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DACs item created by Gatepc, Oct 6, 2010
Pros - Small; fairly neutral signature; rugged chassis; low profile
Cons - No dedicated volume knob; bit/sample LED lights not on RCA out side
DISCLAIMER: I bought this second-hand, therefore my value/price impressions are based on the 80$ Canadian I paid.
In my opinion, and within the context of my home audio setup, the HRT Music Streamer II is a terrific, low-profile dedicated digital to analog converter.
I had been looking for little over a year for a dac that would not only suit my needs as well as my budget. more specifically, I wanted:
-a fairly bare-bones dac that could play up to 24bit / 96khz.
-did not have a Cirrus Logic chip (my iPod has one and I wanted to try something new)
-something relatively portable but designed to be used with a PC/Mac setup.
-something that was as cheap as possible without sacrificing quality in components and build quality
Overall, I was looking for a dedicated dac to add to my home setup in order to experience the benefits of an external digital to analogue conversion component in my audio system.
I wasn't always interested in HRT products. Nevertheless, a Kijiji ad was posted with the Streamer II for 80$ and peaked my interest.
In fact I was initially looking at the Audioengine D1 which was also available for 110$ on the Toronto Kijiji page. After some research and pouring over some reviews on Head-fi and Headfonia, I decided the HRT was appropriate given my needs.
*** I have only had the chance to listen to the Streamer II through my portable Cmoy amp using my V-Moda M 100's***
I was not too sure what to expect when I plugged in the Streamer II since I had never used a dac before. While I don't feel I was quickly and effortlessly whisked away to sonic bliss, I do believe this little device has made a very positive impact on the musicality and fidelity of my M 100's.
As many of you might now the M100's can be rather bass-heavy and at times on the boomy side, significantly adding to the bass presence in your music. Particularly when listening to music that is not bass heavy to begin with. In this respect, the Streamer II has tightened the bass in my M100s tremendously. I would not say that my m100s are now neutral, reference-grade studio monitors, I am however now much happier listening to my Van Morrison collection through these cans. Before, the bass was overpowering and detracted from Van's vocals and the rather acoustic/vocal nature of his music. Now, I feel the bass presence has been softened and tightened allowing for the other aspects of the music to shine, all without loosing bass quality. What's more, I find the Streamer II has added a noticeable level of creamyness (smoothness) to the mids and highs, adding to the M100's already rather (in my opinion) impressive articulation and instrument separation. I am happy to say I have found almost all of my music now benefits from these adjustments, however it is most noticeable in my jazz, acoustic and vocal heavy music. That said, I still get the satisfying bass pound in my electronic music, it is just now that much cleaner.
I think it's also important to mention I do believe the Streamer II has also virtually eliminated any system hiss derived from my Mac Mini. I feel the Streamer II has allowed my music to present itself with more depth given its ability to reduce the signal sound floor even lower than my mac mini could provide. It is not nearly as significant to the changes in the music reproduction I now get our of my headphones, but I do believe it is important to at least make a brief mention of it here.
While I predominantly listen to flac files, it might also be crucial to some to know that I find this dac is not very forgiving to poor quality MP3s. Listening to Soundcloud, it becomes immediately apparent when the quality of the stream becomes poor. While it was possible to notice poor quality MP3s in my setup before, I find the Streamer II now makes it rather difficult to enjoy these songs. I just hear the tinny-ness of these recordings are now front and centre. I skipped these songs before, but I now notice even more how poor these recordings are.
Given that this was a budget purchase I was not expecting leaps and bounds from this device. In fact i really didn't know what adding a dac would add to my setup. I had read extensively on the benefits of a dac, but its certainly one of those thins you have to try and experience to truly know for yourself. Luckily the HRT Music Streamer II did not disappoint.
I had hoped a dac would add a certain something to my music, but I wasn't sure what. After about a month with the Streamer II, I can say it has tamed my M100's (a gift) and allowed me to revisit some of my music I had quietly put to the side. While I know full-well it has not made my M100's into all-around reference headphones, for someone who will not likely have income to spend much money on acquiring genre-specific headphones to pair with my broad musical interests for some time, this 80$ purchase has reawakened my appetite for types of music that were not likely part of the M100's tuning.
Now, If I had to pay MSRP for this dac, I think I would still be very happy with the sound quality and build. However for that added 120$ + tax, I would certainly question some of the design features and start to possibly ask myself if I want more controls, inputs and output options for that price. It sounds terrific in my situation and is built like a rock so I think you can almost guarantee it will work for years. Regardless of how the previous owner might have treated it. And given its ruggedness and relatively low price point, it will likely be an easy/quick sell when you might want to upgrade or try something new.
Notwithstanding, I would highly recommend anyone pick this up second-hand (or at least at a similar price to what I paid). I think at MSRP it is also easy to recommend, but at that price point some other products begin to introduce some really nice features that might lead you to choose something with a better bang for your buck price ratio.
Pros - High value, very good performance
Cons - USB only inputs
This was my first venture into computer audio. It has excellent plug and play simplicity, very good, smooth and dynamic sound, pretty good detail and only a little rolled off up high.
If USB is all you need, and you're a noob...start here, you won't regret it.
