Does the streamer effect sound quality

I have a Bluesound streamer device and I have been wondering if I change to a Cambridge cxn v2 streamer will the sound quality improve. I am only using these devices as a streamer to play tidal. They will be streaming to my Cary cdp dac via rca input. 




From what I have read, including here, if a streamer has a good, quiet power supply (there are mods for the Bluesound), and a good DAC, then a change to another streamer may not make a very big difference.

Absolutely does! I upgraded from a Bluesound Node to an Aurender N10. I originally thought the Bluesound Node was very good, but the Aurender N10 is night and day better. Probably the best upgrade in my 55 years of being an Audiophile! Check out my Audiogon post on this subject:

If you are using the DACs in the streamers, the sound will vary more between them than if you are using the digital outputs only.

Do streamers matter? Yes absolutely they matter.
But…in my opinion a move from the Bluesound to Cambridge is not much if an upgrade. Going from Bluesound to something like a Lumin U1 Mini or U2 Mini will be a bigger step up. You can find a used U1 Mini with an SBooster power supply upgrade. That would be nice. Don’t waste time and money on lateral moves like the bluesound to Cambridge.

Everything can make a difference.  Each case is different even with different protocols or inputs on each streamer.  Only way to know, in lieu of detailed technical reviews, is to try.  Many people report improvements moving off Bluesound.  I’ve been streaming for years and currently run Cambridge streamers which I think offer very good sound quality and  value.  

+2, @mgattmch

There are only two types of folks, those who actually took the leap and found that streamer quality matters. And, then there are those who chose to speculate without trying anything that change to a better streamer can’t make a difference.

Those arguing for a significant upgrade to see a difference in streamer are right on the money.

The thrust of my point is 

(a) too many people get the DAC mixed up in their evaluation of the streamer's sound quality. These two elements must first be separated in order of a real comparison to be made, and 

(b) people need to understand what is improving in the streamer setup. For those who don't want to spend many times what a Node costs can make a very sizable improvement by paying attention to one key element -- the power supply.

By improving that, they can up their game and then save money for what may be other, weaker links in their system.

Some people think a stremer is digital in and digital out so nothing heppens inside right?

Amps are analog in and analog out, a lot happens inside.  Steamers takes file packets formated for transmission and converts them to files ready for your DAC.  Notice what verb I used.


Streamers make a bigger difference than I ever thought they would.  I have gone from a Cocktail X45 to an Auralic Aries G2.1, then to the Aurender N20, the difference in sound quality was a huge leap every time.


I went from Bluesound to Bryston BDP3, and then to the Cambridge Audio CXN 60. Same DAC, and for a while I had all 3 simultaneously. The Bryston costs six times more than the Bluesound and sounded much better. I got rid of it ultimately because the software to control it was unusable. The CA also sounds noticeably better than the Node, much closer to the Bryston while lacking just that last bit of solidity in the midrange. It costs about 1/3 of the Bryston but is much more enjoyable to use because of the app, and the features are terrific, particularly Chromecast. So it is not just a lateral move from Bluesound, it’s a clear upgrade. Moving up the price ladder will get better SQ yet, but then the law of diminishing returns kicks in

I can tell you from personal and current experience that the Cambridge CXN V2 has excellent sound, and thanks to their proprietary Stream Magic operating system, it's very easy to use. I stream Qobuz and have been quite happy with the performance.

I agree with most people here but want to add a very overlooked point. In my experience with streaming - is that the quality of the recording makes a very, very significant difference. Take streaming out of the equation and place a quality turntable in. Some record albums were recorded very well and produced very well. As such they sound spectacular. Think Chicago, Steely Dan, Diana Krall, and many others when the producers and the players wanted a good sounding album. Now taking a poorly recorded album and play it on your quality turntable. It sounds thin, no tonal range, the dynamic range is narrow, etc. Now back to digital streaming. If the streamer is good, the power supply is stable and the unit is quiet…paired with a very good external DAC you will hear tremendous sound from a quality recording. If you spend significantly more money on the streamer and the DAC….. the sound gets better. As with all audio equipment for the most part. But crappy recordings are also a critical part of good sound. It doesn’t get discussed much, but I would guess those individuals in the recording industry…. can attest to this. At audio shows, the dealers and vendors find the best recordings to showcase their audio equipment, especially speakers.

