DAC vs Music Server

I want to preface my comments by saying, this is my experience, I don’t know everything, and your results may vary. I’ve recently compared the Mola Mola Tambaqui, DCS Bartok, and DCS Rossini in my system to my Chord Dave. The most significant differences were between the Rossini and everything else, but the Rossini wasn’t a good fit in my system. A couple of dealers told me that the most significant differences will be found by replacing my DAC. After my experience comparing several DACs, I decided to purchase the Antipodes Oladra music server. I’ve been using the Antipodes K21 and K41. I received the Oladra and wow! The richness of instruments and naturalness of voices, the enveloping soundstage, dynamics, realism, detail while sounding relaxed. Everything across the entire audio spectrum has improved. In my system, the Oladra music server has more impact on the sound than any DAC I’ve tried. It’s a reminder that our own ears are the best tools to decide on what does or doesn’t work in our system.


My experience has been that once I have had a good DAC… not the be-all end-all… but good. Then the streamer makes by far the biggest difference. So for instance assume we’ll chosen a good $5K DAC and $5 Streamer, as you incrementally increase the investment in these components, the streamer contributes about 70% of the change vs 30% for the DAC. Not hard and fast, but in general. I mention this, because there is a tendency to think… it’s just bits for the streamer… it can’t mater. It maters. 

Under the $5K I found it varies wildly… DACs can provide poor sound quality and improving the DAC can make a huge difference. Hence, a recent comparison I did using a Aurrender N100 and a Schiit Yggdrasil and swapping the Yggdrasil for a Linn DAC ~$5K. I also swapped the Aurrender and Linn streamer ~$5K.(in one box, testing separately. The difference was striking with 70% of the difference coming from the change in DAC and 30% from the streamer (although in this case the Aurender sounded better than the Linn streamer). 

As @ghdprentice pointed out, once you have a good DAC, the differences in streamer performance is easily discernible and appreciable. In my system, the transition from Aurender N20 to N30SA was no brainer. 


There are some that don't like Roon, but that's just the way this hobby goes. I love Antipodes,  you may not, again that's the way this hobby goes.

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This has been my experience as well. I have had four different streamers in my system, all with the same DAC, each one has been an improvement. The latest is an Aurender N10, which has been a quantum leap forward. Finally time to upgrade the DAC.