New Streamer, DAC or Let it Be

Hello.  I am at a crossroads and interested in soliciting suggestions on a streamer and/or DAC upgrade using your collective experience.  My focus is actually home theatre, with perhaps 20% of the time devoted to music.  The space is my wife's office by day, my home theatre/ listening room by night, and furniture placement, windows, doors, etc. cannot be moved; it is what it is. 

Equipment is a Marantz AV8805A processor, Parasound A51 amp and new Focal Kanta 2 speakers.  My streamer is a Bluesound Node with upgraded internal power supply and external LPS, and Gustard U18 DDC feeding a Gustard X26 PRO DAC with SR purple fuse.  The Node upgrades made a very positive difference, and addition of the Gustard U18 was a noticeable and very welcome upgrade as well.  My frame of reference/ comparison are CDs from a modest collection played on an Oppo BD103, fed to the Marantz via HDMI (I tried Toslink and Coax but HDMI to the Marantz sounded best).  I stream a variety of music using Qobuz and the Bluesound app on my phone.  The app is OK but despite a trumpeted recent upgrade, Bluesound has not yet resolved something as simple as the ability to organize Favorites by Artist or Album; they appear in the reverse order added, which is nuts.  The various digital upgrades have made streaming sound just about as good as the CD.  Here’s the dilemma.

I live vicariously through your experience with the enormous breadth of quality digital equipment out there.  I am not necessarily looking to throw money at something I do infrequently, yet am driven by the unknown: will an upgrade provide added pleasure and justify enhancements equal to the expense for the limited time I listen to music?  Obviously, a therapist could help, but I trust many of you have been down this road and can offer insight.  My questions are, would a streamer upgrade alone take me to the next level?  Is a DAC upgrade instead the better path?  Or, am I chasing unicorns, and is my humble setup good enough, to simply let it be?  I learned never to say never, but the likelihood of an investment now and then further upgrades down the road is unlikely, as the wife has zero patience and appreciation for all this.  As to existing equipment, the Marantz and Parasound aren’t going anywhere, and I am very happy with the Kantas.  Any purchase will likely be via the used market, to mitigate costs.  My budget is in the $3K range (preferably less, usually more), which is what I was looking at for a used/ open box Aurender N150.  I am by no means limiting myself to just that brand or model streamer, and have not scratched the surface on a DAC, should that happen.

Thanks for your time and any experience/ suggestions you might share.


Well let's start with what you think you're currently lacking in terms of sound.  What don't you like about the current setup?

Your question cuts to the chase.  One of the sad facts of life these days is the lack of places (shops) to hear different equipment for a hands (or ears) on experience.  Overall, music sounds pretty darned good on my system, but I suspect (here is the unknown part) the sound can always be bigger and more resolving.  In my home theatre, I took it on faith that an amp upgrade from an Emotiva to the Parasound would turn heads.  Did it?  Mmm, still not sure, which could speak to my listening ability, or the fact the Emo wasn't too shabby to begin with.  I am open to, even crave, a WOW.  Will an upgrade produce WOW, and how much needs to be changed to get to WOW?  I don't know what I don't know.

That is quit a dilema. I would guess that you would not be posting unless you were trying to figure out how to achieve some more fidelity from your system.

i am sure you know the first place to upgrade would be the AVR… but you cannot. So, accepting that. I would say that you could achieve better sound with either the Streamer or DAC. Both would be better as they (without knowing what the DAC sounds like… but it is in a very low price range). An Aurrender N150 would be an excellent choice. Also a Schiit Yggdrasil DAC likely a good choice.


Let me suggest something sneakier. Linn makes an excellent DRM. A one box solution that can be a streamer… DAC, preamp, and amp if you want. There are three levels of DAC available. The mid-stream one is excellent. You might get one with the streamer and DAC… while way more than you might want to spend… maybe take some time save up. If you did this, someday, without your wife knowing you could add or upgrade components with no visible changes to the room. Over time you could turn it into a really high end system. I’d have a carefull look at what Linn has.


By the way, you need not know what improvements you want. The one nearly absolute is that better sound is infinitely possible. In the first few decades I quickly learned that better sound was always an upgrade away. It was only after years of listening to other systems I could articulate what I wanted in a better system.



