The Streamer Ladder of Diminishing Returns

Continuing the discussion from Wi-fi Streamer for Sprout 100:

@weedeewop got me thinking about what the communities opinion is if you were to build a “Streamer Ladder”. That is, weighing cost vs. features and sound quality. As another component in the chain its always beneficial to match this component with others. In the other thread the heavy recommendation was to pair a Sprout with a Node 2i and I agree with that. But where do we go from there? What would pair with, say, a Stellar stack? A BHK / PerfectWave stack? and, obviously, no one has heard the AirLens so eventually that will land somewhere… Thanks in advance for your opinion here…

Interested in your opinion of what this ladder looks like? Where do you go from the 2i and then from there… etc. Diminishing returns and all that but I often find myself leapfrogging certain rungs if you will and I’m just starting to research how many rungs I want to jump from my current set-up.

Take the leap, not a baby step. Stick with the Sprout and BlueSound Node 2i for the time being. When funds permit, consider a speaker upgrade, what ever suits your fancy, upgrade amplification accordingly, insert DSD DAC Mk II, and either the AirLens or the Octave series when it hits. Call it a PS Audio centric Five Year Leap of Faith plan. Depending on your timeline recommending products two years out or more may be of limited meaningful value as digital technology evolves rather quickly. Knowing your budget will result in more focused and realistic recommendations.

1 Like

In regards to the above (vs other system changes) I went from a 2i (which I returned and stayed with my PC) to a Aurender N100H. The difference is not subtle. I’m early in the process but the PC may stay on the shelf for a while. What I’m evaluating now is the interface which takes some getting used to.

I agree it may be a little early to worry about “next steps,” unless you have the funds to dive into the deeper end of the pool right from the start. I would certainly not discourage that if it’s possible. But by all accounts the Sprout is a wonderful sounding device. And I’ll add that I thought (and still do think) that the Node is a great piece of gear, particularly for its price and features. The only place the 2i (which is not the current version) really falls short, in my opinion, is the software’s inability to locate and read hard drives that are external to the iMac I use as a server. Bluesound has confirmed their 2i won’t find that external drive. They say content has to be stored internally on the server for the Node to find it over the network. But all those files are still available to play through the Node by using Apple’s iTunes Remote app from my iOS mobile devices. That process uses the mobile device to read the files via wifi, but then pushes them to the Node via AirPlay. And while AirPlay is limited to Redbook resolution, those files, all ripped via iTunes/Music aren’t any higher in resolution than that anyway. I do own about 30 or 40 hi-res album downloads, but unlike my iTunes library, they’re all stored internally on the iMac, and the Node reads them just fine.

Some folks complain about connectivity problems with the Node, and it’s true that I very occasionally have connection issues with mine. But it never seems to be anything that can’t be fixed by turning Bluetooth off and on again on the mobile device I’m using to control it, or, on the very rare times that fails, by rebooting the Node, something that doesn’t take long unless you have a large external drive connected to it, in which case the unit won’t be available to play any source until it reindexes that drive. When I’ve plugged a nearly full 1TB drive into my Node, I’d guess it’s taken about 5 or 6 minutes to do that each time. Could be a little longer than that, or maybe even quicker - I’ve never timed it. Just a guess.

But these are issues of minor inconvenience. In terms of sound quality and access to hi-res streaming and other sources, I’d probably be sticking with the Node long-term except for the fact that I realized one day that I could plug it into my SGCD through both analog and digital inputs at the same time, and compare the sound of the Node’s internal DAC with the one in the Stellar. Once adjusted for volume differences, the Stellar was the noticeable winner. That led me to wonder whether a similar gain could be had on the streaming side of things, and as it happened, my brother was willing to sell me his very lightly used Aurender N100H at an absurdly low price, so it’s waiting in the wings to be swapped in for the Node. I expect I’ll hear the same differences that @roninaudio did when he made the same change. But keep in mind that when new, the Aurender costs about 5 times what the Node does.

Sorry to be so long-winded. This started out as a short post. :wink:

Probably safe in saying there are more than a few of us interested in this thread as a focus point to organize the ladder of research on matching streamers to our systems while waiting for Air-Lens and specifically those who cannot afford to bring in 3 or four streamers over a period of time to compare. That said, there are already so many helpful posts from those who have brought in BluOs, Sonore, Innuos, Lumin, Auralic, Aurender, dCs, Esoteric, Pink Faun, and so on up the ladder. The elusive aspect seems to be the best sound and compatibility for the dollars spent with high marks for a UI alternative to Roon. Again the high value is this forum. Sprout/Bluesound is interesting.

Personally I’d be interested in anyone’s experiences comparing various Ras Pi configs against known streamers such as the ones mentioned above?
Many variations of course with various HATs, PSUs, USB DACs etc. so this would be unlikely to be definitive, but it would be interesting :slight_smile:

Especially given LMS software is free, and the Pis and HATs cost a hundred UK pounds or less…

Bluesound Vault 2i paired with Dali Calisto 2c or 6c actives w/ Dali sound hub interesting, just add Bluesound satellite speakers and Google assistant for voice activated multiroom 2nd system?