What Does a Streamer Actually Do?

Powerman

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The “bits are bits” comments are well worn at this juncture. For those who derive happiness and contentment with very basic lower cost audio streaming, very good for you.

I have come across so many who began at that stage and subsequently moved onward and upward. The vast majority report much improved sound quality with higher quality server/ audio streaming products. Too many to ignore. I believe their subjective listening experiences.

No doubt, to each their own.
Charles
I have a hard time ignoring... It's just that there isn't much magic to data streams. What I do have a hard time with is with many of these discussions on this topic, somebody uses new box and it's tons better... But in most cases it's more about they had a horrible noisy signal path to begin with. It's a bit harder "for me" to trust anecdotal reports with computer music.

My only real problem is I don't have enough money. It all went to the big three and I got my mercury specifically for the drive and I2S. There are certainly other streamers I'm interested in. How could they not be better than my little Pi4? Heck, my LPS is cheap too... God, it's never ending that's for sure. I guess I'll have to find out at some point.

Do have a favorite? Genuinely asking.
 

PYP

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I have a hard time ignoring... It's just that there isn't much magic to data streams. What I do have a hard time with is with many of these discussions on this topic, somebody uses new box and it's tons better... But in most cases it's more about they had a horrible noisy signal path to begin with. It's a bit harder "for me" to trust anecdotal reports with computer music.

My only real problem is I don't have enough money. It all went to the big three and I got my mercury specifically for the drive and I2S. There are certainly other streamers I'm interested in. How could they not be better than my little Pi4? Heck, my LPS is cheap too... God, it's never ending that's for sure. I guess I'll have to find out at some point.

Do have a favorite? Genuinely asking.
If you enjoy music using the gear you already have, and the budget is tight, why not simply enjoy what you have? When gear gets in the way of enjoying music, this hobby becomes an obsession without a cause. Later, if the budget allows, experiment with in-home demos with return privileges. The only subjective opinion that counts is your own. Personally, I eventually found that (for me) it is better to save for what I really want, rather than settling for less and buying/selling lots of gear.

If you haven't worked on your room acoustics, that is the most logic place to experiment. Treatments can be DIY or, if purchased, there are some that are very reasonable cost-wise. (assuming you aren't exclusively a headphone listener).
 
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Powerman

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If you enjoy music using the gear you already have, and the budget is tight, why not simply enjoy what you have? When gear gets in the way of enjoying music, this hobby becomes an obsession without a cause. Later, if the budget allows, experiment with in-home demos with return privileges. The only subjective opinion that counts is your own. Personally, I eventually found that (for me) it is better to save for what I really want, rather than settling for less and buying/selling lots of gear.

If you haven't worked on your room acoustics, that is the most logic place to experiment. Treatments can be DIY or, if purchased, there are some that are very reasonable cost-wise. (assuming you aren't exclusively a headphone listener).
No, I'm a believer of buy once cry once... But sometimes you just don't know when new. I'm end game at this point with amp/DAC/speakers. My streamer is a good solution for wanting to simplify. With the rest of my system, I'm not too concerned streamer is ruining the rest. My room is fully treated. I have low ceilings so covered it and everything with 12"s of fluffy. It's as good as its going to get. Big difference.

I know my streamer is clean. There are certainly better power supplies. There are better OS solutions and more refined products for the end user. I would never buy stratosphere..
But I could easily see worthwhile solutions 2-3k. Especially 2nd hand.BBut after my new DAC I can't imagine how it could get significantly better.
 

Hear Here

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To me the most important feature when selecting a streamer is the quality and flexibility of the app you use to control it. Most of the very costly ones sell in small numbers and the brands simply don't have the budget or even perhaps the skills to develop a decent bespoke app. Where they do, it's often only available for Android and / or iPad. This means many buyers resort to Roon with its extra hardware and subscription.

I hesitated for years before upgrading from my ancient Sonos streamer, rejecting brands such as Linn and Naim because their apps were pretty dire. It wasn't until I tried a streamer that used BluOS that I took the upgrade plunge. Now I'm using the treamer built into my excellent NAD M33 all-in-one. I'd quite like to upgrade again now that I have speakers costing 7 times the M33 price, but I've not yet found a solution that offers anything like as good a control app as BluOS that will allow control on Windows PC as well as tablets, etc. Even with a 12K budget, I'm struggling, although I appreciate I could go down the Roon route. Recently BluOS is being licensed to other brands, so hopefully there will be more of the high end streamers taking that route. BluOS is available on all 4 common platforms, plus Kindle and even speach-recognition systems such as Amazon Alexa. It's 95% as comprehensive as Roon - and is free!. If anyone can suggest a streamer that offers as good an app as BluOS and sounds better than the NAD streamer, please let me know and I'll audition. Thanks.
 

