dac and streamer or seperates

Want to spend about 5k

System right now is a Krell S-300  love it!

B&W 804's  love them too

Well treated medium sized room.

but I'm using the built in streamer and dac.  

I would like to take my streaming to the next level.

At 5k would you go separate DAC and Separate Streamer or all in one?


OP, I’m pretty open minded when it comes to this hobby. I had solid state for 25 years and have recently gone tube amp and preamp. I’ve owned 3 dacs and demoed another and let me say with 100% certainty, BITS ARE NOT JUST BITS. Any simple test and you will quickly see this is not the case. Shop wisely. 

When you rip a CD to disk, you’re copying data off the CD. Do that 10 times and each file copy will cksum exactly the same. If it doesn’t then your data is corrupt. That’s what I mean by bits is bits. Call it a streamer if you like, but it’s still just a computer with a CPU, data bus, I/O ports and an operating system - most likely a Linux varient under the hood.

Data gets copied from one place to another, bit by bit. That’s how computers work. 30 years as a UNIX/Linux IT engineer in Silicon Valley doing mission critical projects is how I made my money. I do rsync backups from California to Hawaii and the data transfer are accurate. Every cksum comparison matches. EVERY one.

So the data leaving my laptop PC being fed to my DAC is precisely the same data being fed by your streamer to your DAC. Bits is bits.

It’s what happens to that data which is what you hear. It’s not until the data is being converted to Analog that there can be a possible difference.

@asmithkash I’ll give you a bit of a different answer.
If you love the sound of analog, which is natural “unprocessed” sound, you can do equally well with separates or a one box solution.
For separates, streamers to look into are Lumin - great sound, crappy UI but Roon ready so you can compensate for the garbage UI by using Roon. Second option would be the Aurender which has a very nice UI but isn’t Roon ready.

For a one box solution, assuming we’re talking used, in a $5,000 price range you have a Bricasti M3 with a built in Network renderer (below $4,000) and a Bricasti M1SE with the latest MDI and a built in Network renderer. Both are Roon ready and you can use the Mconnect app to stream Qobuz and Tidal. I prefer Roon.
In my system the Bricasti M3 w/Network renderer streaming using Roon, Qobuz and Tidal, beat out the Lumin U1 Mini connected to the same Bricasti M3 via a very high quality Audience USB cable and a number of AES/EBU cables I tried.
It also beat out my vinyl front end (MoFi UltraDeck, Hana ML cartridge, Sutherland 20/20 LPS phono amp) and a Pro-Ject DS2T CD transport.

In case of separates, you’ll be getting a lesser quality DAC as part of your $5,000 budget will be allocated to buy the streamer. Just something to think about.


Cool system.  Are your speakers DIY? If so, nice woodworking!

You hold a viewpoint that “bits are bits”. I’m curious if you’ve actually auditioned any dedicated streamer. Is your opinion based on belief or direct experience?

If the latter, I can respect that though I would then suggest there are other facets at play. For instance, some streamers are clearly built to be convenient. They are a simple PC packaged without the attention to detail toward sound quality, but are inexpensive. If you auditioned one of these and concluded no difference, I wouldn’t be surprised. 

Of course, you do raise some good points. A PC makes a very functional source and music library. And, many of us (me included) spend large sums of money improving (chasing our tails?) our system. It’s a hobby and I hope that all who do follow this path are able to easily afford it. 

But I will stand by prior comments in this thread. While a good DAC is important, so is a good source. The improvements made by a good streamer vs. a PC were as striking (or more so) to my system than my DAC upgrades. And, very easy to hear. 

Clearly to many of us, bits are not just bits. And it’s not related to our wallets. I don’t toss money away for fun. I’ve personally evaluated and passed on a lot of $$$ gear (including DACs >$25k) that I could afford but which didn’t bring the improvement expected. 

So, if your viewpoint is based on experience - that’s great. However, if it’s based on the understanding that you just need to get the data there uncorrupted, that is a viewpoint not supported by the direct experience of others. Or, even the science of data transmission. Digital data travels in analog wave form. EMF and other noise is carried along for the ride.


@mgrif104 You write:  "Digital data travels in analog wave form. EMF and other noise is carried along for the ride."

So what you're saying is that you don't believe that the transfer of digital data from a PC to a USB DAC is inaccurate and that it is accurate from a streamer device?  Is that right?

If I copy a music file from my Linux laptop PC to any other machine, I guarantee you that the cksum will show that the file was transferred accurately, bit for bit.  I am in Hawaii and know that I can reliably copy data files over 2500 miles, across the ocean, and the cksum will show that the copy went perfectly.   

I fail to see why that would be different for a data copy to a USB DAC (which is also a coputing device in its own right).  Once that data is at the DAC, what happens is a totally different animal. 

Why is it that a DAC is incapable of accurately receiving a data file from a PC?  Why is it that data traveling 2500 miles across the Pacific Ocean is more reliable than a 3 foot long USB cable?