Streamer creates a Wow experience

I started streaming by running USB from my iPad to my DAC using Qobuz, and I thought it sounded pretty good and was happy.  Then I compared this to playing CDs and much to my dismay I slightly preferred the CDs.  This was a depressing moment.  So I reached out to you guys and several of you assured me if I got a dedicated streamer it’d be much better, and while I always believed a streamer is important and can make a difference I still found myself a little skeptical how much improvement there would be. 

So I decided to heed the advice here and after some research got an iFi Zen Stream with their upgraded power supply.  After getting the Zen linked to my WiFi and using mconnectHD to be able to stream Qobuz through the iFi — Holy Crap!!!  I expected some improvement but I was not prepared for the huge leap in sound quality I was hearing.  Every aspect of sound improved markedly and my jaw was on the floor.

Anyway, you guys were so right in assuring me a streamer would make all the difference.  And this is through my HeadFi rig and can’t wait to hear what this sounds like on the big rig.  Thanks for your helpful advice and getting me through this.  I’m one shocked and very happy camper.



I love reading posts like this. What DAC(s) are you feeding the iFi, and do you feel it is now close or even better to your CD playback?

I love demoing high quality streamer/servers for people to prove that bits are not just bits. That jaw-dropping moment you mention is one I often see when I work with customers and friends who do not yet understand what a quality streamer/server can do. 

Good for you. Good time for streaming, many new innovations and devices coming to market, expect this to continue into future. Will streaming become the de facto mode for best sound quality in the future? I think quite possible based on high level of sound quality already available.

What DAC(s) are you feeding the iFi, and do you feel it is now close or even better to your CD playback?

@blisshifi I’m feeding the Zen Stream into a Musician Pegasus, and its not even close — the streaming is now far superior to CD.  Didn’t see that comin’, at least not to this degree.  My next move is to get a Singxer SU6 DDC so I can switch to the I2s Input on my Pegasus.  You must have lots of fun watching reactions of people hearing a good streamer for the first time.

I love it when someone asks for advice and trusts it enough to follow it.

Bravo to you.

@sns I will put my bet on digital file serving (on a local high-performance music server) to be the de facto standard for high resolution / high fidelity playback. Even though streaming using high quality Ethernet/optical and quality switches/reclockers get very close, the shortest path will always likely win.

I do have faith. In the last year I reached a reference grade with my digital setup, using the Aurender N30SA server/streamer going into the T+A SDV 3100 HV DAC preamp. Using the Synergistic Research Ethernet Switch UEF and DH Labs Reunion Ethernet cables improved the quality of streaming to get it close to the local files stored on the Aurender, but local files still win. Both are generally equal if not most times better than my vinyl rig, which at about a $60K MSRP is no slouch either. But digital will just continue to get better, and I can’t say the same for vinyl. But who knows what the future holds?

Yep, my local files (NAS) still a bit better than streams, but streams getting very, very close with more upgrades to come. I can segregate some stream equipment upgrades from local file upgrades so expect next streaming only upgrade will further close the gap. I also expect further upgrades/innovations in streaming software/players.

@soix like you, I was pleasantly surprised with the sound quality, especially with such an affordable device as the Zen Stream. Much better sound quality than the Bluesound products IME. In my case, I replaced a buggy Aurender N10 with a Roon Nucleus / IFi Zen Stream combo and experienced improved sound quality and dependability. I have yet to try the upgraded IFi power supply. My DAC is an old Weiss 202 direct into a vintage Music Reference RM9 tube amp with Siemens EL34’s, powering Harbeth 40.2 Anni’s.

@pdreher Nice system.  I’m using the iPowerX and haven’t had the courage to pull it out to make a comparison, but by all accounts the upgraded power supply makes a big improvement.  Love to hear your thoughts if/when you get the new PS. 

Good to hear of success with the iFi. It seems to live up to the good reviews.

Congratulations! Yeah… it is hard to not think, “bits are bits, how could a streamer matter”. But, like all of audiophilia… it matters. I spent over a decade screwing around with PCs, MACs and other devices for streaming… but until I got my first dedicated streamer it all seemed academic. Then I got a Aurlic Aries G2 ($4K?), then a Aurender N100 ($3.5K, and sounding better), auditioned a Aurender N10 ($10K), and then bought a Aurender W20SE ($22K, a bargain!)… to make me truely appreciate the value of a streamer. You can see my systems under my ID. The most expensive components I have are my streamer and amp.

Congratulations @soix,  I found similar advice here. I initially bought the zen stream as in interim measure, I really didn't think I'd keep it for long. As others have noticed, it punches well above its weight class. 

