Suggestions for streamers that support native streaming applications?

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New to the site. Am hoping my first ask is not too over the top…

It seems like a lot of better streamers don’t support the streaming subscription’s native applications, that you need to use another software program for the interface. Some devices do use Spotify Connect. Many suggest using Roon or some other software. I don’t have an existing digital library to integrate so Roon is sort of overkill for me. I also don’t have a DAC that does MQA. Most of my listening is CDs and LPs, I love Academy Records and Discogs. I use Spotify for music discovery. I’ve tried Tidal in the past and felt like it didn’t get me like Spotify does for recommendations. I just signed up for Qobuz. The first runs with Qobuz sound very promising! The also love the articles on Qobuz. I should add that if Spotify did CD quality streaming and figured out how to catalog classical music I probably wouldn’t be posting this…maybe.

I’d like to use the Qobuz app on an iPad and the only way to use it directly appears to be Chromecast which leaves a lot to be desired on many levels. My Apple TV is limited in that it doesn’t support 24/96 streaming. That, and I feel that I could be doing better. Or I could be all wrong here and missing something entirely…

A Bluesound Node2i could work, but then you have to use their software. I’m feeling like I should stop obsessing and that the Bluesound will get me to 80% of what I’m looking for.  A Sonore Rendu device, or Auralic Aries product, but they all seem to require a less than optimal software interface, or Roon. I looked at the very nice Innuous Zen Mini at Can Jam but I don’t need a server or a CD ripper and again, Roon or some other third part software. For budget I would like to stay around $1000. Prefer a device with an Ethernet cable.

To give you and idea of my system… Focal Aria 926 on IsoAcoustics, Wyred4Sound Power Amp, PreAmp and DAC. Cambridge Audio CD Transport and Apple TV, both through Wyred4Sound Remedy Reclocker to the DAC. Linn Basik turntable with Rega cartridge and Rega phono stage. Digital interconnects and speaker cables are Transparent. Analog interconnects are Nordost. Nothing too crazy for wire, just basic stuff.  Everything but the power amp is plugged into a Furman power bar. The power amp plugs into the wall. It’s all on a dedicated 20 amp circuit. I’ve done some work on the room and positioning and am getting very close.

Any suggestions on the best way to inject Qobuz into my system would be greatly appreciated. There no TV in the room, it’s just books and music, and I’d rather not bring a computer in there either. I’d like something that works like the iPad AppleTV combo but with much better sound quality. Not just the ability to stream 24/96 but better presentation as well.

OK, I’ll stop now…

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Cambridge Audio CXN series has a built-in Chromecast

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Don’t think you can go too wrong with the Bluesound Node.  I’ve been using Bluesound devices since 2014 and I think they are a great gateway product to streaming as it gives you lots of options at a relatively affordable price point.   You can use it either with its own internal DAC or with an outboard DAC via either coax or toslink.   You can stick with its own Blu OS, which you can get to via Apple IOS, Android, and Window devices, or use it as a Roon endpoint down the road.   And should you wish to graduate to a higher end solution in your main system down the road, there is still a good chance you would be able to find a use for it elsewhere.

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Mskrool – Oh don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for Chromecast. I’m just noting that it’s a way to get to use the Qobuz interface directly. It seems like the more you spend the more you move away from that. That Cambridge unit is nice but has way more features than I need. It has a DAC that I don’t need and analog outputs. I also don’t really need a display screen. I’d rather put the funds towards a standalone streamer. I could see that streamer being the center of a system. I’m just looking to add a streamer for Qobuz only.

Jazzman – If the Bluesound Node had Qobuz Connect and Tidal Connect I would buy it in a NYminute. I was playing with the Blu OS at Can Jam and feeling like it was not as nice as the Qobuz interface. But you’re right, if I can’t find what I’m looking for I may just get over the interface issue and go for it. I can use the Blu OS for streaming/listening and the Qobuz app interface for the articles. I’m assuming it will do way better than my Apple TV 😉 I’m not just looking for higher resolution streaming but a nicer “presentation” as well.

I’m going to give a Google Chromecast Audio (with an ethernet adapter) a shot as the cost is next to nothing, but I’m setting my expectations very low and not expecting much…

Similarly I have a MacMini that I could set up with Audirvarna and the Audirvarna remote on the iPad for the very low cost of just the software and a couple accessories. But thinking that a dedicated streamer will sound better and there is still the interface issue. I wonder how dedicated streamers compare to a Mac computer with decent audio software? I’m also completely inexperienced with using computer audio, so there is that learning curve. I feel like I am so late to the game, why bother? My love of CDs greatly involves the packaging. Having a bunch of files on a drive just kind of leaves me cold. It also seems like a lot of fussing to stream a single subscription like Qobuz. But again, I may be pretty clueless on this and I’m here to be educated.

