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. 



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.

Saga continued...

After the SGC i7 and Sonore gear I then focused on preamp/DAC. First bought a used PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell. Liked the build quality and soundstage depth but felt like it was lacking (especially when I originally was considering a Directstream with Bridge II). I returned the PS and opted for an Audio Research LS17. The LS17 is exactly what the dr ordered even when I was then pairing it with a much lesser pedigreed DAC (Emotiva Stealth). A sudden influsion of midrange clarity and beauty coupled with better etched stage with tighter midbass.

Next up, I injected Kimber Hero XLRs into the mix and bass definition and top end clarity inched up even higher. Nice gains for a reasonable price even when new.

I also started using Quobuz and then Roon about that time. Quobuz is very nice. Roon? I am still on the fence given their more recent price hikes - especially for the lifetime membership. I do like the integration and information, but the price hike I'm not on board with.

My last component upgrade was my most controversial (for me). The DAC. After much reading (and re-reading) of forums and reviews I decided to take the plunge on a Gustard R26. I took delivery of it about 4 days ago, and I have been putting it through its break-in paces ever since. Overall, initial impressions are outstanding even when using it straight out of the box and via the usb input which is supposedly its achilles heel. The soundstage is super wide. The clarity is incredible. The depth is probably a hair shy of what the Stellar GC was offering up, but bass definition is hands down better. The detail is there but it is not forward sounding. It's very relaxing but engaging at the same time. The build quality is superb for what I paid (msrp).

So there it is. I now know that when I sit down I'm going to be there a while. The system is leaps and bounds better than when I began this post a couple months ago (seems longer than that). One of my goals was to increase versatility with regards to upgrades and tweaks. I've attained that in spades. Speaking of upgrades, I will toy with an external clock and perhaps a D/D convertor for running I2S into the R26. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, calling a medic for my wallet and listening to beautiful music.