why expensive streamers

@soix and others

I am unclear about the effect on sound of streamers (prior to getting to the dac). Audio (even hi-res) has so little information content relative to the mega and giga bit communication and processing speeds (bandwidth, BW) and cheap buffering supported by modern electronics that it seems that any relatively cheap piece of electronics would never lose an audio bit. 

Here is why. Because of the huge amount of BW relative to the BW needs of audio, you can send the same audio chunk 100 times and use a bit checking algorithm (they call this "check sum") to make sure just one of these sets is correct. With this approach you would be assured that the correct bits would be transfered. This high accuracy rate would mean perfect audio bit transfer. 

What am I missing? Why are people spending 1000's on streamers?



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@mikhailark right I am not saying there is no room for poor processing, flawed transmission. I just don't get the $1,000 vs $20,000 streamer argument. 

The only reason I went with a streamer was to use i2s, I used ethernet prior to using i2s. All the streamer does is to accept data from another server using ethernet, then output using i2s to my dac.

I just don't get the $1,000 vs $20,000 streamer argument. 

Have you tried listening for yourself, perhaps at a dealer who's willing to demo?

I’m not sure the price matters so much as a separate steamer matters and seperates tend to be higher end than integrated.  But as to why a separate streamer:


1.  Tech constantly changes. So it’s a generally better long term proposition to get distinct components, so you can just replace the parts that get outdated.  Or break.

2.  As far as why a nice streamer sounds better than an integrated:  

a  isolation from the noise on the network

b  isolation from the noise of the streamer itself

c.  It’s a dedicated component that does one thing well, with less compromise than in an integrated component 

d.  A quality streamer will:  check data, isolate and organize, and present the data in the best, most digestible, form for the DAC, allowing the DAC to do what it is supposed to do without it having to use resources making corrections or removing junk.


FWIW I use a Lumin U1X, which is not a cheapo streamer but hardly a $20k.  You can buy them used for $3-5k all day long.  I think they are about $10k new.


@mikhailark I have ripped my CD collection to uncompressed FLAC using dB Poweramp. I have it on an external drive hooked to my ASUS PC - the same one I use for streaming. I have listened dozens of times with different songs to see if I can hear a difference between the CD played through a Jay's Audio CD3 MK III vs. a Qobuz stream of the same file vs. my ripped FLAC. The process I use is to make sure the volume is equalized between sources and then play an entire song from the two sources I'm comparing at the time. I even take notes of things I've noticed and their place in the track so that I can listen for that event in the other source. FWIW I'm running through a Berkeley Audio Alpha Reference II MQA DAC. The streamed files are run through an Alpha USB before the DAC.

So far, the sound of the CD, the streamed file, and the FLAC have sounded identical. One of my main points is that people are spending thousands of dollars on fancy streamers because a PC supposedly adds noise and distortion to the signal. I admit I haven't compared  a 5 figure streamer to my PC but if my PC sounds as good as a CD played through a state-of-the-art transport then I think that's probably about as good as it gets. I don't think I've ever read a review that says that a high end streamer sounds way better than a CD or a ripped FLAC.

If your point is that we should be using a ripped FLAC as the control for comparison (I suggest using zero compression) than that is fine. My point is that comparing streamers to one another by disconnecting one and hooking up another without any means to compare them against a control is inviting expectation bias to influence what we hear. Without any means of comparison to a standard, I submit that the more expensive streamer will always sound better - along with the ultra expensive internet switch and the thousand dollar USB cable.