New DAC or New Streamer?


This should be fun. After I pay to get my amp upgraded at VAC next month  I plan to either upgrade my DAC or Streamer next. I should have enough for that by late spring/early summer. I'm retired so I save some each month until I have what I need. My system is in my user profile. But to keep this simple my current DAC is the Dinafrips Venus II I got a year ago. (I also have the Hermes DDC)

My streamer is the Cambridge CXN V2 via coax to the Hermes-> I2s -> DAC which is also 1 year old. I was just getting into streaming then and knew little about it. I have learned a lot this past year, a whole lot.

I think the bottle neck is leaning more toward the streamer. It seems the DAC is pretty good, I know there are much better DAC's out there but it holds it own I think. Maybe not? I cannot afford the likes of DCS, Lampizator, etc.

The next planned upgrades are a Terminator II DAC and Aurender N200 Streamer. Both are $5000-$6000. (Unless I go for the Terminator + DAC that is $7500 but I am not sure it is $2500 better than the Terminator II)

So, since both will get upgraded a year apart, which should I go for first? Which would provide the biggest upgrade?

Thanks. Happy holidays to all.

128x128fthompson251

This year I upgraded my entire system.  The source used to be the same Cambridge as yours, and is now Innuos.  As I've also bought new speakers, amp and DAC, plus cabling, it's impossible for me to accurately state where the improvements begin and end.  Needless to say though that the SQ is 100x better.

My point is that everything between the ethernet port of your router/switch and the input of your DAC matters a hell of a lot.  To state it's only 1s and 0s is to frame it in too binary a statement.  You need to understand the digital signal is actually an analogue representation of a digital signal, along with noise and jitter issues.

 

When I started done this path I was also thinking of the solution as streamer and DAC.  As I learned more I added in a separate music server (hardware).  I think it is important if you have a large music library (> 2TB+) and use Roon. In the end I moved from a Mac book PS Audio direct stream DAC w/ bridge (streamer) to a Small Green Computer i5 w/ 4TB SSD (music server), Bricasti M3 (DAC), w/ network card (streamer).  Integration with my library and Qobuz is seamless, system response time is near realtime and most important sound quality is great at least with my setup in my room.  Any streaming issues experienced before went away(ie - interruptions, search delays, etc.  Bottom line don't underestimate the value of a physical music server if using Roon.

When I started done this path I was also thinking of the solution as streamer and DAC.  As I learned more I added in a separate music server (hardware).  I think it is important if you have a large music library (> 2TB+) and use Roon. In the end I moved from a Mac book PS Audio direct stream DAC w/ bridge (streamer) to a Small Green Computer i5 w/ 4TB SSD (music server), Bricasti M3 (DAC), w/ network card (streamer).  Integration with my library and Qobuz is seamless, system response time is near realtime and most important sound quality is great at least with my setup in my room.  Any streaming issues experienced before went away(ie - interruptions, search delays, etc.  Bottom line don't underestimate the value of a physical music server if using Roon.

@lollipopguild 

My point is that everything between the ethernet port of your router/switch and the input of your DAC matters a hell of a lot.  To state it's only 1s and 0s is to frame it in too binary a statement.  You need to understand the digital signal is actually an analogue representation of a digital signal, along with noise and jitter issues.

Well stated .

You own the Zenith music server and I’m contemplating buying an Innuos Pulse network player. What is your opinion of Innuos “Sense “ sound quality and user interface compared with the Roon alternative? I’m just seeking online streaming usage (Internet radio/Tidal/Qobuz). I’d appreciate any feedback.

Charles

Hi @charles1dad 

Good questions.  I bought the Zenith Mk3 a few months ago, but effectively don't use the internal hard drive.  99% of my listening is new stuff, so I stream Qobuz.  It's also the case that many of my CDs have since been remastered and rereleased to Qobuz, so sound better streamed than ripped.  So, if I had to buy again now the Pulse series would be my preference.  

I also added a 2nd hand PhoenixUSB (with great success), so I would look seriously at the Pulsar, which reportedly bundles a USB reclocker.  You'll need a good USB cable though.

I recently trialled Roon.  Basically, Sense 2.x sounds better than Roon - many would agree with this.  The only thing I miss about Roon is their rich DSP feature.  We all need a form of tone control occasionally.

Interestingly, one of the biggest gains I made was only a couple of weeks ago. I replaced my 25 year-old entry-level mains conditioner with an Isotek Gemini to feed my Innuos boxes.  Was only £300, but brought about huge gains.  Innuos put huge emphasis on the quality of their internal PSUs, but it seems to me that they're still very sensitive to mains noise.  A decent-ish shielded mains cable will also help.  Belden 83803 is very affordable.