Pros: Small footprint - lively end engaging overall signature - massive soundstage
Cons: Design is bland - not as good price to performance ratio as HRT MS II
It’s only every once in a while you come across a product that serves a simple need but does it exceedingly well. The HRT Music Streamer II+ is that product. It manages to retain one of the smallest (yet capable) footprints for a USB DAC on the market and is fully capable of operating at 24/96. Not only that, but the HRT Music Streamer II+ has some of the most lively and musical sonics that I have yet to hear at this price point. So, without any further ado, let’s dive deeper and see what this DAC is all about.
I’m going to try and not point this out as much as I possibly can, but the HRT Music Streamer II+ has a design scheme that’s perfect for a desktop USB DAC. While a lot of people seem to prefer big, hunky, and clunky desktop DAC’s like I do, there’s also a vast majority that want a DAC that’s small, out of the way, and does a great job at what it’s supposed to do, and the Music Streamer II+ fills that need perfectly. It’s only about as long as a regular human hand, and the girth is just over an inch, so it’s quite a small DAC. The oval design sits neatly on any desk or table, and despite being quite bland when it comes to the actual profile, it certainly looks better than a lot of overdone DAC’s that are available.
Since the HRT Music Streamer II+ is strictly a USB DAC, you aren’t going to find a lot of inputs and outputs like the DACMagic has. The front features a single USB in port, coupled with 6 LED’s portraying the sampling rate you currently have engaged (16/44.1 all the way up to 24/96). On the back, a set of RCA inputs for hooking up to a desktop headphone amplifier or a pair of speaker amplifiers. So, this may not seem like a very exciting product when it comes to accessibility, but that’s not what the Music Streamer II+ was made for, and the sound makes up for the lack of operations.
The Music Streamer II+ is one of the most impressive and musical amps I’ve ever heard when it comes to pure sonics. While I still think that the little brother to the Music Streamer II+, the II edition, is a better value than the II+, it still can’t compete with the sound quality. After testing the Music Streamer II+ with a number of different amps and DAC’s (Schiit Audio Valhalla & Burson Audio HA-160DS to name two) I’m fully confident that it may be one of the best DAC’s under $400.
Sonically, the Music Streamer II+ comes off on a very neutral vibe, with slight attenuation into the higher octaves and a rather large soundstage experience. However, that’s just in a nutshell, as the Music Streamer II+ deserves so much more than a quick summary. Up top, the treble is definitely prominent, but not overly bright or harsh. It’s slightly lively, but still manages to retain enough smoothness without any peaks or edge. There is a slight bit of grain (across the whole spectrum) up top, but the treble still seems to be pretty crystal clear as an overall. Take the Sennhesier HD650 and pair it with almost any amp and this specific DAC. Remember that horrible treble veil? Yep, it’s gone and completely nonexistent.
The midrange is generally smooth, but has a slight pronunciation when it comes to vocality and acoustics. You'd think that the HD650’s vocals would still feature that lush, rich vocality and midrange, but that’s not entirely the case. You see, once you insert the Music Streamer II+ into the occasion, the HD650 opens up, and the midrange becomes more lively, with more resolution and a lot more forward vocals. Still lush and smooth, but slightly better clarity and definitely more prominent.
Down low, the Music Streamer II+ has a slightly different signature than the rest of the spectrum. While it still has that lively and open feeling universally, the bass down low takes on a whole new level of refinement. The HD650 has some of the most powerful bass I’ve heard when amped properly, but sometimes can come off as grainy, muddy, and very slow. Yet again, the Music Streamer II+ fixes that issue. Not only is the bass speed increased dramatically, but the dynamic punch is taken up a notch, and the coloration (this may be both a good and bad characteristic) is spread more widely throughout the spectrum, making for a more enjoyable experience.
On a final note, I’d like to discuss a little bit about the soundstage capabilities of the Music Streamer II+, as it seems to be just as deserving of an overview as anything else. On the Sennhesier HD650, people seem to complain a lot about the HD650’s small and slightly closed soundstage, and frankly, I have to agree. Unless you have a proper setup, the HD650’s sound lifeless, very closed in, and rather boring. The Music Streamer II+ adds yet another layer to the already awesome cake when it comes to soundstage. Width, depth, and layering are all improved, and everything seems to take on a more 3D type effect. The depth on the Music Streamer II+ is absolutely incredible, with vocals and acoustics being quite life like. Not as good as something like the LCD-2, but very good nonetheless.
As you can obviously tell, I really am enjoying the features of the Music Streamer II+ and it’s sonic capabilities. What it boils down to, however, is the price to performance ratio, and this is where I think the Music Streamer falls short to it’s younger brother. The Music Streamer II has a lot of what the plus version offers, just less resolved with a slightly smaller soundstage, but that’ll be for a later date. Honestly, the Music Streamer II+ is a fantastic DAC, and performs pretty well for the price point. If you are looking for a lively and engaging DAC, then the HRT Music Streamer II+ is the way to go.