Inexpensive streamer to start - Pioneer N50?

All - Now back in the Naim family (first joined in 1984 with an original Nait).  Curious about streaming, but am limited budget-wise as I've recently bought a Nait 5, FC2, Meridian 563, and the requisite SNAICs and interconnects (I already had NACA5).  In exploring online, the PIoneer N50 comes up often as a very inexpensive but fairly good streamer, and I've seen a couple of references to it in these very forums. 

Question - is a N50, for $340 new, worth doing, or should I wait a little bit and go for something like the Cambridge?  Anything from Naim is unfortunately out, unless of course someone wants to donate one to a worthy teacher.    I have stacks of CDs - probably around 2200-2500, so it will likely be a secondary (or tertiary) source. 

Thanks all in advance!

Original Post

Where is your music mainly stored? If it is on a NAS  then N50 or CXN might be good to start with. But if you use your PC/Mac as source any decent DAC should suffice already.. But if you would also  like to enjoy lossless streaming music services like Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz etc without your PC/Mac involved you should look for devices natively support these services. I would recommend  a s/h SBT or Auralic Aries Mini in that regard.

Yes lots of buts and ifs.. But they come with the territory.

Bob - don't do it! Trust me - been there, done that. 

If you are used to a good quality digital playback from your CDs you will be disapointed with lesser streamers. The only one I found that comes close to NAIM is from Yamaha (NPS2000) - but in a hand -to-hand combat with NAIM it gets floored in 5 seconds. I unfortunately have one and use it now at work for some background music. So  - don't go there.

My advice would be along the lines of:

* Start ripping your CD collection to a properly set up NAS - happy to help out here with tips on selecting one and configuring it. With 2500 CDs this will take you up to 6 months to rip properly.

* Rip to FLAC to maintain proper metadata. Once you start streaming, you can transcode the FLAC to WAV at a server level.

* Search for a pre-loved ND5XS to match your system. Set yourself a budget of say USD 1500 and give it 6 months to find one.

If you need more info, just drop me a line - email is in my profile.

Adam

A primary question has to be how far do you want to go with sound quality? I.e. do you want to just get some streaming ability or now even if maybe not up to the rest of your system, or do you want to match the rest of your system, then have done with it, or will you be wanting to upgrade other things as well in due course? What best depends on these considerations as well as, vitally, available funds, as judicious steps can save a lot of money over rime, and of course always consider buying secondhand if money is tight. Also, whilst you see streaming as a secondary or tertiary source now, one day your CD player will fail, being mechanical - if in the meantime you were to rip your CDs, and if your streamer is good enough, you could have same or potentially better sound quality, and wouldn't then have to replace the CD player.

As Hal asked, one consideration is where you presently keep any music files, or anticipate in the near future. If on a PC, there are various inexpensive programs available that will play quite well (others will have to advise as I have no experience), and depending on your CD player you might be able to feed into its DAC, getting you going for next to nothing, to maybe add a better DAC later. BUT computers are bad electrical environments as far as sound quality is concerned, so optical connection would be best if using the computer's own audio output, but probably better using usb output with an isolator/convertor between it and the DAC unless the latter has galvanic isolation and rf filtering (many don't). The Gustard U12, costing ~£120 new, is one that is very effective. If on a Mac, the same considerations apply, but I can recommend Audirvana as an excellent rendering app that is capable of matching or exceeding the SQ of your present system, depending how set up. If you don't yet have a music store, I can recommend the Mac Mini, best is 'late 2012' model, which is readily optimised for best SQ and once set up can be run like any hifi device, just turn on and go, while it gives a platform that stands up well to stiff competition (more on other threads). 

If your CD player doesn't have a digital input to use its DAC, then a stand alone one would be needed for decent SQ. the Chord Hugo punches way above its weight, and should easily get the best out of your system if coupled with something like Audirvana and an isolator, while still having more to offer if you might some time upgrade the rest of your system,  but even s/h may be out of budget. Some people say its little brother, Mojo, is good, while a number of people on these forums have appliauded the Audioquest Dragonfly DAC, which is extremely cheap - I can't comment on either as I've never heard, but may be worth researching.

As far as I can see, you have a large CD collection and no CD player, or am I missing something? If you have, or intend to buy, a CD player as well, with a limited budget, I would be inclined to use a streamer as a transport and rip your CDs instead.

I can't help thinking that you are underinvesting in all-important source(s) here, which in the long term might mean dissatisfaction, and spending more cash to try to get it right. It would be a shame to get rid of that nice amp you've just bought, but I'm tempted to suggest you flog the lot and start again with a Uniti or Superuniti.

