Streamer + DAC or Laptop + Soundcard?

snooze

Member
Messages
510
Hi all,

I didn't realize until this morning that there was a HIFI forum on TGP! That's nice.

I'm currently wondering which route I should take for my old/new stereo system. I used to listen to CDs but over the past few years, I've been using my laptop as a source. Of course I didn't expect HIFI from it but it was really convenient. I just bought new speakers and now using Tidal HIFI.

So I'm wondering what would be the best approach. A dedicated streamer with a DAC is probably the best but to save some money, I'm wondering if a better sound card would do the trick.

I mean, if pro are recording the music we listen with soundcard, I'm assuming they must be good.

So I'm looking for a solution between 200$ and 600-700$.

I'm looking at Auralic Aries Mini, Dragonfly Red, Focusrite Scarlett, Appolo Duet, etc.

Do you know which one of them have the best DAC? Also, I've heard/read that playing music from a laptop or iPhone can be a problem because the OS may not prioritize music playback and reduce the quality? Is that right?

Thanks!
 

Brian Scherzer

Co-Founder of TGP
Staff member
Messages
5,148
This is not something I know a lot about but I can tell you what I chose. I still like my music on vinyl or CD/SACD. However, I do have a few downloaded albums from HDTracks and I purchased software by Amarra to run on my laptop. My laptop feeds into a separate DAC. I'm sure that a soundcard would also do but if you are going to use a computer to send the music to your system, something by Pure Music, JR Rivers or Amarra would be a nice start. I think that the software tends to run between $100 and $200. You would also need a DAC. The ones you mentioned are fine unless you're looking to spend a lot of money on everything else......and there are many more to choose from. Each DAC is likely to have a slightly different sound within the same price range. I'm going to suggest not spending more than you're thinking of spending for now. You would hear a difference between a DAC that costs a couple of hundred and one that costs over $1000........but the "big" difference you would hear would be much easier to hear with better speakers, better amp, etc. In other words, there may not be much audible difference to you at this point. That makes me think that it makes more sense to go really reasonable cost on the DAC for now and, if you feel the need to upgrade, you won't have lost much money.

I was about to press "Post Reply" when it dawned on me that I haven't asked what you would be playing the music through.....and whether you are playing MP3 or CD quality. The better the rest of your audio gear is, the more you could justify spending on a DAC. If you are playing MP3 or low resolution files, getting a better DAC would not make sense.

The answer to the question about the OS is that "it depends". It is why I use Amarra software, although any of the other ones work fine also. It's a way of organizing the music on your laptop or computer and you set the conditions of playback up to the limitations of your DAC and system......meaning that you can set it to play music at whatever resolution the music was recorded at......up to a typical 24/192.
 

paulg

Member
Messages
3,234
You should look at the Bluesound Node 2. It's a streamer that works well with Tidal. I'm sure you can connect it to your computer on the Ethernet input. It's got a built in DAC. All for $500. But the best feature is the free app. You can organize all your sources in one super easy format. It's worth checking out.
 

MKB

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,462
If you have electronic chops, you can build a killer server and DAC for around $100-200 or so. Take a Raspberry Pi, load the free release of Volumio, install a HifiBerry DAC+ Pro on the Pi, add a remote +5v linear supply to the DAC+ Pro, shove it all in a case, and you'll have an audio server that will give many turntables a run for their money.

I'm using such a device and have compared it extensively to my vinyl rig (VPI MkIII with Linn Basik arm and V15RS cartridge, homemade Kondo M77 phono stage), and it gets about 90% of the way to vinyl using standard CDs ripped to WAV. It's really great sounding and I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard it myself. I've ended up using the server most of the time as it sounds so good and is so simple to use.

The DIY needs in such a project isn't huge. Often RPi projects can be difficult due to the programming/configuration requirements, but the Volumio install is super easy (you download a disk image and write it to a flash drive to insert in the RPi, then just turn it on) and it already has support for the DAC+ Pro.
 

snooze

Member
Messages
510
I just realized that I forgot about this post!!!

Thanks for your replies guys.

My setup is a Rotel RA-1062 and 2 Sonus Faber Principia 3, all wired with Audioquest cables.

I finally bought a DragonFly Red after having compared it with some higher end streamer/DAC and I realized that the DragonFly was amazing for the cost. I compared a MOON streamer (I don't recall the model and DAC), an Auralic Aries Mini, my Presonus Firebox and the DragonFly, all running Tidal High Fidelity. On that kind of setup, the Moon sounded less aggressive which I guess would result in less ear fatigue, everything felt smoother. But the differences where subtle to a point that I felt the DragonFly would meet my need. And I can use it with my iPhone if needed. Sometime I plug my iPhone directly into my amp via the DragonFly and sometime I use it thru my MacBook.

So I'm very happy with my setup. It is not an entry level setup but it is not either a very high fi setup so it's a very nice in-between.

I hope that can help others!

Thanks again for your help!
 
M

Member 132475

I use my old laptop as a music server and stream wirelessly to Chromecast Audio, which is optically connected a Cambridge Audio DacMagic unit, which is connected with RCA cables to my hifi amp. Works as a charm and sounds great.
 

paulg

Member
Messages
3,234
Chrome cast audio is a no brainer way to get into streaming. $35 , hello? I'm a big fan of the Node 2 at $500. It's totally worth it , IMHO.
 




Trending Topics

Top Bottom