Digital newbie

Hi all,

Could someone give me the 101 of digital today? I’m back in the hobby after a decade-ish hiatus and would like the basics of streamers v network transports v network players, etc and how Tidal/Qobuz/Roon play into it.  I've been on Aurender's and Lumin's website and I think I get the gist but wanted some clarificiation.  If there’s a specific thread for newbies like me, could you point me that way? Thanks!


+1 for @dwest1023 's Idea for starting with a laptop. You are familiar with the interface and you can get a good idea of how things work before you drop a bunch of money. I'm using my ASUS ROG laptop for streaming and I've compared the sound of Qobuz to my CD rig (being careful to play the same version) and they sound identical to my ears.

One tip I will give you is that streamers come with their own software and each interface and functionality can be quite different. I would suggest that you pay a lot of attention to the streamer's interface before you choose which one you buy if you go that direction.

If you like the idea of having a huge database of information at your fingertips about the music you are playing you may like Roon. You can use Roon on your laptop so you don't need a special streamer to use it but you will need a DAC with a USB input. But I recommend starting simple and working your way up from there.

I started streaming several years ago.  Prior to that,  most of my listening was CD and some streaming of radio stations through my computer.  Because I wasn't sure,  I  started modest, with a Bluesound Node 2i.  Reasonable cost,  and the digital out allowed me to use my external dac at that time,  a PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell.  It  completely changed the way I listen to music!! I still play cds now and then,  but over 90 percent of my listening is streaming.  I've upgraded most all my system components since then,  including dac, amps, speakers,  but I still use the Node2i,  although I upgraded it with a TeddyPardo LPS (which significantly improved sq!) Why? Because of the operating system.  And that is something to keep in mind when shopping for a streamer.  Make sure that it supports the streaming services that you choose to listen to. My choices are Amazon HD (largest catalog,  large amount in Ultra HD,  good organization) and Idagio for classical music,  and IHeart radio for streaming broadcast stations. None of the high end streamers support both of these services; Innuos says it's in the works to do so,  but they're not sure when. The BluOS interface is very intuitive and flexible,  and works really well for me.  I  use the digital out into a  PS Audio Directstream DAC,  and the sq is great!! Usually better than the same recording played on my CD Transport! My suggestion is to start out modest until you determine what you really like; perhaps even used equipment that you can resell.  If you're lucky enough to have a nearby dealer,  maybe you can audition.  Give it a try,  and have some fun! There's often more enjoyment in the journey than resides at the destination! And as an earlier poster mentioned about some posters ridiculing newbies to a subject,  I say ignore those posters! Learning from others is what these forums are supposed to be about! As Will Rogers said,  "We're all ignorant,  just about different things!" Hope I gave some useful input. 


You never gave us a price range, which is the single most important piece of information. Streamers can range from a few hundred buck to $20,000. I can recommend a bunch of really good streamers in each price range, but won't just start throwing out recommendations that are either under of over your price range.

I'd be more than willing to help, but "help me, help you"

Plenty of good "coaching" above and primers.  I was in the same lane you are in a few years ago.  Confused about DAC's, streamers, ethernet connectivity, streaming services, etc.  I started with the BluSound Node 2i and educated myself along the way.  Suggest you pick up a used one with an optional LPS here on Audiogon and start your journey.