Hi-Res Streaming Hardware/Software Options/Requirements

Hi,

I had a Sonos Connect feeding a Musical Fidelity M1 DAC. I’ve ripped all my CDs to 44.1 to a NAS that was connected wirelessly to the Sonos; I also use Deezer which streams 44.1 audio. Control of the Sonos was via an app on my iPad–so no computer involved.

The Sonos stopped working and I’m now exploring alternatives. I still have all my CDs as well as 50-60 hybrid SACDs where the CD layer has been ripped also. I’d like to explore hi-res downloads and forego using a CD player altogether. I know there are ways to rip the SACDs so I’m trying to navigate my way through the hardware/software requirements needed in order to stream hi-res (either up to 192 Hz or DSD) files.

My computer is an older MAC running High Sierra. I can connect the the M1 DAC to the MAC via a USB or optical connection. The DAC will process signals as high as 192 Hz, however the MAC’s midi controls limit the output from the MAC to 96 Hz/24-bit. Interestingly, I have a 3rd part app called Boom which lists output resolution up to 176 Hz and 192 Hz–I believe, however, that the Boom app would be processing a hi-res file and sending it to the analog output.

So, I’m left trying to figure out the options between a computer-based approach vs. a combination of a streaming ‘transport’, so to speak, and outboard DAC that will stream hi-res PCM and possibly DSD. If possible this would mirror the NAS/Sonos/M1 DAC model. As and example, I believe the Bluesound Node 2i will stream hi-res PCM but not DSD. I could live without the DSD, but I’m thinking I might as well try to end up with a DSD capable system.

The first question, then, is whether there are hardware options that will stream hi-res PCM and DSD from a NAS to a DSD dac controllable with an iPad app. Teac, Bryston and some others seem to offer that kind of product but I don’t find their literature to be abundantly clear on those points.

In the event the above option is not available I’m assuming I would need to use a computer to stream from the NAS to a hi-res DSD dac. The second question then, is whether I can stream resolutions above 96 Hz (including DSD) from my MAC. I know their are software options such as Audivana, Roon and others, however I have not been able to locate information that specifically states that those products will stream above the apparent 96 Hz limitation imposed by my older MAC (I have come across some information suggesting newer MACs will output up to 192 Hz, but that doesn’t really answer whether software will accomplish the same thing where the apparent limit might be 96 Hz).

What is seem to boil down to is that I can’t find specific information confirming that a hardware solution exists, and excluding that option, what software/hardware combinations will guarantee the ability to stream DSD and/or resolutions above 96 Hz.

Any thoughts on this appreciated. Thanks in advance.

John

With Asset or MinimServer on your Nas (assuming it’s up to it) a Naim ND5XS2 would do it all. No need for the Dac.

The are many options. It depends on how much you are willing to spend and/or how much you like to tinker with solutions.

What make/model NAS do you have and how old is it?

The Do It Yourself tinker options could be a Raspberry Pi as a streamer with Gentooplayer, or one of the many alternative HiFi capable distributions, mounting your NAS for files and an output over USB to for instance a Chord Qutest DAC. Or instead of Chord one the the other DAC options out there.

A Naim based solution would be a Naim streamer, anything from an Atom to a ND555 and feeding that Naim with a UPnP server on your Mac, like Audirvana, or on your Nas, like Asset or Minim.

There are so many streamers out there. Most of them have the same basic architecture:

  • A streaming board to process Tidal, Spotify, Qobuz, etc.
  • A DAC to process the music streams
  • Connectivity to play local files through UPnP or an USB interface.

Just look at the specs if they can process DSD files and to what bitrate.

Optical connections are officially limited to a maximum of 24/96, so that may be where the limitation is on your Mac. If you want to continue using it for audio, you probably need to use USB.
Have a look at Audirvana, it’s a great bit of software for playing music from a computer. (Or buy a streamer.)

It is not true anymore, it used to be a constraint imposed by the MacOS, but now you can go up to 192/24.