Thanks to @jjss49 for suggesting LPS upgrade --an incremental and audible improvement in an already great streamer.   

Sonic Orbiter Roon Core i5 (Upsampling) > Ethernet (switch) > ifi Zen stream + MCRU LPS > USB > Matrix Audio X-SPDIF 2 > I2S > Wyred4Sound  DAC-2v2SE


Congratulations on your new found streaming success. What CD source are you comparing it with? One of the more superficial and disingenuous comments I see presented in forms is,  “bits are bits.” In my opinion this demonstrates a lack of awareness and understanding.

There’s no doubt that improving the quality of the digital source be it a streamer or CD transport make a substantial difference in the sound quality. Those who believe that only the DAC is important are misguided. Source and DAC are both major contributors to achieving excellent digital sound.

The streamer versus CD transport back and forth has gotten a bit stale for me. There’s a hierarchy for both formats, each is capable of underwhelming sound quality to exquisite sound quality depending upon the hardware chosen. Furthermore they aren’t mutually exclusive and easily can coexist.

I can attest to the superb sound of a well selected high quality CD transport. I do not stream but I certainly acknowledge that superb sound is available with it as well.


Congrats @soix. I am also impressed with the SQ of the ifi Zen Stream. It was also my experience that one can squeeze even better SQ out of the Zen with a higher quality power supply, but what really surprised me was the degree of SQ improvement made with upgrading the umbilical cord... Didn't expect that.

I'm running the Nuprime LPS12 power supply with mine. 

I''ve been really amazed at my ifi zen stream zen DAC 2 source in my workspace system. Sometimes think it rivals my PS audio direct stream bridge II setup, but just sometimes... LPS for digital is snake oil. Just decouple with optical before the DAC. I use a lps for my roon rock NUC I7 core only to minimize noise on local ac mains... Not the digital signal which cannot transmit analog noise. The lan cable can though...

LPS for digital is snake oil.

That is not the impression I get.  I read plenty of reviews where using an upgraded power supply greatly improves the performance of the iFi Zen Stream, including several posters here.  

A good LPS for digital is absolutely not snake oil as long as it is replacing a lower-performing built-in power supply. I’ve used separate LPS’ in many instances, all of them have made a positive difference. The most surprising? Adding a Farad Super3 LPS to power my Uptone EtherRegen when I owned it. Adding the EtherRegen to my digital delivery very subtly helped lower noise and improve timing, but adding the Farad to the EtherRegen resulted in a much bigger impact than what the EtherRegen brought on its own, increasing clarity to a greater extent and greatly reducing fatigue. I almost returned the EtherRegen until a friend convinced me to try his Farad. The moment I did I ordered one for myself. 

@charles1dad I use the SPDIF from my Oppo as a transport so obviously could be better.  But I will say that steaming with the Zen Stream is vastly superior in every way over playing CDs in my current setup.   Not even close. 


Thanks, I do not doubt that you are enjoying much happiness with your streaming. I just know there’s considerably better CD transport sound than a stock Oppo. Nonetheless you’ve found a terrific solution for your needs and system.👍



BTW please ignore silly comment that a LPS for digital audio is snake oil. Utter nonsense. Best wishes.


high quality power supply is a very important contributor towards high sound quality for all components -- analog or digital

full stop


Correct. I’d simply advise @soix to try a good quality LPS and make his own determination.


If you are using usb to your dac, your sq will always be flawed, it doesn’t matter how many tweaks/gimmicks you add to make usb sound better. 

I have found good Ethernet cables around $1k x2 make a much bigger difference then cheaper $300 models ,especially at the end point side.

and a very good Ethernet switch ,the uptone Ethernet switch ,or far better still

the Synergistic research switch but is almost $1700  with discounts.



so when you play CDs, what is the setup?  How do you get the music into your headphones?


Thank you for posting and congrats on taking the leap of faith. I hope your thread open eyes for many who still thinks streamer quality don’t matter or streaming is no where near the quality of CD’s. I will also add, everything matters in digital chain. Once you settle down with your setup, start experimenting with LAN cable and noise filters. Not sure what LAN cable you’re currently using but for starters, a high quality LAN cable like Supra CAT 8 and a noise filter like Acoustic Revive RLI-1GB-TripleC should further enhance your streaming experience. 