Gregadd

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I know a streamer is a *solution." I am still trying to understand the problem
 

Powerman

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To me the most important feature when selecting a streamer is the quality and flexibility of the app you use to control it. Most of the very costly ones sell in small numbers and the brands simply don't have the budget or even perhaps the skills to develop a decent bespoke app. Where they do, it's often only available for Android and / or iPad. This means many buyers resort to Roon with its extra hardware and subscription.

I hesitated for years before upgrading from my ancient Sonos streamer, rejecting brands such as Linn and Naim because their apps were pretty dire. It wasn't until I tried a streamer that used BluOS that I took the upgrade plunge. Now I'm using the treamer built into my excellent NAD M33 all-in-one. I'd quite like to upgrade again now that I have speakers costing 7 times the M33 price, but I've not yet found a solution that offers anything like as good a control app as BluOS that will allow control on Windows PC as well as tablets, etc. Even with a 12K budget, I'm struggling, although I appreciate I could go down the Roon route. Recently BluOS is being licensed to other brands, so hopefully there will be more of the high end streamers taking that route. BluOS is available on all 4 common platforms, plus Kindle and even speach-recognition systems such as Amazon Alexa. It's 95% as comprehensive as Roon - and is free!. If anyone can suggest a streamer that offers as good an app as BluOS and sounds better than the NAD streamer, please let me know and I'll audition. Thanks.
I seriously doubt you will find one. Once a solution dominates, there is no reason for others to spend the money. Roon is an extensive solution. It is refined and seamless. That is what subscription money does for a platform. BOS is now to the point of going the licensing route for money. Nothing is free. You are still paying for the BOS.

And frankly... Since everything under the sun has gone subscription revenue model, don't be shocked when Blue does it too. Roon started as an integrated whole house solution. Bluesound started as a streamer and is now getting to be the same. They too have to pay licensing to all the streaming services, and all of them require subscriptions. As usual, it will make some mad... But where are they going to go... Roon, or some obscure free solution back at square one. The Linux/Pi universe will always be there.

There is nothing fancy at all with Blue hardware. Same as Roon. They are, like it or not, catering to the masses. For high end companies to cater to miniscule market of stratosphere audiophile buyers... Why? It's still just a powersupply with an I/O interface with their name to monetize a market segment. Its just not much of a stretch. But a whole department to dev software... Nah.

It's just the nature of the beast. Records were a linear signal path. Same as CD. A player, a converter. Streaming from web has 100 different paths to skin that cat with a hundred other platforms and services with a hundred other boxes with various features and capabilities. It is what it is. There is no more A to B to C with data streams.
 

Khorn

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Streaming from on line services is my primary and only source in my system. I previously used seperate outboard components but now on board streamer and DAC modules in my preamplifier. Amazingly efficient and best performance I’ve experienced.
At this point streaming is my musical life.
 
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PYP

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Jan 13, 2022
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To me the most important feature when selecting a streamer is the quality and flexibility of the app you use to control it. Most of the very costly ones sell in small numbers and the brands simply don't have the budget or even perhaps the skills to develop a decent bespoke app. Where they do, it's often only available for Android and / or iPad. This means many buyers resort to Roon with its extra hardware and subscription.

