Streamer Comparison and Suggestions

I am considering options for a new streamer for the specific purpose of improving sound quality as a Roon endpoint feeding a DAC.  

The set-up:

  • networked server/Roon core in a separate room
  • connection to my main system using fiber, a converter and LPS
  • very short Ethernet cable into dual Bonn N8 switches
  • Network Acoustics Ethernet cable then muon filter
  • Metrum Acoustics Ambre Roon endpoint/streamer (currently)
  • Variety of DACs having USB, S/PDIF, and AES/EBU input options

The Ambre is a Raspberry Pi based device with internal LPS and femto clocking.  I am curious whether some of the more expensive, more well-known streamer options may result in improved sound quality as a Roon endpoint feeding my DAC - which is my only goal.  I intend to continue using Roon to control Tidal, Qobuz, and my server stored music files so the addition of fancy touchscreens, on-board storage, or optional player software will not affect my decision unless the device also offers improved sound quality.  

Streamers I have been considering are in the $5-8K price range and include:

  • Sonore Signature Rendu SE (optical or otherwise - USB output only) $5,300
  • Innuos Pulsar (USB output only) $7,999
  • Auralic Aries G2.2 (lots of flexibility) $6,099

Thanks for any suggestions and specifically any comparisons between the streamers listed above.


I've had my modded Auralic Aries G1 for a few years now and I still really like it. I've A/B'd it against a Lumin U1mini and the Rose 150b so the G2.2 should be a good choice. I'll be making that jump after the first of the year.

I use the Sonore microRendu with my Small Green Computer (SGC) Roon core/server, and am quite happy, but have considered moving up to the OpticalRendu. The SE is above my budget but has gotten excellent reviews.

You obviously have a handle on networking and optical—much more than I. The Sonore isn’t an all-in-one server/streamer like the Innuos, though — just a streamer. Oh, I was told by the SGC guy that the Sonore power supply is better than the SGC one (which I use), though 3 or 4 times more expensive...FWIW.

Steve Plaskin with Twitering Machines reviewed the Signature Rendu SE/optical- May 6, 2019
Steve said, "Sonore has managed to take the original Signature Rendu SE to a higher performance level with the new Signature Rendu SE – optical Ethernet to USB output. The folks at Sonore have made it simple to assemble the optical setup with their systemOptique certified list of approved gear that will eliminate a good deal of component trial and error. Sonore has combined their new opticalRendu and upgraded Signature Linear Power Supply to create a superb component that improves upon their previous work and delivers the finest streaming USB source I have yet experienced."


Innuos is doing some interesting things now it seems, and I was interested in their units for a time, but several years ago I’d read that their mid-level servers didn’t run Roon well because they lacked gigabytes for the OS, and that their native SENSE app (as an alternative to Roon) wasn’t fully evolved. Is it now? They have expanded their product line and I have NO idea what I would be interested in now. I don’t see Roon mentioned much on their website in a quick look just now ... do they still offer a Roon-ready or approved servers? Innuos


This comment is probably not very useful to you! But I couldn’t resist, and now I have to walk the dog. 😎

I'll add Lumin U2 as a streamer worth looking at. Their hardware and software quality is exceptional. The U2 can also be paired with an upgraded Lumin X1 power supply.


I have looked at the Lumin line up and was interested in the U2 mini, especially with the option of removing the SMPS and changing over to an exterior LPS.  However, I could not find anywhere on their website the voltage or amperage of the X1 PS to determine if that would work with the U2 mini, but there are other options.  It may be one of the best low-cost options, along with the Optical or Ultra Rendu with upgraded external PS.  The full size U2 at $5K has its own internal LPS, which appears to be pretty good.

@mitch2 the X1 power supply isn't compatible with the U2 Mini. Something to keep in mind is that bypassing the U2 Mini internal power supply with a third-party linear power supply will void the warranty.

I have owned two different Lumin products and have been very happy with both of them. Based on your budget you could probably grab a great deal on a Lumin X1 that is previously owned.

Good luck and let us know what you decide to do.

I’ve used an Innous Zenith MKII for about 5 years and have no plans to upgrade. When I first started using Roon, I was upscaling and using DSP, which sometimes caused playback problems. After a while, I relized that I didn’t need upscaling or DSP to get great sounding music out of my system, so I stopped using both.

When Sense came out, I eventually tried it and found the SQ much better than Roon’s. Sense had some growing pains, but now it is fully integrated with Qobuz and Tidal. I don’t use Roon anymore in my listening room - even thought I have a lifetime subscription.

OP, if you could find a used Zenith MKII in good condition, you might give it some serious consideration.

Have a Innous Pulsar, very good.  Sense app is excelent. It sounds better than aurender I previously had. It can function as a roon end point, but sounds better running qobuz via the sense app. Not using roon much anymore because sense app works so well and is sonically superior.  No experience with Lumin, aurender is also very good but I like the pulsar better.