It’s a limitation of the Toslink standard, but not a hard and fast limit as such, just that the hardware’s ability to support anything above 24/96 is borderline, so that’s the limit they quoted despite 24/192 sometimes working for some people. Even if the Mac can handle it, the cable or the receiving hardware may not, so I’m suggesting that for the OP, a USB or network connection might be a better option.

Definitely not a problem when I play 192/24 from a MM to a Chord Hugo using the stock optical cable that comes with device itself.

Unfortunatley the ND5XS2 is out of my price range. I’m probably more in the $1K - $1.5k range.

My Mac is connected to the M1 dac via usb. I tried an optical cable and in either case the midi settings in the Mac are limited to 96/24. I’m assuming it’s the Mac that has the limitation, I just don’t know whether the age/hardware or OS might be the problem. I don’t have any hi-res files to test with. I suppose I could buy a 176 Hz or 192 Hz file and see what happens. Before I spend, I’m wondering if something like Roon or Audirvana would stream a file with a resolution higher than 96/24 despite the Mac’s apparent ceiling of 96/24. Or maybe I have it all wrong.

My first thought is that 24/96 files can sound better than regular 16/44, but beyond that, I’m not convinced that 24/192 is really a noticeable improvement, and chasing ever higher numbers is not particularly worthwhile from what I have heard in my own system. However, if you want to try it, you certainly can, and running Audirvana or Roon on your Mac could be a good way to try it. (Note that Roon really needs to run on an SSD, so if your Mac has a spinning hard drive it may not work well.)

I’m using a pedestrian WD MyCloud HD right now. I also have a WD DL2100 Raid NAS that is a bit more robust that I could use.

I don’t have any interest in the DIY approach–I just don’t want delve into that. The NAS–> Sonos–> DAC worked very well with 44.1 PCM. I’m sure there are better devices, but as a source/transport alternative it was convenient and seemless–everything controlled via an iPad. That configuration would be my first option expanded, however, to accommodate hi-res PCM and possibly DSD. The Sonos was limited to streaming 44.1 PCM.

Computer based is an option. I have the computer and a DAC that will accommodate resolutions up to 192/24. I could begin experimenting with that approach immediately, (while I research another streamer/dac configuration) I just can’t figure out whether the computer hardware will do better than 96/24. HDtracks and others sellers often have multiple resolutions available. Aside from any question whether resolutions above 96 Hz are worth purchasing I’d like to know the capabilities of my computer and any associated software. Most of my research leads to loose ends and nothing definitive.

I’m not necessarily sold on the 24/192. But I’m interested in determining what my upper limits might be. After that I imagine it would be a matter of listening in order to judge whether the higher resolution files are worth the extra money. Frankly, some SACDs I have sound superior to their PCM counterparts while other SACDs seem to be no better.

I think Sonos is very good in providing a robust, stable platform which is user friendly. It’s just that the sound quality isn’t as good as it could be, although I don’t think the lack of hires support is entirely to blame for that.
I think you should look at a better, tried and tested storage solution that your WD NAS. If you want to stream over a network, that would be a Stnology or QNAP NAS running Asset or Minimserver.
If you want to completely avoid getting your hands dirty, I would look at an Innuos Zen Mini. This will give you access to Roon, Tidal, Qobuz etc. as well as ripping and storing CDs and downloads. It will connect to a streamer over your network, or to a DAC via USB or SPDIF.

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I use a Mac Mini running Audirvana as my store and renderer. Audirvana fully optimised and set up with a dedicated USB bus output to the DAC can be very good indeed - though if the DAC is susceptible to RF it is essential to block it. When I used Hugo DAC, which I found was significantly compromised by RF, a Gustard U12 isolator/converter did the job admirably. Dave DAC is fine fed direct by USB. I did a brief comparison of my MM/A with the Melco N1A, into Dave, with no immediately obvious difference in sound quality.

The MM has advantages over some other Macs in being able to be set up headless, with no monitor or keyboard, dedicated doing nothing else, and is small and unobtrusive - I treat it like a bit of hifi kit, and it can be turned on and off in the same way.