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Welcome Jim!

There may be a very simple and inexpensive solution to your problem.  You might consider connecting your iPad directly to your DAC with a lightning to USB cable.  If you like the sound, it’s easy to source a longer cable that would reach your listening position.

You could even throw a W4S Recovery on the chain if you were so inclined.

Of course, the thrill of unboxing a lightning cable is nothing compared to some shiny new gear. 🙂

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The advantage of a dedicated streamer over an off the shelf computer, be it Mac or PC or whatever is that it has been built for purpose.  In my opinion it makes for a more elegant and much cleaner solution.   And because it has been purpose built, it will generally make for better sound quality than a general purpose device tasked with streaming which has all sorts of other extraneous things going on such that it can support all sorts of miscellaneous tasks that make for more noise and therefore less SQ.

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Jazzman – That’s sort of what I was thinking. Considering commercial digital audio has been around since at least the 70’s, it’s amazing the progress that’s been made over just the last few years. Eventually we won’t have “computers” anymore, but a series of interconnected purpose built devices.

Thanks for the welcome HH – I wonder what kind of bit rate and frequency that setup would support? I like the idea of adding a Recovery. I am a big fan of my Remedy. It was one of the first upgrades I put into place in an old system, it’s still in place, and it’s convinced me that digital is more than just bits.

Your suggestion also got me to thinking about another way to do this. When I was having my apartment remodeled the system was packed away. I lived for a few months with a friend’s Firefly and my Nighthawks connected to my phone. Granted I was listening to Spotify but for a speaker guy like myself I was pretty happy. Of course the Nighthawks aren’t really headphones…I wouldn’t mind having my own Firefly and I could just use it and a decent Audioquest mini to RCA cable to go into the analog input of my preamp. I’m not adverse to having a remote control with a wire…

I’m just wondering how it would play out in a system with floorstanding speakers. I also wouldn’t be adverse to figuring out how to get SPIDF or Toslink out of the iPad so I could go into one of the inputs of my W4S Remedy. Of course all of these solutions would require a router upgrade because there would be no Ethernet cable.

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Hi Jim,

Wired remotes are the new vinyl. There’s a tactile experience of tripping over cords that wireless remotes will never be able to duplicate, and a warmth to those skinned knees that just can’t be felt any other way.

A wired digital connection would not restrict the signal from the Qobuz app on your iPad to your DAC. A wireless transfer would. So, if you wanted to continue using the Qobuz app on your iPad, wired would provide better sound quality than using Bluetooth or airplay to send the signal from your iPad to your system. I don’t believe iPads have an optical out built in to their 3.5mm headphone output, but that might be something to look in to.

As Jazzman mentioned, a dedicated streamer would provide better sound quality than any option listed above, but it may require you to use their proprietary software (or Roon) to maintain the integrity of the signal.

I know you said you weren’t interested in Roon, but this scenario is one big benefit of the software. After installing the Roon core on your computer (or buying a streamer with the Roon core built in), you can install the Roon remote on your iPad. The remote gives you the wireless functionality you’re after, and it works by triggering the Roon core to cue a song, which handles all of the the downloading and transmission of data. That’s how I control Frankenstein. I use a MacBook Pro as the Roon core, which is connected via USB to a Recovery and then a Mojo, which feeds the system. All of that is enclosed in a closet, and I use the Roon remote app on an iPad to control playback. It works well. No messy wires in the listening room, and no skinned knees.

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Hmmm. That’s got me thinking of the Mac Mini again. It was the last server model they made and has two 1TB drives and 16GB of ram. It’s been in use constantly as a low traffic small office server for some time but is still in good shape. I could install the Roon core on it and the remote on the iPad. (I was thinking of installing Qobuz desktop on the Mini and using Duet on the mini and the iPad as a wired remote solution, but Duet only supports a dual display setup with the iPad as a secondary display. There’s another wireless solution with a dongle but I can’t remember off the top of my head. It might support headless operation of the mini with the iPad as primary display. Not sure…)

I get the Roon thing, sort of. If we think of all these devices as computers (they are) Roon is the defacto operating system, sort of Windows for music. It allows manufacturers to focus on hardware without having to devote time to developing software for their hardware or to point to some third party app that may or may not work down the road. It centralizes software development. Which is also the potential downside. Software is so dynamic now, apps come and go, are we going to look at Roon several years from now and find that there was no reason to get a lifetime subscription? In terms of cost it’s a bargain compared to what I pay for software subscriptions to keep my business in operation, which sometimes feels like a straight jacket. Since the Mini is essentially free I could put the money in the Roon software now and later down the road that expense is covered when I pick up another streamer. I would also have a place to park some files locally if I wanted to or add a CD drive to rip some files. Oh, look, another rabbit hole…

So newbie question, if I go down Roon Road do I still install Audirvarna to get better sound quality out of the Mac, or does Roon take care of that?