@mahler123 yep the manic moose is hideous. I heard the CXN v2 and the lstest node although not side by side. I think the latest node and the Cambridge are pretty close and it’s possible the cxn v2 is a just bit better, not sure. My point was to make a noticeable upgrade you have to jump higher than from the node to cxn. 

I agree with @audphile1 Keep the node until you can save up for something better. 

I owned a Cambridge CXNV2 before my Arender N200. The Aurender is far better. The CXN was good and had a good sound as a stand alone unit, I didn’t like that it didn’t cache the playlist and would sometime pause or delay the music. It would mostly be a lateral move from the Node for you. UPscale Audio has an Aurender N150 open box on sale right now. Good luck!

@2psyop …you nailed it!  I do not consider myself an audiophile as I simply don’t hear many of the things others here do. But I do hear profound differences between good and bad recordings, regardless of media type. For example, I enjoy music streamed on Spotify and can detect little if any difference via Qobuz. A poor recording sounds equally poor on each.

So, with that said:  I recently added a Teddy Pardo linear power supply to my Node and have it connected to a Denefrips Pontus 2-12th DAC that brings great musical enjoyment.  Not sure what the OP is seeking exactly but “different” sound isn’t always “better” sound. Be honest with yourself as investment-bias is a strong aphrodisiac. 

I also have a Bluesound Node for streaming digital out to a PS Audio Directstream DAC.  I  was going to upgrade the streamer (was looking at Innuos and Aurender) but neither has support for the two services that I use,  Amazon music and Idagio.  So instead,  I upgraded the power supply to a TeddyPardo LPS.  The difference was significant! Some feel that it's ridiculous to spend as much on the upgrade as the unit itself costs,  but I'm very happy with the results.  My point is,  if the streamer doesn't support the services you use,  then it won't work for you! BTW,  the sq from the moded Bluesound is slightly better compared to the same recording on a cd played on my  NuPrime CDT-10 using the I2s output; in other words,  pretty darn good!

I am being redundant, but I just can’t disagree more strongly that the CA is a lateral move from the current node.  I had several hours over a week of listening to do a direct comparison.  The CXN is a clear upgrade.  Is it bested by streamers that cost 3- times as much?  Yes, but not by a large margin.  For me it’s the sweet spot for price, performance, and features.  Never had the chance to compare it to a 10K+ streamer 

How can a Streamer make any difference if the digital stream is fed directly to a DAC?  1's and 0's from Streamer A vs Streamer B can't sound different, right?  Not so fast there, Bubba. 

Only have experience with one Streamer connected to a quality DAC.  However, the Streamer offered sound "enhancement" features.  Claimed to 1) fix corrupted digital bits and 2) improve overall sound quality.  The reality is that disabling all "enhancements" produces better sound quality.  The more you mess with a signal, digital or analog, the more likely to corrupt the signal.  

Excellent point already made that quality of the source material will make a large difference.  Have no reliable insight into whether providers like Tidal, Spotify, Amazon, etc. process source files in any way.  I have done side by side comparison of a streamed track vs same from a CD.  There is a difference.  If the 1's and 0's are the same from either source, there should be no difference in sound quality.  Have to conclude something is different somewhere.


Of course it will, it also is determined by which Node you have.....the 2 is not very good, the 2i is decent, and the Node 130 can be very good with an external DAC. You did not mention budget other than the $800 for the CXN. I would add an LHY linear power supply bundle $279, an save your money for a better streamer later.

+++++ for Teddy Pardo…. there are often many opportunities to buy them used and implement them widely across your streaming network..

TIP get your remaining wall warts on a decent ( Furman 15 is fine ) power conditioning unit , preferably on a different breaker than the dedicated home run used for the rest of the system - the analog kit.

Finally you must experiment with where to plug the DAC in…. much will depend on the the competency of the DAC designer in 3 key areas: Power supply, input isolation and Faraday cage implementation… then we can wrangle over if they know much about filters and that ALL important analog stage….

Ones and Zeros is an incomplete sentence… ignore the poster who claims otherwise…

Only have experience with one Streamer connected to a quality DAC.  However, the Streamer offered sound "enhancement" features.  Claimed to 1) fix corrupted digital bits and 2) improve overall sound quality ...

Hmmm. What streamer was that?

