Re: streaming recommendations for newbie


I'd like to finally enter the streaming world with my hifi system and am looking for recommendations.  I have streaming music in my car and on my computer, but I can't currently access any streaming services on my hifi system because I have tube gear and neither it nor my old backup gear have streaming capacity or a DAC (other than the CD player).  

 I guess that I need to buy both a streamer and a DAC?  I now have a pretty decent hifi system, but I want start out with modest priced streaming gear.    

Can anyone recommend a streamer & DAC, or unit that does both?  Does it make sense to put more $$ in a DAC or in a steamer?  Not sure about budget, but I'm thinking $500-1000 used for both as a starting point. Thank you.



BlueSound is the brand many people begin with. You can get a combined streamer / DAC. I’m sure many folks will jump in on this.

You can get streaming to sound as good or better than any other source depending on your investment level (provided you choose carefully). There are huge advantages as well… access to millions of albums for a pittance. Qobuz is the best source.

For the hardware long term, my rule of thumb is $ streamer = DAC = preamp = amp < speakers (again, heavily researched and carefully chosen). Separate streamer and DAC. The high end / audiophile stuff starts at ~ $5K+. Very substantial improvements in sound quality occurs in DACs through $10k and in streamers throught $15K assuming you have appropriate ancillary equipment.

You could get a streamer/DAC combo unit like the Bluesound Node X or the Eversolo DMP-A6 and be off and running for under $1000. But, if you’re more serious about audio I’d go with a separate DAC and streamer as you can upgrade each in steps, which you’ll almost certainly want to do at some point.  Here’s a nice DAC at a good price along with a good review in case it’s helpful (I own this BTW)…

For ease of use, performance as a streamer, and price the Node is a solid choice…

So for $1175 you’d be off to a great start, and you can upgrade the DAC or streamer down the road when you get “the itch” for even more — and you most certainly will. Or, as an alternative to upgrading the DAC and/or streamer, you can add a separate linear power supply (like Teddy Pardo, etc.) to the Node and/or a DDC (like the Musician Pisces or Denafrips Iris) in front of the Pegasus to take advantage of the i2S connection and get a significant boost in performance for not much $$$. Always nice to be able to upgrade in steps if possible. Anyway, just a few ideas for equipment FWIW, and then just get a Qobuz or Tidal subscription (both offer free trials) and you’ll be in great shape for starting your streaming experience. Best of luck.

Couple of Blue Sound nodes over on TMR for around $300 and a Bel Canto DAC 1.7 over on USAM for $550.  



First streamer/DAC should always be a Bluesound.

From there it's easier to decide where to go, if at all.

Bluesound is a great starting point. A lot depends upon your system resolving point, with regard to upgrading.


If you go for a used Node, better to get the Node n130 or Node X (or the current version) so you have a viable USB output — earlier versions lack this valuable connection.

It is a nickel over your asking price, but might I suggest a Innuos Pulsemini. Looking over your responses to past threads suggest that you really have some nice equipment. This will lend well to that.


Another vote for Bluesound. Great for the money and they bent over backwards to help me with a problem I had with setup.

+1 to Eversolo. It is great value as a Streamer/DAC and is a very respectable Streamer only if you later decide to upgrade to a separate DAC.


I have a Bluesound Node N130 and for around $500 you can get a darn good streamer an okay DAC. As time and money permitted, I bought a better power supply and it made a big difference in the sound. As time and money permit, you might want to get a better DAC, but there’s millions of people out there who haven’t and are still very very happy.

All the best.

I’ve been using a bluesound node 2i with a PD Creative power supply.  I outboard to a Schitt Gungnir Dac. I love the sound I get and it’s been all on a beer budget compared to how much can be spent on a digital setup. I use Tidal and Qobuz and have had no qualms or itch to want more, for now. 

gkelly- Wow, the OP states $500 to $1000 and you bump up your suggestion to “a nickel” over what he wanted to spend?  Granted it’s a great product and well worth the price, but most people don’t equate a nickel to $500! 😂

@tlh28 if you already stream on your computer, why not start with a USB DAC, and just use the computer as your streamer via USB? If the computer is a far distance from the HiFi setup, there are active USB cables.

