Importance of Streaming Transport Quality?

I plan to run a Supernait 3 with a very good Burson Composer 3XP DAC connected via Toslink to an $80 WiiM Mini wireless streamer. I am aware of the fact that there are dedicated streamers (i.e. without internal DACs) that are crazy expensive, but given that I am using an external DAC and that streams via the WiiM’s Toslink out are rendered bit-perfect, what am I giving up in terms of sound quality by using the WiiM? It seems strange to use a dirt cheap streamer as part of a reasonably expensive set-up, but I am not sure what more I would need.


No such thing as a free lunch I’m afraid, regardless of “bits are bits”.

For what it’s worth I’ve both a WiiM Pro and a Mini and the Pro is quite a bit better for the minimal extra outlay.

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Aside from having a modestly better DAC (which I don’t need) and (I think) Chromecast, isn’t the Pro essentially the same thing? In other words, as a pure streamer, is there any difference?

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The streaming board is different and the Pro sounds better. I have had both some time now.

Google will reveal similar findings but obviously you might not think it worthwhile. They are after all beer(ish) money.

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The vital importance of the transport was brought home to me when I recently upgraded my Melco N100/Plixir PSU (£2.5K) to a Melco N50-S38. (£5K). Absolutely vast improvement in musical communication and sound. No contest - it literally destroys the cheaper set-up.

Don’t pay any heed to those who tell you that it’s only the DAC that matters and you may as well play your files from a laptop or MacMini as it won’t affect the sound. Just listen for yourself if you want to know the truth.


I have a wiim pro that I use for streaming spotify for my partner and a zenith 3 I use for all other streaming. Both are connected to a Chord Dave. I once listened to qubuz accidentally via the wiim and was convinced something was faulty. I also have a cd transport connected to the Dave and that too sounds veey different. The transport makes a difference always

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I think the audible effect of different qualities of streaming transport will depend very much on the streamer or DAC being fed. If the thing is working properly and delivering the digital stream correctly (bit perfectly) then what will be making an audible difference will be factors such as superimposed RF noise, or ground plane modulation by RF, and the susceptibility of different streamers or DAC to such factors, and so the effect on the analog audio output, can vary very considerably.

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No doubt that these factors are relevant. But I think it’s an over-simplification to say that as long as the data stream is bit-perfect then that’s OK. I’m not an IT or digital engineer so not qualified to talk authoritatively here but from what I’ve read from those that are qualified to talk with authority there are other very pertinent factors such as jitter and so on that can and do have a profound effect on performance. In the IT world where we are just considering transfer of data (not music) then bit perfect may well be all that is required to maintain data integrity. But in the hi-fi world we are dealing with complex and delicate musical information where timing must be accurately maintained. As I understand it factors such as jitter can disrupt the integrity of timing information so that although the data stream will be bit perfect it won’t translate into accurate musical information. I’m sure that all CD and digital transports these days have no difficulty at all in outputting bit perfect data streams but they certainly don’t all have the same musical performance.

Whilst different DACs or streamers will vary in the way they interact with transports I think the final performance will depend greatly on the quality of the transport in the way it maintains the integrity of the musical data. No matter how protected your DAC is from the effects of RF I would be extremely surprised if something like a MacMini would even come close to the performance of even the entry-level Melco.

The Melcos (and other hi-fi digital transports/servers) are designed from the ground up to perform one task only - to optimise audio performance. They are not just a standard general use computer in a fancy hi-fi box which is how some people like to think of them.

But let your ears decide.

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You and IB have the same dac . Maybe the dac isolation of the Dave vary with production, one is immune to transport quality, another one not.

That is not what I said. It has to be bit perfect (or it is not accurate in the first place), and, to my mind*, free from “contamination” by anything (most likely RF) that might adversely affect conversion to an analog signal that is faithful to the recording, or otherwise what it goes through/to must either be immune of capable of effective removal/blocking of the contamination.

*I do note, however, that as an example ground plane modulation if a DAC by RF can cause the audio to sound “brighter”, which some people may find preferable even though it is not a faithful reproduction of the recording.

