Surprised by streamer differences

This from a newbie when it comes to separate streamers/DACs, having just recently dipped my toes into them.  I’ve been a long-term user of the Perfectwave DAC with a Bridge II streaming my ripped discs, Tidal and Qobuz via Roon.

Picked up a Denafrips Ares II and was using a Node 2i as a streamer.  Thought it sounded pretty good.  I didn’t do a direct comparison to the PSA unit.  

Read about streamers making a difference so I picked up a Stack Link II.  Listened to Stack/Denafrips rig and heard more detail than through the PSA rig.  

I then compared the Denafrips to the Perfectwave using the Stack streamer.  Here, I expected to hear some differences.  I did, but those differences seemed subtle.

I then picked up a Auralic Aries streamer to compare to the Stack.  I only played them through the Denafrips, but this is what surprised me.  I heard more of a difference in sound quality when swapping the streamers than when I swapped DACs using the Stack streamer.  

Through the Stack, everything seemed tight and precise.  And through the Auralic, everything seemed more relaxed and loose.

The best way for me to describe the differences is like comparing my Lexus ES330 (loose and relaxed) vs my BMW 650i (tight and precise).

I just found that kind of interesting.





When I had my Aries G1 I found lightning DS to sound better than Roon. Try it. 

I also tried AES and Coax out of AURALiC and neither compared favorably with USB. 

FWIW I’m now using Lumin U1 Mini and like it better than the AURALiC. 

I've downloaded the Lightning DS but haven't compared the sound to the Roon.  I wonder why the sound quality is different?  

Funny you mention the U1 Mini.  I just got that in yesterday.

I picked up three streamers (Stack, Auralic, Lumin) and three DACs (Ares, Auralic Aries, Benchmark DAC3 B) to compare and see which I like best.  The plan is to sell the others once I find the combo I like best.

It would be interesting to add a Linn, like the Akurate DSM, to that audition list…

It’s nice that you're able to have those all on hand and do in home comparisons. I’m a happy Auralic user and I love the LDS app its super intuitive, feature rich, and easy to use.


good you are able to try for yourself and find out first hand... too many here don’t have the time, energy or wherewithall to do that...

i find that different dacs and streamers also like different connections better, and some are more sensitive to power feed, as well as network/transfer noise/cabling than others, so it takes some doing to really sort through all the permutations with order and discipline and keep track of it all

Aurilac offers a great product for the price. One of my friends believes the integrated Streamer/DAC they offer is one of the best performing for $3K.

I am currently using Innous and really like it.


Funny…I’m using Benchmark DAC 3 HGC. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. 
Prior to benchmark I went from Chord Qutest to Bryston BDA-3 to Benchmark. Liked the Benchmark the most. 

I have two streamers, a Node 2i and a Pi/Allo DigiOne setup. The Pi system has been offline while I build it into a custom enclosure with a linear power supply and front display. During this time I have listened exclusively to the Node 2i run through a Gungnir MB DAC and after a couple months (slow project) have found myself wondering what was wrong with my system. The soundstage had shrunk, was less detailed and overall the system was a lot less engaging. This weekend I plugged the Pi/Allo system in for some testing and the sun came out, that's what was missing. Very significant difference made by just the streamer. 

@zlone I appreciate your comments on your Node 2i versus your Pi/Allo DigiOne. I have a Pro-ject Stream Box S2 Ultra which is essentially a RPi with power supplies and USB output optimized. I was deciding between the Node 2i and the Pro-ject and decided to just go for the Pro-ject as I had heard that it sounded better than the Node 2i. Good to hear that you've also had good results with an optimized Pi-based streamer versus the Node 2i.

@zlone - were you using the coax output from the Node 2i?

I have a Node 2021 model and found it sounded a little different when using the USB output (vs Coax) to my Gungnir Multibit. Not night and day different, but I am sticking with USB as I think it is better sounding for the Gungnir. 

@zlone - were you using the coax output from the Node 2i?

Yes, I used the coax/RCA output of the Node 2i. In the case of the Pi, I am using coax/BNC. I have heard that USB is consistently better in most cases, however that port is in use on my Gungnir for another purpose. So perhaps not a perfect apples/apples comparison since I am using different input ports on my Gungnir, but still using SPDIF for both.



Streamers just don’t seem like they should matter. But as you discovered, they do. If you have a good DAC that you like, the streamer can be a huge variable. I ventured into real streamers with a Auralic Aries 2… btw, I own a Lexus ES330… I don’t like the Mercedes or BMW because they are so bumpy. Seemingly both appropriate for my personality. But I still changed to Aurender and worked my way up to their flagship W20SE. Each step provided a bigger improvement in the sound than the one before. 

Enjoy the journey, lots of great things ahead.