Building my dream system - Brave new world of streaming? bit lost

So it’s been about 14+ years since I purchased any sort of stereo / hi-fi equipment, and that was back during my married days, and it was a home theater system, with a Denon all-in-one tuner/home theater system, and at that time, I did get a Marantz SACD as well as the Sony BDL-S1 BlueRay, both new technology at the time … as such, back then you bought discs for get a good listening experience… and vinyl was completely dead (or was it?)… Hindsight being what it is now, I’d have kept those SACD’s and certainly that vinyl I sold off 30 years ago!

Fast forward to today.and now. I want to build my dream system. Part of this dream is owning a McIntosh (and no, you will not talk me out of it with your better option you are sure I am missing out on! :wink:

So I decided to go with the MA9000, with two XR50 McIntosh bookshelf speakers to fit my rather smallish audio room and the two are an amazing match from what I head at the local Magnolia showroom (they had the 8900 connected to the XR50’s)… I then learned that I had to have a “DAC”… Linn, Chord, Naim were all names that were suggested, and all cost into the $8-20K range… too much for me after the money I spent on the other components … so after much research and watching dozens of Paul’s videos, I also decided I liked the idea of the DirectStream DAC with the FPGA architecture … seems like the closest thing to future proof as I can reasonably expect… more over, I read many good reviews about the sound quality, and the various flavors of sound based on which firmware you are running… Of course, I also ordered very high quality cables and wires from various reputable brands, and even decent stand for the speakers and components by SolidSteel…

The big question is … how do I enjoy the music now?? DSD? MQA? Tidal? Roon? M-Connect? all of them? none of them? I’m freaking lost in a sea of new tech! I want to get the most out of the quality hardware, but I find myself confused as to how? I did get the Bridge II card, and I did order a router extender so as to plug CAT7 ethernet into the back of the DirectStream…

What next? walk me thru the wiring of this system? Do I need to plug my laptop with the various streaming apps into the DirectStream via a fancy USB cable? and how do I make sure I am getting the most out of the various connections?


With respect to your questions regarding digital source, I’ve been wondering about where the future of easy music access lies. And in reading reviews of the various streaming devices that appear on a monthly basis it appears very easy to get into big trouble if you are a novice with computers/servers. It is not an area where early adoption pays off. Many of the reviews start off with the assumption that you are way past the early stages of the format and as a result read - a) like gibberish and b) state why you shouldn’t have purchased anything before the current item under review which has many of the previous bugs worked out. Definitely not a user friendly cabal. Paul Seydor had a very useful piece in TAS #305 p 150 (2020) where in reviewing the NAD Masters M50.2 and the Aurender A10 added his “notes from a year spent streaming” which I found very useful in pulling back the curtain. Unfortunately cannot access the article on line but it is well worth looking for.

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Call the PS Audio folks and chat with them. They won’t feed you any bull and will help make sense of most of it and will tell you when it’s still a developing field aka not all is known.

This will get you started:


Man this is one of those questions you could get different answers from every person who answers!

Personally, I’m not a fan of Roon (but I feel in the minority most days). I’d suggest looking into a good Auralic Streaming Transport (the Aries) and using it’s Lightning DS app which is very good.

Or even better yet just wait for PS Audio’s Octave Player!!!

But yeah. 100 different people could give you 100 different answers.


Just got of the phone with them…yes, very good chat. I think I’ll now just wait for everything to get here (it’s all coming from 4 corners) and assemble it and go from there… I did download Roon, Tidal for now and manage to figure out how to copy over my iTunes playlists into Tidal which could have been a nightmare were it not from a free website service that did it for me.

1 Like is great. Playlist management in Roon is severely lacking - just to set your expectation. Apparently none of the developers are playlist users thus it has not had any attention since launch.

So why exactly do I even have Roon then if not for the superior UI? Cause I have no plans to use network features and multi-room features… This is a one room system. Do I want to scrap Roon? does it provide any audio improvements over just using Tidal directly into the Bridge II?

I’ve found Roon playlists to be just fine. Roon goes about things differently. Once you figure out their system, there’s really nothing in the market that comes remotely close in terms of library management. Once I figured out the Roon “bookmarks”, “tagging” and search system I realized just how advanced the Roon playlist and organization system is. If you try to apply an iTunes mindset to Roon, then yes, Roon seems convoluted. Once you learn Roon’s language, a new world is opened.

Truly, Roon is far far far far beyond any other digital library management system in the market. Perhaps Aurender’s Conductor App comes close, but it only works on Aurender gear. Roon works with many different manufacturers.