A corollary is my home theatre.  After a great deal of research, time and $$$, it sounds good but it is not WOW.  I have come to accept the reality of my home theatre in my space, with all its limitations, my equipment choices and budget.  Perhaps it is great, given all that, but I started with higher hopes.  I yearn for WOW with music, trying to glean what might help from the experience of others like yourself.

GHDP, thanks for responding, I have appreciated your input in the various threads out here.  I like your one box notion, particularly as I pray for UPS or FedEx deliveries in the dark of night or when the wife is working, to sneak the next purchase into the house.  The one box solution prevents piecemeal upgrades of the components, but one box to rule them all is not a bad thing.

Your point also about better sound being an upgrade away is important.  It requires listening and learning, in your own environment, before the Aha! moment that "this" is what I wanted all along.

Save your money and leave things alone! Your streamer and DAC are fine! Spending more is a sideways move!

Emotiva and Parasound amplifiers sound extremely different from each other (especially compared to the A-series), so you should have heard a big change (ignoring preference) when you switched over to it?


Jason has it right this time.

If you blow yer dough most "improvement" will be from expectation bias.

Expectation bias has seemed to run my life, and not necessarily for the better!  Thank you, Mr J-Bourne.

Nek, to your point, something I have been meaning to do is swap the cables around between the Parasound and Emo as an A/B to see if I detect a discernible sound difference.  My setup is such that it requires considerable contortions to get back there, and moving one set of cables always seems to loosen another set I never intended to touch.  But it will be enlightening.  Thanks for reminding me.

Btw, the SQ differences between Parasound and Emo always seemed to be masked by another change, e.g., cable of some sort, so it was hard to judge.  Plus, that darned expectation bias, where I expected the sound to improve when the change was made...

I have had a few streamers in my house. The best being the following:

  • Sonore OpticalRendu
  • Lumin X1
  • PlayBack Designs Streamer-IF

All 3 sound different. I used to also have a Sonore microRendu but that unit is not in the class of the above 3 (likely BluesNode level). All 3 of those streamers support fibre optic cabling. This cable is made of glass and cannot carry analog noise from your network into the DAC. What that means is that it does not matter what is BEFORE the fibre cable. After the fibre is the DAC.

In my case, I use a cheap $500 DELL computer to run my ROON Core. I have this computer under the bed in my guest room (no monitor | keyboard | mouse). My office system and Livingroom system are nowhere near the guest room. All of this does not matter because the streamers I use have fibre.

The following streamer package will do everything that I just described.

Sonore opticaRendu Package

If you do not have an Ethernet cable near your audio system then use what I use,

PowerLine Adapter

Again do not listen to anyone who says these things are not audiophile. It does not matter because you go through the glass fibre cable just before the bits go into the DAC.

With all the money you save by using this top end solution you can get yourself a ROON subscription.

BTW - I owned the Gustard X26 Pro. It worked great with a bright system I had. I think the Schitt Yggi+ Less Is More is a better sounding DAC.

If I was in your shoes, and since you’ve already got an LPS for the Node, if you wanna get to WOW I’d strongly consider adding a dedicated stereo preamp (preferably with a HT bypass feature).  You’ve got a good AVP, but it’s likely a mediocre stereo preamp, and preamps matter — A LOT!  Just another option to ponder FWIW.

So that others and I know, do you use the AVR as your volume control?  What is your music listening path from the node  streamer to the speakers?  Thanks.  

YYZ, I looked long and hard at Small Green's products and adopted his fiber philosophy.  From my router, I have an FMC with (more or less) the high grade Finisar Small Green sells in his package, a run of fiber cable to another FMC with Finisar and LPS, which feeds an LHY SW-8 ethernet switch that connects to the Node, Amazon Cube for video, et al.  I felt that setup provided the cleanest signal down the line.  I did an A/B versus a run of ethernet to the LHY and felt the fiber was better.  Not by a lot, but better.  And thanks for the input on the Gustard.  It is my initial DAC foray, and perhaps a good place to build upon.  I liked the Schitt products I read about, as they care about quality, make it here and have a sense of humor.  The latter goes a long way for me in this world (quality first and foremost).


