Importance of equipment in a streaming setup?

byakuya83

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When streaming lossless digital files from source to amp/speakers does the streamer make much of an impact?

I note the difference in price between something from Cambridge Audio (c.£400) and Naim (c.£2,000) and it leaves me a bit confused.

If the streamer is digital in/out then surely the amplifier and speakers are doing the majority of the work - is this right? Surely I am missing something.
 
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Anonymous

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The streamer is what's reading the data and converting it for the amplifier, in a streaming based system the streamer IS the controller and is equally as important as the amplifier. The same as any CD based systems.
 
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Just a sec ago I was reading in another audio forum, posts on huge debates about sound difference when a file is coming from a NAS server or from the brand own server. Somes keep saying they do the difference and the other answer back that they are "crazy"... And also plenty of other configuration that should or not impact the sound.

And they are WAY in more deep details then streamer or cables discution, thrust me.

So my personnal answer is yes, but make sure to listen yourself to make your mind. At the end it will be you listening and enjoying your own gear. :)
 

spockfish

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There's a lot of nonsense in these debates going on. As computer stuff is involved people tend to argument that it makes a difference for example if the file is being played over wifi or over a cable. Now, you can spend as much money on your streamer as you want, but your in the digital domain. So basically what *is* important is the source material (lossy vs lossless), the DAC process (internal vs. external) and the quality of the analogue output if used.

As the content is being served rather over TCP/IP (cable or wireless) or from a local filesystem it is *very* simple: the resulting bytes / bits that are being converted to some nice music are *exactly* the same.

I'll bet a good bottle of scotch that if you do a blind test with a cheap streamer or even a USB disk connected to a decent DAC, and a high end streamer connected to the same DAC you will not hear the difference. Really.

Just my 2 cts..
 

Ryan92

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I agree with spockfish. For me it seems that as long as you get a bit perfect signal into a good DAC, all the remains is the concept of "jitter" though if you get something that reclocks the signal anyway, what's the difference? The only thing in my opinion could be, if you are ripping from CDs, the quality in which they are ripped, not in terms of bitrate etc but the actual hardware used to do so. But even then I think only the most trained ear and revealing of system would make these subtelties audible.
 

Womaz

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So are we really saying that that there will be very little difference between the £400 Cambridge product to say a 2k Naim product??
 

noogle

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As long as the equipment in the digital domain (NAS, streamer etc.) doesn't lose any bits - and it shouldn't - then it is doing its job and can be described as perfect. I'd focus the cash on the DAC, where the rubber hits the road, in particular making sure you get one with asynchronous inputs.

I'd always buy the commodity digital stuff from a computer manufacturer rather than a hi-fi manufacturer - there is a factor of at least 10 in price.
 

noogle

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Naim don't make a stand-alone streamer (without a DAC) - but there will be no difference in the data stream between the two.
 

CnoEvil

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Womaz said:
So are we really saying that that there will be very little difference between the £400 Cambridge product to say a 2k Naim product??

That is certainly not the view of everybody, and why it is vital to check it out for yourself.
 

John Duncan

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Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuun...

Given a perfect network, I think that most streamers are pretty good at decoding a file and outputting it bit-perfectly. Even an Airport Express can do that. The difficult bit is taking the analogue signal (which is more delicate) and transmitting it to your amp with as little interference as possible. Try sticking some headphones into the headphone socket of an Airport Express and tell me how good it is at doing that.

Therefore, up to the point where it's trying to output an analogue signal, I'd argue that most streamers are pretty much the same. It's this analogue 'transport' (for want of a better word) that differentiates between different products. Some might skimp on isolation and end up humming, some might have a view on what an analogue signal should look like and 'shape' it to give their product a signature sound. Either way, whether the extra you pay for any given streamer is worth it to you can only be decided by listening to them. If you hear a 400 quid one and a 2 grand one side by side and either can't tell the difference or think the difference isn't worth 1600 notes, only you can decide. I personally am a strong believer in the law of diminishing returns and would find it hard to justify that difference in the context of my system or my house or the busy road outside which provdes a nice 50hz subnote to all my listening... :-D
 
Golly, this is exciting stuff. Don't fully understand it but very encapsulating.

On a more serious note, it depends (others have touched on it) on the application: For me a streamer seems favourite as it can replace my current FM tuner as well as streaming stations.

I personally wouldn't look beyond the Marantz and Rotel streamers, given my recent less than successful junket into the world of modtech all-in-ones.

As others have said, you need to decipher which option will give the best overall performance.
 
John Duncan said:
plastic penguin said:
I personally wouldn't look beyond the Marantz and Rotel streamers, given my recent less than successful junket into the world of modtech all-in-ones.

I personally would look at my signature, and at a Squeezebox Touch.

Very appealing. Do you use this in conjuction with the Uniti or in place of...? How does it stack up tonally? Whenever I've heard Cambridge amps they've always sounded a bit mechanical.

I'll certainly hop, skip and jump down to Richer sometime soon.

Cheers John.
 

John Duncan

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Not yet, but is under consideration (ie this close ||) as the Stream Magic has an 'Azur' mode which allows you to remote control a Cambridge amp or receiver via the 3.5mm control bus. Alternatively, you can use it in 'preamp' mode, using digital volume control into power amps/actives etc.

The DB1is are going nowhere, whilst the amp is currently a Yamaha receiver (which, for anybody watching, is nowhere near as good as the amp stage in the Uniti...:-D).
 

Gusboll

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John Duncan said:
plastic penguin said:
I personally wouldn't look beyond the Marantz and Rotel streamers, given my recent less than successful junket into the world of modtech all-in-ones.

I personally would look at my signature, and at a Squeezebox Touch.

Another thumbs up from me re the Touch. The built-in DAC out-performs the one in the Cyrus CD8X to my ears.
 

chebby

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plastic penguin said:
Whenever I've heard Cambridge amps they've always sounded a bit mechanical.

Probably because they weren't partnered with a matching CA source or used with the circa £1K loudspeakers that earnt them a "System Of The Year Award 2010" in a publication that usually deals with systems worth tens of thousands of pounds rather than a few hundred.

I can't link to the 650A/650C system review here, but it can be found on CA's own website under 'read equipment review' in the side bar...

http://www.cambridgeaudio.com/summary.php?PID=373

Don't you have a 651BD as well John?
 

amcluesent

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>Surely I am missing something.<

The quality of the DAC & analogue outputs (i.e. balanced), the upsampling and/or digital filtering implementation, the maximum birate the streamer can handle, the ability to play gapless properly, ability to handle replaygain metadata, etc,. etc. You pay, you get!
 

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