Can’t hurt to try if you’re okay having streamer x DAC be separate. I advocate that because streamers are limited-feature low-power computers and a given model’s software might not be kept up indefinitely; even if upgrading is not necessary for sonic reasons, obsolescence of a dedicated streamer may become unavoidable depending on company x hardware x software. So a dedicated streamer (whether separate from or integrated with a DAC) should, by design, be more susceptible to shortcomings over time than would be a decent DAC on its own. 😉  A streamer x DAC combo assumes the streamer side will receive software + firmware updates for the lifetime of the whole device. Maybe yes, maybe no.

Using your computer also leaves you greater choice of which platform / OS to stream with. Conversely, a dedicated streamer will have a proprietary in-house OS with software you may like, or may not like. It will probably be run from a small touch screen on the front panel (perhaps with remote), or from a smart device app. Computers have some downsides, mostly in terms of greater learning curves for relevant software and options, but they also can offer more power in this area.

Seems to me the most obvious, and potentially least costly, starting point for OP unless a streamer-DAC combo unit is preferred.

If you specifically want a dedicated streamer, then consider posting a virtual system for folks to weigh in with their specific preferences / opinions?

This is an interesting thread.  I currently listen to mostly vinyl.  When I do stream, I use blue tooth and the streaming that is built into my Marantz receiver .   Please tell me how a streamer like the bluesound node is better for this.  Asking because I honestly don't know or understand.  Thank you

@anotherbob Go to Vegas and you will. A nickel bet is commonly referred to as $500. 
@brottdwayne can’t tell you if a blue sound will make any difference than your Marantz,  But I can tell you that A Innuos PULSE mini made one of the biggest upgrades to my system. This replaced my HEOS streaming from my Marantz SR5015. Getting a good quality streamer to begin with sets you on the correct path.  

As many have mentioned the Bluesound is a great choice since they offer tremendous support and the software is very good. I recommend a wired Ethernet connection as many have had problems in the past with wireless (maybe they have engineered that better now). I think the Bluesound Node X with a Teddy Pardo external power supply (easy install) is very very good for the money. I have this setup and another 6 times more expensive. The Node X with internal DAC and Teddy Pardo power supply can compete!!!

Obviously one can get better sound, but you have to give something away. More money and often much less customer support.

I'd suggest the Node 2i with a PD Creative PSU interface upgrade and an SBooster 5V/3A Linear power supply. Best sound for $1000.


I want an award for guessing he meant $500. I somehow thought is was Australian slang. I see it’s a Vegas term, in any case, I guessed right! What do I get?

I think almost anything is good enough to start and find out if you will stick with something, then upgrade after experience and research.

I agree, separates for future changes.

Based on suggestions here, I bought an inexpensive Topping

topping dac, $100.

for usb out of my PC, made a big improvement, certainly good enough for me. That’s just my office, music videos. I don’t stream elsewhere.

I will say, my friend bought a streamer and dac after lots of research, thought it was great.

I visited him, we played LP’s of female voices we both liked, then streamed same. Access, convenience terrific, but sound was not good. Eva, Ella, Sarah, Annie, Fontella, Barbra and Donna, .... none of the women’s voices sounded ’right’.

He had to admit, he had not compared, he was just so thrilled with ’everything’ available, and he likes using his phone to do things, the opposite of me.

I just jumped into streaming and based on some recommendations in this forum, got the WiiM Pro Plus. $225. Super easy to set up and sounds good.  It easily connected to Tidal, Qobuz and Amazon Music so I have almost unlimited music choices. 