Soix, I lived with the Marantz sound for years and like it.  It does a really good job with home theatre and the stereo sound is not shabby.  Could the sound be improved with another setup or preamp?  No doubt.  A friend is a McIntosh-phile and his system, with venerable Dahlquiest DQ20 speakers, sounds extremely good, and he has a much better room to play it in.  I happen to like mine more because it has way more guts and body.  As music is lesser in my world, I'm not sure whether replacing the Marantz or running another stereo preamp side by side in my system makes sense.  That said, Mr. Prentice tossed out an all-in-one solution which has me thinking...

12many, the AVR is the control for everything in the system, including volume.  For detail, the Node connects to the Gustard U18 DDC via the best USB cable Silnote makes, then to the Gustard DAC via both HDMI and AES (I flop back and forth between them), then via Audience AU24 SX XLRs to the Marantz.  The Audience cables were a really nice upgrade.  I tried a few different IC cables, including Cardas Clear Sky and Cygnus, and found the Silnote cables their equal in sound at half the price. I have Silnote Orion ICs, and Silnote Master Anniversary Reference speaker cables to the Kantas.

@traubr I suggest you try establishing a path for your two channel signal that does not go through the AVR. I know your AVR is an expensive one, but that would be where I would start. I noticed an improvement when I removed the AVR from the chain, although mine is not as expensive as yours - I think retail was about $1500.

I also have a dual use space and I use the R & L channel pre-amp outs of my AVR into a benchmark Dac3 (acting as a pre-amp) and then into my amp for HT use.  For 2 channel, you need a volume control so as others have suggested a good preamp. I have been eyeing tube preamps which I am told would pair nicely with your amp and speakers.

Finally, I jumped from a stock node to an N150 and that was also a noticeable improvement. I can’t comment on your improvement because you modified your Node. Can either of your Gustard devices control volume?


If you have another room. I would suggest putting together a second system that is a dedicated 2 channel system. For $3K you can put together a very enjoyable musical system. Starting from scratch on a modest 2nd system should yield better results. Throwing more money at your current setup most likely won’t provide you with that WOW factor you are looking for. 

12many, in the quest for WOW, a separate preamp is fraught with issues, not least of which is where to put it.  My equipment "rack" runneth over now, and the sucker just wouldn't fit.  Considering space, a separate two channel audio path and a sound quality upgrade, a combo preamp/ DAC seems a viable option.  Or, upgrading one of the components (streamer or DAC).  Or, the easiest option of all, doing nothing, as JBourne suggests.  Hmmm...

Dougsat, there is, in fact, another room, although the layout is far from ideal.    It has my original AVR in there with a good set of speakers, running "background" music through Heos. I also have a modest amplifier not currently in use that could be inserted.  I prefer to pipe music through my new speakers and higher quality setup in the prime space, but am curious what you might suggest in the way of a $3K musical system.

The Eversolo A8 is a server, streamer ,and true R2R preamp 

I for under $2k delivered with hand picked Quality parts and top AKM 4499EX dac

latest Xmos ,Dual Femto clocks Independent Linear power supply .

perrotta consultants give good pricing as well as customer service upgrade the digital and power cords, instant upgrades look at the parts quality ,it does count

250 hours on break8n.just check out the reviews for all you get for your $$ 

and nice app I have no problem following and SS drive installs in 2 minutes.

6 inch touch screen and6 filters,and DSP if you are daring ,it’s at least worth investigating. My wife loves it ,after I set it up.


As music is lesser in my world, I'm not sure whether replacing the Marantz or running another stereo preamp side by side in my system makes sense.

Yeah, I totally get that and was just throwing it out there.  Here’s what I’d try if I was you because if it doesn’t make a big improvement you can just sell it for little/no loss.  Also, you can load any CDs you have into it and never spin a silver disc ever again.

we are dealers with 40 years experience


there is a much better way

trade in sell the parasound and get a high end integrated amplifier with or without dac


reason is simple the marantz pre/pro will have a subpar dacs and any analog signal must be digitized to run room correction.


other factors excessive noise from having video circuitry, marantz is just rebadged Denon a mass market brand built by a large corporation so yourcore parts quality will be good but not great.