@texbychoice …”The more you mess with a signal, digital or analog, the more likely to corrupt the signal. “ You ran into something here.

“… I have done side by side comparison of a streamed track vs same from a CD. There is a difference.” Yes, that is virtually always true depending on the quality of the player vs streamer / DAC is and how much they conform to your values in sound.


Also, Qobuz is regarded as the best sounding streaming service followed closely by Tidal, the rest are not in the same league. However, Qobuz has over half a million high resolution recordings… while Tidal only has less than ten times less, making Qobuz the overwhelming best choice for streaming.



Streamer definitely affects sound quality as does the cable you use from streamer to DAC.  I do not have a technical reason why (bits are bits) but I assure you that each streamer has its own sonic fingerprint.  The difference is easy to hear.

I’d make sure you have the DAC, Amp,  speakers and preamp you want before going down this rabbit hole though. 



I assume you are using the internal dac of the streamer?  In that aspect you may notice more of a difference than say comparing the 2 as a transport only. I've had quite the handful of these budget streamers, the CNX2 being one of them but only the original Node. I've used external dacs with all my streamers and of course with the transports..but I've always tried the internal dacs on the streamers to see how they sound. I'm going off memory but I recall, subjectively, that the CXN2 had a warmer signature and more focused slightly narrowed soundstage. First Node I'm comparing it to. 

Is it really worth moving from the newer Node to the Cambridge? Tough call. I doubt it will be some eye opening difference, probably more like subtle differences. You could spend the money upgrading your current power supply if you are happy with the current software. In my opinion if you want a big true upgrade you need to step up to the likes of Innous or Aurender, maybe Lumin. There are a couple others but you get the idea. 

To me the Ifi Zen Stream and Primare Prisma I or II transports are good sound quality for the money. Never tried the cheaper Eversolo or Pro-ject that I consider to be part of the budget streamer lines. I can understand why others would think moving to the Cambridge would just be a lateral move. But depending on your budget and your plans to upgrade the rest of your system in the future maybe you are just looking for something a little different or better. If you don't have plans to keep spending and upgrading your system the Cambridge might be all the subtle differences you ever need. From a budget standpoint if you can sell the Node for a decent amount, pick up a used CXN2 (which I see a few of them now) for a good price then make the move. The CXN2 is a nice machine, looks good too. 

I guess it just comes down to what you want to accomplish. I've only been into streaming a couple years, and if I could go back to start I would have probably waited for a pricier unit from a maker with a track record of making high quality streamers. You are going to end up there eventually if you are always chasing better sound.

If you will be content with a modest system the Cambridge is a nice unit, but so is your Node. And like others have said, upgrading the internal power supply and then adding a linear power supply to your Node (when cash permits) seems to be a great upgrade. Depending on the rest of your system that may be all the upgrade you ever need. You could also upgrade the power supply if money is burning a hole in your pocket, then the next time you have the itch you could look into a nice external dac. So many choices in hifi lol. 

Everything I mentioned here is just my opinion and I wish you luck. If you do make the switch to a different streamer I hope you come back and share how you feel about it. Happy Holidays everyone!! 

Improving the PS by adding a LPS to the Node was a step in the right direction. Replacing the Node setup with the Innuos Zen Mk3 was huge! I'm seeing used ones going as little as $1550. That is a steal. No brainer. 

@cleeds Respectfully decline to identify brand names. Believe there is brand name bias, myself included, that can get in the way for this topic.  Will say all my components are from brands with long history in audio, not expensive, high performance for the cost.

@ghdprentice To further clarify streamer and CD transport feed digital to the same DAC via optical connections. Comparing the same track, streamer sound is noticeably congested.  Not enough different to say the streamer sound is bad, just different.  Is it the streaming service or the streamer?  Don't know.


The Bluesound streamers have gotten better over the years. I’ve had the Node 2, 2i and now the X, and each one has sounded better. Not sure how much better a $1k plus streamer would sound compared to the latest Node. Never did the power supply mod on any of them, but might go for that down the road and still keep the cost reasonable.



Just a word of caution. Optical connections tend to be poor. Typically they are add in functions and the component manufacturer just sources an inexpensive electrical to optical converter to do it. In general, these are not the connections people serious about sound quality would use. So, it is very possible what is coming through is more of how well the optical converter was integrated. I would use SP/DIF or AES for sound quality comparisons. Of course, then it is a question of how well the streamer and CD transports manufacturer designed and built their components.

