External streamer to KEF LS50 Wireless?

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My HiFi system:

KEF LS50 Wireless

REL S3 SHO subwoofer

Cables/Interconnect: Nordost Frey 2 powercord > Quantum QB4, and Nordost Blue Heaven powercords to speakers and sub. Nordost Heimdall 2 USB and Heimdall 2 Ethernet cable between speakers.

Currently, I stream Tidal HiFi from My iMac (which is connected via WI-FI)via USB to the LS50 Wireless. My experience is, that this sounds way better than streaming directly to the speakers.

QUESTION:  Can I make the sound quality even better to get a dedicated streamer? I have been recommended Roon Nucleus via USB to speakers, But Will I expect better sound quality? Or Will a dedicated streamer via stereo interconnects to the speakers be even better, because I Will then use the DAC in the streamer instead of the LS50W internal DAC, if I have understood this right?

Kind Regards

Olle, Sweden

Answered question

Hi Ollie, you made a great choice with the KEF LS50 Wireless. KEF has set the bar pretty high with this integrated DAC+amplifier+speaker combination but other manufacturers are following their lead and we are going to see many similar products in the future.

I think you are right in thinking that you can still improve the sound quality further than with your current iMact connected over USB.  You should look at a streamer that provides a digital output and not the stereo interconnects that you mention. This is because the KEF LS50 Wireless uses an analogue to digital converter for any analogue source such as the stereo interconnects. This would mean that when streaming your source would go from digital to analogue then back to digital and analogue a second time. This is not good for sound quality. Much better to stream digitally and use the DAC in the KEFs.

The biggest inhibitor to sound quality when streaming digitally is noise/jitter added to the digital signal. Standard computers, such as your iMac, are inherently noisy which limits the sound quality available. There are product that connect between the computer and DAC to filter out some of this noise over USB and this would be your cheapest option to improve sound quality. However your best option would be a dedicated streamer with a digital output (USB or SPDIF) that still supports your Tidal streaming. My recommendation here would be the bluesound node 2i. Check online for reviews but user reports are highly impressive and future support is likely to be good.

The combination of KEF LS50 Wireless and bluesound node 2i , at this pricep point, pretty much represents the state of the art for both sound quality and convenience when streaming. Hope this help you.

Answered question


Keep in mind that the RCA analog inputs on the LS50W run through an ADC process. You’ll want to avoid that if it all possible by using a digital input, preferably USB or Ethernet.

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