It doesn’t seem like most suggestions have even

heard the Alambre. I have and think it hard to beat.

I sent it back for a media player that plays local (USB-A) files.

Good luck.

Thanks everyone, so far.

@joc3021  - I am glad to hear you have had good luck with the Pulsar.  I have heard several times that the SQ from Innuos' own Sense app is better than from Roon.  Do you know if there would be a way to toggle between Roon and the Sense app, depending on whether I were listening casually or more critically?  BTW, I have not considered Aurender because it is not Roon ready.

@fuzztone - You are saying the Metrum Ambre (not Alambre) is "hard to beat", right?  I am not surprised, because I also think it sounds good.   I wish I could try a couple of these streamers (mainly the Pulsar and the Sig Rendu SE opt.) in my system so I could compare them to the Ambre that I am currently using.

I have Pi2aes with LPS (running RoPieeeXL, HqPlayer upsampling, to Holo Spring 3 KTE), tried some Innuos and Aurender streamers that local shop had for demo,  and never found them worth the price difference. Paying 2-3k (or 5k!) for "I think I heard the difference on that song" is not worth it in my system, maybe would be if i have 50-100k setup, but for ~15-20k for my whole system definitely its not. So, be sure to try before buying and see if that money would better spent into something else.  

I use an Auralic Ares 2.2 it’s solid.

If you can swing it get an Auralic if you

want the best of the best Taiko Extreme or Aurender N30SA.The Aurender is more reliable than the Taiko.

A well designed USB connection has the advantage of slaving the server’s clock to the Dac. Assuming the dac has superior clocking that at the highest level has significant benefits on SQ.

If you are a ROON user, then the 3 streamers I owned would all work well. They best part is you do not need a superstar music server (also known as a computer).

  • Lumin X1, this is a DAC and streamer. Lumin has released the streamer part of the X1 as a new product.
  • Sonore OpticalRendu
  • PlayBack Designs Stream-IF (fibre optic only works with PBD and Nagra DACs)

These 3 are awesome streamers and the first 2 were used with fibre optic. Using fibre means it does not matter what was before the fibre, such as the music server.

I did not use fibre with the Streamer-IF since I have not purchased a PBD DAC yet. I used SPDIF with the Streamer-IF into a Benchmark DAC3B. Even in that setup the sound was comparable to the other 2. I am thinking there is some fibre inside the box that is hooked up to the SPDIF pathway.

I use an Auralic G2.1, very solid,  can’t go wrong with the G2.2

if I had unlimited funds I might consider a Grimm Audio MU-1

I have a Pulsar. Love it.

Sense App allowed me to ditch Roon which I was more than happy to do

Mitch2 - it's very simple to switch to roon on the pulsar, takes a few seconds. You just toggle out of "standalone" mode on the app where sense is streaming qobuz or tidal directly and switch to roon where roon takes over the interface and sees the pulsar as an end point. Makes it easy to compare sonics, app responsiveness, etc. 

Another thumbs up for Innuos! I’ve had my Zenith Mark III for 2.years & it’s excellent as is their Sense app. I recently tried to do a suggested update & something happened & it froze x& wouldn’t work at all. I emailed their tech support which is right on the Sense App & they very quickly got connected into my unit & corrected the issue! It works better than ever! Great customer support!

@mitch2 if you are looking at Lumin, I have had the Lumin D2, Lumin P1 and I now have a Lumin U2 Mini with an upgraded power supply, I went with an S-Booster.  It doesn’t have to void the warranty, if anything requires warranty service you would have to put the original power supply back in the Unit.  On the Lumin products, upgrading the power supply is a really common upgrade, they make great products, support is outstanding, they are continually sending out updates to their units and software.  Bang for the buck, you won’t go wrong with the U2 mini with an upgraded power supply, it will get you close to something 3x the price.  I also had an Aurilac G2 streamer, not the latest version, the one prior, great streamer as well, I found Lumin to be a smidge better but you wouldn’t go wrong with either, the U2 Mini would save you some $$ but you wouldn’t give up any performance relative to the older version of the G2, can’t speak to the latest. 

If you want the best of the best as another poster mentioned Aurender products are about as good as it gets when it comes to streamers.  

+1 Innuos. I have a ZENITH MKIII and it’s been flawless. The Sense app seems to be the best available with a great sound, very intuitive and robust!

The Metrum Ambre is hard to beat for SQ.

The only way you’ll know for sure is direct comparison with return privileges.

I also returned SOtM and Sonore Rendu because their support could not get them to play anything BUT Room and limited IP radio.

Currently happy with Magna Mano Ultra (i2s), Pro-Ject S2 Ultra (USB) and miniDSP SHD Studio (AES-EBU), all with Qobuz and external SSDs.