With a high end integrated you will have a pure analog path and you c an run your Marantz processors front analog outputs as an input on the integrated

we have had the marantz processors n our theater good but not great the anthems were Better and the audio control was the best.

long story short the combination of an integrated amplifier combined with an avr or processor is the best way to create real high performance Music and still doing theater

Dave and Troy

audio Intellect NJ

custom installers and two channel dealers




Well I guess I didn’t read your original post throughly. 😁

I mean you have new Focal Kanta 2 speakers. Could it be they need to still break in?  Those seem like very nice speakers!

I just bought some Polk R200AE Anniversary Edition of the Reserve 200. So far I am impressed. But you have quite a bit more invested in your system. You should be able to enjoy it but this hobby is a never ending quest for sure.

Best of luck too you. 


Your Gustard Dac is pretty good. Yes you could get a "wow" factor increase, but you would need to spend a lot - a Tambaqui, a Playback deisgn or a Meitner. Is it wort it if you are primarily listening to Home Theatre? Not in my opinion.

"Save your money and leave things alone! Your streamer and DAC are fine! Spending more is a sideways move!" As always, the comments from Jasonbourne are half truths and quite silly.
He is only correct that in order to get a wow factor increase, you need to spend a lot.

The marantz is the weak link in your system. I’m guessing that your room is also going to be a weak link. There is an easy fix and I’m surprised that a dealer with 40 years experience didn’t state this (actually I’m not because they mostly want to sell you something). 

If you truly want a quality audio system within a home theater setup, then look at hundreds of audiophile products (preamp, or integrated amp) that provides a home theater bypass input so you get the best of both worlds. You can use your av processor to provide sound to your surround speakers and center channel and your quality audio system (2 channel) will provide the sound from the main speakers. When you want to listen to 2 channel, you leave your av processor off. I’ve done this in my home theater system a couple decades ago. You can spend thousands or tens/hundreds of thousands of $$$ on your 2 channel gear depending on what you want.

Btw: you don’t need a streamer. Some of the better dacs have streamer capabilities built in, all you need is Roon or audirvana. 

1 more thing: never buy those cheap power line adapters. Install a quality mesh network instead, your wifi/extended wired coverage will be so much better.



I have a blue sound streamer coupled with a Bryston DAC. I find the best audio improvements come from the source of my music streaming service. E.G. Radio Paradise seems to have better quality audio than a lot of what I get from Deezer. So maybe more high resolution streaming music source?

I didn’t read the entire OP, stopping after the first paragraph.  My prejudice would be to get rid of the Node as the transport.


Careful, once you start down the rabbit hole to stereo improvements that hole gets very deep.  I am certainly glad I did it is not for the faint of heart, if you know what I mean.  You have a pretty good start with those speaker though.

I started out in this hobby with home theater, but just never could get it to the point of satisfaction, then I read my first Sterophile magazine and was changed forever.  That was around 30 years ago and I am still trying to improve the sound of my 2 channel system, which sounds really good by the way.  Good luck with the journey!

My, my, what have I wrought?  I greatly appreciate the comments thus far, it is both illuminating and daunting to consider the options.  I took a break from this thread and went through some similar ones last night out here in Audiogon-land, and there is a common theme: there is no one correct answer; so many people, so many opinions.  That "correct" answer lies within us and our pocketbooks.  As many have said, this hobby/ obsession is not for the faint of heart, not to mention the potential ongoing costs.  Yet the cost is part of the fun, the price of admission.  Even in my home theatre cocoon, knowing now what I didn't know then, I would start over.  AVR?  New one.  Amplifier?  Toss it.  Cables?  Hang the laundry from them.  Room?  Get out the demolition tools.  Wife?  Hmmm... better not go there.

At this point in my journey, which is closer to the end than the start, MY reality is that music plays an enjoyable but lesser role, the supporting actor and not the lead.  A total revamp of my system might be for the next decade, not this one.  I would like to think a single piece, streamer, DAC or streaming DAC, would get me where I am happy.  Thrilled, ecstatic and utterly satisfied?  Upgrade-itis and the steady march of technology make that very difficult.