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Hi Jim

I’m a Bluesound Node 2 user and can give a +1 to Jazzman’s recommendation. It’s the only dedicated streamer I’ve ever owned, so I can’t give you breadth of experience, but I find the BluOS app to be -mostly – excellent.

It falls short on exactly the things you call out: better integration to Tidal and Qobuz. It means I spend some time flitting between the BluOS app and the native Tidal and Qobuz apps, especially when searching for recommendations and trying to identify HiRes albums on Qobuz.

I suspect that integration improvements may be on Bluesound’s road map. Certainly in the time I’ve owned the Node (just over two years) the app has been updated several times.

A big plus for the Node is its versatility. Streaming from radio, streaming from a networked server (in my case laptop), playing from USB drives, playing from Bluetooth – it’s all super-easy.

I did add an external DAC to improve performance (it did) but I see that your existing pre-amp/DAC combo will handle that for you.

Hope that’s useful.

Dan

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Thanks Dan – Good to hear what owners of the Node think, especially about the software. The one thing I do like about the BluOs is the dark background, because I do a lot of listening in the dark. Wishing that is one change Qobuz would make. The device itself checks off a lot on my list for a very reasonable price.

I’ve also seen that there are a some devices, USB to SPDIF converters that support direct connection to the iPad thrugh the camera connection kit. I could then run the SPDIF right through my reclocker and on to the DAC. The Shiit is $179. I also think Wyred4Sound has one. I’m just wondering how a direct digital connection compares in sound quality to a dedicated streamer, especially in regards to presentation.

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Jim,

It sounds like you’re open to exploring the Mac/Roon combo.  If so, I suggest you take advantage of the 14 day free trial and try it out with your Qobuz subscription.  If anything, it’ll give you a point of reference for the sound quality and user experience you can expect from that combination, and give you some perspective on what to look for when selecting a dedicated streamer.

Here are a couple of links that were useful to me when I was getting set up:

https://kb.roonlabs.com/FAQ:_What_are_the_minimum_requirements%3F

https://kb.roonlabs.com/Roon_User_Guide#Getting_Started

PS – I hear you on the straightjacket of software subscriptions.  Adobe takes it’s pound of flesh from my business every month.

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I could certainly try it out. Thanks for the links. There are a lot of great options presented in this thread…

I’m going to order a W4S Recovery to use when trying to connect the iPad to the DAC through USB. I’ve read online that the iPad lightning port supports 24/96 and higher. The question is does the iPad Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter support 24/96? The Belkin equivalent does not, but it does support 24/44 (?), so I should get at least CD quality. The adapter could be a bottleneck. I’ve checked with Apple and they don’t have that level of documentation for the part. The Recovery will help, and I could always use it with the Mini or another streamer. I’m definitely going to have to get a better router for the direct connection method, which is not a bad thing.

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Jim,

By my understanding, the Apple camera adapter does not contain any circuitry that would alter the signal sent from Qobuz.  I use that adapter with my iPhone and Firefly or Mojo DACs and have no issues with high bitrate files being limited by the adapter.

Enjoy the Recovery, I know I enjoy mine.

By the way, Audirvana would not be required if you’re using Roon.

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Good to hear because I just ordered everything!

I have to look at those Roon links. Someone was just telling me today that Roon on the 12” iPad is really great…

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Hello Jim,

not sure if already on your radar but allo and SOtM would also have streamers that would fit your requirements.

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I’ve been reading a little about the Raspberry pi stuff like the Allo and it’s very interesting. That little SOtM unit looks very cool. I have to take a closer look.

Right now I’m going to go ahead with connecting the iPad directly to the USB input of my DAC using the camera connection adapter, a decent USB cable and the W4S Recovery. That way I can fire up Qobuz (or any app for that matter) and go. I’m going to make the assumption that this is going to be better than the Apple TV I’m currently using. I figure down the road I could use the Cable and the Recovery for a computer, or more likely a dedicated streamer with a USB port and Ethernet.

I’m shopping around for a good router. The Netgear seems to be highly regarded for streaming. The ASUS also for a couple less bills…I really am challenged when it comes to networking technology. I’d like to pick something up south of $300.

