One thing of which I am very wary is any firmware update that changes sound quality, unless I have the option to reverse it (while of course still benefiting from bug fixes etc that’s a firmware upgrade my bring). If I have bought something because I like the sound quality then I definitely want to have the option of accepting or rejecting any change to that sound quality! If what I have read on this forum is correct Naim does not separate out amendments to the DAC section that affect sound quality/character from firmware updates that provide bug fixes or feature updates. I am pleased to say the DAC I have is fixed and does not have firmware updates: it doesn’t need them because not having the computer section that a DAC has it does not have software bugs, nor features that need updating to work.
But of course, you can also treat a ‘streamer’ as a firmware update free DAC by simply choosing not to apply the update.
My normal policy is to not apply the firmware ‘update’ immediately, but wait for reports from early adopters before applying. It’s really pretty straightforward - your choice! Certainly in itself, not a reason to buy a separate streamer and DAC rather than a streamer/DAC combined such as those from Linn and Naim. I personally have both - a streamer/DAC combined (Linn Klimax DS/1) streamer/DAC in my maion system and a microRendu ‘streamer’ and Mytek Brooklyn+ (or Chord Hugo) DAC in my second system.
You could add to your list:
- Allo Digi One Signature (as Roon Endpoint)
Later a power supply could be added to the nDAC making the whole thing a brilliant streamer
Non upgrading a streamer is not really a viable option. As soon as the API of a relevant application-level software is changed, one is forced to upgrade or loose functionalities. It happened with Qobuz last year, it will happen with other applications over and over again.
The fact that streamers heavily rely on application-level software and thus require frequent system upgrades that can have an impact on their sound quality is indeed, for me, a very strong reason to separate DAC and front-end.
Meanwhile, I only use Raspberry Pi devices as front ends. I have never owned a Linn or a Naim streamer but I understand that Linn has a more mature software system and better support, e.g., for reverting from software upgrades.
Still, I do not see today an obvious reason for buying integrated DAC + streaming platform devices apart perhaps for convenience and, of course, the number of boxes.
The only truly valid reason for purchasing either an integrated streamer/DAC (such as those offered by Linn and Naim) or separate streaming device and DAC is that one or the other offers the best value for money and subjective sound quality at a particular price point.
Other advantages one way or the other (such as convenience and ease of installation into ones system) may be important to some, but ultimately of secondary concern (at least to me) than value for money and sound quality.
The Linn (Klimax) Renew DS/1 in my view is an item that sits pretty much towards the top end of options available at any price, let alone the target price of around 2,000 Euros. However, whether or not it definitely outperforms an ND5XS2 or NDX2 I can’t say because I have never heard either of those units. I have listened to some Naim streamers & DACs (ND5XS, nDAC, NDS and ND555). I was quite impressed by the NDS and especially by the ND555, but neither of these are remotely in the price range of the OP and even more so when you take into account the need for one or more separate power supplies.
There are actually no “truly valid reasons” but just subjective reasons, in my view.
What for me is a valid reason, does not need to be a valid reason for others and vice versa: some people care about value for money, others care about value alone or money alone.
Some people care about being at the mercy of the maintainers of niche software solutions, others do not. Everything goes. What I do very much value in solutions like GenTooPlayer is transparency: just tap “SystemInfo Software” and you get a list of the available software components together with their version number. By contrast, software solutions like those embedded in Naim, Linn, Sonore, etc. network players, are typically opaque: it is very difficult to know even which components are used, let apart their version number. I guess this fact doesn’t matter to many happy users of these products. To me, however, it matters a lot!
The Linn Klimax DS/1 Renew is a great bit of kit, and very actively supported by Linn.
Replaced in my system by Meridian 210 streamer for use with my already owned Audio Note DAC 2.1 signature (ish). Best digital I have had at home.
the only reason that I want an integrated streamer/DAC is to have only ONE box
but … I know that separated streamer and DAC are better option
maybe I can go on (Bluesound Node 2i or Mac Mini) + Chord QuTest (two LITTLE box )
don’t really know,I’m confuse
Keep calm and listen to music
I certainly wouldn’t say that a ‘separated streamer and DAC’ is necessarily the better option. In my case, the single box solution I use in my main system is ‘better’ than either of the 2 box options in my second system.
To confuse the issue even more (or maybe even to clarify it), my 2 box options in my second system are not really 2 box options at all. They are actually 4 box options.
The Sonore microRendu (the ‘streamer’) requires a separate power supply, and a good (and quite expensive one) to sound at its best. I use a Teddy Pardo 7v separate power supply. The Mytek Brooklyn+ comes with its own power supply, but improves with a better power supply. I use an SOTM Sbooster Eco linear power supply in place of the internal one. So that is 4 boxes in total.
When I use my Chord Hugo in this system, I don’t need the SOTM power supply because the Hugo is powered by internal battery. However, I do use an additional box - the Gustard U12 USB to SPDIF convertor - because the Hugo is not galvanically isolated. So again, this is a 4 box option.
These 4 box options sound pretty good, and I feel that they are pretty good value for money at their price points. However, they do not sound as good (to my ears) as my 2nd gen Linn Klimax DS/1, and they are certainly a less convenient option than the single box Klimax option.
