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  • This is another episode in which Chris tells us much less than he knows and seems unable to organize his thoughts in a clear way. As an expert, this guy is as hit and miss as I’ve ever seen.

    Here are a couple of basic “must know” supplements to Chris Connaker’s presentation on network streamers:

    1.) Most network streamers do not include an onboard DAC. The DAC quality is therefore not a primary differentiator of network streamer quality or price. 90% of streamer buyers are going ethernet in / digital (usually USB) out into an outboard DAC.

    2.) A major (unmentioned) differentiator of network streamers is the quality of their interface app. Aurender (from Korea) is famous for their iPad controller app, “Conductor,” which is a joy to use. Many other brands are “Roon Ready,” meaning they are compatible with the excellent Roon controller platform and metadata service. Software tweakers like Kurt and Doug can save money by using less user-friendly shareware apps that are powerful if you know how to make them work. This is one area where I will agree with Kurt that a person can get a lot of bang without spending a lot of buck if he has the computer skills. It is notable that wives love the expensive servers with the easy to use iPad interfaces.

    3. It should have been clear that a network streamer replaces a laptop computer in the streaming audio chain. A streamer is a computer that is “optimized” for audio. By doing only one function, it is claimed that the it does it better. Low noise is a factor, both for the data stream and for the USB output. This is claimed to result in lower jitter. I’m told that laptop video screens are very noisy and that eliminating them is good for sound.

    Chris Connaker is a very knowledgable dude. Unfortunately, he sometimes drops the ball entirely. He was great when reporting on the Munich High-End audio show. Today he shared very little that is useful, and some things that are misleading. He seemed to imply that all streamers sound the same and are interchangeable except for in appearance. I don’t think that he believes that and I don’t know why he was inclined to imply it.

    • Upon further review, the Auralic Aries Mini does indeed sport an onboard DAC of high quality. Using its analog outputs, one could send audio straight to an amplifier and get good results. DAC quality is a matter of taste and budget. Most audiophile network streamer buyers will be using a stand-alone DAC. But the Aries mini is exceptional.

      • Kirk, surely you don’t mean to say that in preparing for this episode, you only glanced at what a major retailer offers? Computer audio moves rapidly and usually from smaller companies that will never be sold in major chains such as Richer Sounds.

        Look at what those large, established Japanese consumer audio companies do: offer boxes that depend on either a proprietary software experience, or some other large company to offer them a way into all of this (such as Apple with their AirPlay.) Or they offer DLNA, which is worthless from a quality-of-experience perspective. In short, they PUNT by still expecting people to connect a wire to the box, or use Bluetooth.

        Sonore. Roon. Allo (Raspberry Pi setups that are not DIY). These are the sorts of solutions tying together high quality sound, expert control and usability at attractive system prices.

        In terms of decent sound and ease of use, it really comes down to the AirPlay ecosystem or one of the setups not-invented-by-consumer-audio. The land of in-between, where known companies like Pioneer or Marantz live, are not even in the running here. But you don’t keep up with whatever audiophiles do, and your resident guest audiophile doesn’t break it down for you very well.

        • The goal of this episode was not to discuss the merits of individual devices, but to explain what this category of device does. As such, we didn’t need to conduct extensive research to find artisanal streamers.