How important is the streamer?

As I sit listening to my streaming section, I’m wondering how much the streamer matters in what comes out of the speakers.
Streamer to DAC to line stage to amp to speakers, my streamer is by far the least exotic thing in the stream. But the sound is lovely.
While I’m waiting for booboo cartridge to return from the cartridgeologist, I’m quite enjoying this weird thing called streamer.
(Bluesound Node to DSD MK1 modded to Pass XP-32 to First Watt F7 to Sabrina X to vintage 1950 ears.)


I can tell you that they are different. I’ve had three.

I first got an iFi Zen streamer ($400). It was very listenable and a good value for the money. But it was clearly bested by a Sonore ultraRendu ($1000) which I bought while waiting for the AirLens. The Sonore and the AirLens are close, but I ended up generally preferring the AirLens – better soundstage, a little more detail on many tracks, very natural sound. But I certainly could have lived with the ultraRendu if the AirLens had not finally made an appearance. I’ve never had the opportunity to hear one of the megabuck streamers.

So all streamers are not the same, that’s clear. How any given piece will work in your system, of course, is impossible to predict.


I have found the better you make your network and connections etc the more the streamers sound similar at similar prices. I have yet to venture to the next level of performance so I cannot say anything about that, but I look forward to trying.

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There are definitely differences in sound between streamers. The only question is why it is and what ultimately matters. In my experience, a good switch and Ethernet cable in front of the streamer has a significant impact on the sound. Also which power supply and power cable is connected to the streamer and switch. If the streamer has no internal dac, the connected dac will play its part in how it sounds. I find cable to have a big impact on the sound of a streaming chain. The streamer is only part of the streaming chain. If everything else is correct, the influence of the streamer could be less than expected compared to the other components involved. The outcome will likely depend on how well the rest of the entire streaming chain fits.


I agreed! In other thread I posted my experience with three streamers. Each one sounded different.

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I’ve been running a Blusound Node 2i for over two years now into the MK1 DirectStream DAC as well and still like what I’m hearing. Not as good as CD/SACD/BluRay Audio. I still think all these streaming services are adding some “special sauce” (EQ) so that everything from the Earbud crowd/Car Stereos/Sonos type whole house audio systems will sound their “best”.

Many who I’ve talked suspect the same thing. But I do love streaming for introducing me to all kinds of music I would have never been able to afford if I had to buy the CD/LP’s/SACD’s just to find out it’s not my “cup of Tea.”

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I’m running Ropieee on a Pi 4 controlled by Roon connected into my Stellar Gain Cell USB input. I have an Audioquest Jitterbug to help with the noise and use a lower-end Wireworld USB cable.

The Pi 4 is a substantial improvement on my previous Pi 3 because it splits the Ethernet off the USB bus. I prefer to use wires whenever possible, and this is no exception.

I know a cheap Pi should be a recipe for disaster, but it sounds good enough to my ears. $35 for the Pi, $10 for the MicroSD card, and $15 for a case. The value proposition is really high, even with the $50 I probably paid for the Jitterbug.

Mike in Dayton


If you’re the tinkering type, this seems to be a few steps above the basic Pi4.
The video is a bit long, but interesting all the same. There is a follow up to this one in which he crafts a better power supply.

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Very nice video and got also quite popular. The same day it was published I had all the components in cart on audiophonics site , but didn’t pulled the trigger. next weekend (3 days later) , one of the clocks, feet and some other pieces out of stock…
I was tempted to try it , to compare with my current Pi4-based setup (quite well-tuned), but was hesitating too long , which might not be a bad thing because i used the time to get more info on IanCanada’s solutions and found there are few additional options to elevate it even more :wink:

The problem I’m (pure theoretically) afraid of is (missing) shielding, this thing might radiate EMI quite a lot, also could be more sensitive to vibrations in comparison to RPi enclosed in hefty milled case.
Also i’m not too sure about the spring power contacts between UC board and RPi when I imagine there can be easily be 1-2amps going thru them…

I’m basically a Neanderthal as far as hearing the improvements beyond what I have. My current setup is so many light years beyond its predecessor, that reclocking a Pi isn’t something I’m likely to be able to hear. Thanks for the information. I really do appreciate it.

Mike D

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