Question Streamer or DAC to upgrade my system (Rotel A11 + BR03)

richdaws7

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May 17, 2022
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Hi, I am thinking of adding a streamer or DAC + streamer to my system as my main source is digital.
I have a Rotel A11 tribute which has no digital connections and I am currently using the Bluetooth APT-X with TIDAL from my phone, which I know is a shame. Changing the Rotel is not an option right now so I have started reading and watching some videos about DACs and streamers.

Buying a Bluesound NODE was my first option looking to the future when I bought my system, not so long ago (Borea BR03 + Rotel A11 tribute). I have tried this with my setup and works fine. However, after some research, I understand that the DAC is the brain of my system, and as I am currently using a digital source to reproduce music and this has a big impact on the audio quality of my system. I am now interested in purchasing a dedicated DAC but I have some doubts:

1- Is there another great streamer in the same price range as the NODE that can match my sound system? (I don't mind increasing the budget a bit if there's an improvement on SQ)
2-If I get a dedicated DAC, such as the DAC Magic 200M, do I still have to buy a streamer? Does the streamer also affect the audio quality?
3- CHORD Qutest would be my best choice based on the reviews and sound profile but is out of my budget and it wouldn't make sense on my starter sound system. I would rather expend that money on better speakers, but I'm happy with the BR03s for now. What are your thoughts about the Denafrips Ares II, Cambridge CNX V2, Cambridge AXN10, RME ADI-2, Eversolo DMP-A6, Topping D90?

Things that really matter to me in order of importance:
-Budget under 1000 euros.
-Soundstage,
-instrumental separation,
-Balanced sound,
-Rhythm and dynamics,
-Musicality,
-NO flat analytical sound signatures.
 
Last edited:

plastic penguin

Well-known member
Hi, I am thinking of adding a streamer or DAC + streamer to my system as my main source is digital.
I have a Rotel A11 tribute which has no digital connections and I am currently using the Bluetooth APT-X with TIDAL from my phone, which I know is a shame. Changing the Rotel is not an option right now so I have started reading and watching some videos about DACs and streamers.

Buying a Bluesound NODE was my first option looking to the future when I bought my system, not so long ago (Borea BR03 + Rotel A11 tribute). I have tried this with my setup and works fine. However, after some research, I understand that the DAC is the brain of my system, and as I am currently using a digital source to reproduce music and this has a big impact on the audio quality of my system. I am now interested in purchasing a dedicated DAC but I have some doubts:

1- Is there another great streamer in the same price range as the NODE that can match my sound system? (I don't mind increasing the budget a bit if there's an improvement on SQ)
2-If I get a dedicated DAC, such as the DAC Magic 200M, do I still have to buy a streamer? Does the streamer also affect the audio quality?
3- CHORD Qutest would be my best choice based on the reviews and sound profile but is out of my budget and it wouldn't make sense on my starter sound system. I would rather expend that money on better speakers, but I'm happy with the BR03s for now. What are your thoughts about the Denafrips Ares II, Cambridge CNX V2, Cambridge AXN10, RME ADI-2, Eversolo DMP-A6, Topping D90?

Things that really matter to me in order of importance:
-Budget under 1000 euros.
-Soundstage,
-instrumental separation,
-Balanced sound,
-Rhythm and dynamics,
-Musicality,
-NO flat analytical sound signatures.
Marantz PM7000N. Pretty much caters for everyone, all in one neat box.
 
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Gray

Well-known member
2-If I get a dedicated DAC, such as the DAC Magic 200M, do I still have to buy a streamer? Does the streamer also affect the audio quality?
The DAC will need a stream from somewhere - but that need not be from a  dedicated streamer.

The more money someone has spent on a dedicated streamer, the more likely they are to tell you that a streamer affects SQ.
Even they would probably admit that the DAC will have the greater influence though.
Differences between DACs can be fairly subtle, although you will usually hear them.
(Be wary of some of the reviews describing 'night and day' differences).

Whatever sends the stream needs some software to control things.
That's an important part of the streaming experience.
 
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Noddy

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Mar 16, 2023
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I’m in the camp that believes that beyond a certain level, a DAC is a DAC, and you don’t need to pay much to reach that level. My viewpoint is supported by measurements of DACs and streamers. That didn’t use to be the case, but DAC chips are now quite cheap.

NAD do a CS1 streamer plus DAC for about £300. I assume the DAC is very good, but I haven’t seen measurements. Bluos is very good, I assume it uses that.

I am sure the Bluesound Node is good, but expensive.

The Wiim Mini is a streamer for about £80, it works very well with very good software but you will need a DAC too as the internal one is not great. There are plenty of good ones, I think Topping make some. You could even buy a second hand Chord Mojo (~£160) and use that, though I hate the stupid interface.

You could also pay a lot more, apparently expensive ones produce betters 1s and 0s, which sound clearer.
 
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Noddy

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As an aside, a few minutes ago I drove my amp using 1) the built in DAC, 2) the Chord Mojo DAC and c) the £10 Apple DAC dongle. I was curious! I could not tell any difference in the sound. Given that it took about ten seconds to swap over each DAC, and sound levels were not equalised, the test is highly questionable, however it does indicate that any differences are at most very subtle and perhaps non existant.
 