Interesting and helpful chain - I have what might be an even more-basic question: I currently don’t stream but am considering expanding to Tidal. I play hi-res FLAC files from a laptop using JRiver through an entry-level Liberty DAC. What do I need to be able to stream hi-res music files? Any guidance appreciated!

I currently listen to mostly vinyl. When I do stream, I use blue tooth and the streaming that is built into my Marantz receiver . Please tell me how a streamer like the bluesound node is better for this.

@brottdwayne Using Bluetooth and your AVR are both greatly limiting your streaming sound quality. Bluetooth is a fairly low quality source with limited resolution and dynamics, and subscribing to something like Qobuz or Tidal (both of which offer free trial periods) will get you at least CD quality and a lot of music in high res. Your AVR, in addition to using cheap electronic components, is a hellaciously noisy environment for streaming, and noise is the arch enemy of better streaming sound. Standalone streamers go to great lengths to minimize noise (among many other things) that results in much better sound quality. Upgrading to a decent streamer and DAC or even a budget combo DAC/streamer along with a better subscription music service will bring you to an entirely higher-level streaming experience. Hope this brief summary answers at least some of your questions. By the way, do you have a separate system for vinyl listening? What’s the rest of your equipment in your 2-channel setup?

What do I need to be able to stream hi-res music files?

@aheydorn All you need is a streamer (preferably wired directly to your router) that you connect to your DAC along with a Qobuz or Tidal subscription (both offer free trials). Something like a Bluesound Node is a great and relatively inexpensive way to get started. Hope this helps.



Just register for a free trial of Tidal and Qobuz.  Install the app on your computer and stream out to your DAC.  Make sure you set it up to stream the highest resolution you can configure.   I think it also possible to get Jriver to stream Tidal but somebody else will have to chime in for that. 

@tlh28 - I too decided to try streaming a few years ago. I started with a Bluetooth receiver connected to one of the tape inputs on my then ARC SP-9 and simply used my phone to get Pandora. I loved the convenience and the ability to also stream from the Amazon Music app. 

My next step was to a Bluesound Node2i via wifi. Another step up in sound quality though the wifi was a bit fiddly. Eventually I went hardwire from a Mesh router extension and solved that issue as well as improved the SQ even further. Taking BT out of the signal path will be a great improvement!

Next step was an external DAC, which the 2i allows you to use. I went with a Border Patrol DAC (tube rectified power supply) but there are many excellent DACs out there to listen to and choose from. 

My final step with this rig was to upgrade from the switching power supply in the 2i to a PD Creative setup which cleaned up the grunge. So far I'm pretty pleased with this arrangement and don't see the need to upgrade considering the rest of my vintage system.

Two things (among many!) to consider: The first is whatever streamer you choose should have an easy to use, feature rich app to go with it. The BlueOS is okay but I'd consider it a starting point. The second is that whatever app you get also be able to access a variety of streaming services such as Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon, etc.

Happy listening.


@soix , so your saying I should get better sound from an external DAC than using my Onkyo RZ 50 to my Oppo 203 via bluetooth (phone), into my (tube) analog system?


@danmar123 First, your AVR should not be involved in the signal path at all for critical 2-channel listening, and there are easy ways around that depending on what’s in your 2-channel setup.. Second, if you’re interested in streaming and better sound quality ditch the Bluetooth and subscribe to Qobuz or Tidal, and you’ll also want a separate streamer that will likewise up your streaming performance significantly. Depending on how good the DAC is in the Oppo you may also want to add a separate/better DAC. All of these things are important and if addressed will give you much higher-level streaming performance and enjoyment and just depends on how far you want to go with this. Hope this helps.

Thanks all.  Much to consider.  I'll update when I reach a decision but feel free to continue to leave suggestions.

To throw out another consideration: My CD player is a Simaudio 340D.  One reason I considered a separate DAC is to use it as an external DAC for the CD player as well.  But I don't really know just how good the internal DAC is in the Simaudio or what would be a good upgrade.  I suspect the Simaudio would pretty decent used just as a transport but again I don't know for sure as I haven't kept up with such things in quite some time.