I’ve had the blue sound, the Lumin, the Cambridge, the overall advice is that it’s hard to logically separate what these devices do. If it’s only to transport bits into a DAC, or to provide a processed signal, and does it attenuate volume? One of these three will give clues as to what may cause audible differences. My bet is in that pesky volume knob. I ended up with a crazy expensive preamp just because that volume knob seemed to make a huge difference. I’m thrilled with the Apple TV to control the music and deliver bits to the dac and then preamp has the volume knob. If a product can handle all three it’s great but all I’ve listed didn’t tick the box in my listening. 

@ghdprentice  The TOSLINK optical link was specifically designed for 2-channel audio for CD quality bandwidth.  The interface components at either end are of mature design, not a "throw in" item of questionable design. Optical cables are immune to EMI/RFI and ground loop problems. Optical can have jitter on the order of a few nano-seconds.  Any decent DAC will easily deal with that. 

SPDIF can suffer EMI/RFI and ground loop issues. A clock signal is embedded that has to be recovered.  Potential jitter is data dependent and there are low pass and high pass filtering effects to deal with.

Properly implemented either TOSLINK or SPDIF is more than adequate for high quality serious audio.    



I went from the very good Bluesound Vault 2i  to an Aurender N200 and it was a huge difference.     Great machine. 

I'm not so sure about that.   There is a lot of 24/96 and higher material out there.   The other night I was playing Pete Yorn's 2003 The Day I Forgot on vinyl.   It sounded really good.   Just for S&G I played the same album on Qobuz and it sounded pretty damn good.     It told me one thing , I need a better cartridge......

@ossicle2brain …”But CDs sound better than any high end streamer right?  Assuming the same DAC.”


Definitely not. While all is equipment dependent. My streaming sounds better than an exact same red book CD, while very slightly… and Qobuz has one half million high resolution albums… so those sound better.


I was pretty convinced that my streamer and CDs of the same recording sounded the same. Xfinity recently knocked out my internet during an upgrade and I listened to CDs for a little over a week. I did notice the background noise floor was higher on the CDs. My CD transport  / DAC is the same. The best I have heard, an Audio Research CD9SE… and the streamer a Aurrender W20SE. So, the streamer is providing a quieter signal than the internal CD player. 

This can be true at different levels of investment. But there is nothing inherent that makes spinning a local data source (CD) better sonically than the file coming in through the internet. 


I don't have high end streaming equipment but according to Paul who certainly does seems to think CDs sound better.



@ghdprentice if you don’t mind, how did the higher noise floor playing a CD manifest itself? What did you hear?

If you believe your streaming not to up to par with CD or Vinyl, then invest in a better streamer, DAC and optimization of your network.

yes, for sure

though there is fertile debate about the extent, and in how good a system the differences can be easily heard

texbychoice - underrated comment. You're so correct about the quality of Toslink as a quality connection.

Recently, I decided to invert my system so the optical no longer handles TV audio but goes from a WiiM Pro. Had not tried it but thought there could be some improvement with noise. Yes, indeed.

Since my RME ADI-2 DAC was fed Toslink, the noise floor dropped significantly adding to the separation, depth, and soundstage in one fell swoop. Off to TV audio went the coax with its relatively nice new cable. 

Running Verizon fiber via ethernet to a nifty inexpensive fiber optical solution to the WiiM Pro also helps with RF noise reduction. Combined it's taken my system to a significant performance. My tube amp monoblocks are very sensitive and produce great sound so they just ate it up. 

The level of support from Aurender was worth the price of admission. I only needed support twice and they took care of it remotely. The new version of Conductor 4 is slick and has been pretty solid.

My DAC is the LAB 12 DAC 1 Reference and it sounds phenomenal with the N200. I use them several hours a day , every day No intention of upgrading Digital any time soon.  Can’t remember the last time I played a CD in that system.   


A slight hardness and very slight fatigue when the notes are sparse. The noise floor was higher, it must be in the higher registers or it would not be fatiguing. I am very sensitive to this and it is very small… but I listen to music three hours a day. I did not notice it before (my system has been stable for about three years). This is absent with streaming… the background is completely empty.