I'm a geezer and have made many digital upgrades over the years. In my experience you are not going to achieve a "Wow" improvement by upgrading your digital gear or even your preamp. Expectation bias has been mentioned and I appreciate your thoughtful approach. If you spend 3 grand on a new streamer or other component you can certainly convince yourself that it sounds much better.

The best ways to get a big difference in sound are not available in your situation. You can't move the speakers, can't rearrange the room, can't install sound treatment, and you already have an excellent amp and very good speakers. From this point forward any money you spend will be directed at convenience, features, pride of ownership. or another justification. But a big leap in sound quality is going to be elusive.

I do have one bit of advice regarding gear. I suggest that you check out the reviews of the Eversolo A8 mentioned in a previous post. This looks to be an excellent product and the features and ease of use may be worth the money in your situation. The A8 is going to be my next gear purchase even though I don't need the built-in DAC (I have a Berkeley Alpha Reference Series II MQA & Alpha USB) but I'm streaming now through a laptop and the A8 looks to be more convenient and elegant. BTW, the SQ of my CD playback (Jay's Audio CD3 Mk III transport through the Berkeley DAC) is virtually identical to streaming the same song/version through my Asus gaming laptop. I really doubt that spending 5 figures on a streamer is going to make Qobuz sound better than my CD rig.

Another suggestion would be to hook up your Oppo as a transport to your Gustard DAC and see if you can hear any improvement. My guess is that they will be very similar but you have a nice DAC so you might as well use it for CDs.

With the constraints you have you are fortunate that your rig sounds very good. I think it's time to chill and enjoy the music.


As a fellow geezer, and listening to the sage advice and experience offered here, your words ring true. WOW is, as you say, elusive. As a babe in these digital woods, I find it shocking how many streamers and DACs people have gone through to attain a level of satisfaction.  And from the sound of it, most keep on going.

My system sounds very good now, especially with my new speakers, and going back to my original post, I sought the icing on my digital cake: one piece of gear to get me to the next level.  The jury is very confused, and still out.

When I first got my DAC, I plugged the Oppo into it, and was disappointed that the DAC added little, if at all.  That could be a measure of the DAC, a lesser quality connecting cable that underperformed, or the quality of the Oppo itself.  CDs played on the Oppo are still the sound to beat in my system, although with what I have thrown into the digital mix, it is very close now.  Very close. And, I have a meager CD collection, so music listening really makes sense streaming the Qobuz library.

I am happy with and appreciate the input, and will chill, enjoy the music and ponder my options.



I have a Node 130 with a modestly-upgraded power cable feeding an Denafrip Ares II DAC, and I have plenty of "wow" experiences because 1) I try to use high-resolution files from Qobuz when streaming, 2) my room is a good one for a stereo system, and 3) I have great speakers and electronics with plenty of power.

I don't know what limitations your room imposes, but you may not be able to overcome them by upgrading components.  If transparency is what helps provide the "wow" experience, you need to have a high-quality preamp/amplifier.  If it's a matter of dynamics, you need to have enough power as well as a good recording.

Your Focal speakers are excellent.  As others have mentioned, the weak link is your Pre, everything (including future upgrades) will be bottlenecked.  A better/external Pre will be the best place to spend money.  


Others have also said a better/ external preamp will reap benefits.  Curious if this means the addition of this single device (preamp) will make the difference, or is that merely the first step, where I also replace the Node and DAC as well?  Thanks.


My room is somewhat L shaped with speakers in the wider part, 3 windows and 2 doors, listening position on the back wall off center, furniture behind each speaker so there isn't much "breathing room" or to optimize bass response.  Other than that...  Room correction software in the AVR, while geared for home theatre, still helps improve the overall sound in there.  Add to this no more room to add a new component.  As previously stated, hardly ideal, but it is what is, and so be it.

A one piece upgrade (streamer or DAC or combo unit) makes sense to me, but if significant sonic improvement truly requires a new preamp and amp, then I will accept that and maintain the status quo. 

