Best streamer/DAC for up to $1500

I almost bought the Qutest. Even though it is still in my shortlist, I am thinking maybe I should go for the integrated solution of a streamar/DAC combo. My budget is no more than about $1500 MAX. MQA is not absolutely necessary. XLR outputs are preferable.

I am deciding towards a Cambridge CXN V2, unless someone here suggests an alternative.

Sound quality is obviously the most important criteria but right up there is also reliability too (at least 6+ years of trouble free reliable operation).

Any experiences ?

Thanks in advance.




I am really sorry to say that a budget of $1.5k won't get you much in sound quality.  So in reality just go with your Cambridge and then save your money to go up the line.  I started with a Lumin D-2.  Then went to the Lumin A-1 and their flagship X-1.  Each step was a significant improvement in SQ.  I now have the Lampizator Pacific.  I hope I am not raining on your parade because everyone has to live within their budget.  All I am saying is don't expect much at that price point.  Good Luck.   It is a long journey.

Stay with seperates, I recommend an iFI Zen powered by an iPower Elite into a S.M.S.L SU-9n $1100 all in. Or a Magni Mano Ultra with that DAC $1400.

Spending more should be by choice, not directive.

If Qutest is in your budget, go for it.  I'm running a Dave.  Friend's Cutest sounds almost as good. --Jerry


I agree with fthompson251.

I actually have the previous version of the Node 2i and added the Denafrips Aries II just last week using a coaxial cable.  The sound quality is excellent.  

Good luck and have fun.

DO NOT get a DAC/streamer combo.  Both technologies are progressing so fast it makes no sense to have one tied to the other.  If I’m you, get an iFi Zen Stream with their better linear power supply and a Musician Pegasus R2R DAC.  In the future you can insert an optical connection between your router and DAC for only 80 bucks that will likely improve your sound even further, but that’s probably a topic for another thread.  In the meantime, here’s a review of the Pegasus from a very reputable site, and I also own the Pegasus and can confirm his observations...

Hope this helps, and best of luck. 


Pegasus looks very interesting indeed.  Thanks for bringing it up.  I did not know it even existed.

I guess splitting the DAC & the streamer is an option.

Thanks for all your comments.


@cakyol Perhaps I'm wrong, but haven't you previously stated digital is only ones and zeroes and all digital should sound the same. I apologize if incorrect


If I'm correct, are you now saying you're willing to experience or at least explore whether your previous contentions are indeed correct?


I'd also recommend separating the two pieces, far more choices available to you.


My previous argument was for network Ethernet SWITCHES/Bridges (and Ethernet wires), like these devices:



and NOT the DACs. Of course DACs make a huge difference, especially with their filter designs.

@cakyol : this thread is pointless. I have a very strong feeling you either are not looking for such thing, or you already know what you are getting. What did ASR crowd tell you when you posted such question? Let’s be frank this one time, and one time only. Namely, did you look at the typical China DACs touted by ASR? Things like Topping and similar 


İf you think this thread is pointless, why are you responding ?

I roughly know what l want but not exactly. I wanted to know the reliability experiences others had. Plus I learned about the pegasus which i did not know about before 😄

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I run the Cambridge CXN v2 with a Benchmark DAC 3B and the SQ is excellent.

I’ve compared it with the Node 2 on my system and the Cambridge clearly sounded better.


Thanks for mentioning this.  Have you had any quality and/or reliability issues ?  How long have you had the unit ?

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No reliability issues whatever.  I’ve had it for about two years.

‘Really an excellent unit with some nice features.

Well, the Pegasus does look interesting at it's price point ($1100 according to review). If coupled to the iFi Zen streamer would meed your budget. I have not heard either so can't make a recommendation, however maybe one could get home trial. I know this is true for the iFi Zen unit (Audio Advisor) which I am considering to pair with my DAC. I am with those that recommend separating the streamer from DAC.



I settled on the NAD C658. XLR balanced. I only use the DAC. BluOS interface is troublesome but depending on your music source, there are work-arounds. I paid under $1600.00 All in all, it does well. BTW, you'll have to find the best dB and unfortunately NAD won't let you "set it and forget it". Each time you use it, you'll have to adjust the setting. as it defaults to -20. dB when turned on. In my system, I have to adjust to -9 dB. Small inconvenience I wish NAD would fix with a firmware update.

Do you know what kind of sound quality characteristics you’re looking for?

At $1500 I would be looking at ~$500 or less for a good, lower priced streamer like an Allo USBridge Signature or SOtM sms-200 Neo + ~$1k DAC. It opens up far more options for you to achieve the sound you like.

If you can stretch a bit into the $1500 - $2k range, a used Lumin D2 would be a nice choice to look into for a streamer/DAC combo. There’s one on US Audio Mart right now for $1799 asking and one on Canuck Audio Mart for $1975 CAD. I haven’t heard the D2 per se, but I owned their flagship X1. Great package that’s solidly built from a well-known and resourced parent company, a breeze to set up with a nice app, and superb sound. Enormous soundstage, exceptional clarity, nice even tonal balance, smooth and liquid with a bit of warmth. It also employs leedh processing, a slick digital volume control algorithm that is supposedly lossless and works very well, so you use it directly with a power amp. Warranty is transferable as well. Worth looking into.

May not be your jam, but Shenzhenaudio just now emailed DENAFRIPS HERMES USB Digital Interface Premium Digital To Digital Converter 768KHz DSD512 Flagship HiFi DDC for $1499.00. 



Coveats for Musician Pegasus given by a reviewer are noted here FYI.