@soix , thanks for your help. I’m going to try to eliminate the Onkyo & see if my phone & the Oppo shake hands. The output of the Oppo is connected to my tube pre & then to my LaScala's via, Prima Luna HP.

To be continued.

Few mention the innuos puls mini .

Way better interface than eversolo..sound quality about the same 

Node have a  really nice interface but lacking sq compared to innuos. 

Wiim don't play in the same league as mentioned above. 

This is from my own experience , still have the innuos got rid off the others. 

@elliottbnewcombjr I have a purple and gold synergistic research, carbon tuning disks that I suppose you could win as a booby prize for being right.

Otherwise, like I said, the OP seems to have some really nice equipment and a quality streamer is only going to lend itself to the synergy of their system. 

To throw out another consideration: My CD player is a Simaudio 340D. One reason I considered a separate DAC is to use it as an external DAC for the CD player as well. But I don’t really know just how good the internal DAC is in the Simaudio or


@tlh28 uh in think the Simaudio 340 is a integrated amp? Do you mean your CD player is the 260D? If so that is a well regarded DAC implementation and it has spidf and optical inputs. I would just get a streamer and run it through that DAC first. Do the Blue Sound with external Power supply and I bet you be happy camper until the upgrade virus takes holt again.



I recently found a new in box Bluesound Vault 2i for $700. It’s amazing to me. Not only does it stream anything through a respectable DAC, it has a CD slot and it rips CD’s in 12 minutes each and has a hard drive large enough to store my rack of 1600 CD onboard.

Now I just need two full weeks of time to save my collection. I know, why save them when I can stream them? Well, just to have them in case the internet goes down for a long time.


Happy hunting.


11 posts

I know, why save them when I can stream them? Well, just to have them in case the internet goes down for a long time.


@andym23456 it seems streaming services can and do sometimes pull albums / artists off their catalogues without warning. Kind of like Netflix dropping movies or series with little or no notice.

That’s an even better reason to save your disc collection files.


To OP and anyone else on the learning curve, some of the claims made of streamers in this thread have no evidence, just subjective conjecture, nor basis in current (pun!) electrical knowledge, so self-educate before getting carried away is a fair plan.

Chasing “better” streamers relies on factors that don’t make much sense if you will be streaming via Bluetooth. That should perhaps be first thing out of the chain if one hopes for improvement, lest you constrain your streamed files from the get-go.

I’m going to try to eliminate the Onkyo & see if my phone & the Oppo shake hands.

@danmar123 Great that you’re getting the AVR outta your 2-channel signal path as that’s a huge bottleneck to performance. I started streaming from my iPhone using the Apple Camera Adapter to run USB into my DAC with Qobuz, and it sounded good until I realized CDs sounded significantly better, which was very disappointing. Following advice from people here I got a streamer (an inexpensive iFi Zen Stream) and my streaming immediately sounded as good or better than CDs — literally a night and day difference. So while the iPhone is certainly a cheap and easy way to get started, if you’re concerned with sound quality you should plan on getting a streamer down the road. Just my experience FWIW.

@soix , yesterday I tried to handshake my phone to the Oppo, no dice. Did a google search & came up with an Oppo app for my droid. No dice there too. I can connect my Comp. via Cat 6 wire. I have an Creative sound card there. I'll give that a try. I also tried the Comp. via bluetooth & didn't like the SQ. I have to say that, using my phone to steam Tidal was better than the Comp via bluetooth.  

@tlh28 welcome to the streaming journey, it’s awesome to have such a vast category of music at your finger tips.  The ability to get streaming sound quality on par with analogue is achievable.  It can be a finicky journey though.  Clean power supplies, jitter free Ethernet or Fiber Optic signals often dominate discussions.  Do a search on this topic as there are a lot of threads on it and there are a lot of varying opinions. 

