective and only appropriate when DAC supplies clock signal to streamer.

The only audio transport for Ethernet is AES67/Dante. There are not many DACs supporting it on the market and even less number of streamers. In Dante based networks clock distribution is even bigger issue and today likely requires ASRC feature inside DAC to minimize jitter.

@ap1 :

If there is not USB and you have to use AES/SPDIF/TOSLINK, then to deliver bits perfectly from streamer to DAC you need to choose DAC that has master clock OUTPUT and streamer with master clock INPUT. This is the only solution (other than USB) to make streamer slave to DAC clock.

Very interesting. Maybe I got this wrong, but you are saying:

1) If using USB from streamer to DAC, they are synced in terms of clocking, as the clock in the DAC is used

2) If using AES/EBU or S/PIDF or Toslink, then the clock on streamer is used, and no sync exists between the streamer and DAC


Is this correct?

For #2, what you are proposing as a solution is practically impossible (or hard at best). It would require the DAC to have a 10 MHz master reference clock output and the streamer to have a master clock input. Or both of them having a master clock input and using a third, external 10 MHZ Master Clock generator device 




I had the rs250 streamer/dac for almost a year and decided to add Gustard R26 external  dac.  The soundstage and clarity is obvious and  noticable . I can listen my music at lower volume with the R26 with better sound quality.  I sold the rs 250 for trying Roon with smallgreencomputer combo on the r26.  I don't accept the fact the hifi rose don't want to develop Tidal connect and they stick with their buggy software.  Even the free bubleUpnP is better than rose connect.  

I am not a roon fan  and Now I am waiting my eversolo dmp a6 streamer to join my R26 by using Tidal connect with I really like the AI for track radio and discover new artists. The nice thing about rs250 is its hdmi output, internal drive bay for music storage and vumeters.  You can have the same for half money with the eversolo streamer.

So yes, adding and external dac above 1.5k$ (r26, a26, pontus 2, etc...) to your rs250 will bring you to another level.

I'd like to thank everyone for their contributions to this discussion. I've learned a lot and have gotten some very useful information to work with moving forward - it's appreciated. 

If you want great sound at a reasonable cost get a MHDT Orchid DAc with a 6922 tube adapter and a used Logitech Touch.  Probably under $1700 and sounds wonderful using Pandora.  This combo was better than the other streaming services available in testing, not just someone told me.

With USB connection DAC uses its own free running clock and requests data from streamer when it needs a new portion. USB connection is asynchronous and does not carry any clock information - only request from receiver (DAC) and response from sender (streamer). In that case jitter is only limited by the quality of DAC internal clock.

Other type of connections are synchronous and thus all devices should be slaves of the same clock source. This can be DAC internal clock (propagated to streamer), or DAC  is also a slave to some external clock source. But in that latter case jitter is limited by the quality of DAC circuit that synchronizes local clock with external master.

If clock distribution is not possible, then ASRC in DAC is the only way to minimize jitter, but ASRC may add its own distortion.



I too am considering either a HiFi Rose or an Eversolo, but only for the streamer portion. I would use an external DAC with either of these boxes.

I had a borrowed RS250 inhouse for a few weeks and loved some things about its GUI, especially the HDMI out, which lets you stream YouTube or display the streamer’s menus on a TV. Given that my "serious" stereo system also supports the front speakers of a multichannel home theater, that functionality is pretty handy.  And unlike some DACs's HDMI ARC implementations, it transmits video to a TV, not just audio.

Has anybody had the chance to compare the two interfaces in depth? Enough of a difference to warrant a multi-kilobuck price difference?



cundate2's new post reminded me to give my follow-up experience in case it might be of use to anyone. I ended up keeping the HiFi Rose as a streamer then bought a Pontus II 12th to pair with it. There was the exact type of musical synergy / improvement I was looking for. Not earth shattering but more than subtle. Initially I thought due to budgetary considerations I'd start with the Pontus and if the sonic combo worked out I'd consider going further up the Denafrips chain to seek even greater improvement. But this very unusual (for me) thing happened. After a couple weeks playing the Rose through the Pontus it occurred to me that I was enjoying the music and I'm going to leave the setup as is. At least for now. Weird.     

@cundare2 Elite Audio conducted a number of streamer demos across their team and voted on performance. While they and numerous other video creators boasted the impressive performance of the Eversolo, in this video against notable streamers including the Hifi Rose, the Eversolo models still fell towards the latter half of the list. Surprise surprise. It may sound great, especially, for the money, until you hear something even better.

As an Aurender dealer, a buddy of mine piqued my interest in the Eversolo as it might be an attractive line to carry for those who don’t want to spring the money for Aurender. But after learning more, I decided to just further advocate for  my customers to consider Aurender. 

Perhaps you may find this video useful.


blisshifi: Thanks for the link. A little bit of useful information there.

Despite the controversy here, I think a HiFi Rose streamer may be the best choice for me. But understand that my application differs from that of most other posters, who don’t care if a streamer can display video & its menu system on a big-screen TV.. That’s a solid selling point for my family when they’d be using the streamer in the home theater, and for me when I use it for "critical" stereo listening, seated 10-12 feet from the equipment rack.

As for the HFR DAC, well, I actually did have an RS250A inhouse for a month and found it bug-free, and to be more detailed & transparent, and to have a more holographic soundstage than my existing DACs. But the bar was low. I’m only just starting to move from physical media to streaming, so my current DACs are pretty old and mid-fi -- think Oppo BDP-105. So I can’t say anything intelligent about the HFR DAC, except that I could live with it if there were no other options.

But I do know computer interfaces, after 40 years in the industry.

I’ve asked for streamer-UI opinions several times on Audiogon and other forums but have never received an educated response based on first-hand comparisons. So unless somebody can suggest an interface that’s more flexible and easier to use than that of even the $2700 "budget" HFR RS250A, I think one of the Rose streamers would be hard to beat.

At least in my particular application.

I still, however, hate paying for a DAC I’ll never use. But also I’m not sure that I can justify paying $5200 for the HFR RS130 DAC-free transport.

Postscript for blisshifi:

Your first post here denigrates the HiFi Rose units b/c of build quality.

Despite leaning toward a HiFi Rose purchase, I can't argue with that.  I ultimately returned my open-box unit within its refund windoow b/c of a hardware failure.

Yeah, sure, the standard deviation of one sample is infinity -- but so far, that's all the first-hand data I have to work with.

I say, if you buy HiFi Rose, only consider purchasing a new unit from a dealer with excellent return policies.