Schiit had a pretty solid Dac line starting from $199 Modius. SS is wide with decent depth and good image. I also find it really rounds the edges well and give non-fatiguing sound that I could listen for hours. Reviewers find it competing well with the highly raved $699 Bifrost 2.  Then if you desire something even better, consider $1,299 Gungnir.

A unit that doesn't get much talk but looks interesting is the Atoll MS-120 (no XLR). I was looking into this but decided on the Gold Note DS-10 plus because of the XLR balanced outputs.

So many options here it is confusing but get separate streamer and dac for upgrade potential future options, choice, and altenratives.

A Bluesound with updated power supply and a Topping D90 sounds good to me.  The Raspberry Pi 4 gets good comments.  An R2R DAC  would be a substitute and different sound.  Denafrips etc.

@cakyol - Given that source components costing around the $1500 mark generally have an inadequate power supply, which impacts their performance, I have taken a different approach in my streaming solution

For me - it makes sense to have the least number of componnents in the audio chain

  • So I DO NOT have an external DAC!
  • I own a standard Bluesound Node 2
  • I use advanced power and interconnect cables
    • my power cables use advanced cable geometry, UP-OCC copper for excellent detailes and dynamic perofrmance and advanced insulation techniques
    • my interconnects use the same geometry and insulation, but the Signal wires are UP-OCC solid silver for improved details, clarity and imaging
  • the resulting sound from the Node2 is excellent !!!
    • far better than any $1500 streaming device can achieve.with normal cables

This may seem a little "extreme", i.e. using cables that actually cost more than the streamer,

  • BUT - cables play a huge role in overall system performance
  • AND - the benefit of this approach is that the cables are an investment that can be applied to ANY future streaming component you may invest in

Unfortunately, my cables are an advanced DIY design, so they are not "generally available".

HOWEVER - Zavfino is a brand that produces excellent value cables like

The Bluesound Node 2 combined with great cables, punches way above it’s price point without the need for an external DAC,

I realize it does not have XLR outputs, but XLR only really provides any benefit when long cables are used in very noisy environments - home audio seldom falls into that arena

I do not make my recommendation without having experienced many different cables used with my Node 2 over the many years I have owned Bluesound product

  • like my Power Node and my Pulse Mini speaker (power cable only), the latest being the Soundbar+
  • The streaming services they support just keep expanding as the market changes
    • each streaming service integrates nicely into the player interface
  • The software Update process is automatic and has worked for me EVERY TIME!
  • they are extremely reliable

FYI - I play content from

  • my Cellphone and other bluetooth enabled devices
  • my USB Drives and memory Sticks,
  • my NAS Drive, Internet radio stations from around the world, Amazon Prime (Streaming service)
    • All via Ethernet LAN
    • or Wireless connection - for outdoor use

The Node 2 + the Cables recommended above is within your budget - with some wiggle room to spare

Good luck with your quest

Regards - Steve


I think I have decided on a Bluesound node (or vault for its storage but not its DAC) + Chord Mojo 2.  I like the fact that Mojo 2 has tone controls.

Thanks for all your suggestions.

I will let you know how it sounds after I order it and set it up :-)


@cakyol - FYI - the Bluesound products also has tone controls built into the software interface

You can customize by the selected player e.g.

  • My Soundbar does not have tone controls
  • but my Pulse Mini and Node 2 allows adjustments to Treble and Bass
  • plus you have the option to enable or disable tone controls

To access select Settings - Player - Audio - Tone Controls from the interface software

I opted not to go for the Vault because it only has one Hard Drive - My NAS has two mirrored RAID disks, which are great if a disk fails - just pop in another disk and the RAID asoftware rebuilds the mirror

You should buy "server grade" hard drives - they are far more reliable

Advantage of the Vault - you can load CD’s directly - but I use my computer, which also has access to the NAS, which I also use to purchase downloads - no more CD’s for me

Regards - Steve


My choice for the Mojo 2 is because of the overwhelmingly positive reviews of the product, as well as the fact that one of the the mojo 2 tone control bands is around 20 Hz, which is the low/subwoofer bass region, which is almost equivalent to the ’loudness’ settings which used to be available on older products and not on the newer ones, which I sorely miss. That is in fact one of the most important reasons I flipped to a Mojo 2 from the Qutest, which is considered to be a better (and more than twice as expensive) DAC.

I am obviously giving up my XLR output requirement but I promise I will keep the wires very short :-)

Thanks on all the suggestions.

Something to consider with a budget of $1,500 is the miniDSP SHD, you get superb core audio performance, true active balanced XLRs, and system flexibility. Then with Dirac Live and you have a game changer.

Dirac Live resolves the soundstage with improved clarity and intelligibility with all instruments and vocals. With the room correction aspect you'll experience deeper and tighter bass free of resonances throughout the listening area, with greater transparency and the removal of distracting artifacts.

The miniDSP SHD is a good example of a streaming high definition digital audio processor with excellent DACs. Dirac Live uniquely combines frequency response correction as well as impulse response (time domain) correction in the digital domain. Fixing time domain anomalies is an impressive advancement for any audiophile system.


The only downside is the increased complexity and effort needed to fully integrate Dirac Live. So having excellent dealer support is important.  Deer Creek Audio is an authorized miniDSP SHD dealer.



The Innuos Zen Mini Mk3 is available in your price range and has been very favorably reviewed. I’m considering its big brother myself (Innuos Zen Mk 3). You can then later add the separate power supply for another 650.00 to step it up a notch. You can rip CDs to its internal hard drive, which is another plus...



hi guys, 

coming iFi Neo Stream (streamer+ dac all in1) at $1299 then upgrade psu the iFi iPower Elite (12v-15v) at around $300 i think is the best value in the market right now. 

A little over the budget, but streams ahead of the Cambridge is a Gustard R26.