General rule of garbage in and garbage out applies with streaming, that’s where having a quality streamer and power supply for the digital chain is key.  Once you have that, tons of debate on if streamers really play a role in overall sound quality.  Some will swear they can make a big difference, others would point toward say a Blusound Node 2i with an upgraded power supply and say going beyond that is a fools errand.  

Most agree that in the digital chain, a DAC will play a bigger roll in the sound quality and sound signature than a streamer.  Separates are a great idea, makes it a lot easier to upgrade or simply tweak your digital chain by swapping out DAC’s.  DAC’s are also a rabbit hole, there are a lot of different designs, R2R, Tube Staged, FPAG, different DAC chip manufactures, Sabre, AKM.  

Node 2i is where many, me included start their journey but some of the other recommendations are also really good.  I would potentially shift a bit, but a used streamer from Aurilac or Lumin, both dedicated to the digital market, spend your budget on the streamer, use the DAC you have in your CD player for now.  You’ll then be in a great spot to upgrade your DAC but you may find there is no need to.  

Important when you look at streamers to look for streamers that have a variety of outputs and understand, which output provides the best sound quality, synergy between a streamer and DAC’s are key, some DAC’s will sound best in a fully balanced system or when using a USB input, some streamers are designed to sound best using one of the several output options.  The App that you use to manage the streaming is huge, don’t overlook that.  If you like the interface of the App for the streamer you are using, things will be fantastic, if you don’t or the manufacture doesn’t support updates, improvements and hasn’t developed a serious App to manage streaming, even if things sound good, you’ll likely be unhappy.  The Node has a great app, probably in my opinion the easiest to navigate, most flexible on the different streaming services supported.  Aurilac and Lumin have great Apps, little more finicky than the Node but I think overall the quality of their streamers offsets the ease of use / flexibility of the Node App.

Good Luck, read up on all the different opinions and find the solutions that work best for you.  Don’t sleep on used gear, I think you can land a streamer used that you won’t have to upgrade anytime soon which would be a great foundation to start with.  

Thanks to all for your insights and suggestions. Much appreciated as I try to wotk my way to adding streaming!

So just to be a bit clearer, I should be looking at a music server - minus a DAC - because I have an external Liberty DAC I use for playing FLAC files from my computer. The DAC connects to the laptop via USB and to my integrated amp. So I should be able to connect the DAC to the server and stream, for example, Tidal. Is this correct? Will I need additional cables to connect? Will the server use WiFi to connect to Tidal? BTW, the stereo system is not near the router so a wired connection to both that and the DAC isn’t possible. Thanks for the guidance!

@aheydorn Personally if I’m you I’d look to download the FLAC files from the computer to an external drive and connect that to the streamer (the Node can do this BTW) so you can have all your music along with your streamed music combined in the same place and no need for the computer anymore — all your music will now be accessible via the streamer’s app, which is a beautiful thing. All you’d need is to run a USB cable, which you obviously already have, from the streamer to your DAC. Also, you should avoid running your streamer with Wi-Fi for both better sound and signal reliability, and this can be done easily by getting a Wi-Fi extender from TP Link, etc. or a Mesh system (Orbi, etc.) and then running an Ethernet cable from that to your streamer — much better, relatively inexpensive, and easy peasy. Be excited as your music enjoyment is about to expand exponentially!

Just to clarify some terms because it can be confusing, a streamer just streams music in real time from a streaming service/source whereas a server stores music that can then be transferred to another device. There are combo streamer/servers that stream and also have onboard storage so you can load files directly into them (the Bluesound Vault does this as do units from Innuos, Aurender, etc.) so there’s no need for an external drive, which is really nice. This may not be 100% technically correct but it’s how I understand/define it in my very rudimentary way and hope it’s helpful.