I would echo comments regarding Innuos and the Sense application. I used a Zenith Mk III as a Roon core and streamer and it is an excellent sounding streamer. (I recently upgraded to an Innuos Statement but the Zenith is right up there.) It will run Roon and run DSP software. But for the best sound it is better if you utilize a separate Roon core and use the Innuos as an end point/streamer only. The processing power used to manage Roon and DSP tend to detract from the overall sonics. I compared the Zenith to Lumin and Aurrender products in similiar price ranges and found the Innuos to be sonically superior.  

Also agree with general comments about the Innuos Sense app. It works flawlessly. I spent a lot of time comparing the sonics of the Sense to Roon before switching and dropping Roon. It is easy to toggle and A/B between Roon and Sense to compare. It was clear that the Sense application sounded much better than Roon and it was not subtle. More open, more transparent, better dynamics. Finding a used Zenith MK III should not be difficult. Good Luck

If you can stretch your budget to a get a new or used Grimm MU1 it is a far better Roon box than anything else. You can sell your Room core. The 2/4 over sampling is dah bomb. 
Don’t take just my word please read up on it. 

My father as a Grimm MU1 - excellent. Uncle has an Aurilac G1.1 - OK. Friend has an Aurender N20 - excellent. I decided to buy an Evo 432 - excellent. It’s a roon core and is quite a bit cheaper than the MU1 and N20, but holds its own, I believe. Not better or worse, just has different sound characteristics. I have an Audio Note system and it harmonizes very well … emphasizes the naturalness and tonal beauty of the AN sound. If you live near NYC, you can demo one as the dealer is based in NJ. 


Wow, what a great thread.  Thank you for the responses everyone.

Based on what I have read, the Innuos Pulsar and Sonore Signature Rendu SE Optical remain strong choices in the $5-8K range, along with the Auralic Aries G2.2.  One drawback with the Pulsar and Sig Rendu SE is that they tie me to using USB, unless I add another box.  Cost effective options less than $3K include the Lumin U2 mini with upgraded outboard LPS or the opticalRendu with an improved outboard PS.

Thank you to @joc3021 for the additional information about how easy it is to switch the Innuos Pulsar between their Sense app and Roon.  That was helpful.  

To those recommending the Grimm MU1, it is within my budget and I have read the reviews but as good as it probably sounds, I really want to have the server separated from the streamer/endpoint for the SQ reasons mentioned by @dmiller01, as well as for the ability to repair/replace the server if necessary without affecting the streamer.  Finally, I like the idea of sticking with products from a company that is established and experienced with servers/streamers as I suspect the support will be more reliable like it was when I used the Antipodes DX3.


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InnuOS Sense in my experience with a good DAC obviates the need for splitting streamer and server; actually savings on one of the two might buy a better clock and clocking is key.


Are you suggesting either the ZENith Mk3 or the ZEN Mk3 along with the Phoenix USB reclocker? 

I noticed Antipodes did go from their separate EX/CX to the one box Oladra or K50 solutions.  I really liked using the DX3 and would consider their K41 and K22 pair but their pricing went through the roof.  If I wanted one box, the K50 would be on my list.


Unless you need the ripping function of the Zen series I’d now go with the Pulsar which includes Phoenix like reclockking of the USB connection and better power supply

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So, for all of you Innuos owners, how active are they on updates and how responsive is their support if you need it?

How bout the HIFI Rose RS130? It has the ability to use a fiber network, hard drive storage for stored media  has an excellent clock and an i2s output  



@mitch2 I have NOT found using the Grimm as a Roon core and streamer to detract from overall sonics (YMMV ). I have found just the opposite. Big time. Better put; no worries. 




there is an update on average once a quarter; they run a user request list for these updates and their support is super responsive with online remote sessions where needed. Top notch.

Mitch2 - see my earlier comment. I was probably lax on updating my Innuos Zenith   but when customer support was needed to complete the task, they were right on it!! 

@jonwolfpell ​​​​@antigrunge2  - Thanks for the feedback.  That is the type of support I am looking for and that I remember from when I was using the DX3.  I believe you are much more likely to have proactive and responsive support from the companies that are heavily invested in the digital front end side of audio (servers, streamers, clocking, etc.) and that maintain teams of people to work on this stuff.

The support issue and newness of servers to Grimm is part of my reluctance to the Grimm MU1 that maybe I need to get over.  They have been in business almost 20 years and their first products were digital so they know what they are doing.  I wish they had a streamer only product instead of the all-in-one MU1/2 solutions.  I am a little concerned with the market longevity of running a server using the computing power from an i3, which is what I believe is in the MU1.  Another issue with not having a mature digital line-up is that they are coming out with new products (MU2), so I would hate to purchase the MU1 and then have them come out with a streamer only product that I would be much more interested in.  I need to give this more thought.  The reports of great sound quality are enticing.

