Is there such a thing as a good medium priced music streamer?

OK, been using a Marantz ND8006 for 5 years or so for the infrequent times I stream music in my living room. (Infrequent cuz its a PIA) The unit is a better CDP than streamer as the HEOS app it uses is a pain in the ass in this configuration where it is resident on a separate tablet. It was a sound upgrade from a Logitech streamer I had for years which was easy to use and my wife liked but had lost support. She "dislikes to hates" the Marantz. It impacts the amount of time she listens to IR or Amazon or Spotify at home. Frankly does the same for me. So, I figured it is time for a step up to a better/dedicated streamer. I frankly was blown away by how many there are out there as well a how fragmented the functions are. I want something that will 1) stream from Tidal, Spotify, Amazon HD,etc 2) play FLAC or WAV files from my network NAS, 3) play IR like WBGO, etc. I am comfortable with spending say $2k new, maybe up to $3k if there is really a gain in sound or ease of use, reliability. I am assuming a dedicated unit will be superior to one embedded in an amp like the Marantz Model 40 or others like that. Am I "deluded", have a good enough understanding of the landscape technically (I question that frankly) and does this exist. BTW, I have heard a couple of the more costly units like 2 from Auralic and Aurender but they are out of my retiree price range. I have lurked/read alot of the posts on here on this topic and am frankly a little overwhelmed at the permutations and combinations. Im beginning to feel like a 66yo dinosaur...HELP!


I ran a Zen Stream with an external linear power supply for maybe a couple of years. I really enjoyed it, There is room for improvement in the app. On 12/04/23 my new Volumio Rivo showed up. I was told it needed 200 hours burn in by the seller. I got a black friday deal with the linear power supply. Right out of the box, I wasn’t happy. Sound was bass heavy with a loss of highs. On day 4 I did an A-B using RCA SPDIF, and AES/EBU. The Zen Stream had a haze to it, the Rivo was very smooth, open, with a well defined bass with weight that I found convincing. I now have approx 225 hours on the unit. I run the unit output AES/EBU to a Gustard R26, into a Luxman L-550AXll, feeding Dynaudio Contour S 1.4. Delighted. It seems like I had more songs displayed (Tidal in Rivo app) on the Zen app that I do on the Rivo app.Perhaps not acclimated with app yet. Internet radio is awesome.

I can recommend the Bluesound Node or the Sonos Port. Sonos has the best app interface. Both of these devices will require an app interface. I can’t tell whether the use of the HEOS App is the source of your frustration with the Marantz ND8006 or if it is something else.  I have one in my living room now for 5 years, it is used only as a streamer anymore as I rarely use the transport and I use the DACs on my preamp. I get some of the complaint about the Marantz, for a time it kept requiring me to sign in with a password which for a non-keyboard device got old very fast. If I were replacing it today, I would buy a standalone streamer and separate transport and run each separately to the preamp. You could relieve the Marantz for transport duty only and get a streamer and DAC as separates if you don’t mind the extra power cabling.

Biggest problem for me with some of the higher end streamers is the limited support for streaming services; many don't support Amazon,  and very few support Idagio,  which are the two that I use the most, along with Internet Radio.  Innuos support says they are working towards support for both services,  but don’t know when they'll get there.  So I'm using a Bluesound Node as it supports a very wide range of streaming services,  including the two I use.  I  upgraded it with a linear power supply and the sq improved significantly.  I  use the coaxial out into my PS Audio Directstream DAC.  I  have a pretty resolving system,  and I think the results are really good.  And the new BlueOS operating system is very intuitive. Some think it's crazy to spend almost as much on the lps upgrade as the unit itself,  but the improvement was really worth it,  imo!! BTW,  I  am beta testing the upcoming PS Audio Stellar Gold Preamp,  and it is a fantastic unit. I  think it's as good or better than the BHK Signature Preamp at two thirds the cost. 

I veer wildly from day to day between ASR-style skepticism regarding streamers and the view that everything matters.  As a result, I have not invested heavily in any of my streamers, but have made careful choices. I have the iFi Zen Stream in one system; have been happy with the performance using Roon - some who use the app are not as happy.  In another system, I’m about to replace acRaspberry Pi with something a little more upscale; two contenders are Primare NP5 and Pro-Ject S2 Stream Ultra.