Streamers and bit rot.

In audio land, I see streamers as being complicated and subject to what we call "bit rot" in the software industry. It really means that over time, the code that used to work may no longer work because the environment around them is moving on. It doesn't mean the code becomes buggy, but fails to keep up. A modern streamer has three different areas where code must interface to the outside world:

  1. The services being streamed (Quboz, Spotify, Tidal, etc.)
  2. The USB DAC - Drivers must exist for each chipset.
  3. The user interface - iOS, Android, web
If you are an audio manufacturer, say, Parasound or Ayre and you want to make a streamer you have to solve all of these issues. Those require developers. OK, so you pay your Android and Tidal developer. They go away, and Tidal adds a new feature or a new service like Amazon streaming comes in. Got to go find developers again.  Apple releases a new iOS and your old Android app is now dead. What are you going to do?  This happens with some frequency and all but the most basic of apps "rot" over time.

This is very different than the software-less EE world in which your core expertise may lie in. I mean, even if you use some microcontroller to handle your inputs/levels and bass management it's still a lot simpler, and fewer lines of code to manage and keep up. 

So, my dear fellow A'goners, what brands to you trust to keep up and how did you solve this issue?
Eric,. The Sony has a single USB in port that permits use of either an external hard drive or an external DAC.

Right, but you can't use the Sony as a standalone DAC. :(

DACs are stable in the sense of being usable, but not in the sense of holding market value.

Maybe instead of talking about gear being stable we should talk about what interfaces have stood the test of time. For instance, these are proven and long lasting:

  • RCA / XLR Interconnects
  • Speaker cables
  • Digital audio: S/PDIF, AES/EBU
  • The Internet TCP/IP
  • Phonograph cartridges (many, but configurable)

The interfaces I see as less stable over time:
  • HDMI
  • USB
  • Music services
  • Telephone operating systems and software

So anything relying on the second group is to me in higher flux. I list USB because it's' gone through many versions, we're up to at least USB 3.0 as well as many different connector types.

Unlike amplifiers, DACs, speakers, etc., streamers and streaming music in general benefit from advancements in the telecommunication industry, both outside and inside the house. Of course the quality of the user interface software is equally important but most other aspects of the “delivery” pipeline will/should  get better and better. 
All of this needs to be standardized, and then the geniuses can proceed from there. Once the parameters are established, innovation can do it's thing.

Even HDMI cables are not all made the same, with different makes taking different routes on which connection works where: a recipe for disaster. This is borne out by some cables not making the "handshake" necessary for gear to communicate with each other, and this is just the cable end of the business.

Each piece of gear is a network unto itself and joining them can compound the difficulty if they aren't all on the same page, and they're not. They're getting there but have a ways to go.

All the best,
Interesting discussion. 
The triangle tug-of-war between 1) wanting best sound now; 2) not wanting to be stuck with something too-early obsolete; and 3) realizing life is short and everything eventually becomes obsolete.