Well it did, though only with a short comparison. N.B. neither involved sending the music across a network.

I am absolutely not saying better is not possible, though whether the real difference an alternative transport would provide (real as opposed to the superlative-ridden language common to the forum) would be good value for money, or more so than spending the money on other possible changes, is a significant question, only known to those who experience. But my original point was simply that the effect of different transports will be different with different DACs or streamers, snd a vast difference with one may be negligible with another. And the moment you start streaming across a network, you add in other variables, including everything connected to the network and even the electromagnetic environment in which it sits, making even greater variability between systems.

As I said the Melco N50-S38 is head and shoulders above my previous N100/Plixir. Like a full spec. LP12 to a Rega 3 for those who remember. This into a Chord Qutest. But yes it’s also twice the price and obviously very substantially more than a MacMini.

I find it hard to believe that something like a Melco N50-S38 would not be very substantially better then a MacMini whatever DAC it was feeding. The DAC cannot make up for shortcomings in the transport, however immune it may be to RF and the like. It’s the ‘source first’ principle in action. Note ‘source first’ - not ‘source only and nothing else matters very much’.

Streaming acoss a network is fraught with potential problems which is why I opted for a player/DAC approach.

So likewise I’m not saying that a MacMini or a laptop into a Dave can’t be entirely satisfactory, just as I have heard a Rega 3 produce entirely satisfactory results into a Naim 42/110/Kans. Indeed I lived with this for a while. But step up the source to something more capable and the improvement is obvious.

Quite so. As I said before, "let your ears decide’. In my system, and using my ears, after hearing the Melco N50-S38 compared to the out-going N100/Plixir, it is impossible for me to refute the ‘source first’ principle. I don’t believe those improvements could have been obtained by spending money anywhere else in my system, however much I spent. If I had around £12K to spend my next upgrade would be to a Melco N1. I don’t.

If only! I’m afraid I have to get by with a Chord Qutest. Still excellent though and incredible VFM.

My bad, I confounded with @dayjay .

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If i had 20k to spare i would be buying an innuos statement next gen I think although I would love to hear a hifi Rose Rs130 into Dave too


I bought an Ifi Zen Stream with the Ifi Elite power supply to replace the 272 streamer, very important update… Since then I replaced 272 but kept the Ifi!
The Ifi has an exceptional value for money…

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But not into a Dave. (I at least compared a Melco with MM, albeit only the base level one.

What shortcomings exactly? (I am by no means claiming dedicated Mac Mini with optimised Audirvana is perfect, but I want to know what shortcomings it has and what difference they make to sound specifically when paired with Dave.

My understanding is that RF may be the biggest cause of degraded performance in a DAC, and DACs (also streamers) vary considerably in their rejection and/or susceptibility, so the effect of the transport on the sound will vary considerably according to the DAC with which it is paired, and in many cases a much better transport may be needed to make up for DAC’s limitations, but the benefits of said transport nay be very considerably less with another DAC not needing the same degree of blocking etc.

But you haven’t tried, so simply belief.

As for source first, it is an approach, but not a principle. Speaker is most important in my experience, provided amp is good enough to drive adequately and not wallow, and provided source is half decent - and source in digital is primarily focussed on the DAC

I was tempted by the Zen Stream when it came out, but have been deterred by the huge number of reviews that refer to buggy software, connection problems and dropouts. I take it your experience has been different? Would love to find a reasonably priced (sub-$1000) WiFi streaming transport that does a better job than WiiM and works with Roon, AirPlay etc without being dependent on a proprietary app.

No bugs, with the latest update it works perfectly. I use it with Qobuz and Mconnect and RJ45.

That was my server setup for a few years (feeding an NDS via UPnP).

Recently replaced the MM with an Innuos Zen 3 and was surprised by the jump in SQ.

With so much focus in the streaming world on removing extraneous noise (switches, filters, cables etc.), surely it’s preferable to keep components that haven’t been optimised for low noise (PCs, Macs etc.) out of the signal chain?