I'm looking to upgrade to a DAC with Toslink and Digital coax inputs...if HRT made one, I'd give it a try!
Revised 11-26-2012:I'm reviewing the new OppoBDP-105 now and A-B'ing it against the MSII+Audirvana+ and I'll be darned if their sounds aren't EXTREEEEEEEMLY similar, the MSII might be a little overdoing some of the transients but they are equivalent in 97% of the situations I've played them in. The interesting part is that the more expensive DACs by HRT add detail, but this one sounds the most similar to a $1200 reference player. Please, go out and try one of these before they discontinue them, rebadge, and charge twice as much! Revised my rating to 5-stars for Audio and overall quality as I've never had a hiccup in 2 years!
Pros - Sound quality, size, plug and play
Cons - Unbalanced rca outputs
[This review is based on the older triangular-shaped version of the Hrt Music Streamer II (shown in the picture)]
The HRT Music Streamer II was my first external DAC purchase. I've been using it with my Behringer Truth B3030A near-field monitors since April and it really compliments them.
Before I bought the MS II, I was using a Creative Titanium Fatal1ty Pro PCI Express sound card. It got the job done and sounded pretty nice, but after a while I started craving for more detail in music. So after reading up on some reviews I ended up getting the MS II.
I can't compare the sound quality to +1000$ DAC's, never having owned one, but it's hard for me to imagine a better price/performance ratio.
To summarize: If sound quality is key and you don't care for blinking leds or lcd screens, or simply don't want a device with a big footprint, this might be it.
Pros - See review
Cons - small soundstage, too forward sounding and fatiguing with SOME headphones
I'm not really a fan of computer DACs and prefer full sized CD players mostly. I previously had a Nuforce Icon Mobile DAC and it's ok. I believe it's the same thing as the uDAC, but I might be wrong. It seemed to be a good match for only specific headphones and I did prefer it to the E7 by far. It's very good for bass and treble happy headphones. It's especially good for the M50 and D2000. Despite poor measurements it doesn't sound that bad.
Once I got my Q701 the first thing I wanted to do was get a good dac. Nothing overkill and something that's a good value for the money. I'm not so serious about music to need a $300+ DAC (yet). I actually figured there would be a very slight improvement in sound quality. Boy, was I ever wrong.
For me, this DAC has been a bigger improvement than upgrading Amps. No joke. This really seems to improve the level of detail from all my headphones. Pretty impressive. The bass was much improved on the Q701 (didn't really add quantity, maybe a tiny bit) and the soundstage seemed to get a little larger.
I've heard before that this DAC might have "edgy treble", but that couldn't be any further from the truth. The treble is perfectly smooth as long as the song isn't badly mastered and sounding like garbage to begin with. It won't suddenly make any treble happy headphone worse.
I didn't review this right away because I wanted to figure out it's entire sound signature. I do think it's pretty much close to being neutral and won't magically change a headphone's signature. I do think it is slightly warm. It won't suddenly turn a DT-880 into an HD-650, but it does help some thin sounding headphones or those lacking warmth. I've found it especially good for my SR-325is, Q701 and DJ100.
I do think it MIGHT have a very, very tiny peak in the upper mids somewhere. I noticed this only with the K601 and K400. Strangely enough I upgraded my firmware and it seems to have gone away. This would be impossible right? Probably placebo. Could be just revealing to me how bad some songs are, who knows.
This seems to really improve many, many headphones. It's kind of ridiculous. You'd be shocked to see what this does for the KRK KNS-8400. You think the KRKs are detail monsters from a portable player? Waiting until you hear it with this. It's as if it's trying to suck every last piece of detail out of your music file and send it to your KRK. With the KNS-8400 it seems to improve the soundstage size and level of detail. Kind of add a little bit of texture to the mids and make it a tiny bit warmer sounding. Overall, just a little bit more fun to listen to.
The absolute BEST match I've had was with the AKG K601. It doesn't need to be any warmer than it already is, but somehow this DAC seemed to breath new life into my K601 that's been in storage for months. Feels almost like I got my K601 upgraded.
Here's another crazy thing to annoy the science guys. I never could hear the difference between interconnect cables at all EVER. When I upgraded my DAC to this, it's stupid easy. No, not USB cables silly. I still use cheap cables, but it's funny hearing the difference between a Monoprice cable and a Canare cable. I actually prefer Monoprice, but only due to preferences.
Strangely enough I like this DAC less with my HD-598 than any of my other headphones. Not sure why. Maybe it's that my HD-598 is already as warm as I want it and it does not benefit as much. Who knows. I have a feeling this would be a bad match for say the HD-650, but I'm not sure.
I feel that it's totally worth the $150. I'm using it with a Headroom Micro Amp and it seems to be a perfect match.
I've decided to part with this DAC. It's still a good DAC, but too forward sounding with my Q701 and K601. Often a tad too fatiguing. I've even compared it vs full sized cd players and soundcards and those were much more neutral sounding. It's not a case of poor recordings.
The soundstage is also much too small. I blamed my amp at first, but was I ever wrong. Even my full sized CD player has a larger soundstage.
I'll probably use the funds to buy an ODAC or a good soundcard.