I hesitated for years before upgrading from my ancient Sonos streamer, rejecting brands such as Linn and Naim because their apps were pretty dire. It wasn't until I tried a streamer that used BluOS that I took the upgrade plunge. Now I'm using the treamer built into my excellent NAD M33 all-in-one. I'd quite like to upgrade again now that I have speakers costing 7 times the M33 price, but I've not yet found a solution that offers anything like as good a control app as BluOS that will allow control on Windows PC as well as tablets, etc. Even with a 12K budget, I'm struggling, although I appreciate I could go down the Roon route. Recently BluOS is being licensed to other brands, so hopefully there will be more of the high end streamers taking that route. BluOS is available on all 4 common platforms, plus Kindle and even speach-recognition systems such as Amazon Alexa. It's 95% as comprehensive as Roon - and is free!. If anyone can suggest a streamer that offers as good an app as BluOS and sounds better than the NAD streamer, please let me know and I'll audition. Thanks.
Suggest you try a Grimm Audio MU1 using its AES output to your M33. It uses only Roon for now but software updates later this year will increase your choices. Previous to adding the MU1 to my setup, I used the streamer built into the Mola Mola Tambaqui DAC. Unlike the MU1, the Tambaqui couldn't reduce the noise traveling along the copper ethernet cable. An in-home demo is the only way to know. https://www.grimmaudio.com/hifi-products/music-players/mu1/
 
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Alrainbow

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Dec 12, 2013
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To understand what the differences maybe needs to be heard not just explained in posts.
too many post on there facts not a true compare
If one poster claims streaming of an ipad to a dac , how is the dac fed ?
Is it usb conversion or bluetooth or Wi-Fi over a network ?
what is the iPad expecting to do ? Tidal or qoubuz alone
Roon core to dac.
if you don’t hear changes it’s fine and I doubt anyone’s explanation matters.
over the years I’ve tried most all ways and did hear massive changes all with consistent improvements or lack even backwards sounding.
the question might be better off in asking who can explain the possible difference in various steaming methods. the ones who don’t hear changes
Are not deaf but do not speak for all who do.
 

Sampajanna

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Apr 1, 2021
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Ron, Just my opinion regarding UI of Innuos. The Sense app certainly has better SQ than Roon (even with the squeeezelight), but I regularly switch back to Roon because The Sense app starts to annoy me. It is not intuitive, is often glitchy and cumbersome compared to Roon. I am always excited to use it for the SQ bump, then ten annoyances later flop back. The positive is that I can use both, which stepping back is very nice.
 

geetee1972

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Feb 12, 2021
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To me the most important feature when selecting a streamer is the quality and flexibility of the app you use to control it. Most of the very costly ones sell in small numbers and the brands simply don't have the budget or even perhaps the skills to develop a decent bespoke app. Where they do, it's often only available for Android and / or iPad. This means many buyers resort to Roon with its extra hardware and subscription.

I hesitated for years before upgrading from my ancient Sonos streamer, rejecting brands such as Linn and Naim because their apps were pretty dire. It wasn't until I tried a streamer that used BluOS that I took the upgrade plunge. Now I'm using the treamer built into my excellent NAD M33 all-in-one. I'd quite like to upgrade again now that I have speakers costing 7 times the M33 price, but I've not yet found a solution that offers anything like as good a control app as BluOS that will allow control on Windows PC as well as tablets, etc. Even with a 12K budget, I'm struggling, although I appreciate I could go down the Roon route. Recently BluOS is being licensed to other brands, so hopefully there will be more of the high end streamers taking that route. BluOS is available on all 4 common platforms, plus Kindle and even speach-recognition systems such as Amazon Alexa. It's 95% as comprehensive as Roon - and is free!. If anyone can suggest a streamer that offers as good an app as BluOS and sounds better than the NAD streamer, please let me know and I'll audition. Thanks.
Can I suggest you drop an email to Lukasz Domanski at LDMS and ask him if he can help. There are a number of us on here who have his servers in our systems and universally we regard them as being among the strongest elements in our systems. There was even a post on here by a guy who auditioned the LDMS Mini Max against the offerings from Taiko, Pachanko, Linn et al and the LDMS came out top despite being about a third the price of the most expensive examples. The reason I think it might be useful to talk to him is because he builds everything to order and is very adept at completing bespoke requests. If you want a server that can run BluOS he may well be able to help.
 

Hear Here

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Can I suggest you drop an email to Lukasz Domanski at LDMS and ask him if he can help. There are a number of us on here who have his servers in our systems and universally we regard them as being among the strongest elements in our systems. There was even a post on here by a guy who auditioned the LDMS Mini Max against the offerings from Taiko, Pachanko, Linn et al and the LDMS came out top despite being about a third the price of the most expensive examples. The reason I think it might be useful to talk to him is because he builds everything to order and is very adept at completing bespoke requests. If you want a server that can run BluOS he may well be able to help.
Thanks for the info on LDMS. I've quickly visited their site and my initial concern is that this company seems to be a "one man band" and this aways concerns me, particularly with items such as streamers that will require regular firmware and software updates to keep up with new developments. Being based in Poland, it is encouraging to see they have a UK phone number - hopefully not just a forwarding one!