OP, I’m running a Hegel Pre into Sopra no2 speakers. My streamer is the Node with an external LPS. The streamer is my weakest link but I don’t think that’s the case in your system. I think you want to upgrade your Pre. You really don’t want to change more than one thing at a time. Make the one change, let it burn in, then really pay attention to what the change did to your system. The AVR Pre just has so much going on, get a dedicated pre.  In you’re case I would get very good used Pre and see how the upgrade sounds. If you don’t like what it does to your system flip it. Good luck and cheers.



traubr OP

14 posts


My room is somewhat L shaped with speakers in the wider part, 3 windows and 2 doors, listening position on the back wall off center, furniture behind each speaker so there isn’t much "breathing room" or to optimize bass response. Other than that... Room correction software in the AVR, while geared for home theatre, still helps improve the overall sound in there. Add to this no more room to add a new component. As previously stated, hardly ideal, but it is what is, and so be it.

A one piece upgrade (streamer or DAC or combo unit) makes sense to me, but if significant sonic improvement truly requires a new preamp and amp, then I will accept that and maintain the status quo.


@traubr if you are using room correction software in your AVR, it should cancel out anything audible you assume a DAC or streamer add.

What you are hearing is the AVR’s software’s “take” on how things should sound based on the measurements it’s making. So the notion of changing the sound with things upstream of its DSP should be a bit of a non-sequitur.

You mentioned certain changes being masked of audibility by cables. Of course the converse of this would be that there simply wasn’t significant difference to be heard. Some industries thrive on innovation that counts on consumers making frequent lateral moves. Take from that what ya will. 😉

Did you mention what speakers you’re using? I don’t re-read block paragraph form of kit listings since this website allows making a kit list on the profile page (wry grin). If you want to change your sound, change your speakers. If you like the sound of your speakers, you’re done “next-leveling”. That’ll also save you and your wife any learning curves on new streamer software, unless you prefer that part.

@traubr I started my home audio journey like you have.  I was all about my HT system and then turned my attentions to my 2 channel listening which is a shared space, finished basement (man cave).  As others have mentioned, you have a great set of speakers, it’s the preamp that is the bottleneck.  If you look at used, for that you’d pay for a new DAC or Streamer, you can land a SS or Tube preamp that has HT bypass.  Likely your best solution, doesn’t have to break the bank.  Music Fidelity, Naim, Parasound, Linear Tube Audio, Aric, Coda would be some brands to give a look.  A quality Pre will provide a much larger jump in sound quality vs a change with a streamer or DAC.  Your DAC is a great DAC, if you like the sound signature of it, you’ll have to spend quite a bit more to really make noticeable gains.   The other direction could be an DAC / Streamer with a Pre but that would likely be more costly than a Pre.  I used my HT Receiver for 2 channel, using a stand alone Pre made a big difference and the commentary on the HT pre using its own processing is legit.  Unless their is a pure / direct mode in the Marantz it’s processing the signal from your DAC digitally all over again.  

Good Luck.

Thanks @mm1tt77, for your input.  As many others have stated, a dedicated stereo preamp seems a worthy alternative as a one-piece upgrade for 2 channel listening.

Alas, ​​​​​​@laps, the two room thing is a no-go for me.  Everything for home theatre and critical stereo listening has to be in the one room I have, as there is no other proper space available.

@benanders, the Marantz AVR has the ability to turn off the room correction and go to pure stereo.  There is a Pure/ Pure Direct mode to cut out extraneous processing, but I find that mode pretty "blah."  To my ears, Marantz provides a very enjoyable stereo sound, gutsy and musical.  The speakers, btw, are Focal Kanta 2, new and still breaking in (almost there).

It intrigues me how universally bashed my Marantz AVR is.  You're a tough crowd!  This Marantz was, until a year ago, their top of the line separate and as stated, does a creditable job with two channel audio.  In all, I understand your collective bias towards pure audiophile gear and am eager to learn about it.  My ears will no doubt be winners as a result.


The BlueSound Node is the Honda Accord of streamers. Affordable, works and sounds better than most give it credit for, and about as reliable as any piece of hardware gets.

