spend on the streamer or on the DAC ?

I a considering splashing north of 5000 (euro) for a new source for my rig (MOOON 340i, OPERA QUINTA speaker, McIntosh SACD, Node2). Better to spend more for the DAC or the streamer ? I was thinking about a Schitt yggrasil.Or would it make sense to spalsh on a more expensive DAC and use the Node2 as a streamer, or, for that matter, stream from my Macbook Pro. Regards.
Source is important but the DAC is the larger determinant of sound quality.  I use a Bryston DAC3 which has 4 HDMI inputs.  My Oppo player can output the DSD layer of SACD via the HDMI perhaps your Mac can do the same?
My local dealer, who puts together some very expensive systems, usually recommends the Sonos or Roon streamer.  It is not uncommon for his customers to have Sonos feeding an Audio Note DAC5; now THAT is a massive price discrepancy.
I have a different view than the others.  Yes, the DAC is very important, but I also found that the streamer or source is as important. 

I started with a Node 2 going into an outboard DAC, and found a sizable improvement in performance when upgrading the streamer going into the same DAC.  BTW - It didn’t present itself as a tonal difference, but In the form of a lot more spatial detail.  The Node 2 sounded “flat” dimensionally in comparison. The upgraded streamer also offered more information and musical detail but the most obvious difference was how the soundscape just opened up dramatically.  

Perhaps you could audition better sources along with better DACs to see how it works in your system. In any case, YMMV but it’s worth exploring.

My $.02. 
My own experience with chasing dacs to focus more so on the source , it was the source that clearly more satisfying results .

First, I'd advise laying out something of a roadmap, and budgeting for the potential additional pieces, including cables . Are you currently doing Roon?  Is that something that you wish to consider?  Apart from a DAC, would a Roon Nucleus or some other Music Server make sense.   With a 5000 Euro budget, there is an awful lot that is available to you with that type of spend.  All things being equal, I'd start with the DAC, continue to use the Node 2 as your streamer, and go from there.  That being said, would still advise taking it step by step, seeing what you have with each new piece added to the puzzle. If you have a trusted dealer you can work with, all the better.  Take your time and enjoy the journey. 

+1, mgrif104.

Node 2i is and will be a average sounding device even with an upgraded DAC. A good streamer (check out Lumin, Aurender, Innuos) and a separate DAC will be a solid investment if you’re serious about exploiting the true potential of high resolution streaming available through Qobuz.

Both Lumin and Aurender also offers streamer with built in DAC within your budget.
I've found that both the streamer and DAC are of almost equal importance when streaming music. I moved from Node 2i to Sonore opticalRendu streamer in my 2 channel system and the improvement in SQ went above and beyond my expectations. At least in my case, the biggest impact was a noticeable reduction in the noise floor.
i agree with other posters on the importance of figuring this out for yourself, in your house, using your network or wifi internet signal-feeding setup

i disagree with others saying there is a significant SQ improvement going from a BS Node 2i as a streamer (digital out only) to more expensive streamers (I have tried Innuos, Brooklyn, Auralic) -- at least that was contrary to my experience

in my experience... using the Node 2i as the base case, the DAC upgrade rates a 7-8 (10 scale) on its impact on SQ, whereas a digital streamer change rates 1-2

my house my system my ears my internet connection

to op ... you have node 2, not 2i... i am not clear on the sq upgrade involved there, either in its streamer or dac sections

“in my experience... using the Node 2i as the base case, the DAC upgrade rates a 7-8 (10 scale) on its impact on SQ, whereas a digital streamer change rates 1-2.”


To put things in perspective, would you please share which model did you try from Innuos, Brooklyn, Auralic? And what DAC you were using?

IME, going from Vault 2i to Aurender N100H was quite a leap in streamer performance. I was using Modwright Elyse DAC at that time.

I think this depends a lot on the DAC and how it is connected to the streamer. The Node 2i, for example, only has SPDIF and TOSLINK outputs. A DAC that derives its sample clock from these digital inputs will have SQ much more influenced by the quality of the streamer.