I upgraded from using my mac mini 2020 i7 as all components of roon to using it to control an Aries G2.1. The difference in SQ was substantial, but don't forget the importance of cables, especially power. It is a little twitchy. I was swapping cables while it was powered on and blew the main usb port and had to ship to Oregon for repair. I also have been unable to get teh lightning app to work on my net, but think it's a bonjour bug in my old router. Last, it draws too much power IMO, even when asleep, and when I turn it off with the switch, and then turn it on, it doesn't connect. I have to a manual sleep cycle to make it work. If I leave the unit switched on but asleep as intended, then it always works. The presence of an aux usb port shoudl be great for playing from an SLC drive for even better SQ, but I need to get an external LPS for that.

So you all got me interested in Grimm again and I reached out to them and asked whether they were considering developing a streamer type product.  John-Paul Lizars replied that their goal of the MU1/MU2 was to offer "a self contained solution to digital audio playback."   They strive for "the best possible fidelity, an elegant simplicity and user friendly operation."   Of the separate server and streamer set-up, he said, "the use you describe, while having merit, is more complex than we like."   However, he also mentioned, "the MU1 can function as a Roon endpoint and customers do use it that way to accomplish the configuration you describe."  

Subsequent to that, I found and purchased a Sonore Signature Rendu SE Optical from a seller who is only about an hour from me.  I like the simplicity of the Sonore streamer and if the sonics match the reviews, it should work fine for me.  If not, there is always Grimm.


@mitch2 If you’re in NoCal please PM on Agone. Also I may know a guy who may br able to get a certain streamier at a discount if you can read me. Dig Daddyoh?

(At times it is frustrating that Agone will not allow phone numbers and personal info but that keeps the buying/selling lock tight.)

I've found the response time from Innuos much faster than others. I have the Pulse Mini using the Zen Mini LPS and have heard the Pulse [measurable improvement]. I would imagine the Pulsar is excellent.

I own a Pulse + Phoenix USB reclocker. The Sense app (running Qobuz) is very robust and it was so good that I got rid of Roon, especially as my system sounded better without it. The quality of the Innuos products is awesome that I can imagine the Pulsar would be an incredible streamer too. Enjoy your journey.

Good comments and about streamers - thanks.
I was able to hook up the Sonore Signature Rendu SE Optical (SRO) today in my system for a trial, and I like what I am hearing.

I then wired a new dedicated line to my panel to power my IT-server area and ran 45-feet of OM1 LC to LC fiber (because I was previously using SC/SC terminations) so tomorrow I will move my Deja Vu server into the IT area, away from my system room, connect the server directly to my router, and to a Bonn N8 switch, then a very short Ethernet cable to the Sonore Optical Module (with LPS) and then 45 feet of fiber from the IT area (or server room) directly to the SRO outputting USB to my DAC. I look forward to getting that done and hearing some music.

I will not rule the Innuos Pulser out because of all the positive responses about how well it performs, along with the apparent SQ benefits of using the Sense app. However, if the SRO continues to sound as good as it did today, I may stick with that until the Pulsar matures. This stuff has been moving pretty fast wrt improvements when you consider the highly regarded products that have come out in the past year or so; Pulsar, Auralic Aries G2.2, Grimm MU1/2, and more.

If I was starting over again and didn’t have a DAC or streamer (and had the cash) the MU2 would be under the tree. 🌲 Not socks 🧦 

Pulsar is wonderful and Innuos has always responded promptly to my questions. Lifetime Roon member who no longer uses it as Sense sounds FAR better with Innuos products. 

Thank you @grannyring for your feedback on the SQ of the Pulsar, the responsive support of Innuos, and your preference for the Sense app over Roon.  I will have a hard time giving up the artist write-ups on Roon but for better SQ, maybe.

The SQ of my system took a surprising step forward this week by moving my server to a separate room with my modem, router, switch, and fiber converter, LPSs for all, and connected to a dedicated 20A line.  I put my muon filter directly between my router and server, and then extended 45 feet of fiber to a Sonore Signature Rendu SE Optical (SRO) in my system room.

The improvement was beyond subtle and is characterized by a somewhat rounder, fuller, more dimensional, and more musically enjoyable presentation compared to using the Metrum Ambre as a Roon endpoint, which is a bit more incisive with perhaps a slightly flatter presentation - still pretty good but not as good.  Some of the improvement may be from using the USB input on my DAC, which seems better than the S/PDIF input, although going through the SRO still improved on a direct USB connection between my server and DAC.

I could be satisfied and finished for now but, based on all the positive comments made here about the Pulsar, I would still like to hear the level of SQ improvement/difference (if any) it makes in my system.  Maybe I will look into whether a 30-day trial is an option.

Any of you directly compared the Innuos Pulsar with the Sonore Signature Rendu SE Optical?  Impressions?