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richdaws7

Well-known member
May 17, 2022
23
5
525
I’m in the camp that believes that beyond a certain level, a DAC is a DAC, and you don’t need to pay much to reach that level. My viewpoint is supported by measurements of DACs and streamers. That didn’t use to be the case, but DAC chips are now quite cheap.

NAD do a CS1 streamer plus DAC for about £300. I assume the DAC is very good, but I haven’t seen measurements. Bluos is very good, I assume it uses that.

I am sure the Bluesound Node is good, but expensive.

The Wiim Mini is a streamer for about £80, it works very well with very good software but you will need a DAC too as the internal one is not great. There are plenty of good ones, I think Topping make some. You could even buy a second hand Chord Mojo (~£160) and use that, though I hate the stupid interface.

You could also pay a lot more, apparently expensive ones produce betters 1s and 0s, which sound clearer.
Maybe a premium DAC won't make such a difference? Is the £300 NAD DAC the sweet spot? In that case, I prefer getting a good enough DAC than a premium DAC if there will be no real difference in SQ and save the spare money for a later upgrade. I can live with the Wiim mini as a dedicated streamer.
 

richdaws7

Well-known member
May 17, 2022
23
5
525
Marantz PM7000N. Pretty much caters for everyone, all in one neat box
Do you think I shouldn't be looking for a DAC and instead replacing the Rotel A11 tribute for my entry-level setup and budget?
Maybe a dedicated DAC fits a higher-level setup?
 

richdaws7

Well-known member
May 17, 2022
23
5
525
If I was in your position I would get the Bluesound Node, the software is very good and stable. Then, once you are used to it you can consider a separate gap to place between the Node and your amp.
Yeah, that seems the smart choice. Do you think there is a better dedicated DAC and dedicated streamer combination for the same price as the Node?
 

Noddy

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Mar 16, 2023
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Maybe a premium DAC won't make such a difference? Is the £300 NAD DAC the sweet spot? In that case, I prefer getting a good enough DAC than a premium DAC if there will be no real difference in SQ and save the spare money for a later upgrade. I can live with the Wiim mini as a dedicated streamer.
The NAD CS1 is probably excellent, but it’s new so there are no tests to back up that opinion. I think with the Bluesound Node you pay more for connectivity with other Bluesound devices, others will know more about this.

My understanding is that £200 will get you a decent standalone DAC from Schiit, Topping and others.

NAD is a good brand, I assume they stand by the warranty, and it should be well made. I have the Wiim Mini but that’s because my amp has a good DAC inside. Otherwise I would be tempted by a one box solution from a good brand, but that’s just my subjective opinion.

I would keep the Rotel amp, it’s good.
 
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plastic penguin

Well-known member
Do you think I shouldn't be looking for a DAC and instead replacing the Rotel A11 tribute for my entry-level setup and budget?
Maybe a dedicated DAC fits a higher-level setup?
I'm a little like @Noddy separate Dacs within the similar price bracket tend to sound the same, but yes there are other good options available, but for simplicity (and cost saving) the Marantz is hard to beat; should also match well with your Triangles.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
The two suggestions I would make have already been stated. The Bluesound NODE or the Cambridge CXN.

One looks like proper Hifi, the other doesn’t. But both are well liked, well reviewed, and can be tweaked at a later date if you decide to faff around with a separate DAC!
 
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jjbomber

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Gray

Well-known member
The CXN has a nice display, though that may not be important, since you may well be using another screen to control it anyway.
You've got the budget for it, but no need to spend so much.

No streamer needs to cost more than that £399 NAD CS1 or indeed Cambridge's own new MXN-10 at £449 - which is another option.

Here's a question for everyone:
You'd expect the NAD to handle FLAC files right?
On their website, FLAC is not included in their list of compatible file formats.
Why not?
(Cam MXN-10 specifically lists FLAC as a compatible format, as you would expect).
 
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The CXN has a nice display, though that may not be important, since you may well be using another screen to control it anyway.
You've got the budget for it, but no need to spend so much.

No streamer needs to cost more than that £399 NAD CS1 or indeed Cambridge's own new MXN-10 at £449 - which is another option.

Here's a question for everyone:
You'd expect the NAD to handle FLAC files right?
On their website, FLAC is not included in their list of compatible file formats.
Why not?
(Cam MXN-10 specifically lists FLAC as a compatible format, as you would expect).
According to the digitaltrends review FLAC is supported
 
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Noddy

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You’re not saving up for one of these then?

Ah yes, but that has such insight and musicality, with expressive dynamics and a rhythmic presentation. It is fast and fluid without coming across as harsh or analytical, providing a sumptuous layering and a spatious imaging that allows the instruments to breath. It does though need careful partnering (1).

Do I get the job?

I suspect a lot of this stuff is designed for the stinking rich. According to one source, many rich people who want some binoculars for an upcoming safari, just go into an optics shop and buy the most expensive on the assumption that it is the best. Doubtless similar factors are at work here.

(1) The same can be said of most audiophiles.
 

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