If you are using a DAC that buffers the data and generates it's own internal clock, then the SQ will be less impacted by the streamer. That's not to say there won't be a difference, but I think the differences will be more subtle.

For example, I noticed a bigger difference between my Node 2i and my Bryston BDP-2 streamers which using the Yggdrasil (SPDIF from the Node 2i, AES3 from the Bryston) than using my Denafrips Terminator DAC using the same input connectors. The Terminator buffers and reclocks the data using its internal clock and is much less sensitive to which input is being used (including USB). 
Invest in the DAC. I've used streamers from a raspberry pi4 to Node2i,  Bel Canto, Simaudio, Aurrender and there isn't a nickel worth of difference between them. If you want to stick with digital input use the Node if you want USB get a raspberry pi4 and get the best DAC you can afford. 
@olica the DAC will have a much larger impact on the sound character, regardless of where it is getting its audio data from. Changing the data source into that DAC will not be able to significantly change that character, and is instead probably best thought of as optimizing for it.
There are also plenty of streamer/DACs built into one unit, like the Bryston BDA-3.14.  Sometimes eliminating two sockets, one cable, and everything that goes along with that, pays dividends.
“Bel Canto, Simaudio, Aurrender and there isn’t a nickel worth of difference between them.”

I bet you saved lot of nickels staying with raspberry pi4 😂
Went from a Cambride Audio CXC to a SimAudio 260DT CD transport feeding my Mojo Audio EVO DAC ; it made a positive difference in SQ

I agree with you. There are advantages, at least theoretically, for coupling the two together.  I have a Naim 555 server/DAC combination.  Different sections of the combined unit are served with their own power feed from the separate dedicated power supply (separate box).  The most noise sensitive section is enclosed in a faraday cage.  In order for the digital signal to enter the faraday cage, it is first converted into an optical signal so that the signal passes optically into the faraday cage (noise/rfi cannot come in riding on an electrical feed).  This sort of complete engineering makes sense.

Sorry you’re missing out.  I have 3 streamers from 3 systems.  I’ve compared them all going into the same DAC.  Plenty more than a nickels worth of difference between them.  But, to each their own.

I'm not missing anything. Tried them all going to the same. If a streamer can take the incoming signal and pass it to the DAC it's job's complete. Pretty simple actually,  the interface to me is the most important , ease of use.
The DAC is more important, not the price.
Get the Yggy in your room with some highly regarded cheaper ones and you might surprise yourself. The secret is to find the one you like.
Cables, power supplies and ethernet quality usually make more diff in SQ between streamers than brand.
The dac is the sourse or the voice of the system , the streamer 
is the delivery to the dac.
I'm in the Dac camp but also make sure your streamer whatever it is has a good power supply. I've used an Auralic Aries Mini for 5 years now into two different Dacs. The one big improvement to the streamer itself was adding the Sbooster power supply.
I’ve got the Node2. There is no difference in sound quality between it and the 2i. For its price point the DAC in the Node2 is fine. It was a big jump recently adding an MHDT Tube Orchid (tube is on analog stage) DAC. I like having the streamer and DAC separate anyway. In this setup my Node2 does the full MQA unfolding before sending it to the DAC (via digital coax). Just changing the tube on the DAC changes the sound dramatically. I couldn’t be happier with the setup I have now.
I am in a similar situation but my issue is streamers....DAC locked in in kii speakers.  

Would I have a decent bang for the buck moving from a blusound streamer built into a NAD amp to a dCS network bridge?
My experience has been DAC for sure has the greatest impact on sound quality. I am a big fan of Chord dacs. Streamers I would put more emphasis on user interface and hard to beat Node 2i in that area.
Intense debate about dac vs streamer aside, I am currently using a DAP USB out to my dac. My dap is running on DC powered battery.