Just realised the Meridian 563 is a DAC - I had assumed it was a CD player. No idea how it compares to more modern devices discussed, but if it is the primary DAC and you're happy with it then to start streaming you just need a store and decent renderer - if you have nothing at present my suggestion of Mac Mini / Audirvana / Gustard U12 or other isolator/convertor (convertor needed to go from best usb output to the Meridian if it doesn't have usb) would get you not only up and running, but capable of taking a better DAC as and when.

Two points here:

1- i have been looking for a ND5XS for well over a year here in the US.  They range in price from $2,200 to $3,000. That is mostly on Audiogon.  

2- if all you want is the network renderer check out the thread called the Hugo of Streaming.  This MicroRendu thing looks to have real promise.  At $350 you could try their SonicOrbiter SE. Must use a tablet or PC for control

My recommendation for a cheaper streamer is the Bluesound Node 2 with an iFi iPower PSU.  Initially it can be used with it's own DAC (it sounds more involving than the Auralic Aries Mini).  Later it can be upgraded with a DAC like the Chord Mojo (or 2Qute / Hugo or nDAC etc.) with great advantage, so the investment isn't wasted.

All -

Thank you!  What a wealth of information!

To answer some of the questions that strike me as most important:

As of now, I use a Pioneer DV09 as transport to the Meridian 563 DAC, through an old Wireworld digital cable.  I may be in a position to get a pre-owned Naim DAC; we shall see.  For now, the 563 is pretty darn good.

When I sit down to listen (not nearly as often as I'd like, with a 2 year old in a small house, it's CD.  I have perhaps 200 CDs ripped; they are  stored in my Macbook Pro and were ripped using Apple Lossless. 

As far as ultimate music quality, the higher, the better.  I've had systems ranging from the original Nait up through the full-on Naimed LP12 with active SBLs, and while I'd love to approach the latter, it's probably not realistic given our house (the price of location!).  So the ND5 would probably represent a pinnacle, until of course I listen to it powered by an XPS. 

What I've taken away so far is this: Skip the Pioneer.  Build a NAS; rip everything to FLAC.  Connect NAS to Meridan DAC.  Right? 

Hi Bob.

Since your content is on a Mac laptop, you could output from it to the DAC via optical, or consider using an AirPort Express via optical to unteather the laptop.  This would be a decent place to wait for ND5 funds to arrive.

IME, the AirPort is better than its reputation on this forum suggests, when you turn off its wifi radio and wire it to the network and a DAC.  

AirPort is convenient after you get the ND5, to provide AirPlay, in  pinch.  Mine is still in service, alongside my NDX, though I rarely use it.

Nick 

There are options in your price range but they all assume you have at least a computer or NAS to store your ripped CDs, a home network and a phone or tablet to act as a remote/control point. Depending on your DAC inputs you may also need a USB/SPDIF converter.

DIY solutions can be built using micro and NUC computers from the likes of Raspberry Pi, CuBox or Intel using open source software. The Computer Audiophile website is a good place to check out if you are interested in going down this route.

For a little more money you can buy something like the Sonore Sonicorbiter SE. It's a CuBox, but comes preloaded with a number of really solid network audio rendering solutions including Roon and AirPlay. It's about USD 350 with a power supply and includes a Toslink optical output. Unlike the DIY solutions it comes with support. Sonore also have a more expensive option, running on their own hifi optimised hardware for about USD 650-700.

Devices like the Sonos Connect and Bluesound Node are good options particularly if you prefer dealing with larger companies. Of the two it's generally considered that the Bluesound devices are better sounding, whereas the Sonos devices offer a broader number of online streaming services and a slightly better control app. If budget is really tight the Node was recently upgraded to version 2. It's possible you might get a good price on a used first generation Node.


 

Or having a Mac you could install Audirvana (they do a free trial), initially run optical to DAC (assuming Mac has optical out). To up the game (makes a real difference, or at least it does on Mac Mini) get a Gustard U12 or similar isolator/converter, dedicate a usb out (using Audirvana) and use the Gustard to isolate & convert to electrical SPDIf to DAC. Upside is cheap so far, only downside is that in ultimate quality mode the Mac is dedicated when playing music.

If you like that, go for Mac Mini as store, transferring Audirvana to it (set up I believe is easy via Macbook, without even requiring a screen for the MM) then run headless, and fully dedicated. Otherwise if for some reason you decide to go more traditional NAS route (beware some can be quite noisy and unsuitable for a quiet room), the Gustard will still do you if you use anything else with a USB output into any DAC without USB in (e.g. nDAC), or without good input isolation.

