Seriously… some basics.
Why use a streamer when I have PCs in three places where I listen to music and I am happy. My library is on a NAS, Foobar player is on all PCs, and from the PCs I can stream any service (that I am aware of).
Plus… this is a big one… in my home theater, I can use the PC to play YouTube, home vids, etc… The PC in my home theater is hidden in a cabinet and I have a small radio keyboard with integal mouse… just fabulous. The PC in the theater is attached via HDMI to an input on my NAD home theater control center and amplifiers. All controlled, selected, with my logitech single remote.
My main rig is my big PC connected via a long USB (with repeater) to a Directstream DAC… this big system is where my big PC is. Using WIndows simple driver selector, I can channel anything originating on my PC to the Directstream.
My third is in my keyboard rig with I have an Adcom amp playing B&W speakers… while not a hi fi system, it allows me to play streaming, NAS, and my keyboard… just great.
I don’t get it, why the heck should I spend money to get a tool that gives me less?
Bruce in Philly
A streamer is absolutly not necessary for playing music digitaly. All you need is a Iphone or PC. It’s only for those that sound quality is of the utmost importance. The difference between PC and a top quality streamer is truly unbelievable! I still use my MAC Mini, but for video only. It’s just no satisfaction listening to music with the MAC Mini after listening to a high quality streamer. Music play with the streamer is so much more musically involving.
Couple of things. You are OBVIOUSLY very comfortable with PCs. Many are not. That is a big reason many use streamers.
And perhaps the biggest is just noise. Noise from the PC transmitted over the connection to the dac. I am sure a few of your setups you dont care. But most here on their main system go for the improvement of a streamer being added to the system. Many here have take much pain in setting up the digital side to lower that noise doing everything they can. Check out all the posts. We are all quite crazy.
After I heard what a more decent streamer sound compared to my already less decent streamer(a node 2i), there was no going back. It’s really about sound quality improvement for me.
If you are happy with you setup now and want to save $$, you shall stop visiting this forum now! You’ve been warned.
Just a note here in case it is something of which you’re not already aware: when people speak of “noise” in a signal chain, they’re usually not thinking of a hum, ringing, buzz, or anything like that. Most likely they mean different types of interference (electrical, digital, magnetic …) that degrade sound quality overall.
Correct. I should have been a bit more descriptive
If you are happy, stay there. Just enjoy your creation or that of others.
Oops, sorry, I meant to respond to the original poster … my bad
No further response necessary, be happy, have fun.
Do not jump into this rabbit hole if you are happy! Because as your system improving and you are hearing better sound, you can easily become less happy.
The greatest thing about streamers is it opens up all sorts of possibilities to SPEND MORE MONEY! A seemingly endless list of things to ponder and buy! WhooHooo!
From your description Bruce it appears you’ve designed a great ‘architecture’ for your A/V systems. Well done!
Now, it seems you’ve an open mind to other things you could try. I see something you could try without disrupting your design too much at all. This idea is directed at your ‘main rig’ and ‘big PC’ and has two independant parts. Since you have a DSDAC, you could channel everything through one or both of the I²S inputs to the DSDAC, depending on whether you implement one or both parts of this idea.
Using a simple streaming device equipped with an I²S output (such as an AirLens), you could use Foobar (I presume it’s DLNA-compliant?) to stream, where appropriate, content from the PC over an internet (or wireless) connection to, for example, the AirLens located a short distance (say .5m) from your DSDAC using a short HDMI cable
Using a suitable protocol converter and reclocking device (such as an X-SPDIF 2) to convert from USB to I²S, you could direct PCM and (native) DSD streams over the (long) USB cable to, for example, the X-SPDIF 2, located a short distance (say .5m) from your DSDAC using a short HDMI cable.
You’d probably need option 2 for things like audio outputs from the PC that can’t be directly streamed through Foobar. Option 2 would also allow you to use a single piece of audio ‘driver’ software. In the case of an X-SPDIF 2 it’s the Matrix Audio’s ASIO driver for Windows.
Hopefully, this gives you a little food for thought and a chance to test out whether streaming directly to your DSDAC (via I²S) realizes any sonic benefits for you.
In his current world I doubt converting to I2S is a huge concern. If he gets an MK2 it doesn’t matter at all. (Paul’s thoughts aside)
Thanx all… MikeK, yes, I am open hence my inquiry here. Again, I am not against a streamer, I just want to understand its value to me when I have PCs doing the streaming and so much more.