The question is will I get any sound improvement if I switched to a network streamer connecting to a local Hdd? Really don’t like the idea of a Pc/Nas to a streamer...

currently I am using a shanling DAP with hiby music app which as remote interface with iOS and Android via Bluetooth. Love it that I can just sit on my listening chair and select the music on my DAP via my phone. 
I was pretty much in your exact same place last spring. I planned to spend $5-6k on a DAC to upgrade from my Node 2 (not 2i). I planned to use the Node as a streamer into the new DAC. Looked at a lot of different units (reviews, specs, etc but didn’t try in house) and finally decided on a Mytek Manhattan II. It just so happened that Mytek was running a special where they discounted the Manhattan by ~$300 and threw in a free network card.  I asked them if they would discount further if I didn’t get the network card and they offered me an additional $300 discount. The network card lists for either $1200 or $1500 can’t remember but it seemed like a better deal to go ahead and get the card. 
Initially tried the node streaming into the DAC and instantly the SQ was orders of magnitude better. The smile on my 18 year-old’s face said it all. After a few days I started using the network card to stream rather than the node and that resulted in another increase in SQ but nowhere near the same magnitude. I think JJSS49 above said 7-8 out of 10 on the DAC and 1-2 on the streamer and I’d say my experience was similar. 
I thoroughly enjoyed my Node 2 for a few years but I expect you’ll be amazed at what digital sounds like when you make the upgrade you’re considering. My experience with Mytek was great and I fully recommend them (I bought direct from them).  Let me know if you have questions about the Mytek Manhattan, etc.  
I expect you can’t really go wrong with any of the DACs at that price point.  Look forward to hearing where you land. 
Just gonna state for the record, that asynchronous USB from computer to DAC and then on to the rest of the system is superior in pretty much every case to whatever streamer you’re using and the gymnastics it’s doing to convert the bitstream to either SPDIF or Toslink. Async USB doesn’t exhibit the clocking issues that either of those connections are plagued with.

Just sayin.
My local high end dealer have put multiple systems together for shows and I noticed the budget allocation roughly was 40% streamer and 60% DAC. 

Personally I use the Innuos Mini running Roon/Tidal into RME ADI-2 DAC and I am very pleased.

I have been considering moving to an FPGA-based DAC to be "future-proof" and the PS Audio with a built in bridge (streamer) comes to mind. 

Lately, though, I have been dreaming of the adding the Innuos Phoenix re-clocker to my setup as it is getting excellent reviews. And the RME just released a new version of the DAC. Life of an audiophile :-) 

Eventually check out Darko audio on the web and youtube. Some very good and educational stuff. 
I would emphasise here that the performance of the combined streamer/DAC is affected considerably by the configuration of your wired Ethernet delivery. I would go for a 50/50 streamer DAC ratio, connected by USB if possible, with a really good cable, then use the ENO Ethernet filter (Network Acoustics) to remove the ‘noise’ picked up in the Ethernet cabling. This really makes your investment in streamer/DAC come to life. All streamers gain from this, except the Naim 555, as it has measures built-in to eliminate this, hence why it sounds so good.
I have stream from Chromcast audio digital out bluesound node 2i digital out cocktail Audio X45 digital out Allo digi signature USB out and more streamers to my Preamp DAC Michi P5 zero difference
analog out is different story
like others said the interface of streamer APP is more important to me that’s why I’m using Naim Atom Uniti as a streamer only to my preamp the interface of Naim app is amazing compare to Cambridge 851 app auralic G1 app Bluesound app
If I had to choose I'd spend the money on. DAC.
However, with your budget, maybe consider a Lumin streamer/DAC.

To me it can make sense to combine streamer, DAC, and preamp in a single box (then just add a power amp and speakers ... or active speakers).  That way you're paying for just one chassis and you reduce the number of interconnects.  This "integrated preamp" is a modern, digital alternative to the traditional integrated amp.  Many products are available that combine 2 or 3 of these functions. Prices range from ~$500 for Bluesound to nearly $40K for the T+A SDV 3100 HV.  

