How useful is a music streamer if you already own a high-quality DAC and a headphone amp?
Oct 14, 2023 at 6:27 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 17

Hatmann

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I've never owned a music streamer.
I connect my DAC to an amp and my laptop.
How useful is a music streamer if you already own a high-quality DAC and a headphone amp?
 
Oct 14, 2023 at 9:38 PM Post #2 of 17
A streamer can sound cleaner because you're not transferring the noise from your computer over usb. With some, it's also more convenient because you can use a phone or tablet to control the playback.

The big downside is I haven't found one that can natively pass system audio. Meaning it's music only, either via a streaming service, local drive, or nas. No Netflix, Zoom calls, etc.

There are third party apps that can stream your system audio, but I haven't had great success with them. Certainly not with syncing audio to video.

Now I use a ddc. That's close to the sound quality a streamer can deliver, more integrated if a computer is your source. Of course, ymmv, just my experience with them.
 
Oct 14, 2023 at 10:23 PM Post #3 of 17
I've never owned a music streamer.
I connect my DAC to an amp and my laptop.
How useful is a music streamer if you already own a high-quality DAC and a headphone amp?
Laptops, in general, are poor sources due to the voltages internally to power the screen. Even a desktop with external monitor, in general is quieter. Streamers are also computers and as such can and do introduce noise which is transmitted over USB.

Better power supplies are one factor to reduce this noise in both computers and streamers as is a well designed Dac USB receiver. Streamers are not magic bullets, especially ones with wonky operating systems that can cause more issues than regular computers and well vetted player software.

One thing to try if you can is to turn off the screen power in the laptop and give a listen, if things sound a bit better then you may have a rather noisy laptop. I have used laptops for years with headphones and a main speaker system, but once I discovered this I switched to machines without a screen built in. In any case, getting your computer or a particular streamer to be "quieter" is one of the keys to better sound.
 
Oct 15, 2023 at 9:36 AM Post #4 of 17
I buy streamers for a different reason than mentioned above, as I buy them for convince.
I buy them for their purpose, not their sound. So if I have a computer nearby, I do the same as you, connect the DAC directly to it and use that to stream.
But for dedicated speaker setups, I usually don't have a computer nearby, so I use a streamer to get the content to my setups.
Only once have I considered getting a streamer for my PC setup, and that was to get the content I was streaming displayed in a seperat monitor/device. So again I considered it for a feature it brings to the table.
 
Oct 15, 2023 at 10:58 PM Post #5 of 17
Important to note that many DACs have excellent isolation, noise reduction, etc. If you’re using something towards the high end(or just a brand known for doing isolation right) then it’s entirely possible you won’t see any difference with a streamer. I lean towards it being a case by case thing. Certainly if you notice noise, emi/rfi coming through your system at audible levels then you will benefit from a streamer. Though you can still possibly benefit even if you aren’t noticing audible problems in your system as certain issues aren’t as simple as a hum, hiss, whine or buzz in the background.

There’s also convenience to consider…

If there isn’t an issue and you’re just curious, well if it isn’t a burden financially give it a shot. Audio should be fun and tinkering with your system can be enjoyable.
 
Oct 16, 2023 at 12:41 PM Post #6 of 17
I've never owned a music streamer.
I connect my DAC to an amp and my laptop.
How useful is a music streamer if you already own a high-quality DAC and a headphone amp?
If you have noticeable “noise” originating in your laptop, you may want to try a USB signal cleaner like the iFi dongles or USB re-clocking devices
 
Oct 16, 2023 at 2:09 PM Post #7 of 17
Most if not all USB DACs these days feature galvanic isolations on board and do not need crutches like USB cleaners which can create problems of their own.
https://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.com/HW/USB_Isolator.htm

Conclusions
We can easily demonstrate that devices like JitterBug cannot work. USB is a high-speed bus. You cannot filter it without causing the data to be corrupted. So any filtering that JitterBug performs there must be well into Megahertz region and hence outside of audible band. Since data transmission to a USB DAC is highly reliable anyway, filter does no good. As to filtering of the USB power, the DAC itself has a regulator and filter of its own. Adding the tiny bit of filtering JitterBug has is like spitting in an ocean and expecting its level to rise.

Please save your money folks. Give it to Charity. Go have a great dinner. Anything but rewarding people who build these useless devices that attempt to solve problems that don't exist.

AudioQuest JitterBug USB Filter Review - AmirM
 
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Oct 16, 2023 at 2:12 PM Post #8 of 17
If you have noticeable “noise” originating in your laptop, you may want to try a USB signal cleaner like the iFi dongles or USB re-clocking devices
Thank you, but I don't have any such issue.

I just wonder what benefit, if any, I could get from a separate music streamer, instead of using my laptop and DAC for streaming.
 
Oct 16, 2023 at 2:17 PM Post #9 of 17
Not to confuse a usb filter like an AQ Jitterbug with a proper DDC. I've tried both--the DDC can yield improvements. I've never heard any difference with a filter made by iFi or anyone else. I'm sure someone has, just my personal experience.
 
Oct 17, 2023 at 9:36 AM Post #10 of 17
Um ... the only way "noise" with USB can be transmitted is through the power connection. If your DAC uses a separate power supply and is not USB-powered, use of a laptop or PC will not add noise. It is true that laptop power supplies are noisy - as are most PCs, when it really comes down to audiophile-quality audio. If your DAC is USB-powered, then added noise through the USB cable is a potential downside. As stated, however, if your DAC is externally powered, then it doesn't apply.

IMHO, music streamers are for the "entertainment center/room" crowd or those who are computer-illiterate. If you have the ability to download a music app and set it up properly on a PC/laptop (I recommend Music Bee over Foobar), a music streamer is superfluous. You are not going to get an advantage in noise simply by using a music streamer instead of a PC (unless your DAC is USB-powered).

If your DAC is USB-powered, there are other, much less expensive ways to remove the noise. A linear-regulated USB power-supply, used to connect to the DAC only, is a common solution. I believe iFi sells several such devices and there are others. I actually make and sell one at Beezar, too.
 
Oct 19, 2023 at 2:13 PM Post #12 of 17
Not entirely correct if they share the same ground.
Ground loops may occur with any device in an audio string. It's not germane to the question.
 
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Oct 19, 2023 at 2:24 PM Post #13 of 17
Let me rephrase my question:

If you owned a high-quality headphone amp and DAC, used with your computer and with no issues, would you want/or need a music streamer?
 
Oct 19, 2023 at 2:48 PM Post #14 of 17
Let me rephrase my question:

If you owned a high-quality headphone amp and DAC, used with your computer and with no issues, would you want/or need a music streamer?
No, I would spend the money elsewhere.
 
Oct 19, 2023 at 5:27 PM Post #15 of 17
I recently added an Aurender Digital Output Network Transport to my system, connected to my DAC via AES/EBU, and it was a very clear improvement. A transport is different than a streamer (it replaced a Roon Nucleus+ which is a streamer). The goal of the transport is to get the best digital signal to the DAC and it's optimized for that goal. It does not have streaming capabilities.

Streaming is basically sending audio to multiple devices whereas a transport is basically "streaming" to a single device.
 

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