Regarding the PCs connections… I don’t care about quality for two of the systems, but I do from my big rig with the Directstream. For that, I am using a l o n g USB cable with a built in repeater (per advice from Ted). I know that is a weak link and a subject for improvement… I want galvanic isolation… but that is a different issue I think. Of course, putting an AirLens in to the system sould break the link with my PC, but the bulk of my listening is from music I have ripped to my NAS. Foobar on my PC is a fabulous tool for scanning my library and controlling music playing. I have three large monitors in my big rig and have foobar up on my far right monitor. That huge screen makes parusing and searching my library very easy… would a streamer located next to my Directstream easier? Does the Airlens paruse my NAS library? Will I have a huge monitor to paruse my library?
I am skeptical that when it comes to ease of use for my library, that a streamer could be easier/better than a PC with a large screen and foobar. But I dunno, hence my question here.
So there are two issues here… better sound and or better utility. While I care deeply about sound, it has to be usable first.
Keep the comments coming. Again, what am I getting and what am I losing with a streamer?
Bruce in Philly
No, the Airlens does not peruse your library. It has zero software to do so. In your case it would be a device that Foobar would play to. And with the DSD MK1 and it’s I2S connection would sound lots better than USB. You would hear and appreciate the difference.
I have a bit of trouble agreeing that the Airlens is a streamer. To me it’s more of an endpoint. Most streamers have software that can access hard drives, thumbdrives, streaming sites and like that. The Airlens just passes what you send to it out an I2S port. It requires other software running on some other device to send it the data.
I started with ordinary PC + Foobar setups. I still use that setup on my computer desk. Then I learned about software that can clean up a computers sound. It worked. Then JRiver, another program to play music and another improvement in sound quality. Then Music Based Operating systems, (instead of Windows), another plus. Then streamers, another jump. It is a very slippery slope with no perceivable bottom.
I would compare it to opening a “teach yourself to play the guitar” book.
Page one: This is a Pick.
Lots of things to learn beyond that.
So you are asking for a basic understanding so you can decide if you want to plunge off a cliff down a very steep and bottomless slope. (it is survivable)
If you like what you hear with your system now, keep enjoying it. This is the right place to ask the questions you are asking, but many, many of us are way down the slope and we want to help you get going by showing you stuff you usually don’t discover quickly. And there is so much to learn. So keep asking!
To me its a streamer, but the most basic of basic streamers. There are a few like that. Holo Red, and stack Link etc… Those do have a web page to configure, PSAudio chose dip switches. But in the end as Al said just endpoint for other software to send the data to and thats what Roon calls them as well. Other streamers add apps, and features, and even some built in DACs. I have tried many in the sub $1500 but many on this forum have tried 10k plus ones. I have yet to make that big plunge, but probably next year I will. Will most likely be sending back my Airlens as it does not beat the Eversolo in SQ (I have not yet tried since being back from Florida - new puppy is keeping us busy) and that one comes with just about every feature in the book. Works with all the streaming software as well as its own.
Its a deep rabbit hole, but once you get something like Roon to play with, the discovery of new music is amazing. For someone like me who has been out of the game for a while and got back in in 2021 it has rekindled the music lover in me. I have missed much and I am amazed at the not just the hardware knowledge but the musical knowledge on this forum.
If you want to dip your toe in a streamer, and don’t mind some tinkering. Get a Raspberry Pi 4B at MSRP and use it’s USB 3.0 to your DAC.
There are many OS available for the Pi to stream music, since you are not using Roon, you’ll need to do a little research what is the best Pi OS for your situation.
For less than 50 bucks, I can’t think of a better option to try out dedicated streaming.
But isn’t a PC connected between the 'net and my Directstream DAC a streaming device? I am still stuck on why a dedicated streaming device is … um better? Different? To me, it is less.
Although having a “better” connection to the Directstream beyond my long USB cable/repeater is desirable… hmmm…
Bruce in Philly
You could just use a Matrix like device (around $500) to convert your USB to I2S. I don’t think you need a streamer unless you believe it could sound better than your existing PC setup. And the difference you might experience may or may not impress you. If you have an MK2 DAC you don’t have to even worry about it. It’s just the MK1 that has the weak USB input. The MK2 solved that. The difference between the I2S and USB interface on the MK2 is minimal at worst.
Yes, a PC in a set up like yours is a streaming device. I do not want to use a PC as part of my listening chain, so I need a piece of hardware to get music from my NAS into my DS Mk2. The term “streamer“ can now refer to anything from a bare-bones unit to one with all the bells and whistles. The AirLens is definitely a streamer, but a very simple one – which is exactly what some of us want. The Bridge, which I used in my Mk1, was referred to as a network card. That was perhaps a better term, but the world has moved on to streamers.