Adding a Dac and Stresmer

Looking for some advice and need you guys to check my thinking…
I have a PrimaLuna Preamp and Amplifier…..need a Dac and streamer….Being I have a preamp to my thinking I don’t need a Dac that has a preamp and volume, am I thinking right? The speakers are Klipsch Heritage so I think I should get a mellow sounding Dac, maybe a Denifrips Pontus with the Auralic Aries G1.1…..would be happy with a $5000 budget…


Correct, all you need is a dac/streamer, the preamp will handle volume.  To be honest, just get a Bluesound Node and use the internal DAC.  The differences between dacs are really small and extremely hard to discern.  Most reviews are done using high end headphones to mitigate room and amp impacts.  If you really want to keep everything separate though, get a WiiM Mini or Pro and an inexpensive DAC around a similar price to the Bluesound.  WiiM has a great app and product support.   

I tried the Node about 6 months ago, it made the bass sound sorta booming and not pleasing to my ears…but thanks..

I think the Pontus II is a great choice.  Add the Iris DDC so you can take advantage of its superior i2S input, and check out the new Innuos Pulse Mini streamer and their linear power supply and you’ll be all set.  Best of luck. 

Actually that sounds very good…I have read up on the Iris…The Auralic Aries G1.1 might change the sound of the Pontus….


a 432evo standard3500will bring your dac to a much more analoglike presentation

runs roon and outputs to a usb imput on a dac if you want an analog sounding dac look at a lab12 r2r and tubes

dave and Troy

Audio intellect nj

streaming specialists

Just went to that lab12 site, their Dac isn’t anymore expensive then a PrimaLuna Dac…

If you are getting a streamer/dac get one with built in room correction like the NAD C-658 with Dirac or the Martin Logan Unison with ARC. 

Almost all streamers will have a volume control which can be bypassed using the Fixed Volume control feature so you control the volume with your preamp. On the Martin Logan Unison you hold the volume down and mute buttons for 5 seconds to enable Fixed Volume and a second time to disable it. See page 10 in the manual:

I have a Pontus II as well, and I also love it; additionally, I have a PL preamp and PL power amps, so I think my experience will be relevant to your questions. I have an Iris DDC, but after doing the experiment described below, I no longer use it. I am streaming Qobuz via Roon, so all I really need is a simple Roon endpoint. I had been using an RPI4 running RopieeeXL, and sending the USB output of that to the Iris, and the I2S from the Iris to the Pontus II.

However, I had been curious about the new Mercury V2 streamer, which has direct I2S output. I wanted to see if going direct from the Mercury via I2S would sound better than having to do reclocking and a protocol conversion in the Iris DDC.

I compared these two means of getting a digital stream to the preamp:

  1. The Mercury, running RopieeeXL, with I2S directly to the Pontus II using an AudioQuest HDMI cable.
  2. An RPI4 running RopieeeXL, with USB output (WireWorld USB cable) into the Denafrips Iris DDC, whose I2S output then feeds the Denafrips Pontus II (AudioQuest HDMI cable).

Both the Mercury and the RPI4 connected to the same Roon server; both were running RopieeeXL, and the LVDS switches on the Mercury were set so that the Denafrips did not require re-configuration when systems were swapped.

The rest of my system consists of a PL EVO 300 preamp, and then two PL EVO 100 stereo power amps, each one driving a DALI Epicon 6 in vertical bi-amped mode. I also use a pair of Rythmik F12G subs. Roon is served from an i7 Mac Mini that I installed Linux on, and then installed Roon Server.

I switched back and forth between the two setups repeatedly, using a variety of my favorite test tracks. I found the Mercury has similar low end sonics to the RPI4 -- perhaps a slightly more defined attack on, for example, drums -- but there was a noticeable difference in the high end, particularly the attack on light percussion such as sticks, as well as better low level detail in things such as woodwind instruments and faint cymbal swells. This extra detail did not come with any harshness. The enhanced higher frequency sonics lead me to believe that the direct to I2S configuration of the Mercury is substantially more accurate than the reclocking from USB to I2S in the DDC; the precision timing information most likely leads to the increased resolution.

I have retired the Iris and now stream directly from the Mercury V2 to the Pontus II using the I2S connections. I would highly recommend that configuration. Philosophically, having as little equipment as possible between the raw bits and the DAC seems to yield a simplicity that translates to good sound.

Pulse mini streamer.

R2R ladder DAC for tracks with mainly analog instruments.

But techno stuff, ie, electronic drums, synths and stuff seems to me to sound better on a delta sigma.

Also, my delta sigma has more…. Options on the menu that can make a lower bit rate sound a bit better… the ladder DAC is not kind to anything lower that cd quality and sounds increasingly better up to, my highest so far, dsd 64 (a Boston album)

I love my LAB 12 DAC.....   great sounding DAC.

I bought it thinking i would take advantage of my dealers one year trade up on something 2 X the cost.    It sounds so good I am keeping it.    