I am following this thread with great interest, as I feel finally ready to take the streaming plunge. I already subscribed to Qobuz , Tidal and HDTracks, but am still on the fence about which streamer to buy. My music files are organized on my MacbookAir connected via Ethernet to our Comcast router, and my digital source is MSB Platinum Signature (heavily modified Oppo CD/SACD drive and NOS DAC). In other words: I do not need a streamer with a built-in DAC, which is the reason for my conundrum: all the better streamers come with their own DACs, which - in my case - would be a waste of money. Any educated suggestions from this illustrious forum?




Complete nonsense that USB is flawed! It’s quality is very dependent on the implementation. My Holo Audio MAY KTE DAC has Galvanic Isolation on the USB and I will tell you it sounds VERY GOOD!


I would look into Aurender N150 or N200. There are plenty of dealers that can afford you in-home demo. Either of these streamers would be a substantial upgrade over your MacBook. And their conductor app is easy to navigate / browse music and robust in its operation. I also recommend a tablet for conductor app.

@lalitk Does Aurender finally support Roon? 

Yeah they sound great, but that's a dealkiller for me and many others.


@soix Kudos!

Ping me when you get 4TB of storage ready to go and I'll hook you up. 



@sbank Aurender does not support Roon. Many people are partial to Roon due to its user interface, but if one has not paid for a lifetime pass, they continue to throw money away on it monthly. Aurender’s ecosystems are sonically quite impressive given the coupling between the hardware and software. As @lalitk encourages use of the iPad for the conductor app, a new version of the iPhone app is in beta to its dealers and nearing full release soon. I was able to play with it at AXPONA and can hint that the user experience is much better. I actually requested some of the features it will contain.

In full disclosure, I am an Aurender dealer.

“Aurender’s ecosystems are sonically quite impressive given the coupling between the hardware and software.”
+1, ​​​​@blisshifi


I understand if you prefer Roon but its not the best software for sound quality. I am not here to bash ROON but in direct comparison with Aurender Conductor app, I still prefer Conductor interface, file curation and ease of browsing music by a mile. I never wonder if I am getting the best SQ with Conductor. Again, this is my personal preference and a conclusion drawn upon last 12 months of side by side comparison. BTW, I own lifetime Roon subscription :-)

Aurender doesn’t use Roon by design and choice, they have their own eco-system with nothing else interfering.

Aurender’s Conductor app does nothing whatsoever to influence the sound of streaming, internal hard drives or attached NAS. It purely has the function to index and select tracks to play. It is available for both Apple and Android.

Conductor’s Folder application is the best way to use Conductor IMHO because it’s like a DOS version that lists everything by text and small thumbnails, great if you have a large library or playlists.

The N20 and N30 substantially benefit from the addition of a 10 Mhz master clock.

If you are using usb to your dac, your sq will always be flawed, it doesn’t matter how many tweaks/gimmicks you add to make usb sound better.

omg ... here we go... 🍿

let’s see --

... all dacs sound the same

... it is all 1's and 0's... none of it matters

... cables make no difference

... vinyl is better than digital

... tubes are better than solid state

... if you can’t measure a difference there ain’t no difference

... fuses are the most important part of every system

and so it goes, around and around

I know many here like Aurender, but found it to be very buggy and had connectivity issues that I was unable to resolve, despite numerous exchanges with Aurender customer support and sending the unit to Aurender to replace the SS drive.  I give Aurender kudos for trying everything to resolve the problem, including inspecting the unit (which I bought used from a dealer) and replacing the SS drive at no charge.   I just couldn't get it to work consistently and had to move on.  YMMV.


Thanks for your post. I just want to reiterate, the use of external clock with N20, N30 or W20 requires a well thought out holistic approach and a commitment for SOTA digital streaming. Attaching a 10mhz master clock to a streamer is a half bake idea even with a high quality DAC. A external clock on streamer end alone will not yield full benefits in terms of musical rhythm, pace, timing, realism and phase coherence.

In order to realize aforementioned benefits, you need a music server and a DAC with master clock inputs. The external clock can then be used as a single source to synchronize timing between both digital devices ensuring jitter-free and time-perfect data transmission.

My previous setup included a N20, DA2, Ref10. While adding the Ref10 made a difference over already excellent internal clock in N20, the differences was not day n night or should I say worth $8K (clock, PC, BNC cable). I was looking for next level improvements and thanks to @mikelavigne and my dealer @gestalt audio, I now have what I believe a true SOTA digital streaming front end. I also encourage the use of high quality Ethernet switch / noise filtering device to further enhance your streaming experience.


BTW please ignore silly comment that a LPS for digital audio is snake oil. Utter nonsense. Best wishes.

@charles1dad Yeah, I know.  I was just trying to be nice instead of my more normally cantankerous self.  I use the iFi iPowerX power supply with my Zen Stream. 

