Is iPad/Laptop as Streamer Good Enough?

Ron Resnick

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I keep believing, and posting, that I think the sound quality of using an iPad as a streamer is inferior to using a dedicated high-end audio streamer to feed one's DAC. Compared to a CD of the same title I hear iPad as streamer as relatively thin, lifeless and anemic. (I appreciate that there are other factors here that make this not an apples-to-apples comparison.) I am currently waiting for an Innuos PULSEmini to be installed in my system.

So I am a little bit baffled to learn that Jeff Fritz in his review of the Gryphon Apex Stereo amplifier, May 1, 2022, seems not to use a dedicated streamer:

The Gryphon Apex Stereo was placed in my reference system, replacing the Boulder Amplifiers 2060 stereo power amplifier that anchors this setup. The rest of the components consisted of Vivid Audio Giya G1 Spirit loudspeakers, Shunyata Research Alpha SP speaker cables, Delta IC interconnects, Alpha USB cable, and Venom NR-V10 power cords. My source was an MSB Technology Discrete DAC fed from an Apple MacBook Air (2018). Powering everything except the Apex was a Shunyata Research Hydra Alpha A12 power conditioner. The Apple, MSB, and Alpha A12 were placed on an SGR Audio Model III Symphony equipment rack.

So, at least as of the date of that review, Jeff was using an Apple laptop as a streamer. Does anyone happen to know Jeff's thinking on streamers?
 
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the sound of Tao

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Jul 18, 2014
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Maybe he just enjoys the flavour… :eek:
15F99F3F-4E7A-41E6-9D15-E4131FB975BC.jpeg
 
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RCanelas

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I once wrote on a thread by you that using the iPad shouldn't be too different from using a dedicated streamer, in normal conditions, given the quality of electronics in both and a high level view over what they do.

I'm reviewing that statement. I can't but express a similar opinion on recently trying to use my iPhone as a streamer. Can't pinpoint the why, but the difference is a not entirely subtle on more dynamic music.

Given your current set up and it's resolving capabilities I'm happy for you that you went with an Innuos. Made not too far from where I live btw :D
 
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audiobomber

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Oct 13, 2020
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Using a laptop or general purpose computer for audio is a battle that was settled a few years ago; it is a compromise vs. a dedicated streamer.

When it comes to computer audio, traditional audiophile publications are mostly behind the curve. There are a few journalists and websites providing valuable info, but mostly it is audiophiles who are leading the way.

Network audio is still in the infancy stage, gear and opinions are rapidly evolving. There are a multitude of ways to configure a system that will sound good. Which architecture sounds best is still up for debate, because it is still evolving.
 

ecwl

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Mar 20, 2021
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In my mind, high-end streamers can do two things: reduce jitter and reduce electrical noise going into the DAC. However, some DACs are extremely jitter immune (depending on DAC architecture) and some DACs are great at filtering the various sources of noise at their USB input and maybe some are great at both although I haven’t really seen one but most do both to some degree.
To me, a battery powered iPad or a modern low-powered laptop generally doesn’t have a lot of electrical noise at the USB input for the DAC to filter but can have more jitter at the USB output. So whether iPad/laptops are good enough for a DAC would depend mostly on the DAC’s jitter immunity.
 
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AMR / iFi audio

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I like using my tablet for streaming, however, most streamers have functions and sound quality improvements that a simple tablet simply can't stack up to, and I would never say no to a good dedicated streamer.
 
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gadawg58

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Apr 7, 2018
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I used my macbook pro for a while and then demo’d an Aurender N100H which is certainly an entry level dedicated streamer but even at that level it easily bested my macbook pro running any of a number of different apps. I’ll eventually demo and high end streamer in my system and decide if the change is significant enough to spend the money although for now I’m quite happy with the baby Aurender which I’ve had for several years now. So for me, the easy answer is that no a laptop is not sufficient because I could hear a difference.
 

Gregm

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Mar 14, 2019
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I use it.
Off topic, I noticed the amazing & beautiful-sounding CAT pre on the left. Hold on to that!
On topic, I compared my iPhone to my dedicated pc "server" and, there isn't one; more detail, dynamics, clarity, etc (Of course, the Ideon streamer, that I have listened to, is better than my dedicated PC - no surprise there)
 

Gregm

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To answer the original question, my experience is iPhone (worst) -> dedicated laptop (external PS) -> streamer (best)
 

keithc

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I would hate if a loud DING interrupts my critical listening b/c my Apple streamer received a text message...
 
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AMR / iFi audio

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Happened way too many times to me, that's why I like to separate my phone and notifications as much as possible during a listening session. For that, anything that can stream music, and isn't a phone, is okay in my book :)
 

Tuckia

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Jun 3, 2019
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Last year I was between servers - the Antipodes K50 was sold and was waiting for the Taiko Extreme to deliver. For the first time ever I used a laptop as a server. It was absolutely dreadful. It could do the basics and could even image, but the noise was ear shredding. I was even using a Shunyata Omega usb cable. The dac was a Lampi Pacific.

I have another Aurender N100h in a second system. The first one I had 8 years ago. It is so far ahead of that laptop I can’t believe there is still a discussion about such things. It’s also much better than the Oppo 105D as transport Into the Lampi Baltic 4 in this system.

The Extreme is another order of magnitude beyond the little Aurender, but the N100h is perfectly enjoyable. It was $1200 used.

I can’t take any reviewer who uses a laptop seriously.
 

markkpa

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Poor sound quality streaming over laptops - that was certainly true in the past; but no longer with proper setup. More to come...
 

Audire

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Our Aurender N30SA is light years better than streaming from a laptop (or our Mac mini) IMO. At the time we we’re deciding what to get it also sounded better than the Taiko Extreme. However, since that time Taiko has made numerous upgrades, so we’re due for another test. We love the simplicity of using the Aurender. But we’re going to test again with the Taiko.
 
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Tuckia

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My experience with Aurender, limited to the N100h and the N10, showed that the SQ/performance was fairly stable. Any streamer that uses Roon has an uphill battle in comparison, with more variability from updates and a high level of internet traffic. So my Extreme anyway, is variable in SQ. Partly from these noisy Roon activities and partly because it is revealing to the external detractors of line noise and internet noise. I don’t know how a commercial laptop without the extensive optimizations that streamers have these days can compare. Even CAPS servers and such are inferior to the top streamers by a fair margin.

Developments continue, minute by minute. Currently I’m a couple days behind the latest Taiko developments.

True some dacs are more tolerant to server imperfection. Tolerant doesn’t mean immune to the effects.

I’m sure a Macbook has better SQ than he Dell Windows based workstation with single i7 processor that I have. But I’ve read many claim the N100h is better than a Macbook. Used, it is also significantly less expensive.
 

picears

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Feb 4, 2022
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However, some DACs are extremely jitter immune
My position is that DACs ought to be immune. They ought to be capable enough to buffer a data stream and re-clock from their own internal clocks as needed. Otherwise, IMO, any DAC that fails to be immune is not worth buying.
 
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nonesup

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And who sells those immune DACs?
 

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