Another streaming newbie

Guys, I have tried to search and figure this out, because I know this topic has been well-covered. But I am still wandering in the dark, so plz forgive my redundant questions....

First, here's my current rig,: I built a Lenco table 15 yrs ago with a JMW 10 arm/London Super Gold that I run into a phono pre that I built from a pretty high end kit  (can't see the name, have no idea what it is now!) thru a VTL tube IT-85 integrated amp and then thru some SF Electa Amator II, supported by a sub I built.  So pretty mid-fi setup, but it really works for me.  Sounds great, to my ears.  

The Covid thing has me home (no golf in Los Angeles!), listening to music more. Would love to stream something that approaches the vinyl sound quality with a music service, but being retired, budget is more a concern now... I just subscribed to TIDAL with its premium level (MQA) that I was running straight from my iphone 6 to the VTL. Meh.  Then my daughter ran same stuff through her iphone 11 and, hey, that sounded better.  So, clearly, I am in need of a streaming DAC.  

I know MQA gets mixed reviews. I have no way really to test this or to go listen to stuff. Everything is shut down here. So here's the criteria that matters most to me:
  • A great UI app because now streaming is like going to the Smithsonian.  There's a lot to organize. 
  • Great sound. (whatever that means!) 
  • One box.  Cables get expensive & messy.  
  • I'd like to keep it under $2K. I'd really like to keep it under $1K, but that may be wishful thinking.  I mean, is Bluesound Node 2 up to it? I am sure it would beat my daughters iphone 11, but ... what are reasonable streamers/DACS?  Where's the killer solution that isn't $10K?  I know it's out there....
I am not so far into TIDAL that I can't change. My system is in the same room as my router, so I can run an ethernet cable to the DAC.  As I have looked at all of this, it has occurred to me to get an older, much higher quality used DAC that I can somehow mesh with TIDAL (or another service with high quality streaming) and forget the MQA.  But this has to somehow hook into my internet directly and be able to be run by a remote UI.  So now my head is spinning.

Thanks for your input.  Chuck
Ah, hell, no going back to sleep!

@headphonedreams @richtruss @djones51 I spent hours last night looking at raspberry pi based players. I have a little diy in me (Lenox, phono pre, subwoofer which all work great, great value and sound) so. Seems aloo is in Bangalore India (where I have been!) and may be pretty shut down for now. But my daughter’s very serious boyfriend is an engineer and we might even build player and dac. (TBD!) Which breaks all my rules I set out. Question: so the ipad/iPhone ((Surface? I have a surface, wife has iPad) connects to the player ... how? The player has Ethernet cable in, but how do controller/player talk?

@big_greg I take your point re Bluesound. The key to my current system working is all the pieces fit nicely. I actually bought/sold some more expensive gear because it didn’t mesh. I sort of have to balance convenience vs quality vs cost. As I learn I have of course gone back and forth on this and unclear where I will land. A part of me says start w/bluesound and see - easiest pathway, but I am betting it would be like training wells. 
@macrojack I have the M10 on my spreadsheet of options, looked up the blue book for my vtl (worth more now than I paid for it 15 yrs ago!) But two real questions. First I am not dumping my phone preamp that I built! I don’t care if it’s great or awful. I built it plus Lenco and am totally attached to them. I even debated selling all my vinyl rig/albums but no! No! Too sentimental. Second: putting this system together- it’s a ‘system’ that works together. I had other tube amps along the way and never liked them. (But regret selling the Granite monoblocks!) So how a new major piece would sound to me is a big question. There’s just no way to know. But the simplicity is a big plus. So it’s on the spreadsheet and still in play. The other point I keep thinking is if I got this streaming rig really good, I know the table would not get a lot of play. So there is that, too. 
Good thing we’re in the middle of a @$#% pandemic. Lot of time to chew on this! 

I also suggest trying a Bluesound Node 2i.  It only costs $550 and it is a great place to start.  I talked to the manufactures rep and it appears they came up with a design that is a good as a unit costing three times as much.  I don't care what people say, I can hear the difference MQA.  It sounds they it was intended to sound.  Just wish I knew more about how it was developed.  Perhaps someone can explain this to me.  This hobby continues to be fascinating.  Everyone has different ears and it is great there are so many choices.  The only thing I can't understand is I receive hundreds of home listings from a local real estate agent and I have yet to see a pair of speakers sitting in a room.  People are willing to listen to the speakers on the TV, yet they have a $5,000 entertainment center the TV is sitting on.  If they only knew how sound imparts 80% of the experience.
At the risk of sounding like captain obvious, there's a less traveled option with increased mobility but it does have some sound quality limitations on your home hifi

Since you've already connected your iphone to your preamp, you're in essence using your iphone as the streamer

Look into the low cost USB attached DACs that will work with your iphone

I use the AudioQuest Dragonfly, $300 and it will achieve bit perfect playback

You can come out of the Dragonfly wired into headphones, your car stereo or your home  preamp

The headphone is handy for comparing and testing the different streaming file formats

It transformed the sound in my car.  I stream Tidal via cell service played through the Dragonfly that's attached AUX to the car stereo

Everyone thinks I got a new system in my car

Lots of little gymnastics to get to full MQA rendering and playback but pretty sweet once you connect all the dots

It took 6 months but the streaming convenience eventually pushed me over the edge to upgrade my primary home system

Primary drivers were the sound quality of the hi-res streaming formats and the convenience of changing out the music from a chair using a handheld device

I added a PS Audio DSD with the network bridge and cabled it to my internet router. Built a Roon server on a PC using an iphone as the content end point and user interface, subscribed to Tidal and QoBuz for content

I sit in my listening chair with 35 million songs at my fingertips using the  iphone to select content

Sound quality is exceptional, the convenience of changing content from the hand held device is fantastic and I haven't bought a CD or album since converting

The new releases come out on Tidal and QoBuz

Needless to say, I'm finally a streaming convert

Hope this helps
The player has Ethernet cable in, but how do controller/player talk?
Your  iPad and surface are on the same network as the player(whichever one you choose). You download an app, for instance on the iPad if you use Node2i you go to app store and download bluOS it finds the Node2i on the network which you use to control it. 
Do you mind explaining this one a bit more?  I don't think the analog analogy is the best one to use here since we are talking digital and ones and zeros.  The reason a high end cdp cost so much mostly the dac, you can only do so much with the rest of the internals to improve sound-wise.  

Using a great UI with proper connections with an upgraded DAC doesn't seem anywhere near as bad as you are suggesting but if it is I would like to know why.

It's a pretty easy to understand analogy isn't it?  How about trying to build something on a less than great foundation?  Does that make more sense to you?

I'm not saying the Bluesound is bad, far from it.  For its price it's a wonderful product and delivers very good sound quality.  Nor did I say that adding a good DAC to it is "bad".  It's not.  There's just a better way to about getting better sound from streaming, which is what you're after if you're going to add a DAC to a device that already has one, right?

Go read the other "streaming newbie" thread that spun off this one.  You'll see that a lot of people have done that and see little to no improvement in sound quality.

Upgrading to a better streamer/DAC (the TEAC NT-505) resulted in a much greater improvement in sound quality, not to mention soundstage, than adding a $3500 DAC to the Bluesound. 

I don't know the exact "why" of it, since as you said, "it's just ones and zeros", but I know what I heard.  Spending less than $2K plus recovering a few hundred from the sale of my Node 2 was also a better deal from a cost/performance standpoint than buying a Bluesound and an external DAC.