@reimarc I highly encourage you to jump in.  There are obviously many ways to go — it can be very overwhelming — but I’d highly recommend the route I took as the results are spectacular, it’s not that expensive, and it could hardly be easier to get up and running.  The iFi Zen Stream by all accounts is an excellent performer at a very reasonable price.  It can be had for $399, and I view the iPowerX (or some other external power supply) as not optional.  I got my iPowerX from B&H used for $75 and works great, and they apparently still have more...

Setup could hardly be easier and you can just follow the few steps on their quick start guide and be done in five minutes.  The only wrinkle is you can’t stream Qobuz directly through the Zen, so you need to download the mconnect app and link your Qobuz to it, then you play Qobuz through the app to the Zen.  I’d only recommend the mconnectHD version for $5.99 as it allows you to play everything and the install/setup process was a breeze — not sure that’s the case with the Lite/free version.  Anyway, if you’re looking to just get started with a relatively affordable yet high-performing option with an absolute minimum of headaches, I can’t recommend this setup more highly.  Best of luck. 

Streaming vs. cd sound quality is no longer the issue. Streaming wins on the availability of music and ease with which it can be accessed. Now, my own experience during the time I was transitioning from cd's to cd rips, was that the rips had better sound quality than cd's, this was the final nail in coffin for cd's, and I had well over 3.5k cd's to rip, took me a couple years, what a pain!


I'd like to be convinced there is a single music player software that is superior to all the others. I've observed reviews of the software for years, opinions all over the place. At some point its likely I'll try some proprietary player. The excellent sound quality I'm getting with Roon at present certainly doesn't give me feeling I'm leaving something on the table. I have found that turning OFF every single process possible with Roon provides best sound quality. I also presume Roon has deepest pockets of all the music player software app providers, assume greater knowledge base of engineers working on things like sound quality, ease of use, etc.


Per sound quality music player software. What makes me somewhat skeptical is while some claim they hear differences in sound quality with Roon updates, I can't confidently claim I hear them. I'd have to do A>B>A comparison from some rather old Roon iteration to latest to really test for this. Still, not writing this off as possible or even likely, I just think the small differences between iterations make it difficult to hear.


Don't listen to those who claim lps and usb no good, total nonsense. Lps always good, usb superior in some cases, other times not, depends on implementation. One must optimize both usb out of server/streamer and usb in on dac.


+1 for Aurender streamers. They have outstanding good sound quality every level of price / quality. They are completely self contained, so no need to play around with other software. You can easily move any files you want onto them. These are audiophile components. Plunk them down and the provide outstanding sound quality. I have two (see my ID). 

Their Conductor App is excellent and well regarded for its simplicity and power. 

I just wanted to do a separate post for those who may want to stream Qobuz through the iFi Zen as Qobuz as of yet cannot stream direct to the Zen. At first I thought maybe I made a horrible mistake getting the Zen as my sole source for streaming is Qobuz. I had visions of wrestling with third-party apps trying to get everything to work together — it seemed like a nightmare for sure headed my way, especially because I’m just awful at dealing with anything computer related.

Long story short, I needn’t have worried, and this is one of those VERY rare instances where everything just worked. To get Qobuz to work with the Zen you need to download the mconnect app. This made me nervous as the app only had like a 3-star rating, which had me really worried this was going to be a bad experience with glitches galore. Anyway, to minimize potential issues I plunked down the $5.99 for the mconnectHD version, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Once you have your Zen hooked into your WiFi, you just go into the app, choose Qobuz and sign into your Qobuz account when prompted, and that’s it — you’re done. Even I couldn’t screw it up, and that’s seriously saying something because I’m a pro at finding problems where there are none.

Here’s the best part — once these steps were completed, everything just worked! Imagine that. Qobuz popped up in the mconnect app, and all my playlists, favorites, etc. were there. It takes a few minutes to find the search function because the layout is a bit different from the Qobuz site, but it’s all there and it all works just as it should. I couldn’t believe when I hit play, the green light lit up on the Zen, and music started playing. Not only did music start playing, but it sounded absolutely glorious — much better than playing CDs at least in my system (admittedly I’m just using an Oppo through SPDIF as a transport, so take this for what it’s worth).

Sorry for being so long winded, but I just wanted to assure anyone who may be considering this route that it’s really easy to implement and the results are incredible. Hope this helps.


I know many here like Aurender, but found it to be very buggy and had connectivity issues that I was unable to resolve, despite numerous exchanges with Aurender customer support ... I just couldn’t get it to work consistently and had to move on.