I have owned the BS Node 2i, the iFi Pro iDSD, an ultraRendu (streamer/NAA only, no DAC/preamp), and the Matrix Element X. Lately I've settled on the Matrix Element X, which has an excellent DAC, WiFi/ethernet streaming, decent input switching functions, and very good volume control. As far as I'm concerned, all these devices perform the ethernet streaming function about equally well (all else being equal, or nearly so).  As for the DAC per se, I'd find it challenging to isolate the contribution it alone makes. FWIW, in ASR testing, many devices (including the Element X) have measured better than the Node 2i.
In this setup my Node2 does the full MQA unfolding before sending it to the DAC (via digital coax).

Actually, no.  You only get the full unfold if you send output to the analog outs of the Node 2.


I have yet to see a technical reason as to why the streamer does or doesn't matter, but my experience was that an external DAC did improve sound quality (in my case an Auralic Vega), but that replacing the Node 2 with a higher end streamer/DAC (for me it was the TEAC NT-505) resulted in a greater improvement in sound quality, a less "digital" sound, and a larger more "holographic" soundstage.  As others have said, the app you use to control your streaming is also important.
One point that seems to be getting lost in the conversation is how your streamer is connected to the internet. I noticed a huge difference in all aspects of the sound after I ran a direct wired connection to my streamer. Wireless is convenient but igo with the direct connection when ever you can. I also added an IFi filter on the connection and it cleaned up the jitter and noise.
Thk u all for the useful insights. I  am attracted to a single-box solution (streamer/DAC, and I'd like to
keep my MOON amp,and MOON seems to make nice DAC/streamers BTW). In this regard there is the issue of obsolescence: where does technology move the fastest, on the streamer side or on the DAC side? This might be an issue if one considers future upgrades. Regards. Olivier
I am waiting for a Denafrips Pontus DAC to arrive and I will team that up with a Bluesound Node 2i streamer for the time being. Read the reviews on the Denafrips as they read to be an excellent performer. 

Bill from Nova Scotia
I’m fairly new to this game and have to say my dealer recommended I go to Linn and solve both ends of this question. I ended up buying the Linn Maljik dsm and have been very happy with the streamer and dac contained in this unit. 
You’re getting some unusual advice here.

The sound of any system is going to be the result of two things, 1) the weakest link in the chain and 2) the interaction of the components, cables and room.

The Node2 is a weak link and nothing you’d want involved in a 5,000 Euro upgrade.

Go for the Yggy (I own, fabulous and upgradeable) and the Innous Zen Mk3.  Use any leftover Euros for the best digital cable you can get, maybe Audioquest Coffee.

Then sit back and be amazed.
Below is a comment lifted from this Mojo Audio Mystique DAC thread.


09-25-2020 2:54pm

Hi Everyone.

Benjamin here: owner of Mojo Audio and designer of the Mystique series of DACs.

The most important thing to remember is the DAC can only give you what you feed it from your digital source. We get customers all the time who have a modest transport or server/streamer and want to buy one of the more expensive versions of our EVO: big waste of $$$. You want to use a digital source that is proportional to your DAC or all your DAC is going to reveal are the flaws in your digital source.

I agree with the thoughts expressed as to the importance of both.  For the past year I have used the Ethernet input of my Ayre QX5/20 fed by an i5 computer as roon core.  Very nice presentation.  Recently added a Wolf Alpha3SX server and moved to the USB input on the Ayre.  Everything elevated to a level I was not expecting. I also tried different power cords for the Wolf and different USB cables...  In this experience I relearned or at least reinforced the idea that every part of the digital chain needs to be balanced against the rest and the sound is affected most by the weakest link even if that is a simple cable. Your experience may be different but in my opinion invest in both in a balanced way...
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The Mojo dac is far from crude and you should do your homework before saying such a thing. Ben is a digital expert and builds one of the very best sounding dacs available at any price. Simplicity in design executed brilliantly is a magical audio recipe that is very difficult to pull off well.   The power supplies in the Mojo dacs are the best I have ever seen. His attention to proper grounding is far from crude and cutting edge. 
I find that balance in general works best...though a Node 2i can be improved with a better DAC, only so much before the Node is a limiting factor...all my listening says both Streamer and DAC. are very important. Clearly some do not hear a difference between different sources and DACs, so do a lot a listening before spending the money you're talking about...
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