I won’t trash your Marantz because most of the criticisms are either speculative, or simply irrelevant (What difference does 10 dB improvement in dynamic range or noise from 80 to 90 dB make when the noise floor in your room limits dynamic range to maybe 60 dB? I live in a very quiet house, and the noise floor is 42dBA. My System is capable of peak output of about 110 dB, but my usual listening level is around 90. So, 90-42 = 48dB typical, 68 db maximum dynamic range). Your Marantz is a great piece of equipment and while Marantz and Denon are sister brands and do share a lot of parts, a high-end Marantz is a totally different and much more carefully engineered component than their mid-fi offerings. That just doesn’t fit the ego-fi narrative.

Yes, room correction does happen in the digital domain, and most find it a worthwhile option. But even the best room correction, speaker placement, components and cables can only effect the input of the system into your room. It is the output of the room predominates what your hear, and improvements made in that function are almost universally the biggest value to be had in upgrades. Consider some acoustic treatments - sidewalls first, then bass traps, and ceiling. Profound improvements can be made in most listening spaces for under $1000 with packages from companies like Acoustimac. Their options for color and finish also enable a high degree of SAF. Acoustics is applied physics, and applied physics is math, so use their, or other online calculators, to determine your actual requirements. 

@panzrwagn, thanks so much for your comments and not bashing my Marantz and Node  😉.  I was looking at the Acoustimac website and the array is intriguing.  Cheers,


I also have a shared HT/2CH room utilizing the 8805. While the Marantz is exceptional with the HT side of things, it was the weak link on the 2CH side. My initial solution was an Anthem preamp with HT bypass, which pairs well with the 8805 because it accepts 2 sub channels. Understanding your lack of space for a preamp, another solution (which others have mentioned) would be to go with an all-in-one DAC with a built in preamp. I later sold the Anthem and did just that. Current setup is a Lumin X1 fed directly into a pair of mono blocks. An XLR switch determines which source (8805/X1) to use.

I totally agree that there's no point in looking at anything else until you get the primary/core gear optimized.  Clearly the weak link is the AV Preamp - those are just not optimized for 2 channel and they just can't be.  

So, I totally agree that you want to look at a preamp that has HT bypass - it's very simple...takes the front right and left preamplified output from your AVP and passes it through to the amplifier, so that you can still use it as home theater, while preempting the AVP signal for 2 channel listening and driving your amp directly. 

The Parasound is a pretty good product.  Your speakers are excellent. Only when you have a preamp to "match" will you have any chance to assess the digital source aspect of your system.  

Then you have to decide what you are lacking and what your objective is.  

BTW, my sympathies on having your listening room double as your wife's office.  I'd be like "are you done working yet?" at all hours of the day.  I hope you have a good headphones setup somewhere else!

Wow, a lot of people chimed in here. I was in a similar situation with a somewhat limited budget as well. After much research I upgraded from a Cambridge Audio Streamer/DAC. I went with a new Benchmark DAC purchased directly from Benchmark, it is their latest DAC with an A+ rating from Stereophile. Here is the nice part, 30 days to audition the DAC in your home with a full refund as long as you don't return the DAC all beat up, they will send you a prepaid label to return it! My impression, the best DAC I have ever had in my system! Brilliant job and made in upstate NY. Price? $1900 to my door and it's never going back. Good luck!  

I too have a limited 300+/- CD collection, and I will say without a doubt that they have never sounded as good as they have played as locally-stored rips on my Aurender N200.  This is not "sit and listen for it maybe hearing it" kind of stuff.  This is "get startled out of the other task you are working on" (most of my listening is done while writing or editing photos at the computer) kind of stuff.  Maybe this is partly due to the "bit-perfect" Winamp (recommended by Aurender to create your rips) files, and maybe it is all of Aurender's tech - their playback engine, power isolation, etc. - but something is providing a decidedly better CD playback experience.  I've got over a year of listening in at this point and I am still having "first time hearing it" experiences.  The app takes a while to get used to, but is better than what you describe, but not as good as Roon. Functional if not outright enjoyable.  But the machine - the machine is so sweet and so worth it.