I'll do a bit more research before contacting them - independant reviews and coments from users.
 

geetee1972

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Feb 12, 2021
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Thanks for the info on LDMS. I've quickly visited their site and my initial concern is that this company seems to be a "one man band" and this aways concerns me, particularly with items such as streamers that will require regular firmware and software updates to keep up with new developments. Being based in Poland, it is encouraging to see they have a UK phone number - hopefully not just a forwarding one!

I'll do a bit more research before contacting them - independant reviews and coments from users.
Ah there's no 'seems' about it, he is a one man band. He doesn't try to hide this. But the service you get from him is exemplary (almost because it's just him). I've had three firmware updates and tweaks from him since taking delivery of his server about 18 months ago, plus he's solved one running problem that arose in the configuration when I upgraded the SPDIF output to play DSD files. Lukasz is well known among those that have his servers for his exemplary support, most of which will be done with a remote login but he does frequently visit clients at their home to provide on site support.

His phone number reflects the fact that he previously lived in the UK, indeed until fairly recently. Sadly Brexit has made it exceptionally difficult for him to operate in the UK so he's moved back to Poland I believe, but he shuttles backwards and forwards regularly.

It is a risk buying from any company, especially in high end audio circles where longevity is always at risk, but then that's why companies like Linn and Naim can exist, producing pretty average products for the money they charge. You can buy a Naim NDX555 or a Link Klimax for about £30,000 or you can buy an LDMS Mini for £7k or a Maximum for £15k and have something that is either just as good if not considerably better.
 
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geetee1972

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Thanks for the info on LDMS. I've quickly visited their site and my initial concern is that this company seems to be a "one man band" and this aways concerns me, particularly with items such as streamers that will require regular firmware and software updates to keep up with new developments. Being based in Poland, it is encouraging to see they have a UK phone number - hopefully not just a forwarding one!

I'll do a bit more research before contacting them - independant reviews and coments from users.
Here is the thread dedicated to LDMS servers:

 

Hear Here

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Here is the thread dedicated to LDMS servers:

Thanks again. Their products are described as "servers" and this normally implies primarily a storage device holding digital music files. Some servers include streamers, maybe with DAC / preamp. I am only interested in a simple (?) server!
 

geetee1972

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Thanks again. Their products are described as "servers" and this normally implies primarily a storage device holding digital music files. Some servers include streamers, maybe with DAC / preamp. I am only interested in a simple (?) server!
I could be wrong about this, but then again this could also just be that the industry is in its infancy and the naming conventions haven't settled down and become universally understood, but my understanding is that the storage of media is less relevant to the box's ultimate functionality than its ability to retrieve data and then 'serve/stream' it to the DAC. In this way, 'server' and 'streamer' mean the same thing; where the data is stored is irrelevant.

My server does have in built storage, but i can just as easily connect my server to an external storage device via USB-C if I want (and indeed this is how I back it up).

I connect the server to Qobuz for both playback and download (I always buy and download the music I really like because it sounds considerably better when played from a locally stored, rather than a 'streamed' file), but whether it's 'streamed' from Qobuz into the server, or retrieved from the internal storage, it's still then streamed to the DAC - streamers and servers are ostensibly the same thing.

The magic is in how the server packages up the data and presents it to the DAC and in this sense, the functionality is the same whether that data is coming in live over the internet or from a NAS/Internal drive.
 

Hear Here

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Feb 14, 2020
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Portsmouth, UK
I could be wrong about this, but then again this could also just be that the industry is in its infancy and the naming conventions haven't settled down and become universally understood, but my understanding is that the storage of media is less relevant to the box's ultimate functionality than its ability to retrieve data and then 'serve/stream' it to the DAC. In this way, 'server' and 'streamer' mean the same thing; where the data is stored is irrelevant.

My server does have in built storage, but i can just as easily connect my server to an external storage device via USB-C if I want (and indeed this is how I back it up).