I’m also interested in experiencing the difference between the sound quality provided by the direct connection vs. that provided by a decent dedicated streamer. In terms of the quality of presentation – soundstage, imaging, dynamics, etc. I do believe that transports make a difference. This may be simplistic but I tend to think of transports/streamers>DACs are similar to phono cartridges>turntables/phono stages.

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HH

Thanks for the recommendation. The direct connection of the iPad via USB to my W4S DAC using a W4S Recovery works very well. I’m streaming Qobuz 24/96 files through the system and they sound very good. This is above and beyond the Apple TV setup. This is still using my old crappy router and modem and a 60mbps connection. No stuttering…still need to improve router and service…

I had been listening to the new Jeremy Denk CD c.1300-c.2000 all week. I streamed the 24/96 version and in a nutshell could say the piano sounded subtly more grounded in the room and the piano felt more of a piece than when listening to the CD. So perhaps more coherence?

Then I listened to a new release of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with Jaap van Zweden conducting The New York Philharmonic. This sort of dense orchestral music really seemed to benefit from a 24/96 stream. I felt like I could go to the stage and crawl around among the players and the instruments. Now my favorite performance and recording of this work is Boulez conducting the Cleveland Orchestra on DG. I did a back and forth comparison with the 16/44 Qobuz stream of that. It’s a tough call because I have an emotional attachment to Boulez conducting this work. Zweden’s conducting and performance of Debussy’s LaMer at the end of the recording was just really really fantastic. I laid back on my sofa with that lovely watery feeling running all through my body.

After that an Erato release (24/96) of Bach’s complete works for Organ played by Marie-Claire Alain. The detail articulating all the individual notes and stops was amazing. I listen to a LOT of live organ concerts. I trotted off to bed with the music playing, to wake up this morning with it still going…

To be able to hear these nuances and differences, well this rarely happened with my Apple TV and Spotify, that’s for sure. I can still appreciate all that those things did for me (thanking them Marie Kondo style…) but for me right now this has upped my streaming to quite another level. It’s puts it on par with my CD and vinyl playback. The big plus is I can deal directly with the native Qobuz interface. It cost very little to implement, so I can set aside the rest of the budget for when a streamer comes along that does what I want. With this direct connection method sounding so good I’m kind of left wondering what a dedicated streamer would bring to the table. ::ducks::

One thing that I did notice is that I seemed to prefer the sound when the AC adapter was not connected to the iPad, so it’s running on battery. To conserve battery I only have the Qobuz app running and after making my selection I turn the screen off to black. This stops me from bouncing around selections like a heretic. Which also seems to be an advantage of the cable connection. I still can still have it near my listening spot, but it keeps me from holding it in my hand like some magic talisman.

So again, thanks for the suggestion! I’m pretty sure now that my question is answered.

ETA Tonight electronic and jazz…

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So now that my system is being fed a nutritional diet of Qobuz it’s as if everything sounds better, including CDs, LPs and Spotify as well. Now I know this has got to be psychological, but it makes sense, sort of. If you are learning to do something and someone gives you a better hand tool to learn that task with you are going to get better at it faster. Even if you return to the tool that was not quite as good you will have developed the muscle memory from using the better tool and will now do a better job than before, even with the previous tool.

So does hi-resolution audio make for better listeners? Is it educational? I’m thinking so.

Of course I know that resolution is only part of the picture here. Right now it’s hard for me to listen past the newness of the 24/96 streams. (I have never fed my system this type of source before.) So perhaps I might be overlooking some shortcomings of the direct iPad to USB connection. Considering the simplicity of it, it’s pretty amazing.

I’m still wondering now how much improvement I will get with an Ethernet connected device like a Mac with some decent audio software. I pretty much have the stuff to do this, I just have to schedule the time. The only way I will find out is to just try it myself and learn something. 😉 I’m also guessing that better streamers will provide better sound. That’s for another day…

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Found out a bit more about connecting an iPhone or iPad directly to a DAC using USB. The old Apple lightning to USB camera connection adapter was not USB3, which might explain the erratic performance some reported using that older adapter. The current one, with the additional lightning charging port is USB 3, also allowing you to charge the device while using a USB cable. Still, I think it sounds better with the iPad on battery power.

For the new iPads with the USB C connector you could use the a bulky USB C to USB A adapter, which should be USB3. You would not be able to charge the device while using it. I haven’t tried this yet because I don’t have a USB C iPad. I’m also guessing that you might be able to just use a USB C to USB B cable, eliminating the clunky adapter. I’m guessing that this type of cable will become more common, and recall seeing some made by Audioquest.

If this is old news and I’m posting the obvious, forgive me…by mistake I posted this in another thread. I really should get some coffee…

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