Nice to hear that a sub-$1K streamer/DAC is so satisfying! This belies the assertations of the moneyphiles that only gear costing multi-thousands is capable of doing justice to the music embedded in those ones and zeroes!
The Zen Stream has been working well for me, and over the past year, I’ve experimented with several DACs alongside it, including Zen DAC v2. I ended up returning the DAC but I think personal preference plays a significant role. I’ve kept the Schiit Modius, as I prefer its particular house sound signature. I recall the Zen DAC being somewhat lean in the mid-bass and bass notes regions.
I recently bought the everSolo DMP A6, and in terms of being a streamer, it outperforms the Zen Stream. Particularly at low volume levels, I noticed that the soundstage didn't collapse with the A6 compared to the Zen Stream. Additionally, the A6 showcases better soundstage depth and instrument separation. I find the A6-Modius combination more preferable than the analog output from the A6's internal DAC.
The Eversolo devices look good. I might consider one if it was purely a streamer or a preamp with streaming capabilities. While it’s not always avoidable (MQA) I prefer not to pay for functionality I won’t use. In this case the Eversolo DACs and Screen.
While I’m currently content with the Zen DAC v2 handling my DAC duties I know there are other DAC in my future. As long as I continue using Roon I don’t think I can find a better endpoint under $1000 than the Zen Stream.
I like the ZS, and it has been serving me well. It is a very capable performer up to its price point. However, I wouldn't go as far as to claim it as the best under $1k. There are several candidates reported to be equally capable performers in that price range, in addition to the DMP A6:
0. Wiim Pro / Pro+ ($180/$220)
1. Volumio Primo V1 ($400) stream/DAC w/ the perpetual subscription of Volumio;
2. Matrix i4 mini ($650)
3. Volumio Primo V2 ($750?) stream/DAC
4. Mercury V2 ($850)
5. Volumio Rivo ($1,050) streamer
I believe that over time, the lower-priced market will become saturated with these affordable yet capable performers. Their functionality will likely be enriched to include several useful and desirable features such as PEQ, upsampling, and possibly DSP. Hang onto our good friend ZS until those promising days arrive.
@lanx0003 I agree, technology marches on. A friend is using the Wii Pro in a very nice stereo and it sounds great.
With that said, I own the Stream and DAC v2 Signature and agree with the OP; outstanding functionality and sound quality for the money.
BTW, the Stream, DAC v2 and WiiM Pro all benefit from power supply upgrades.
@vinylvalet It remains a bit of a mystery to me. I tried the $109 iPower X 15V with my ZS, as people had commented that 15V renders better sound compared to 12V. I also plugged it into the power conditioner. However, I didn't notice any sonic difference and, as such, experience the expected benefits from this conventional wisdom. But, that is just me and YMMV.
@lanx0003 At least a half dozen reasons why that might be. I wouldn't worry about it and enjoy the music.
I often find this to be true when I insert one "tweak". But when I insert four, five or more, then it's obvious. I don't bother to go back and sort it out.
Also, with hard to hear improvements, after a tweak has been applied, it leave it there for a month or two and then take it out. If find I can hear a degradation of sound better than an improvement in sound.
All the above is IMHO and with my messed up, old ears.
Lots of great streaming options available under $1K. My point was that the Zen Stream is the best as a pure streamer for Roon. The only thing that comes close is the Raspberry Pi streamer I put together. A cheaper package in terms of parts, but requires some technical know how to get working. Thus, I give the nod to the ZS for ease of use. Although I may have thought differently had I purchased the product 6-12 months ago when it was still very buggy.
As for the power supply upgrades. I notice slight improvements when I make these changes but I’m not always certain they are worth the extra money. My thinking is they would be more definitive if I had a bad power situation in my house. I also, rarely, take the time to go back and see if I notice taking the upgrade away.
The only time I’ve gone back is with speakers. This, far my upgrades have been worth it in that I no longer wish to listen to the speakers that were replaced with the new.
An update to this string. I acquired a Geshelli Labs J2S 4499 DAC w/ Sparkos Op Amps a few weeks ago and connected it to the Zen Stream (Roon Endpoint) and wow. The J2S is a winner. Compared to the Zen DAC v2 Soundstage, clarity, and dynamics are all improved. The ZDV2 still sounds really good IMO. The J2S as I have it configured is 3.5x the price of the ZDv2 and I would say worth the premium.
While not as nice looking when stacked the ZS and J2S make for a nice pairing over USB. I’ve been updating my system over the past few months and now feel like I’m in a good place for the foreseeable future. The J2S was the final piece of the puzzle.