Audirvana is great as a renderer, which is how I use it: some people say it has compatibility problems if used as a UPnP server - but that to me is doing away with its great strength as a renderer. In terms of library functions with one’s own stored music, it is not great if metadata is incomplete or inaccurate, though being a computer there is a workaround (and N.B. I found Roon worse). It can stream from Quobuz, Tidal and HiResAudio, and can do first MQA unfold on Tidal if wanted.

A dedicated audio equivalent such as those from Melco or Innuos etc, might be better - other than my brief comparison with Melco N1A I haven’t compared - but if you have a Mac already that is a very easy way to start, and whilst I can’t vouch for the sound quality from other Macs the MM used in the way I use it is pretty good. Set up optimally Audirvana bypasses the Mac’s audio circuitry and drivers, so it is not limited by the Mac’s own audio resolution limit.

It is easy to test, you can download music at all bitrates here: http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html?

You can connect your DAC over USB if it supports that and try what bitrates work and which do not.

Well, I learned something about the M1 DAC: it only accepts sample rates above 24/96 from its coaxial or balanced inputs–usb and optical max out at 96 Hz.

I downloaded some test files from http://www.2l.no/hires/index.html and was able to watch the indicator lights change from 44.1 to 96 Hz when played through a trial version of Audirvana. When I played the 192 Hz file the 96 Hz light went on. I checked the Audirvana settings but was unable to find anything relating to the selection of resolutions. The manual is silent as to the maximum resolution handled by the usb and optical inputs but I stumbled on a couple of reviews that noted the usb and optical limitations. 96 Hz and 88.2 Hz played from Audirvana files were correctly recognized by the dac. So, things appear to be working within the applicable specs.

I wouldn’t get too hung up on music that exceeds 24 bit / 96KHz. A lot of people on this forum report that the jump from cd quality to 24/96 is noticeable (in varying degrees), but that the difference between 96 kHz or 192 kHz is hardly noticeable (for the same album master of course).

DSD is a different beast altogether.

The 2L samples are great to figure out how much that matters to you.

You could upgrade your old connect for the new port at a 30% discount (via the Sonos website). I think Sonos may be introducing hi res soon.
I did the upgrade and the port works well in my system. I mostly listen to Napster and Amazon and my ripped cds via the port.

I have looked into that; right now the top limit appears to be 24/48. I read that Sonos were going to increase the sample rate handling but there doesn’t appear to be any solid information as to whether or when that might actually take place. I assume they would implement a 24/96 capability.

Based on other posts, I’d likely not worry too much about extreme hi-res files. I did see however that the Rolling Stones catalogue is available in DSD, 24/176 Hz and 24/88.2 Hz. The Doors catalogue, for example, is also available in multiple formats: DSD, 24/196 and 24/96. I have most of the Stones 2002 SACDs which, to me, sound better than the 44.1 versions I’ve heard. I could by an Oppo and rip my SACDs, (I’ve ripped the 44.1 layers) but then the Sonos wouldn’t do the job. I wouldn’t necessarily be rushing online to replace my classic rock cd’s but the offerings tend to vary. Yo-Yo Ma, for example, has a new version of Bach’s Cello Suites that are available in the 24/96 format. If Sonos offered a 24/96 product I’d be tempted to go that route. I checked out Bluesound, but they don’t offer a software based balance control as do Sonos. My amplifiers don’t have balance controls and I don’t tend to sit centered between my speakers. So the software balance control is convenient despite any drawbacks arising from the fact that it’s digital.

One thing I don’t really understand is why the “transport” side of steaming makes that much difference. For example my Sonos output 44.1 to my dac. Wouldn’t the dac then be the component that ultimately determined the sound? I’ve read the opinions that the steaming component matters but I don’t really get it if it’s just ones and zeros being fed to the dac. Maybe it does matter, but as with a lot of audio related products, I think one can quickly approach the diminishing returns realm which, in my case, is limited by my budget. I’m also not sure that every difference I hear these day constitute “must have” sonics.

It is about the introduction of jitter before the signal is in the final conversion of digital format to analogue format. See more: https://www.grimmaudio.com/publications/the-pure-nyquist-filters-of-the-mu1/