HiFi rose RS150B DAC/Streamer - I have one and have been very pleased with it. Add a SSD and you can store ripped albums, native control of Tidal/Quboz (and others), accepts BT audio, XLR/RCA to pre-amp. Using it with ML 523/534 pre/power, I think the built in DAC is very good, and if you were to decide to make a DAC upgrade (as I did) then you can use AES/USB/I2S into your DAC. I really like mine, built like a tank, very high quality construction, easy to control via Tablet/Phone, PC or Roon, and the 14"+ display looks great.

I’m very happy with DAC—Bryston DAC3–which cost me around $3K a few years ago but I think might be around $4K now.  It replaced a Mytek Manhattan, which was ultimately two analytical and just not as musical.  I really like the Cambridge Audio CXN 60 streamer for a bit over $1K, but the combination might be a bit over $5K.  You could always buy the the CA by itself, use the DAC which at least beats Bluesound, and then add another DAC if you want to upgrade.  The CA adds AirPlay, Chromecast, and is great with Internet Radio andPodcasts


I recommend getting the new blue sound node with an external LPS and use it only as a  streamer. It is quite good and the BluOS app is really good too. You will then have more money to put towards a better DAC. Good luck!

I just got a used Lumin U1 mini with LPS and a Pontus II 12h edition. According to Vinshine Audio, you don’t necessarily need a DDC if you have a high-end streamer. A DDC is best for cleaning up noisy computer USB signals. I’m very happy with my setup. Worlds better than my old setup (Node+DACMAGIC 200m). 

I recently bought an Auralic Aries G1 from an online retailer. It was their demo unit and the previous generation but they gave it a full warranty and knocked $1K off the price. Then I bought a new Denafrips Venus 2 12th edition. The match up is heavenly and was the total price for both was right about at your budget. There is not a lot of difference between the G1 and the G1.1.... Several revisions back in my system I had the Bluesound Node 2i and the Denafrips Ares II. It was very good but to my ears the people that are saying that an upscale streamer and App don’t make much of a difference must have a less resolving system. To me it is night and day. Everything has improved and noticeably. Rounding out the system is a Parasound Halo Hint 6 and Martin Logan ESL-X speakers.


I am using a MHDT Stockhom 2 DAC with my tube setup.  Check it out nice full rich sound, good bass, wider soundstage

Thanks a lot for all the suggestions, I spend about 8 hrs a day with my music so this is very important…

I agree with the people recommending the new Node with power supply upgrade.  I have this, and the sound is very very nice and in fact nicer than the Innuos Zen Mini I also bought some time back.  The Bluos is a really nice user software program it is very easy to use and can save favorites conveniently.

@troidelover1499 Try the Zen Mini with a LPS and then report back.  The Node is not in the same league as the Zen Mini.  And the Innuos Sense app continues to improve and sound even better. 

If you don't mind the used market, you can't go wrong with the naim ndx streamer dac combo for under 2 grand. Has a nice app for android too. Pretty versatile and easy to use. 

I really like my Hifi Rose 150b. Streaming Qobuz the sound is very good. Check out the reviews.

In your budget a combo streamer/DAC has some great choices. 5k will land you well.

Consider amongst many..

Lumin new or used

Brooklyn bridge

PS DirectStream DAC used

HiFi rose touted up above

Buy good Ethernet cables and hold off on learning about signal in optimization.

Aurender streamers/DAC are excellent but will not work with Roon You may find you go that route too. Many do. Qobuz has a free thirty day trail.. others too


I have just bought an Aurender streamer ( not yet received) to replace an Auralic Aries, not because of SQ issues but mainly because I am sick of the substandard Auralic control app. From what I have read the Aurender app is considered as good as or even better than Roon by some users. I guess I will find out soon. While this seems irrelevant to the post I am just suggesting that if you are into classical music and want to compile a comprehensive favourites library on your streaming service then be aware that many apps just don't cut it as far as cataloguing and searching are concerned.

Aurender is superb. Not to mention a great app interface and fantastic customer support.

As mentioned Wiim Pro is an excellent streamer I got mine going to Cambridge M200  DAC  into a Luxman preamp.

+++++ Denafrips Pontus II (12th anniversary). I run a Bluesound Node 130 with LHY linear power supply, USB to a Denafrips Iris DDC, and I2S to Pontus II DAC…..and it sounds really really good, and has a stellar interface, $2,600 all in gets you there.

 I know there is better sound to be had from an Aurender, 432 Evo, Innuous, Auralic, or Lumin. I can enjoy the great sound I have for now, while I save up the 5, 6, or 8 thousand it will to get to the next level. Then I’ll decide if I’m going to keep the Iris or not

If one can look for a route outside of the usual trail. There is a option that can prove to be a real contender to the Hi End offerings and maybe prove to be a End Game if all options for the devices are adopted.

A Aqvox DAC MkII with a Mutec 3+ can be found if a search is undertaken for approx' $2000. There are a few mod's that can be added, both internally ( will need a little help from a EE) and externally (such as a LPS) at a cost of approx' $500 for parts and supporting labour if required.

