DAC - Streamer or all in one unit

Hello all,

Starting from scratch presently and having been out of the Digital SOTA loop for a bit..

looking to build an above average primary stereo system. am trying to decide which way to go with a digital ONLY rig.

go with separates, and get a mid level dAC or higher and as competent a Streamer, or an all in one integrated unit which addresses red book or CD rips and streaming needs/desires without the need for ROON., regardless.

i’m guessing the investment for either avenue to as much as $10K all in, perhaps.

not opposed to giant killer big bang for buck gear that drops in below my initial budgetarry target either.

obviously the obligatory additions of more wires is duly noted if separates are the path. and they would be addressed apart from any chosen budgetary target.

your thoughts   or first hand eXP with recently released (’18 to ’20) DACs, and streamers in general, would be immensely well recieved and definitely appreciated.

thanks much!!
Ten grand is a healthy budget.  I am assuming that you don’t own a DAC currently.  That to me is the most important part of getting the digital replay correct.
I am also assuming that you currently must be listen to CDs, or perhaps downloads, but do not have them stored anywhere except on discs.  You ought to budget for that as well...
Some general advice.  I would keep the digital files in a place independent of the DAC/Streamer, or at least have easily useable backups.  If you wish to change the setup going forward you don’t want your files hostage on the old device.  Are you then going to want the files available in multiple locations of your dwelling?  Or will one room suffice?
  I have 3 systems, one on each level of my home.  I like to be able to access the files from each system, so I have a NAS server (actually I now have 2 of them, since I have recently added a Melco), and some sort of streamer in each system.  If you don’t need this functionality then you don’t have to budget for it, and perhaps all you need is a hard drive that can attach by USB to the server.
  Another consideration is ease of use, which mainly means the software program to control it.  No one “needs” Roon, btw, it’s an option.  One of my streamers is a Bryston BDA3, which sounds fantastic but has an awful program called Manic Moose.  It doesn’t matter for radio play or Qobuz, but finding one of the 3000 CDs ripped to my NAS on it can be a challenge.  Many of the streamer companies have their proprietary software, and you may want to try and experiment with them to see what works best for you.
  Finally, streamers, IMO, are not a finished or mature technology, which is why they are constantly changing.  Basically they are computers masquerading as Audio Gear, and they are subject to the same IT issues that bedevil the workplace.  I recommend keeping the streamer and the DAC separate, so if the streamer is irretrievably buggy, you can replace it and keep the DAC.  
I will be on vacation for a few days here, not sure about my internet access, so I will spend your 10 grand here.
  First, my experience with Melco is limited to the past few weeks, but I am very impressed.  I also didn’t expect it to be recognized as a NAS by the other  streamers in the home, but it is, and therefore potentially makes my Synology NAS redundant.  The Melco sounds superb connected  to my Bryston DAC3 by usb.  What the Melco 100 doesn’t offer is streaming Qobuz or Internet Radio, but my understanding is that future editions will do that.  Melco will also try to sell you a CD ripper for 4 figures.  I am using the Apple Optical Ripper with fine results, but the Melco ripper can be used as a high end CD transport.  So figure 3 grand max here.
  For DAC would get the Mytek Manhattan or the Bryston DAC3, each of which I have owned and can vouch for.  Figure five grand here, tops.
  Cables-I’m not a cable/power cord guy, but there should be enough left in the budget to indulge


Many thanks. brevirty online seems the current ettiquette though it leaves a lot to be desired.

I own a Bel Canto DAC e One ver 3.
in a week or so, a Synology 719 twin bay NAS. necessary to retrieve older data off of a former syn NAS which I brutally slew.

beyond these, a handful of former class leading pieces and cabling now entering antiquity which have seen little or no use for some time. years in some cases.

and its now time to get back on the audio treadmill at least for a bit and assemble a new rig. the antiques will likely trickle down into a lesser array.

I have only 60K tracks or about 375GB of music. 85% in lossless. 5% in HD

all is available on various yet redundant SATA or USB HDD

I own an Apple USB Super Drive.

current subscriptions are to: Apple Music, and Spodofy.

I’ve tried desperately to use Tidal and the popular French streamer though each has no truck with being made accessible to adaptive software or screen readers. naturally then, the notion here is a lot of hope that the ‘whatever’ server/streamer app will be more friendly on my iphone or ipad.

BTW, good point to reflect that streamers are merely PCs or servers in disguise. which I had forgotten.

my EXP with the streamer plus dAC has been with some quite high end units, e.g., Berkley, Mitner, EMM labs, DCS & MSB stacks, and Bel Canto. EMM and BC offer a DAC whose ambition and service is for use as a pre as well. of the lot, I like how the eMM Labs and Aurender play together. BC’s latest effort is not ffar behind IMO either.

albeit, I’m not sure if I really want to pitch that amount of ducketts at a DAC. Lampy’s upper end as well would be another option and still, the 20k plus entry fee there gives me some trepadation.

the missing link for me is getting a first hand close in exam of the percieved disparities in performance from these stellar performers to that of those in say, $7 to $12K arena, as is the present not terribly well thought out budget for the proposed source component. those like Cord DAVE, Ayre, Bryston, Benchmark, Mydac, auralic, etc.

as for listening preffs, mine are always landing on organic, natural, reality, yet with detail, excellent imaging and a balanced expression of the entire bandwidth while the lower octaves are not rendered anemic. I likey a strong botom end which is all too often left lacking somehow.

my main bug a boo is I actually could buy the Lampy Pacifica, or EMM Labs dD2, but feel this time around to stay in a ‘real world’ approach so the whole deal lands well under 75k or there abouts.

still gotta choose power, speakers racks or stand, wires, power line conditioning and treat the room. power will be ‘glass’ and speakers likely will be horns. though all is not set into stone, not even the overall financial investment. I just hope to remain sane along the way.

I like my Directstream DAC.  FPGA with free updates will keep it current. Darko liked it equal to a $12K Chord Dave.
Then all you need is https://stackaudio.co.uk/link2/
With free shipping and 30 day trial.
I put my music on SSD's and find it easier and better SQ than my Synology.
You could drop all your tracks on:
and have plenty room for ripping more.
I also recommend Magna Mano and miniDSP SHD Studio streamers.  Both have different feature sets.
agree w many of the comments above

keep streamer and dac separate - streamer/interface technology still sorting out, moving target, lots of half ass solutions, whereas DAC technology has now advanced to the point that very very good sound can be had for $1000, whereas just few years back you needed to spend multiples of that for similarly good sound

since covid shut in in february i have climbed the learning curve - tried several streamers, close to 20 DACs... have a very good feel for what is out there, what is available

key conclusion is with a modest streamer properly connected to a $1000-1500 DAC one can have SQ that truly rivals excellent analog with zero apologies ... it won’t sound quite like analog with LP playback's sympathetic distortions, but nonetheless will sound clean, tonality rich, image very well, sound very real...