When it comes to changing DAC, do listen to the Hugo as well as Naim offerings.

if you've ripped to Alac, then it is possible some players won't play the files - but batch conversion to Flac is easy with a program like dBpoweramp. For future ripping, Flac is more universal while retaining quality.

 

I mostly concur with what innocent bystander has posted.

Having said that and considering what is available, I believe you'd better get a proper Naim cdp like cd5x/cd5xs or brand spanking new and partying CD5Si in the first place, before you dip your toes in this madness sea.. 

Unless you really, fully optimize everything -it involves many, many factors as ascertained before - your streamer frrom big buck Naim network player or those cheapos , they would sound crap against a dedicated  Naim cdp. Sorry..

Currently streaming offers only measly pros and cons.. It may be the vaunted shite.. Well, it's mostly BS.  Thread carefully.

I agree with Hal as far as having a reliable Naim CD player is a handy benchmarking tool, and for spinning disks when you want to.  My first Naim CD player was a revelation -- CD5X + FC2X.

For me, streaming and CD are now close enough that I rarely feel compelled to insist on listening to the CD.

Nick

I find streaming so good, and although you have to learn how it works to begin with it really is easy, and I for one do not miss CDs at all, and SQ is potentially better as you have no mechanical interaction either to vibrate or deteriorate, and without live disk reading there's no need for error correction circuitry to kick in, ever. So the money otherwise spent on CD can go wholly towards storage, renderer and DAC, whether an all-in-one or separate items, and the focus can either be on sound quality, or convenience, or the name, or even appearance, according to taste,

I'm not convinced that a properly set up streamer sounds inferior to a CD player of the same cost. Even if it did, with a limited budget, you're obviously going to get a better sounding setup if you invest all your cash in a single source, rather than stretching it by buying two or more. For me, if I only run one source, it has to be a streamer rather than a CD player, as you then have a room free of flimsy plastic boxes, plus you have all the other music a streamer can access using iRadio, Tidal, etc. Others will disagree of course, maybe because they enjoy tinkering with different media and hardware, or just like handling a physical disc. It's good that we have so many options, but I've made my choice, and I'm sticking with streaming.   

You might consider a Squeezebox Touch as a low cost streaming option.  I think they are only available used now but they are supported by an active user community.  They have an easy to understand user interface and they are easy to set up.  They can support hi res file streaming with some software plug-ins.

Streaming may have some drawbacks but the world of internet radio stations and streaming services should not be overlooked. There are some great ways to discover new music and some of the radio stations are great.  The Squeezebox Touch or other options will let you explore some of these resources before diving in on an expensive streamer.

Hal posted"

I mostly concur with what innocent bystander has posted.

Having said that and considering what is available, I believe you'd better get a proper Naim cdp like cd5x/cd5xs or brand spanking new and partying CD5Si in the first place, before you dip your toes in this madness sea.. 

Unless you really, fully optimize everything -it involves many, many factors as ascertained before - your streamer frrom big buck Naim network player or those cheapos , they would sound crap against a dedicated  Naim cdp. Sorry..

Currently streaming offers only measly pros and cons.. It may be the vaunted shite.. Well, it's mostly BS.  Thread carefully."

Sorry Hal, but I can't agree with the gist of your post here. I find it interesting that the CD5XS is held in such high esteem by the forum, but (and although you have not mentioned it directly) the ND5XS much less so. This is fairly illogical. Both are from the same range and fulfill a similar function, but the CD5XS has a mechanical section to it that the streamer does not have. I auditioned the two side by side at my dealers. I found it too close to call in honesty. In the end the streamer offers a DAC (so you can plug in your TV if you are inclined, my old CD player could be plugged in which was a revelation in SQ) as well as having access to internet radio. The streamer was a few hundred dollars cheaper and can also be upgraded through firmware updates. I bought the streamer and have never regretted it. I have barely used my CD player since and have all my CDs boxed away.

The OP is fairly strapped for cash at present but does have a usable transport (his Pioneer DV09) so does not need anything immediately. My advice would be to book a session at your local dealer and hear the CD5XS and ND5XS (for arguments sake, as of course there are lots of other options) and then decide whether you want to stick to CD or switch to a streamer.

Regards, Mike

 

Since you don't have much experience with streaming yet, a good thing would perhaps be to start with an inexpensive UPnP/DLNA streamer with hi-res support (eg the N50 you suggested) and concentrate on the infrastructure first: a decent NAS with UPnP server, a stable LAN and/or WiFi, a ripping/tagging and backup strategy, and then start ripping your CDs. Try some hi-res albums and see if they work in your environment. When you have all this up and running in one or two years, you are ready for a better streamer, eg a s/h Naim Qute or Linn Sneaky DS.

