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. 



Wattson Emerson Digital + good LPSU ( I use a plixir) is amazing for the money. 
Will go toe to toe to any streamer around 10k mark.

Lots of reviews online.

I just sent back the Auralic Aries G1.1 that was streaming into my Denafrips Venus II Dac, was not impressed. The WiiM Pro streamer for $150 sounded as good or better. I am only using the streaming portion of the WiiM Pro…just my two cents worth 

Lumin U2 Mini. ~$2k, amazing resolution, transparency, image depth, and natural timbre. And excellent software. Dual USB ports, plus the usual others.

Not sure if this is allowed, delete it if it is not. but I have my Aurender A10 for sale right now for $3000 Canadian ($2300USD) $6k new USD. Its listed on US audiomart/canuck audiomart currently. Sorry A-gaon i did not list it here yet later in the week. 

The A10 has an excellent internal DAC and 4T hard drive on top of the Aurender streamer. 

OP, I’d be curious to know which direction you go with this since I’m in the same boat as you (NAD C658 + DIRAC full spectrum). My experiences and observations mirror yours in respect to the C658. My timeline to make the next jump is a little longer - perhaps 1-2 years. I’m also not fully off the bandwagon with an all-in-one device while also preferring Roon as my UI. Here’s what I’ve been looking at on the used market:

- Lumin U2 Mini ($1800 low)

- Innuos Pulse ($3,000 low/recently sold) or Pulse Mini ($1,000 low)

- Lumin T2 ($2400 low) or T3 ($3800 low), but kinda all-in-one with DAC + streamer

In terms of Lumin, I’ve heard great things about Lumin’s Leedh Processing. In respect to Innuos, I’ve read great things about their Sense App, which competes against Roon’s UI, but reportedly sounds better. Both can run Roon, which is a plus for me.

I’ve also been reading up about the NAD M66 ($5499) which will be released later this year - essentially a Masters series of the C658. Unsure how much "better" it’ll be, but it could take you back to feeling confined with the DAC in the future.