Curious to know your streaming and dac set up and the best recommended streamer under $15k

Curious to know your streaming and dac set up as well your best recommended streamer. I have recently upgraded my dac and have used 2 different set ups in an attempt to find the my best combination.  Former set up was Roon Nucleus+ connected to a Lumin T2. New set up is a new Nagra Tube Dac and a separate Power Supply and I had that directly connected to my Roon via Shunyata Sigma USB cable and using a Shunyata Ethernet connection to my network. Didn’t feel like that was my best possible sound so introduced the Lumin T2 back into the fold as my streamer and then connected the Nagra to the Lumin T2. This was a much improved sound. At this early testing point I’m curious to see if anyone uses and/or recommends a streamer that has significantly improved their sound under $15k. I would like to stay with the Roon platform. 

Current set up is Audio Research Ref160S amp, Audio Research Ref6SE pre-amp with Wilson Alexia speakers.  All cabling between these components is Transparent Reference. 

Unfortunately, I have not had time to photograph and upload my new Nagra dac. 

I really appreciate anyone who takes time to assist with some thoughtful ideas, experiences, or recommendations. 

128x128Ag insider logo xs@2xwoots


In reading this I’m still not sure of what you feel you’re missing but definitely let me know when you make your decision. I’m not big in the streaming thing- have been trying it more recently though with a new Lumin U2 in front of an Aqua La Scala Dac (I like the fact that I’m not spending money on another Dac implementation).
Still taking notes on how I feel about it- was considering picking up a LinQ this week but don’t want to get ahead of myself. I’m using similar ARC gear- GS150 with REF6 and Dynaudio Sapphire floor standers.

I am currently, experimenting with multiple permutations of streaming setup. I calculated that I now have 6 potential streaming paths with the gear I have (using ROON):

- 3 Sonore OpticalRendu’s with LPS

- Lumin X1 DAC/streamer

- Sonore UltraDigital

- Uptone EtherRegen (used as an FMC B > A)

- PeachTree GAN1 amp

Here is what I found.

1) The Benchmark DAC3B seems to sound the best on the SPDIF inputs

2) The Lumin X1 is an amazing sounding DAC. The streaming is a bit of a wild child in SPDIF and USB.

3) I compared streaming fibre into the X1 which then flowed out via SPDIF or USB streaming outputs vs the Sonore OpticalRendu streamer (which is fibre to USB). I found the X1 streaming to be louder and more in your face. A bit of a wild child compared to the more refined sounding Sonore OpticalRendu. Not sure what I will like long term. At the moment I prefer the Sonore OpticalRendu.

4) The SPDIF and i2s inputs of my Musetec 005 DAC were tested with the Sonore OpticalRendu connected to the Sonore UltraDigital. I compared this with another Sonore OpticalRendu connected to the USB input of the Musetec 005. Unfortunately, the OpticalRendu into USB was still the king, which was a shame because if I liked the UltraDigital more, I would has sold 2 of my OpticalRendu’s.

6) The best sound was using the EtherRegen as an FMC from my network switch. Ethernet from the switch to the eR and then fibre to my Lumin X1. This is using the fibre streaming of the X1 into the DAC of the X1. I never test the Ethernet streaming of the X1. Really not interested in that.

7) I also tested the Lumin X1 into my CODA #16 amp with the volume driven by the X1’s Leedh volume control. I used the external wireless Lumin volume control that is hooked up to the USB output of the X1. I compared this to the X1 connected to my Benchmark LA4 preamp.

The Leedh volume control is really good. However, at low volume it is not linear like the LA4. That is increasing the volume with the Leedh at low volume does not increase the volume at consistent steps. Not a big deal and I plan to use the X1 direct to amp with the CODA #16 in my Livingroom, but the X1 into the LA4 preamp is better. I am trying to reduce box count in the Livingroom so I will go X1 into amp,

8) The Musetec 005 DAC is a bit warmer sounding than the X1. I think both are fantastic. Though strangely on my RAAL VM-1a headphone amp, I prefer the Benchmark DA3B over the 005 and X1. I think the rougher DAC3B matches better with the 7 tubes on the VM-1a.

9) Another "DAC" I have and sent out for mods is the PeachTree GAN1 amp. I will use that with the SPDIF streaming of the X1. The GAN1 will be a headphone amp for my RAAL SR1a earphones. Before I sent the GAN1 for mods I thought it beat $30K of 2-channel gear (all sold, except Musetec 005 DAC) used as a headphone amp. This GAN1 amp has a lot of potential. That $30K of gear was KRELL Duo 175XD | CODA 07x preamp | Musetec 005 DAC | other cables.

The result of all of this is that I come to my final digital destination with my Office and Livingroom 2-channel systems and also my 2 RAAL headphone systems. I am keeping the Lumin X1 and Musetec 005 for 2-channel and the GAN1 and Benchmark DAC3B for my 2 RAAL phones.

I am selling my 2nd Musetec 005 and 1 Sonore OpticalRendu.

@designsfx I may not be missing anything and appreciate your point. Reason I ask the question is since I upgraded to the Nagra Dac and have experimented with different set ups the sound has really changed.  So, far running the Lumin T2 as the streamer into the Nagra sounds the best.  I wanted to see other ways people have set up their systems to see if I am missing something.  I originally had my Nagra dac plugged directly into the Roon but have since found that by reintroducing the T2 as a streamer in front of the dac my sound improved.  I'm looking to learn from someone like you what their experiences have been since I have only been in the streaming dac phase about 2 years.