Jump to content
bk95

Hi-Fi Library & Streamer Woes

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Hi all,

 

I'm in the midst of upgrading my system, and needed some insight on how everyone thinks I should move forward. I have all my music locally, and on my old system I ran a 3.5mm - to - RCA cable straight from my laptop into my old Kenwood integrated and all was right with the world (I know this isn't ideal). Also worth noting that I run a plex server on my laptop that I use to access my library on the go.

 

I'm upgrading everything in my system, and trying to decide what the best move is both practically and financially. The things I know are:

 

[1] I'm getting Magnepan 1.7's. I listened to these in a shop near me and fell in love.

[2] I'm probably getting a Rogue Cronus Magnum II. This was also part of the set up I listened to and loved.

 

Now the question is how do I get my music to the Rogue?! The ideas I've noodled are the following:

 

[1] Get an off-board DAC like a Chord 2Qute or something like it and run a USB from my laptop into there and then RCA into the Rogue.

[2] Get a cheap bluetooth streamer and have my laptop send audio there, then RCA into the Rogue.

[3] Get something like an Aurender A100, which would allow me to get the Rogue Atlas Magnum (since the Aurender has a preamp), and stream from my Plex server.

 

The issue with #2 is that nearly all my music is 24-bit FLAC, and it would be shame to let whatever bluetooth protocol prevails at the time to chop that lossless signal up prior to transmitting it. For that reason, I favor #3, but I'm hesitant to spend that much money on a streamer whose software will likely be obsolete within a few years. Finally #1 is a solid choice, but then I need my laptop sitting in my listening area all the time which isn't really ideal.

 

Anyone have any thoughts on this, or any experience streaming/sending a hi-fi library to a stereo system on-network? I'd appreciate any advice at all!

 

Thanks!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Raspberry pi, with a HAT DAC or, if you don't want to mess with the Pi, and I can assure you it is fairly easy; then a Bluesound Node 2i. You can spend more but listen before you do. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 hours ago, bubbamike said:

Raspberry pi, with a HAT DAC or, if you don't want to mess with the Pi, and I can assure you it is fairly easy; then a Bluesound Node 2i. You can spend more but listen before you do. 

@bk95 -- i was going to type the same thing.  either of these options would be great.  you can also use a qutest with either to raise the bar a bit further.


source:  intel nuc8i5 (audiolinux, roon core) > intel nuc6i5 (win10, ao, fidelizer pro, dirac live, roon) > schiit yggdrasil (gen 5, analog 2)
headphone rig:  bryston bha-1 > senn hd600
two-channel rig:  bryston bha-1 > parasound a21 > monitor audio gx100

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Salut bk 95,

Any DAC (your personal flavor) with USB input and an USB transport like ALLO USB bridge with dedicated usb port to DAC (which is said to be discontinued or replaced very soon by a newer generation), streaming via ethernet or wifi to the USB transport (or using it for locally stored audio files). This is said to be a step up to the basic RPI solution up to RPi3b.
With the new USB design of the RPi4 you may be better served for the beginning as well. Neither have personal experience nor aquired wisdom with that as it is fairly new.
Pi3b with iFi 5v about 130 Euro
Allo USBBridge with 2x iFi 5v 255 Euro
Pi4 4GB with iFi 5v about 150 Euro
DAC HATs for RPi or Allo are available in different flavors as well.
Upgrades and spendings are always possible at a later date -> Aurender
best, Tom

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're certainly exploring some great paths to better sound, and almost all of us could live happily with most of your ideas.  But you're embarking on a trip of sorts, and the best route to your destination may reveal itself only after you look at where you are, where you're going, and what your assumptions and expectations are for the journey.  You're looking at some very fine equipment that will serve you well.  But there are other, simpler and less costly solutions that offer better sound quality with equal functionality, plus money left over for better speakers and more music.

 

First, I may be missing it but I can't tell from your post exactly how many roles your laptop is playing and whether you plan to continue using it in your new audio system.  If you're now using it as a one box solution for file storage, Plex server, and player, you might want to consider parsing those functions to dedicated components for better performance, more flexibility, and cost effectiveness.  Even if you want to minimize the number of components and interconnects in your new system, you might well consider using dedicated file storage if you're currently keeping your music files on your laptop.  You might get a simple USB HDD  for the laptop or add a NAS (perhaps a better choice for a few reasons about to come up) along with online or other remote backup that I and many others consider essential.  I haven't lost music files, but I did lose over 400 important photo files once and hope never to experience that horror show again.  I can't imagine how terrible it must be to lose a TB of flacs and have to rip or download it all again.