I connect the server to Qobuz for both playback and download (I always buy and download the music I really like because it sounds considerably better when played from a locally stored, rather than a 'streamed' file), but whether it's 'streamed' from Qobuz into the server, or retrieved from the internal storage, it's still then streamed to the DAC - streamers and servers are ostensibly the same thing.

The magic is in how the server packages up the data and presents it to the DAC and in this sense, the functionality is the same whether that data is coming in live over the internet or from a NAS/Internal drive.
I've just written to Lukasz explaining what I want, emphasising the need for as good and flexible a control app as BluOS. I see no need to resort to Roon as so many users of high end streamers that have poor apps seem to have to do!

After home demo'ing a couple of other devices recently, I've concluded that I want a single box that provides streaming (not serving!), DAC and preamp. This will require a single control device that can cope with choosing source of music, selecting and queing music itself, adjusting volume, etc so capable of feeding a power amp. I'll be interested in his reply.
 

geetee1972

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Feb 12, 2021
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I've just written to Lukasz explaining what I want, emphasising the need for as good and flexible a control app as BluOS. I see no need to resort to Roon as so many users of high end streamers that have poor apps seem to have to do!

After home demo'ing a couple of other devices recently, I've concluded that I want a single box that provides streaming (not serving!), DAC and preamp. This will require a single control device that can cope with choosing source of music, selecting and queing music itself, adjusting volume, etc so capable of feeding a power amp. I'll be interested in his reply.
I hope you have a good experience. He has this product in his line up - it's called the Pico and is billed as a 'streamer & DAC' solution.

Just seen you are located in Portsmouth. I'm only in Horsham. If you want to hear my LDMS Mini I would be very happy to box it up and bring it over for a demo.
 

Keith_W

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To keep things simple, to play digital audio from a file, you need three things:

- Server. The purpose of a server is to store files and send it on demand. A server can be on your computer itself where it resides on your HDD/SSD. Or it can be on a NAS on your network. Or it can be on the internet, like Tidal or Qobuz.
- Streamer. The purpose of a streamer is to provide a control point to request files from the server. The streamer might be on your computer (e.g. JRiver, Roon, Kodi, Foobar, Amarra, etc.), or on your tablet, or your phone. It might be built in to a specialized streamer device, e.g. Bluepoint, Cambridge Audio CXN, etc.
- Renderer. The renderer receives files from the streamer, or directly from the server. It decodes files into a format the DAC can understand. Some renderers have additional functions, such as DSP, convolution, VST, and so on.

Different setups might place the different functions in separate boxes. In my own system, the server, streamer, and renderer reside on the same computer. The server is my SSD with Windows OS, and an internet streaming service. The streamer and renderer is JRiver. I am currently in the process of splitting my renderer into a separate computer. This kind of approach has the disadvantage of requiring a bit of computer skill. You can decide for yourself whether you think that the computer is electrically noisy, contributes jitter, etc. which might degrade the sound. The advantage is that you can build exactly what you need, and it is more powerful and versatile than any streaming box you can buy.

I am a "traditional" audiophile in that I believe that everything matters, but it matters to different degrees. I had to do a lot of soul searching, knowing what I have to give up, and what I can potentially gain. In the end, I decided that I would tackle computer noise and jitter the best way I can, and go ahead with building a computer to do everything because what I gain will exceed what I lose.
 

Hear Here

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Feb 14, 2020
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Portsmouth, UK
I am a "traditional" audiophile in that I believe that everything matters, but it matters to different degrees. I had to do a lot of soul searching, knowing what I have to give up, and what I can potentially gain. In the end, I decided that I would tackle computer noise and jitter the best way I can, and go ahead with building a computer to do everything because what I gain will exceed what I lose.
What a complicated life you lead! ;)

I have as my server, a single box that plays CDs, rips CDs andstores digital music files

I have as my streaming services, Qobuz, Paradise Radio, TunIn and several other external digital sources

I have as my streamer, a single box with control app that selects the source from the various streaming services, my music server (labelled Library), my TV's digital output and any other sources I connect to it.

As it happens, my streamer includes a DAC, preamp and power amp within the same enclosure.

I would not countenance any general-purpose computer to do any of these jobs apart from host the control app. The signal is kept entirely within purpose-designed audio components. This to me makes sense as I'm not qualified to compete with the audio brands to attempt to do any of these jobs in a DIY sort of way, although I admire those who can.
 

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