This approach has the advantage that in case this all turns out to be too much hassle for you, you haven't invested in an expensive but useless streamer.

My venture into streaming started 2006 with a Roku Soundbridge. I've made some mistakes on the way (eg by ripping to MP3 and not to a lossless format or not using a NAS in the first place) but finally, 2009, the infrastructure was ready for the first "serious" streamer, a Linn Majik DS. "Serious" in the sense that I could sell my CD5 without regrets.

I think a Sonos Connect is a great start for streaming, and have recommended to many who have successfully used it. It can read direct file access from a NAS, read DLNA compliant UPnP media servers, stream web radio as well as lossy and lossless online services. The app is intuitive and can work on severeal OS and devices. The Sonos can feed a Naim DAC easily. The only thing the Sonos can't do is hidef. Once your appetite is whetted you can get a better quality streamer transport from Naim.

Put your music on a NAS (or vortex box type appliance), stream using a $650 urendu from Sonore to your DAC (using Lumin, Bubble, Kazoo, etc on a control app depending on server software used) and you will be in the NDX/NDS level depending on power supply for the rendu (and how good your dac is of course). 

NickSeattle posted:

Hi Bob.

Since your content is on a Mac laptop, you could output from it to the DAC via optical, or consider using an AirPort Express via optical to unteather the laptop.  This would be a decent place to wait for ND5 funds to arrive.

IME, the AirPort is better than its reputation on this forum suggests, when you turn off its wifi radio and wire it to the network and a DAC.  

AirPort is convenient after you get the ND5, to provide AirPlay, in  pinch.  Mine is still in service, alongside my NDX, though I rarely use it.

Nick 

Well, that was easy!  Airport Express to DAC to Nait.

Thanks! 

Will undoubtedly want it to get better, but would also like to just kick back and enjoy.

Bob, it's a matter of cost vs. benefit.  When costs must be kept to a minimum, things like the Naim ND5 are just out of reach.  Used is a great way to go -- maybe you'll find a used Sonos within your budget.  For now . . . just enjoy!

Bob Edwards posted:
NickSeattle posted:

Hi Bob.

Since your content is on a Mac laptop, you could output from it to the DAC via optical, or consider using an AirPort Express via optical to unteather the laptop.  This would be a decent place to wait for ND5 funds to arrive.

IME, the AirPort is better than its reputation on this forum suggests, when you turn off its wifi radio and wire it to the network and a DAC.  

AirPort is convenient after you get the ND5, to provide AirPlay, in  pinch.  Mine is still in service, alongside my NDX, though I rarely use it.

Nick 

Well, that was easy!  Airport Express to DAC to Nait.

Thanks! 

Will undoubtedly want it to get better, but would also like to just kick back and enjoy.

Cheers, Bob!

Agreed.  The nice thing about the Apple solution is you don't have to get rid of it when the NDS arrives, unless the shaming gets to you. 

Experiment with powering the AE using a different circuit than the Nait -- it may be beneficial, as the AE's power supply might add noise, or not.

Best,

Nick

The Apple solution is convienient, but not really great in  SQ terms. The transport clock is not particularly stable and all 44.1 kHz sample rated audio is re upsampled by it and so is not bit perfect. Streaming AAC or MP3 this probably doesn't matter, but with PCM I find the Apple AirportExpress, no doubt because of its compromises, seems to rob life and therefore enjoyment from the music. There are better entry level streaming solutions for music where you can kick back and enjoy....

Simon,

I don't disagree, but would say that of all of the stops on my journey in streaming so far, there are only a couple that I would warn against in hindsight, even though all gave me some valuable insights.  AirPort Express is not one of them, because it is so inexpensive, and it has many uses in addition to HiFi.

I would forego the Sonos Connect, because I liked the Squeezebox Touch, Mac Mini sound quality better, all into the Naim DAC; and I already had both before the Connect.

I would not have bought the ND without FM, because trading up for it was expensive, and I underestimated how important FM is, to me, and how good a job the NDX does with FM, especially where I live.

Not too many regrets, all said and done.

Regards,

Nick

 

 

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

The Apple solution is convienient, but not really great in  SQ terms . . .

There are better entry level streaming solutions for music where you can kick back and enjoy....

Simon -

To paraphrase Nick, I don't necessarily disagree, but if there's a less expensive way to begin to explore streaming given what I already owned, I'm unaware of it.  For $69 I was able to walk in to an Apple store, buy an AE, and was streaming music from my MBP to my hifi within about 10 minutes.  No muss, no fuss.