Once experienced in the home system, the road to find the devices to surpass the above two devices in use, will be quite long. If the modifications are adopted, the idea of searching for a alternative might be over for many years as said even End Game might be the discovery.

Hi Silverfox.     The only direct comparison I have made in my system is LAb 12 vs RME.     I did listen to the SimAudio DAC and Merason DAC 1 during demo and thought the LAB 12 was the most natural sounding.   Merason was really good but I preferred the LAB 12.   I didn't think it was "expensive" compared to the Merason at $5500.     

I bought it thinking I would be back within a year to trade up to so etching 2X the cost...    I really like this DAC so I am pretty sure I'm keeping it for the long haul

Yes Aurenders are not cheap , but I got a great deal on a N200 and have zero regrets.   Super high build quality, great App, sounds great, excellent support.     All that all up and it is a good value.  

Hifi Rose is. Is detailed but not very organic and natural vs a Denafrips terminator 12 th, or even better the. T+A 200 dac ,  for midfi it may be ok but not. In the $600+ 

level. Lab12 is decent but still a step or 2 below the above dacs.

LAB 12 is way better than decent .....   have you heard one Audioman?     It's a sleeper,  

Thanks everyone for all the responses, I definitely have a feel where this is going…

What do you think of a used Metrum Acoustics Pavane and Amber streamer?

My Marantz integrated is capable of streaming and has a decent DAC for the price point but I recently picked up the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 to try out and have decided to keep it. The price had dropped after CA introduced their lower line AXN streamers so that helped justify the trial as well.

It’s DAC is better than the Marantz and I can definitely hear the difference between the two. The CXN is cleaner, more detailed and better soundstage and as a separate it’s not competing internally with itself like the the Marantz IMO. I run my CD transport through it and CDs sound better vs directly to the Marantz. The CA StreamMagic app is pretty nice and access my private digital library much better.

The access to digital radio is also nicer than what Marantz’s HEOS platform offers.

I can also continue to use Spotify premium plus access to all the other HD services. And it’s Roon tested if I decide to do that down the road but honestly I don’t see a need to for me personally.

Overall I was on the fence about it at the beginning but after 2 months of trying it out, it’s a keeper and I enjoy the tactile qualities of the unit itself. The interface and knob are high quality, as is the remote. All around I’ve been impressed w/ the CXN and I don’t feel like I overspent or underspent. It’s a Goldilocks component in my book.


Reading through the reply I noticed one from you that stood out and will have a huge impact in your choice. “Thanks a lot for all the suggestions, I spend about 8 hrs a day with my music so this is very important…”. You need to focus on a combo the will not cause listener fatigue, that sharp edge digital sound that makes you want to walk away after an hour or two. This points me to narrow your options to r2r dac. I can tell you from other discussions that you should look at Gustard R26. I have this with fmc and external clock and I can listen for hours and have to pry myself away. Many have compared to many Denafrips dac’s and almost all preferred the Gustard. This is not an easy choice and it took me over a year to pull the trigger on the R26 and I have zero regret! Enjoy the music!

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I will throw out another option which probably is not what you are after but might consider. The Naim Uniti Atom HE which is a preamp/DAC/streamer that is really outstanding. Great reviews, great PRAT. The preamp is class A.  If you purchased your PrimaLuna gear from Upscale Audio, you might visit with them whether this is a step backwards in your system, or whether they would allow a home trial.  I realize that this is out in left field, but if you like it, you could come out ahead by selling off the PrimaLuna preamp. I have not heard an r2r DAC, but seriously thought about trying a Denafrips or Holo Springs. I use this in a den system as I wanted fewer boxes, and have not been disappointed in the slightest. You do not seem averse to more boxes, and will likely come out ahead with another 1-2 and your budget.  Just trying to keep the discussion lively haha. 

I sorta went down that road at first. Not knowing what I was doing, jumped into the deep end before learning to swim. I have the Uniti Atom the model that takes speakers, I put it on the PrimaLuna EVO 400 amplifier, it’s just ok, also put it on the PrimaLuna PRE and amp, it’s pretty good. I have another place to put the Atom so I am getting something else..I really don’t like having two volume controls…one on Atom and one on the app,sometimes the app volume control didn’t match and it can get loud when you first power it up..the volume control is better with the preamp…anyway it’s going to my wife’s craft room..

Upscales advice is the PrimaLuna EVO 100 Dac and the Cambridge Streaming unit…I am undecided on that route, I even know where I can get that Dac it’s a store demo at a dealer for $800 of the list thing I know I going to up my budget to $7 or 8…which is fine if I can figure this out without making a mistake…another deal is the Klipsch Forte IVs, The Atom sounds a little bright with it, they are very detailed and can get bright with the wrong set up…get it right and it’s heaven…

I have a good friend who has a Metrum Acoustics Pavane and Metrum Ambre streamer..I am thinking about…

Everyone is giving awesome ideas…

@silverfoxvtx1800  Airplay means you are pushing that signal into your system.

With a dedicated streamer and DAC or a streamer/DAC you will use yr. Phone or IPad to have the streamer put out a far better sound