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crn3371

MacBook Pro vs dedicated streamer

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New member here with a question that’s probably been asked so much that it should be a sticky. I’m currently using a Retina MacBook Pro running Audirvana to stream Tidal. I’m using usb out through a Shunyata usb cable and W4S Remedy Reclocker to the built-in dac on an Anthem STR integrated amp, then out to a pair of Merlin TSM’s. I don’t have any issues with SQ, but I’m intrigued by the simplicity of a one box solution provided by a dedicated streamer. Would I hear an improvement by moving to a dedicated streamer? If so, why? I realize there could be improvements to be had by the change of dac’s, but putting that issue aside, what’s to be gained by a dedicated streamer? Thanks. 

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I had a 2011 Mac Mini until this year running Audirvana/UpTone Regen into a DAC.  With every update of the MacOS and in turn update of Audirvana it felt like I was rolling the dice on the system updates being stable without glitches that would cripple Audirvana.  While I never had any major issues and Audirvana was a workhorse providing stellar quality, I knew that this was not a purpose built system for Audio.  Every time I heard purpose built components there was no comparison. I stepped into an Aurender N100H this year and I am more than pleased.  Very simple to manage, great app interface, solid sonic performance above my Mini that I attempted to prop up.  I say make the jump!!

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What I'm going to say isn't meant to upset you or anyone as no doubt it will. Your question is a good one, no doubt many of us weigh very similar ones as I've pondered over recent months.

 

I'm running some old tube monoblocks, Allen Organ 75s, completely rebuilt by my friend who has done a stellar job. I have an old MacBook Pro, it's over a decade old and rigged to run Mojave which it does perfectly fine and Audirvana 3.5.20.

 

Before you throw $500 or more on a streamer, for your consideration, please consider.

 

With my amp monoblocks, running McIntosh LS340 floor standers, the crossovers were completed redone and a Schiit Modi 3. (Prior I had lots of other stuff and some high end solid state amps. I've learned a bit along the way.) 

 

So for the punchline, with all that, you'd think a streamer would be a good revelation to add into the chain. Well, I'm not so sure. I use Audirvana streaming wirelessly to an Amazon Firestick II. The signal up to 96K then runs to the DAC, to a Schiit Sys. (People who think they can enjoy higher res than this may be doing a lot of wishful thinking. It's more what goes in not out the other end of a recording which most any Mark Knopfler recording at 44K can attest.) Why spend a ton on a preamp when you will be cutting the volume back all the time? Also have the Schiit Loki and they both handle everything thrown at them with aplomb, no loss of quality.

 

I've discovered some big improvements with NOS tubes as my monoblocks are very sensitive. My guess is that a good streamer will cost some decent coin and maybe gets a little return in improvement. It probably isn't and won't be as substantial as when I change a NOS tube. So, fwiw, that's my perspective.

 

If you can route your signal through an Amazon Firestick II using DLNA with Audirvana, you may be surprised how good it is. (I have an option to go hard wired with toslink too.) For me, it's producing the best sound in my twenty years in this hobby. That says a lot about what is possible with good matching. I've let go some good components on the way but now don't regret any of it.

 

Best on your hunt! 

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There isn't a clear answer to your question. Objectivists will tell you that measurements at the DAC output don't show any difference between the feed from a streamer vs any old PC. 

I've experienced both - on one system I heard improvement with a streamer built with "upgraded" parts, low noise, etc., and on my present system it doesn't seem to make much difference.  I could also totally be imagining the differences I hear or don't hear, as it were. 

 

Any way, even if a streamer can make a difference, I think it mostly depends on the quality the USB input on your DAC. If you are convinced the USB addons to your present system  improved SQ, then I'll assume you are correct and your system will sound better with some "help". 

Will a dedicated streamer make an additional difference in this case?  I sort of doubt it, as you've basically already optimized the chain. 
 

That said, the one box streaming solution is definitely attractive. The Sonore streamers give you both a good HW and SW solution. and allow you to remove the other addons, with no penalty, IMO. 

Do you have a dealer or friend that will allow you to borrow  a streamer to try? Or a seller that will let you return the item if you think it didn't improve things? 
You won't know for sure till you try one. 


Main listening (small home office):

Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>CAPS IV Pipeline Server + Sonore 12V PS>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.
 

Secondary Listening: CAPS Pipeline>IFi iOne DAC>Schiit Freya>Kii Three . Also an SBT and a RB Pi 3B+ running piCorePlayer as an SBT emulator. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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