Does the 'Buck' Start with the DAC?

Some members have expressed that the server / streaming front end is less important than the DAC.

I subscribe to the position that "Everything Matters"

As I consider front end choices, I'm trying to gauge if I should be leaning more heavily on a DAC versus a SOURCE (server / streamer).

Feedback and perspective from both camps, or any others, will be helpful. Thank you.

Please Note:  I'm not looking for validation of the position that "only the bits" matter... I accept that some believe this wholeheartedly... and that's okay by me. 
Just plugged in my SOtM SMS 200 Neo (~ 600 CAD).  Suffice to phenomenal gains !

TLDR: 20k system will realize very strong gains from using a hifi streamer vs basic computer.  

For background - my system is worth about ~ 20k:
- Basic Computer
- SU-1 KTE
- Rockna Wavedream SE DAC
- LTA MicroZOTL pre
- Pass XA25
- Tannoy Eaton
- Audio Sensibility Statement cables throughout

I shied away from a streamer just because I use this computer for everything and as a TV, so I didn't want to have 3 remotes switching back and forth (basically 1st world problems).

I decided to start small on the streamer (replacing the basic computer) - hence the SOtM purchase.  

Unreal.  The refinement in sound stage, imaging, low level detail and bass is quite astounding.  Everything you would expect a better digital signal to produce. 

For reference - the gains realized are larger than going from a Yggy to the Rockna, and bigger than moving from the FW F7 to a Pass XA25 (from a detail perspective, although this is more subjective - I still really enjoy the F7).

As next steps - I will be looking at bringing in a Sonore OpticalModule, and linear power supplies.  Ultimately moving to an end game streamer in the 4-5k range over the next couple years.  
What you are describing @ag3 is exactly what people experience when switching from a general purpose computer (i.e. work or home laptop) to a dedicated, audio purpose built streamer. It's indeed eye popping! I was there a few years ago, and never looked back.

Unfortunately, there are still many people streaming from their laptop, simply because they refuse to try anything else. After all, zeroes and ones....if there is sounds, it works.... either it works, or it doesn't ....
@ag3__  the dac you have is great (i have the same one!). if you are in the market for a server, deff consider the wavedream net. it very well could be an endgame for your rig. it has been serving me well and if not for the taiko extreme on the way i'd have no plans to sell it. i will update this thread with my thoughts on the taiko and maybe some comparisons with the wavedream net as well.

if you look at my post history here, i detail in another thread my progressions from laptop to server. the wavedream net is worth the cost for the rockna and not to solicit, if the taiko lives up to it's reputation i'll be selling my net so if you're up for waiting you might be able to score a killer deal :)

the other reason i'd suggest the net is that it has a specialized clock for the wavedream. now, from what i understand, in taiko's testing they found the source clock to not cause a large difference/offer expected benefits so there is no clocking of the signal in the extreme. however, in my system just this morning i was playing with local clock vs. stream clock and stream clock sounded better to me. not huge difference, but better. i'm very curious to see if the taiko pairing is better than the synergy offered by the rockna stack

I recently have aquired a Lumin X1 and have connected via optical fiber converted by etherRegen from copper.  My server currently is a SonicTransporter i5 CDR.  From the Lumin X1 I have Triode Wire XLR's into a Vinnie Rossi L2 Statement DHT preamp.  I am also trialing Qobuz. I have Roon and have experimented with Lumin App with an iPad. Previously I had only been using my music stored on the SonicTransporter.   For DACs, I have the X1, the L2 DAC in my Vinnie Rossi, a PS Audio DirectStream, and a Luxman D-06.  Yep, I will be reducing the herd of DACS.  My previous preference has been the Vinnie Rossi L2 2.0 DAC, though have enjoyed the other two as well.  I am using a microRendu 2.8 prior to the VR L2 2.0 DAC from the etherRegen for comparison.  The DirectStream has been very easy to implement, and the periodic software updates have been simple and interesting to try.

The Lumin X1 is still early on playing.  I had read that it takes 400 hours to reach its potential.  I am glad I was aware, because out ot the box, sound quality was not up to the others.  I have maybe 150 hours on the X1 now, and sound quality has dramatically improved.  Last weekend I did some back and forth listening between my L2 VR DAC vs the Lumin X1.   I still preferred the VR from that listening comparison, but it is much closer than prior.  If even subtle improvements keep developing on the X1, I expect it to be my favorite.  

I really like the simplicity of connections with the Lumin X1 and Roon integration of Qobuz and my stored music.  My preference with the other DACs has been native sample rate to the DAC. The VR DAC 2.0 has an upsample minimal phase upsample ablity to 768 kHz but I have preferred the NOS (non-oversampling setting).  I have tried experimenting with Roon upsampling and a short test of HQPlayer upsampling, but the i5 SonicTransporter lacks capability to reliably process very high sample rates without buffering and stalling.  The Lumin X1 and my VR can accept and play up to 768 kHz and 512 DSD fed to them.  I have curiousity about this, but am reluctant to embark on whole new server just for this without better knowledge of whether  I would use after all.  Innuos has many fans and I have mused about the line often.  The lack of ability to upsample is something I wish were different, but then again, I have not done so in my limited experience to date.

I admit to some curiousity on the SonicTransporter i9 Optical that has fiber optic output (through built-in Sonore Optical Module).  The SGM Extreme has optical as well, but pricing on it is well over $20,000.  I suspect we will see other servers add optical fiber outputs and hope to consider those options when they come out.

The Lumin X1 has some upsample capability, but again have so far preferred native input resolution.  However, I am experimenting with upsampling to 24-bit over 16-bit through the Lumin and have so far liked doing it.

Regarding which is more important--source/server vs DAC, my opinion is that both matter and are overall system dependent for results. I think a far separation in quality of either limits the final result, but feel the source/server with connection chain to the DAC to potentially be the bigger influencer.  



In terms of the topic of this thread - it's hard to say which contributes more to the sound (DAC/streamer).  It's sort of a chicken and egg scenario, a better DAC will help, but without a streamer to unlock it, you won't get the most out of the DAC.  Leads me to believe 50:50 is the appropriate ratio.  


It really is a phenomenal DAC.  What's interesting is I used to only use it in NOS mode, as the upsampling filters tended to thin out the sound.  Post streamer - that is no longer an issue, and it sounds absolutely sublime.  It's incredible how a streamer really ties everything together in the system.  I'm shocked how much music I was missing with a 20k system !

In terms of streamers that have caught my eyes - I like both the Rockna and the Musica Pristina units as they both support i2s, which would allow me to offload the SU1 KTE (USB -> i2s converter) and recoup more funds when I upgrade. 

I also like the Musica Pristina as it is a pure streamer, so I'm not paying for a CD drive, hard drive etc., which I will not use.  I'm purely Tidal via Roon.  That leads me to believe I'm getting more bang for my buck in terms of sound quality (or alternatively it is just overpriced !). 

Unfortunately not many reviews out outside of one agon user with the older A Capella II model (which is quite old).