Streamer upgrade - best path forward


I’ve been running an NAD C658 for about 2 years now. I was using Amazon HD initially, but dropped them after several months due to inconsistent playback. I have a decent collection of ripped (FLAC) cds that I stream from a local USB drive connected to the C658. Recently began streaming Quobuz, and I’m really enjoying it so far. I will likely do a full year subscription with them after my trial expires. That’s about the extent of my digital interests.

I also have a decent sounding (to me) older Pioneer Elite dvd player that I play newly-acquired music or guest discs on from time to time. For vinyl, I have a separate phono pre that I run into the C658. So essentially the C658 is being used as a streamer, dac and a preamp.

The C658 has performed admirably during time of ownership, but I want to up the ante in terms of streamer and dac. The onboard dac has reasonable stage width, but not very good depth at all in my setup. The clarity and instrument separation are also decent, but I have definitely heard better. I find very confined in that I cannot run a separate dac with the C658. I use the dirac function (full spectrum), but I can honestly live without it. I find myself disabling it with more and more frequency as time goes on.

I have some additional closeted components that I can push into duty to serve as temporary preamp and dac so my plan is to upgrade the streamer first.


So my question to anyone willing to take a crack at this would be what is a good option for improving the streamer portion of the C658 within a budget of $3000? That would include the streamer itself as well as any LPS, switches, etc. I don’t want to go too far down the exploratory/DIY rabbit hole. I’ve already done the Pi and Volumio thing, but found the hardware rather finicky, slow and frustrating. BluOS is pretty nice, but it has many limitations when it comes to playlists. I am not at all interested in Roon.

I will likely want to output to USB which my old dac/preamp supports. Other associated gear in the chain is First Watt J2 running Zu Druid V. Subs are REL B2. The temporary dac/pre will be an Emotiva Stealth DC-1. Analog is Sutherland KC Vibe outputting for a Pioneer PLX1000 with Nagoaka MP150.

From time to time I sub in Philharmonic BMRs and a Jolida/Black Ice Audio Fusion 3502S. Just for a different flavor.

I have cross shopped most of the usual suspects, but I’m honestly confused at this point. One thing I am certain of is that I want the ability to upgrade the unit itself or the ecosystem in which it sits as time rolls on. The major downside of the C658 is lack of options outside of what it was originally packaged with. I’m currently intrigued by both the Innuos Zen mk III and the package of the Exasound C62 dac and Gamma server, but I’m uncertain how that would function without Roon.

Thanks in advance. 




I mentioned in the original post that I have no intention of using roon.

Mainly looking to separate out components so that I can address bottlenecks or other issues as I see fit (or as I hear them) instead of having everything pre-packaged for me with no options down the road. I like the functionality (on paper) of the innuos Zen. Just wanting some educated opinions so I feel like I haven’t missed an obvious winner.

thanks for your response

@vonhelmholtz This is possible, but I have done as much with it as I can under current conditions. I have put a couple other dacs in place with better results though still not where I think it is satisfactory. These were sub $500 dacs. I have read other reports on the C658 that at least agree with my assessment.

thanks for your response 

I would recommend that you check out Lumin.  They have a variety of solutions and often there are great values on previously owned here on Audiogon or usadiomart.

Let us know how you make out!

My advice is to look at a used 2015 vintage Auralic Aries streamer. They can be had for around $800. It was a design well ahead of its time with an external linear power supply that is huge. Especially since you don’t want Roon, you get Auralic‘s excellent lightning Operating system, which is still being supported by them and updated regularly. I have used this running into a RME ADI to dac and an Denefrips Ares dac  with great results. I have also noticed that an extreme high-end dealer near me that I have visited quietly uses one of these as a source for some of his Uber expensive systems. The funny thing is he’s in Auralic dealer, and when I pointed that out, he said that the older Aries still Competes well against the current models.