Laptop vs streamer?

chifi4ever

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Jun 10, 2024
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Hi all,

After years of self-inflicted active speaker damnation, I have decided to move on to a more “proper" listening experience. Thanks in no small part to great posts here, I've (almost) settled on speakers and an amp (wharfedale lintons and CA cx81). I've read quite a lot about the importance of a good streamer and there must be something I'm missing.

The way I see it, many great modern amps have a usb input (integrated dacs) and many setups include a tv. Using a laptop as a source you can either use the usb as audio out directly to the amp or hdmi out to the tv (with sound) and then use the tv's optical out to the amp. Since it's all digital information until it reaches the amp's dac (or even a separate one) there can't be any interference. This seems too obvious for me for streamers to be such a highly regarded part of a setup, instead of a laptop with much more functionality. Assuming virtually everyone interested already has laptop/can buy a mini pc for this use, why not spend the streamer's budget on a theoretically higher quality dac at the same amount of money? What am I missing?
 

Minkey1

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Jan 16, 2012
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I’m not in the market for a specific streamer, as I can stream hq Apple Music from my TV to the amp over eARC, or browse to other sources. But I can see the attraction of a little WiiM type box, permanently sited and connected, to serve the need. In our house, it’s got to pass the aesthetic sniff test too☹️
 

DCarmi

Well-known member
Simplicity and convenience! If you have a streaming service and a streamer you can call up music from pretty much any device. My phone is a lot more convenient that the laptop.

Also streaming is useful for multi-room listening. I quite often have something playing in the front room hifi and the kitchen speaker at the same time.

Personally, if I am really want to "listen" to music CD or vinyl is my first choice.
 

Vincent Kars

Well-known member
Since it's all digital information until it reaches the amp's dac (or even a separate one) there can't be any interference.
It is digital but it remains a "analog" connection. There ain't such thing as digital electrons.
You will find post on audio fora about hearing mouse movements, distortions when they open a program, etc.
Most of the time this is the GPU creating ground loops or simply set some spikes on the ground plain.
A DAC with a proper isolated USB receiver won't have this problem.
Neither optical as this is galvanic isolation by design.
 
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Rodolfo

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Jul 31, 2023
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I've used a music-dedicated Surface Pro since before most dedicated "streamers" became popular, and I've not felt a need to change. I like the flexibility you note, plus the convenience of using bluetooth when that is convenient for connection to either my integrated stereo amp or one of a few bluetooth speakers for more portable use indoors or outdoors.

I especially like and value being able to use MusicBee to manage and play my collection as I do on my desktop NUC on which I do all my file management. I also have an Amazon Music app installed to stream my subscription offerings. I ran a Spotify app until I changed over about two years ago. I suppose a number of other apps would be available should I ever choose to switch or add subscriptions.

I keep my Surface Pro plugged in on a compact wired table next to my favorite leather chair/listening station, or quickly (or not) snap it into tablet mode and use it wirelessly with both bluetooth and wi-fi capability. The screen showing the MusicBee Now Playing screen on bright is much nicer than any streamer or phone screen option I've seen, even with it's dated 10.6-inches 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD. The Surface Pro features a micro-SD slot for a 512gb card that I update regularly with my current collection.

I guess if I was more phone-centric I'd be attracted to and appreciate other options. It's partly or mostly a matter of taste, as with our music and other music tools.

Enjoy your music with your eventual streaming preference.
 
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Fandango Andy

Well-known member
Hi all,

After years of self-inflicted active speaker damnation, I have decided to move on to a more “proper" listening experience. Thanks in no small part to great posts here, I've (almost) settled on speakers and an amp (wharfedale lintons and CA cx81). I've read quite a lot about the importance of a good streamer and there must be something I'm missing.

The way I see it, many great modern amps have a usb input (integrated dacs) and many setups include a tv. Using a laptop as a source you can either use the usb as audio out directly to the amp or hdmi out to the tv (with sound) and then use the tv's optical out to the amp. Since it's all digital information until it reaches the amp's dac (or even a separate one) there can't be any interference. This seems too obvious for me for streamers to be such a highly regarded part of a setup, instead of a laptop with much more functionality. Assuming virtually everyone interested already has laptop/can buy a mini pc for this use, why not spend the streamer's budget on a theoretically higher quality dac at the same amount of money? What am I missing?

There is no simple answer. It very much depends on the needs of the individual.

First comes convenience. Do you want your laptop to be tethered to your hifi with a cable?
Where is your music coming from? If it stored on the computer you may be as well to plug it in. If you are streaming the music is probably better.

Then we have sound quality. A computer is doing a lot, and making a lot of "noise" this is going to find its way into your data stream. I have heard this is less of a problem with Mac's than PC's but have no personal experience to compare.

From a cost point of view, a streamer doesn't have to be expensive. Coupled with an external DAC, or a an amp with a decent DAC, a WiiM Mini is as much as many users will need.
 

Witterings

Well-known member
I'm with @ DCarmi on this .... if I used cables I'd have to have one running across my kitchen / living area from where teh stereo is to my laptop and also one across my lounge which isn't happening ... either that or have the laptop the other side of the room from where I sit and have to get up every time I want to change track / artist.

I also multiroom or I may start in one room early in the evening and then move to another and it's pi55 easy to just disconnect my mobile / tablet from the streamer in one room and connect it to the streamer in another.
 

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