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. 



@nglazer What, if any, room treatments are you using? And what dimensions are the listening space? Is it a dedicated room? Not being critical in the slightest. Just would like to compare and contrast use case and rooms.

I find myself currently leaning toward a DirectStream mk1. In my research it just keeps coming up with descriptions that sound like a good fit for me. And just learned it handles MQA via the bridge with more recent firmware update. 


Hello adamtor,

Believe it or not, I am in a NYC one BR apartment, though relatively spacious for a NYC apt. No room treatments. The LR is about 12W x 20L x 10H. Not a dedicated room; TV on low console in between speakers, components on two racks away from TV and speakers. Equipment is filled up as much room as I can without overpowering the room.

I like the PSA DSD Mk I and will not upgrade unless and until there is truly an "upgrade" without stupid $$. Good luck. Neal

Well…finally pulled the trigger.

Bought a Sonore UltraRendu with an SGC i7 Streamer and the optical converter.

Going to run my current standalone DAC for break in. Then I’ll decide where to go from there based on how it sounds. I’ve had my eye on a nice dac for about a week but the stars haven’t aligned yet. Maybe that’s for the best.

I feel like this is the basis for a system that can be upgraded in many ways down the road as funds allow and I see fit.


Excellent choice, OP. I would be curious to know your experience. I almost forgot about the offering provided by SGC in lieu of recently purchasing their basic FMC bundle. Is my assumption correct that you’ll be using Roon - I know that wasn’t binding for you in your initial post.

Ended up a long way from where I started.

Now running FMC optical from switch to opticalRendu then to ultraRendu. Huge step forward in clarity up and down the spectrum.

I would recommend this to anyone BEFORE dropping piles of cash elsewhere.