As I noted in my first post, this is a secondary source at best, and more likely a tertiary one.  And with 2500 or so CDs, it's going to take a while to rip them all, and I have better things to do with my life than wait for CDs to rip. 

As for SQ, is it as good as the Pioneer feeding the 563?  No, but it's better than I thought it might be, perhaps because the 563 has a sophisticated (for the time!) de-jitter/re-clocking circuit, so the AE errors might not be as noticeable as they might be on other DACs. 

Hi both - yes I agree my AE has many uses - not least acting a good multicast capable wifi access point - but I have always been (very) disappointed by its audio capabilities and don't bother now - not even for temporary mashups. The Apple TV (not the very latest offering) is better in this regard and although still up samples everything to 48kHz it does tend to sound better than the little AE - perhaps the transport clock is more stable?

So yes if you have nothing else the AE will introduce you to Airplay end points which I guess is a way into the very Apple centric view of streaming... but I was assuming SQ rather than architectural concepts were more important but if I have this wrong please excuse me.

BTW in my experience for consumer 'stuff' - I'd say my  Sonos Connect outperform my various Apple  Airplay/AE devices in terms of reliability. The Sonos really is plug and play and just works. The Apple works well for the majority of time but in my experience Airplay just stops working from time to time for no apparent reason. A restart or refresh always clears it however - or sometimes it clears itself with no intervention required after a period of time.

But enjoy which ever path you go down - I'm sure its just a stepping stone to better streaming later when you are ready for it.

BTW these days I can't think of a single DAC that does not de jitter the sample stream from the transport stream these days,( long gone are the days where DACs derived their clocks from the SPDIF transport)  however when the noise or variation in the transport clock is modulated to some extent by the media content - which I believe has been shown to happen with the AE then this noise modulation does cross talk through system despite almost perfect de jittering of the extracted sample  stream by the DAC....

S

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

 I was assuming SQ rather than architectural concepts were more important but if I have this wrong please excuse me.

Simon -

SQ will be more important in the future, but as a very inexpensive way to begin experimenting with streaming the AE is well worth it.  Given my limited listening time, and the time it would take to rip my CDs, streaming will mainly be for internet radio and the like.  I'm now teaching, as opposed to working in the telecom sector or practicing law, so financial considerations loom larger than in the past, and I'd rather spend money on the main system, specifically the CD source at this point.  I lucked in to a CD5i Mk2, which should be here just in time for me to leave for a camping trip, but will be able to listen to it once we return. 

Simon-in-Suffolk posted:

Bob - ok good luck and have fun - hopefully you will see that all this streaming malarky is actually all quite straight forward.

 

Simon -

Ha!  I used to be the manager of IP backbone planning for a large US telecom, so this stuff is easy.    Just have to wade through all the BS companies . . .

May I ask a hugely backward question? Starting with a pile of cd's and a mac pro laptop with no cd/ dvd drive. Apart from buying an Apple Superdrive and burning cd's to iTunes, are there any clear cut audio advantages to: 1. Purchasing an alternative external cd/dvd drive - I have no knowledge of this market 2. Using alternative software to iTunes for ripping cd's. Not sure if Audirvana does this? Apologies if these simpleton questions are corrupting the original post - I'm trying to find quiet corners of this forum to ask my first dac related question. I have a very decent naim/linn system for cd and lp listening and not a clue about this area..!! Peter

1   There are much better software solutions for ripping CDs than iTunes (including DBPoweramp for OSX)

2   A mac mini can perfectly well be used as a store for Music files - either using Audirvana and a DAC or using Asset for OSX (for UPnP) and a streamer.

3   I don't know enough about Macs, but I don't see why a (Mac compattible) 3rd party USB DVD drive can't be used for ripping CDs.

Ah, the difficult ones!

If the disk is read correctly (i.e. no uncorrectable errors) then all drives are the same.

If there are uncorrectable errors then DBPoweramp tries to read the error sectors multiple times and uses statistical methods to try to work out the best approximation to what should have been there.  Note that it only needs to do this with disks that are so damaged that they usually won't actually play on most CD players.  Some drive are a bit better here than others (usually the ones that correctly report C2 error codes, but not always!).

My streaming days started with the SP/DIF output from my PC getting fed into the SP/DIF input on the Pioneer PDR609 CD writer. I soon upgraded to a high quality lead (i.e. Chord). I realised it was the future and soon invested in a Naim UnitiQte. While the digital source is excellent, it does not beat vinyl, apart from the convenience factor! 

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