I’m not aware of a less expensive high quality way to get into streaming than with the AudioQuest Cobalt DAC. It only costs a few hundred bucks. I also bought a quality AudioQuest cable for it. It plugs into your laptop. So for about 600 bucks you’ve in business! I use Qobuz and Audirvana for the software. I can control the streaming from my iphone.

This set up is crazy good and will most likely blow away all of your other sources!

Join my private Facebook group to get answers to hifi questions. There are experts from around the world on the platform. It's called: HiFi and music media releases.

@tlh28, you’re getting a lot of good recommendations here. If I were starting to put a streaming setup together from scratch I’d use a laptop as a music source initially because of the variety of inputs available, and you can also use that platform to try the many different streaming services and hopefully find one that you enjoy. Then you can decide how you want to listen to your music. Speakers at home, headphones, or on the go. As far as a DAC I’d checkout something like an iFi Zen One Signature. 


@soix thanks a bunch- as it happens I back up all FLAC files on an external storage device so maybe I’m ahead of the game there. I would like to move away from the laptop so that’s great advice. Sorry but I still don’t understand how to use an Ethernet cable to get this done- I’m not very tech savvy so my learning curve is vertical! My router is on a separate floor from the system and I currently run eero mesh to strengthen the signal to the other floor (basement). So is using an Ethernet cable still possible? I’d prefer not to rely on WiFi… Because I already have a separate DAC I think I’m looking for just a server - if my understanding is correct… looking forward to getting this done so appreciate the help! 

My router is on a separate floor from the system and I currently run eero mesh to strengthen the signal to the other floor (basement). So is using an Ethernet cable still possible?

Absolutely.  You just need another Mesh node near your streamer and run an Ethernet cable from that node to the streamer and USB from the streamer to your DAC and you’re golden for streaming. Using the Node as an example, you can then just run a USB cable from your external drive into the Node and now all your music will be available from the Node.  You’re very close since you already have Mesh and music on an external drive.

I use a separate DAC which uses the new ESS9032Q2M which for single ended use with the SET preamp and amp, outperforms R2R ladder DACs. (Some reviewers consider the more expensive R2R ladder DAC better for balanced output.) 

I purchased a Bluesound Vault 2i a few years ago. While it does stream any classical music station in the world and other sources, it does not lend itself to storing my CD collection in its enormous memory. Calling up a composer and a symphony, overture, or a concerto is impossibly complicated because it is designed for pop songs accessed by song title and singer or group. I have to put my CD collection on a flash drive with folders for each composer and this often does not work the right way. Downloads do not always get onto the flash drive in a playable format. 

What I manage to keep on the flash drive does sound spectacular with the separate DAC that can also take that disc player as a digital source.  

Follow up from 4/18,

’’@soix , yesterday I tried to handshake my phone to the Oppo, no dice. Did a google search & came up with an Oppo app for my droid. No dice there too. I can connect my Comp. via Cat 6 wire. I have an Creative sound card there. I’ll give that a try. I also tried the Comp. via bluetooth & didn’t like the SQ. I have to say that, using my phone to steam Tidal was better than the Comp via bluetooth.’’


The only way to connect my droid to the Oppo was to download Roon to my phone & eliminate my AVR via bluetooth. I’m still processing Roon via wifi to the Oppo, but I can’t make out if there’s a difference in SQ. So then I downloaded Roon to my Comp to see if there was any improvement in SQ. Again, I can’t desifier if it’s any better than Tidal alone. I’m going to give it a few more days & see if it’ll get any better.

I have a 14 day trial from Roon, I shall see.

@danmar123 Yeah, at this point I’d highly recommend getting a streamer rather than tying yourself in knots trying to get your phone to work.  It needn’t be a very expensive streamer, and your sound quality will improve significantly. 

If you're happy with using a computer, adding a  USB dac is easy. I like my Schiit Modi multibit. Using other streamers will have you using your phone as an interface. I use ifi zen stream. Very inexpensive ways to try out streaming.