Network streaming vs. usb

I currently have an older Windows 7 based server running Roon via my network. Streamed information goes to a ProJect StreamBox Ultra S2 with dedicated linear PS via ethernet (then to an ultraDigital for I2S conversion). I have also used the Bridge II on my DSD. When doing research for the best method of upgrading my older server, I came across differing information and wanted some input from you all.

For the best sound…what is the best choice? Direct connection of server to DAC via usb, or running the information over a wired network to a streamer?

If one thinks the wired network solution is best, then does the actual server make a discernable difference? Wouldn’t the streamed information from any computer work as well as another over a network?

I would recommend using the I2S or USB input on the DS.

And using a HQ streamer like Lumin, Sonore or sotm to convert the Ethernet stream to I2S or USB (which I am using).

Also a realy good USB or HDMI (I2S) cable is of utmost importance!

Based on everything I’ve read, the streamer DOES make a difference. It seems hard to believe since the streamer is just sending out the bits.

I would enjoy seeing some actual tests that compare the bit streams from different streamers to see if they are measurably different. But I’ve never seen anything like that published. That would also help to answer questions about whether an EtherRegen does anything useful. People say they can hear the difference, and I’m open to that. But measurements would be more convincing.

Before everyone reacts to this, saying that we don’t know everything about measuring music, let me say this: I agree about that in the analog domain. But in the digital domain there can’t be any quality of the music that is different if the bit streams are identical. Jitter would be one component of the bitstreams that should be easily measured.

If you disagree with this, please let me know how.

As you can tell with your research, this is a rather large rabbit hole of a topic with many opinions out there. My main setup currently uses USB input into the DSJ and I’m utilizing an old Mac. Works great and is very robust. Sound is quite good but I know it can be improved by a large amount. The quality of streamer does play a big role in the sound, whether going USB or over the network. My current network setup is a bit dodgy so I don’t bother with it. When we release the new network streamer with I2S out, I will absolutely be upgrading to that! One of the pieces I’m looking forward to most.

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I too am looking forward to the new PS Audio streamer (and/or server). I may try to be patient for that.

I agree that with the DirectStream, the i2s input is likely best. That is why I use the Project StreamBox → Sonore ultraDigital for i2s conversion. WireWorld Platinum Starlight usb cable is used, so pretty good for that.

My main confusion lies in whether the computer server that runs the Roon core is best connected directly to the DirectStream, or is best running its information via the network to a dedicated streamer which then feeds the DAC. Seems to be differing opinions out there and is confusing.

I can imagine that the quality of the streamer would have to make a difference. EMI, other noise and jitter could corrupt the signal or potentially interfere with the analog circuitry. The cleaner the signal, the better the sound, right? So, which is the best way to achieve that?

It wouldn’t terribly surprise me if the quality of the computer where the core lies plays a role in the sound. I’m sure processing power, noise, and other factors contribute. I’ve never tested, so I can’t say I have any experience though.

Just my opinion, but this is one of those things I wouldn’t address in my system for a while. I’m guessing the differences are fairly minute. I’d upgrade cables, mess around more with isolation before I’d bother on this end.


A decent core/server is as critical as any other component in the playback chain and serves as a source just like a CD or SACD player does.

My experience with streaming via Bridge II has changed dramatically for the better by adding an audiophile switch, something highly controversial and many still consider snake oil. I would not discount Bridge II unless I put my hands on one of the top award winning streamers, which usually cost $6k and above, and even then, I may still need to use an audiophile switch.

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The quality of the streamer can make a considerable difference, just like the quality of a CD or SACD transport can also make a huge difference in disc playback.
The better the streamer, the more resolution you can hear, and the more a network switch and even the power supply powering it, you will hear.
I have listened to many streamers and CD transports, and found they can sound very different from one another and usually the better ones implement better circuitry for lower noise and cleaner, better power supplies, but also cost a little more in price.
Some streamers have built in memory storage or hard drives and are call music servers. These I find do not benefit from a higher quality network switch since it is taking the files from it’s own hard drive unless you’re getting your music from the net.
I have found that just about everything makes a difference including not only the network switch, the LPS power for that switch, the quality of the ethernet cable feeding the server, in the case if you’re using the DS, converting the USB to I2s with a USB to I2s convertor like the Matrix SPDIF 2, using a better USB cable to feed the convertor, and using a better I2s or HDMI cable from the Matrix to the I2s of the DS, if you do all that, you will get sound that you never would imagine is possible in your system.
Now with the Sunlight and transformer mod, it’s just indescribable how good the music and system can sound. It’s really icing on the cake.