My experience was similar. I bought my Aurender new from an authorized dealer and it really never worked properly. Support wasn’t very helpful and because audio is a hobby and supposed to be fun, I dumped it and moved on.

To be fair, it sounded pretty good when it worked.

Innuos is another manufacturer that should be on everyone’s radar. It made a positive change in my system. Their Sense 2.0 software is amazing and SQ-wise it’s better than Roon. However, you also have the option to run it not only as a Roon endpoint but also as a Roon server. Plus you get a built-in CD ripper and local storage to save CDs and DSD files. 

If I had the budget I would’ve jumped on an Innuos Zen Mk3 not only for the streaming quality but also because I could just load the rest of my CDs not available for streaming and have everything all in one place.  Alas, for now I’m still quite impressed with the sound I’m getting out of the Zen Stream.  Sigh. 

@soix hey that’s awesome you’re in love with your new set up! Enjoy it!! 
When are you getting a DDC? Keep the thoughts flowing…update us here on how that changed the sound.

I recently bought a Singxer SU-6, but I use it in place of a streamer. Not sure this would work for you as mine is fed from Roon running on a Mac Mini, so I don't actually need my streaming device to be able to connect directly to the streaming service.

The Singxer is my fourth try at a bridge device between the Mac and my DAC. I have tried the Zen Stream and agree that it sounded good even though I was only using the standard power supply. I just decided I wasn't happy with the limited output types and returned it. Before that I tried the Bricasti M5, a device that retails for 6X the cost of the Zen Stream. While the build quality was impeccable it would not send an audio signal to my DAC (Yggdrasil LiM) via USB. At the time I was committed to using the USB input on the DAC as Schiit is known to have a thoroughly sorted USB interface, especially now with Unison. The Zen Stream also wouldn't do it. I also tried the brand new Mercury streamer from Pi2Design and it was fairly disastrous. Only one output worked and even it sounded pretty awful. I think they have some bugs to work out and it may be a fine unit when they do.

Enter the Singxer. I gave up on the USB input on my DAC and liked that the Singxer offered a balanced AES output as I use balanced connections throughout the rest of my system. Would love to try the I2S connection, but alas, the Yggy doesn't offer that. From what I've read, it would not be a night and day difference anyway. Roon recognized the Singxer right away as a bridge device and it just worked from the jump. One note; you may be aware that the Singxer has user-adjustable dip switches. I didn't ever read anything definitive on setting them specifically for Roon so I just didn't touch them and it worked fine. If anyone knows some dip switch settings for this I'm willing to try them.

I've been pleased enough with the Singxer that I'm tempted to buy a LPS for it, but from what I understand, there's not much to be gained there as the Singxer is primarily powered from it's super capacitor. Indeed, there are warnings in the box about how this takes a few minutes to power up and down. Again, something I might be willing to try if someone has specific experience with this.

I expect you'll be quite happy with the Singxer. I just thought I'd inform everyone of it's ability to replace the streaming device in some instances.

hey that’s awesome you’re in love with your new set up! Enjoy it!!
When are you getting a DDC? Keep the thoughts flowing…update us here on how that changed the sound.

@audphile1 Man, I’m absolutely aching for an SU6 and I even already have a 6” HDMI cable ready to go for when I get one as I know it’s gonna generate meaningful improvements. The thing is my credit card is already throbbing from building a HeadFi system, buying an LTA MZ2 (for both preamp and headphone amp duties), and sending my DNA 0.5 RevA back to SMcAudio for full upgrades. Ouch. It might be a while before I can shell out for anything else, but I’ll certainly keep you posted if anything develops. I hate/love this hobby.

@shooter41 Yeah, I have a Singxer SA1 amp driving my Hifiman Arya Stealths and absolutely love it, and it too is built like a small tank and is why I’m targeting the SU6 for a DDC to take advantage of the i2S connection on my Musician Pegasus.  Big Singxer fan so far. 

@soix Congrats so glad your venture into streaming went well, And + 1 on the LPS issue I use an Sbooster LPS on my Auralic Aries Mini its a substantial improvement. Sounds like the Ifi's a nice little unit and did a bit of reading on your Dac that's quite a machine for $1100!

@jond Thanks man.  So far I’ve only gotten to hear this stuff on my HeadFi rig and it made a big improvement.  I get my DNA 0.5 back from SMcAudio very soon and can’t wait to hear this gear in the big rig. 


nice post helping others on using qobuz with the zenstream - if i didn't use roon, i would've had to cross that bridge myself

excellent info