Which output/input setup will sound best? You vote!

My plan is to test (not blind, just informal, over a weekend or two) which output/input setup will sound best. System: DSD Sr. > Lamm LL2.1 > VTL ST-85 > DeVore Fidelity O/96. Vote for what you think will sound best!

  • Ethernet to Bridge II
  • HiFiBerry via Coax SPDIF
  • Squeezebox Touch via Coax SPDIF
  • Squeezebox Touch via USB
  • Roon ROCK NUC via USB

0 voters

I prefer a laid-back sound (bring me to the performance, not the performance to my livingroom), with smoother (rather than sharper) detail. Dynamic agility is important to me. Music tastes have been exploring electronic genres recently (dub techno, minimalist tendencies), but I’m always a sucker for folk, alt-country, and some audiophile faves (Mark Knopfler, Pink Floyd, e.g.). Not really a jazz or classical fan. I’ll post the results of my listening here. Thanks for playing along!

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I don’t use any of the 5 listed, reckon I’ll just look for the results.

Feel free to speculate!

Can’t answer your question, but those speakers are to die for.

I’d get something else that is up to the rest of the gear ; )

I agree. The only other speakers that have managed to blow my hair back like those are the Orangutan Reference. The listening room can fit them, but not the wallet… I’m very grateful for my dealer’s help with acquiring the speakers. Command Performance, out of Falls Church, VA, allowed me to purchase the O/93’s and trade them in for the O/96’s at full value. I don’t know if they still do that, but boy am I grateful they did back then.

The only upgrade that keeps me up at night is the amp. I want to go with either the Pass Labs XA25 or an appropriate model from First Watt. Patience, Grasshopper…

Mark at Reno Hifi can help you choose what amp will work best for you.
I have an XA 25 and I couldn’t be happier.

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I can’t wait to give him that call. What speakers are you rocking with that XA25? Any info you could provide about what changes you noticed when you upgraded to the Pass Labs would be much appreciated!

I have Zu Audio Soul Supremes. A couple years ago, I had some 096’s on long term loan from a friend.
My system is ever evolving but has been pretty stable lately.
I’ve had a lot of amps over the years, including a BHK 250, Aesthetix Atlas, Cary Rocket 88, Pass X250.8, First Watt J2. There’s something about the XA25 that just makes me happy with everything I enjoy listening to.
(And I tend to buy used, with a warranty, so I can change less painfully)


but what’s the source to the ethernet>bridge? to Squeezebox for that matter? I may have missed that.

Thank you so much! Our speaker choices make your amp experience very much on-point for me. I find your preference for the XA25 over the J2 very encouraging. I want to buy what is best for the O/96’s, but it would be a luxurious treat to get an amp that could drive them AND my old Aerial Acoustics 7b’s (currently in the cobbled-together home theater setup). I don’t think a First Watt amp could do both speakers in an optimized way, but I bet the XA25 could get pretty damn close. Convincing the wifey to let me rock two sets of speakers in our livingroom will be another challenge altogether.

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Everything is connected via ethernet. The files are on an external USB drive connected to the ROCK NUC. The NUC lives in another part of the house usually, so it will have to be brought up to the equipment rack for the comparison.

Write-in vote:

Auralic Aries G2 > USB > Matrix X-SPDIF 2 w/external LPSU > I2S > DS Sr.

I have driven my DS Sr. with the Bridge II and the Squeezebox Touch. In my system, the Aries G2>Matrix combo is in another stratosphere SQ-wise. In your far more expensive setup, I think the SQ difference would be epic.


I’m sure you’re right. The consensus seems to be building that a dedicated streamer, especially that G series, sounds much better. However, I’m inclined to believe that the jump from the VTL ST-85 to the Pass Labs XA25 would be greater than the jump to a streamer like the G2 (and the I2S gear) from the options listed in the vote. I don’t have much experience to help me with that speculation though, because I went to the DSD Sr. from a Musical Fidelity V-90 DAC - a significant upgrade with sound improvements to match the price difference. Also, I’m sick of dealing with driver tubes, so I’m eager to make the solid state jump. I wonder… the price of the XA25 is similar to the G series streamers…


When I had the Aries G1 on my system I did not think the Matrix X-SPDIF 2 made much of a difference on it’s sound. I sure did not hurt, but the G1 is pretty awesome on its own. I’d love to hear a G2…

The Bridge II is starting to get away with the votes! It’ll be interesting, because that’s how I’ve been listening since I got the DS Sr. in early November. I’ll be biased by what I’ve come to love as normal.

Darko noted in particular the DS Sr.'s ability to separate elements of the sound. Until I got the DS Sr., that was never something my system did in any appreciable way. I have become addicted to that quality, in no small part due to the fact that it transcends recording quality. I enjoy a lot of badly recorded music. Combined with the laid-back perspective of the DAC, rare is the track that I want to skip due to recording quality.

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hey RonP, how did the X250.8 stack up against he BHK250? I am running a pair of Maggies with a Bryston 14B3 and those two 250’s are on my short list. Any insights appreciated! And that Atlas amp looks gorgeous too!

I felt that the Pass X250.8 had a more sophisticated, weighty, articulate sound. I only sold it because it took too much room where I had to move it to. And Pass products are dead nuts reliable.
And I had the Atlas for a brief time when I also had the BHK 250. I felt the BHK was better in every way than the Atlas.
But I haven’t heard anything that would pull me away from my XA-25 so far. It’s brilliant.

This and, relatedly, its overall low level resolution (I mean ability to resolve lower level, “background” details) capabilities are arguably its best attributes to my ears.


Lots of love for the Bridge II. I’ll start the comparisons tonight, though I have a feeling that most of the evening will be eaten up by setting up the gear. To make things easier, I’ll add a network switch to the rack, so I can hook everything up at the same time. I’ll do subsequent comparisons with each source being the only connected input, except I won’t disconnect the Bridge II (too much work, and I might break the world). I know the wisdom here is that the DS Sr. prefers only one source connected, but I’m a doctor Jim, not a miracle worker!