 

If you'd consider a NAS, you can reduce your box count by getting one that will run a Plex server (e.g. some models of QNAP, Synology, WD - here's a fairly complete list).  If your other networked devices would be accessing the NAS with any frequency, running two separate ones or a NAS for music and a USB HDD for general LAN use would enhance reliability and glitch-free operation (but probably not sound quality).  You're not tied to the Plex server or the NAS unit with this approach.  You can replace the NAS for any reason and reinstall Plex on the new one, or you can replace Plex on your NAS (assuming it meets system requirements) with a new server package if one comes along that has more of what you want.

 

A Plex server is fine for audio on a Raspberry Pi 3b+.  It's pretty easy to install and configure if you just follow the instructions found on multiple web sites like this one.  DSD is a bit problematic for Plex, but some players can be configured for DoP to send bit perfect dsf files to USB DACs as DoP (see here for a more thorough discussion).   If you run a Plex server on a Pi, you should use another device to "play" the files (i.e. to convert them into a digital data stream for your DAC). You can run Plex Media Server or Rasplex on another Pi, and (as you already know) you can use many devices as endpoints and renderers for Plex-served files.  Be aware that using a web browser for Plex access & playing limits audio quality - the Plex Media Player is a better player by far.  You can also Chromecast from a Plex player, and the Plex server I put on a networked Pi shows up as a library source in JRiver Media Center on one of my PCs.

 

If you're going to buy a DAC, you have a few functional alternatives.  The 2Qute's successor is the Qutest, as I recall - but neither of them has a gain control so you'd need an "integrated" amplifier or a simple zero gain "preamp" with a gain control ahead of a power amp.  If you go for a DAC with a good gain control (i.e. no effect on the bit stream), you can drive a power amp directly.  Unless you plan to use the excellent phono stages on the Rogue, you're wasting money and complexity on the integrated version when you can buy one of the stellar basic amps now available at very reasonable cost from Rogue, PrimaLuna etc.

 

The Aurender is a very fine piece, but it's a perfect example of being completely tied to complex functionality.  It has fine specs, does a lot, and does it well (albeit at what I consider to be a high price).  If one of those functions dies, you have the entire device to deal with for service or (heaven forbid!) replacement.  Should you want to adopt an advance in any single function that comes along to improve sound quality, you'd have to either replace the entire unit or buy a stand-alone device with the desired functionality and bypass its obsolete embedded predecessor.   I know the A100's specs are impressive - but so were a gig of RAM and an SSD a few years ago, and you can now buy a good i5 PC with 8G and a TB for under $300 new. Even this crusty old audiophile now owns 3 DSD capable DACs only 2 years after explaining to my wife that I was very happy with our 24/192 units.

 

So a simple, reliable, configurable, scalable path to what you seem to want would be something like a Plex server on a NAS or Raspberry Pi, feeding your files over your LAN/WLAN to a simple renderer / endpoint (e.g. Rasplex on a second Pi, Plex Media Player on the device of your choice, Kodi, etc) driving a DAC and power amp at each listening point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great suggestions everyone, thanks!

 

Seems that most people are advocating the RPi -> DAC route, but I wonder if that's actually the most cost effective solution, since it necessitates buying a DAC. It seems like the most straightforward route is, as @bubbamike points out, going with the bluesound node2i with the integrated amp.

 

Does anyone think this is a bad idea? Since the node2i is $500, it's not like I'm putting thousands on the line for something that might not stay relevant, as I would be with the Aurender [ @bluesman articulated this very nicely :) ].

 

In the future, I can always get a streamer -> DAC and ditch the node2i, and it's an out-of-the-box solution.

 

Thanks again for all the input!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

None of the ideas we’re discussing is “bad” - most of us could live happily with any of them. I haven’t had a chance to live with a Node, so I can’t comment on the SQ or usability. But it’s an ARM processor driving a last generation 24/192 DAC, so it’s probably (at best) the sonic equal of a Pi plus a typical mid grade last generation 24/192 DAC. My SMSL SU8 is a current gen XMOS USB DAC with native DSD, non-degrading gain control, balanced outputs, and a very nice remote for $250 - and it sounds stellar through my PrimaLuna Prologue Plus and Focal towers when driven by a $35 Pi. I never use BT to send audio files to a DAC because I think it sounds a little veiled and flattened, so I wouldn’t use the Node’s BT. If you would, it becomes more attractive.

 

With a DAC that has a non-degrading gain control, you don’t need the added size, cost and complexity of an integrated amp unless you also plan to use vinyl and/or other sources with line level outputs.

 

I’ve also lived with an integrated DAC-amp and loved it. My Wadia 151 is an example of a great device that’ll connect a source to your speakers with no other hardware. I drive mine with a Pi or a Beaglebone Black running MPD, and it sounds great through my Focals and even my original 15 ohm Rogers LS3/5as. This “power DAC” approach also weds you to both DAC and amplifier, but I wanted to see how the concept worked and it wasn’t crazy expensive.

 

There’s no right or wrong here. It just makes more sense to me to go with the simple alternative to a more expensive system that’s likely to sound no better and to be obsolete sooner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...