I am sure that there are some very good 2 box options out there, but check that they are genuinely 2 box options, and that there aren’t any surprises with respect to other requirements.
Very good observations! Convenience and the number of boxes are, in my view, the strongest reasons for buying DACs with integrated streaming computers instead of separates.
Another reason is the lack of options: neither Naim nor Linn do currently offer their streaming platforms as pure transport components! This is perhaps not a big problem in the case of Linn as I understand that their streamers are quite modular and single components can be upgraded, up to a certain extent.
But, in the case of Naim, it is very short sighted: dCS, Primare, Meridian have all meanwhile made their streaming platforms available as front end for owners of legacy DACs and streamers. Naim should have done the same.
These observations suggests that the question of whether to purchase integrated DAC + streaming platforms or separates also very much depends on the specific choices at stake. While I am convinced that I can setup a system with separate PSUs for a small frontend that fits my needs and is aesthetically acceptable (the UpTone Audio JS-2 and the LPS-2.1 look actually very nice to me and a good fit for the Naim DAC), I would probably have less reservation buying an integrated DAC + streaming platform from Linn than from Naim.
It goes without saying that different people have different priorities and that the new Naim streamer are, for many users, very valid propositions.
But I would always go for a second hand DAC and for a good front-end (possibly with its additional PSUs) rather than for an integrated ND5XS2. The cost is by the way roughly the same thus, thus it really comes down to personal preferences.
The OP has mentioned that he would “really want an all-in-one” box. But also that he is open to alternative solutions. Thus, it will be fun to see what he will come up with, after all this brainstorming. No wonder he feels confused, with so many different points of view! But … he asked for suggestions didn’t he?
Just to be completely fair, since my recommendation to the OP was to potentially purchase a 2nd hand Linn (Klimax) Renew DS/1 at his price point, the upgrade path for Linn owners is not quite as comprehensive as you suggest here.
The upgrade path for Linn integrated streamer/DACs only applies to the Klimax (and Akurate models further down the price line) and is in effect a complete change of internal electronics installed in the original high quality casework. Those who choose to go down the upgrade route pay a relatively small amount (by comparison to the price of purchasing a completely new model) and for this they obtain a unit that is identical in all respects to the brand new version of the device. They also have the option (again for a relatively small amount of money) to obtain an additional streamer (called the ‘Renew’) built for them using the electronics of their old streamer and a less expensive new casework housing.
So someone with a Klimax DS/1 (or indeed a DS/2) can upgrade to the latest DS/3 model for a relatively small amount of money and in addition obtain a (Klimax) Renew DS/1 for another relatively small amount of money. This is why the Renew models exist - they are all 2nd hand, but by all accounts give a performance that is not far away from the much more expensive original Klimax model.
The result for those who purchase a (Klimax) Renew model, say on Ebay, is that for hugely less than the cost of a ‘full’ Klimax streamer, they can obtain a device that was once at the top of the Linn range of streamers.
There is one downside. Unlike the full Klimax streamers, Renew models are not upgradable. So for example, you would not be able to upgrade a (Klimax) Renew DS/1 to a DS/2 or DS/3. However, in my opinion that is offset by the ability to purchase a relatively recently ‘top of the range’ product (and a more recent design than for example the Naim NDS that was once its main competitor).
However, the Renew models are fully supported by Linn and will continue to receive software and firmware updates.
I have never heard a Bel Canto e.One Stream or any other Bel Canto device. I have heard the others and the Cambridge CNX is good value for money. The Naim ND5XS2 is very good. I would not want either the Lumin or Auralic as the kit seems over priced to me and it was very average when I heard it.
I would chose a Mac mini with a Chord DAC over any of the other suggestions made here. I have a Linn DSM and it is excellent. Linn really shines with a Katalyst DAC and accurately configured Space Optimisation V2, but for digital replay I still prefer Chord.
However, as always, only you can judge which you would be happiest with. You may even like the Lumin or Auralic: somebody must.
Without wishing to hijack this thread too much, can I ask why the Audiolab 6000N doesn’t get mentioned as much as the Cambridge or the Bluesound? A bit of snobbery perhaps.
About the same price (as the Bluesound anyway) and similar spec, but maybe (?) a better UI app.
I feel that’s the big difference for me now, having a usable app to control the Qobuz streaming, opinions on the Cambridge one and the BluOS one are mixed to say the least.
Simply because I don’t know the audiolab
2000€? for a streamer not good enough .for this price better to buy CD…very good streamers r expensive
You will not be disappointed with the Cambridge audio CXN
It is an exceptional streamer for the money
The app is good to…and it’s a good looking bit of kit
What’s not to like???
How about a brand new Sonore OpticalRendu for about £1,350, then add your preferred dac to it. This seems to work really quite well for us.
Best regards, BF
In my view, whilst a streamer may be a good substitute for CD unless you are hooked on the physical media, the reverse isn’t true! And you can get pretty good sound for €2k buying secondhand, albeit not high end - but I’m sure at least as good as from CD of similar cost.
I was learning you get exactly what you pay for…CD more lucrative… better sound
I’m not sure that I understand your post. Are you saying that a cd player is always better than a music streamer?
Thank you for clarifying, BF