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Sure, if you combine tags, bookmarks and playlists you can get where you’re going I suppose but it’s a long way round.

I find only 3 sort options for playlists to be severely lacking. I find none of the 3 options useful.

Screen Shot 2020-09-14 at 12.06.23 PM

I’ve entered Feature Requests for Sort by Date added, Date updated and a few others I and I think others would find more useful.

BTW I’ve been a Roon lifer for 3 years or maybe more.

I see that you’ve already subscribed to Tidal but I’d like to suggest you also try Qobuz. You can get a year of Hi-Res streaming from them for $150 with their Studio Premier option

I’m also a big proponent of Roon. I liked it so much in fact, that I went with a lifetime subscription. It just keeps getter better with each update too.

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The MA9000 has a good DAC in it so why are you looking to buy another one?

Streaming is a lot about getting the software that suits you.

I use Roon and I used Auralic devices before, which have a superb and very popular app called Lightning. They are both music management systems, the main difference being that Roon requires a relatively powerful server/computer running a “Core” that distributes to any “Roon Ready” device. Auralic Lightning software creates a network that allows distribution of music to other Auralic devices on the same network.

This is all pointless if you have one system and don’t want to plan for more.

The MA9000 has usb and SPDIF inputs, so you would probably be best served by a high quality streaming transport like an Auralic G2. Connect it to your home internet, preferably with an ethernet cable, and usb to the MA9000. People trash usb, but the G2 does it very well. @Secryt effectively recommends this device above.

You can then use Tidal or Qobuz to your heart’s content. They offer PCM data in standard and high resolution. Ignore MQA, its been and gone and few paid much attention to it.

Quite a few companies make digital converters that upsample PCM to DSD and can produce superb sound, but at an eye-watering price.

DSD source files come on SACDs or purchased DSD downloads. You sold your SACDs and DSD downloads will very much limit your choice of music as there are so few of them and they will cost you $15 or $20 each.

So personally I would enjoy your MA9000 with a good streamer and get happy with the software. If all is good and you want to spend another $5k or $6k, you can get an external DAC and bypass the DAC in your MA9000.

If you have CD collection you want to rip, some Auralic devices can be fitted with SSD and you just plug in an external usb CD drive and the machine does the rest.

My personal view on expensive cables is to buy cheap ones and give the rest of the money to charity. When I used Auralic with usb I used a usb cable that came free in a blister pack attached to a magazine. I still have it, 7 years on.


THIS topic might be of interest.

My advice is to just start with a good control-point like BubbleUpnp and enjoy. There’s overload of experiences shared by users on this forum, take your time to explore and who knows where you’ll end.

Enjoy the ride :wink:

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sensible advice, including the bit about cables :slight_smile:

I missed it, what was the advice about the cables? I didn’t say much on those actually… but they’re all pretty good without being “stupid good”… for a lack of a better adjective.

mr. segal’s comment about buying cheap cables and donating the rest to charity :slight_smile:

but keeping it simple, using built in DAC and getting used to the whole concept and ways of usage of streaming is good advice - it certainly lt changed my listening habits enormously and hence my requirements changed somewhat too.

naw… gonna get the DirectStream for a different flavor of DAC… connect the DS via digital/coax to the DAC and use the McIntosh DA-2 … and then connect it also via the XLR balance out’s and use the PS Audio DAC … contrast the two, explore the other features of the streamer as well… it’s only money.

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This is very good advice. I’ve heard the DAC in the MA9000 is very good and it’s part of what you paid all that money for. If you bought the DSD new I would return that and you could use those funds for a G2 or some other streamer, you’ll probably have enough left over after that to purchase a Roon core or a NUC. This would give you access both Roon and Lightning DS. I believe some of the other streamers also have dedicated apps but I’m not familiar with them.

Are you all aware that DSD (vs PCM) is the method of audio processing that the PS Audio DirectStream uses and that it is very different than the DAC in my MA9000, right? All this talk of going direct into the MA’s DA2 DAC is missing a large point, is it not?

Everybody on this forum knows the differences between the DS Sr. and the ESS 9018 based DAC in the 8900 but some of the members are just trying to get you to try what you have already paid for before you spend thousands more on something else. The “shotgun” approach to building a system especially after years away based on only reviews can end up costing a lot of money when you have to sell used. Doing things incrementally is a much more reasoned approach. Just because you have the money doesn’t mean you need to spend it all at one time