A modern digital audio path, as a rule, does without disk transport – a streamer serves as the source of the audio stream for the digital-to-analog converter. A device that picks up data from cloud music services or a home network server and gently transmits the “digit” to the DAC. Progress in this area has made great strides in recent years, making our selection of the best streamers for the 2020-2021 season all the more interesting.
Lots of opportunities for relatively little money. Yamaha NP-S303 plays almost everything (AIFF, FLAC, DSD, PCM up to 24/192, has built-in Tidal, Spotify, Deezer, Napster, Pandora clients, AirPlay protocol is not forgotten), it also supports MusicCast technology. There was also a place here for a DAC based on Burr-Brown DSD1791, as well as a Bluetooth adapter. As for the sound, everything is in order – even if the device does not boast of textured bass, it will provide a very good spatial separation of images.
Primare NP5 PRISMA
The little Primare NP5 PRISMA is the perfect way to extend the functionality of any digital input system to streaming. It has AirPlay2, Bluetooth, Chromecast, and Spotify Connect. The component is certified Roon Ready, can control other devices of the firm via RS232 and flaunts really brilliant sound quality for its price category.
The representative of the traditional British school of sound, AudioLab 6000N, can do a lot. DTS Play-Fi technology, work through the Ethernet port via UPnP, a whole scattering of outputs, including USB, work with signals up to 24/192. The fashionable ES9018K2M chip is used to output sound to the analog outputs, and the own Play-Fi application allows you to control the system from anywhere in the room. Exceptional attention is paid to the power supply system. The bottom line? Natural sounding, to which (taking into account the price category of the device), it is absolutely impossible to make a single claim.
Powerful thing. The cocktailAudio N15D is powered by a 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processor, supports UPnP, has a Saber ES9018K2M Reference DAC “just in case” and supports 2.5 ”drives. The model also has built-in clients Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Airable, as well as support for Airplay and Google Cast. Signals are processed up to the PCM 24/192 and DSD256 formats; the sound is distinguished by good detail and well-developed mid frequencies.
A proven classic that has been on the charts for quite some time. Sonore ultraRendu flaunts “thus” a continuous sound without a shadow of discrete digital plaque, provides excellent timbre accuracy and spatial picture. A pure streamer – no frills in the form of internal or external drives, an arsenal of interfaces – receiving data over the network via wired Ethernet, outputting a digital stream to a DAC – only via USB.
Today it is one of the most modern and elegant streamers. The model is able to convert a signal received via fiber optic Ethernet into USB – for subsequent transmission to a digital-to-analog converter. Sonore opticalRendu works more efficiently due to the galvanic isolation of the signal through the optical network – ideally, use the proprietary opticalModule (20,000 dollars) with the device with an additional FEMTO clock generator. The sound quality is stunning, the sound flaunts a real “diamond” and demonstrates extremely solid musical imagery. There is RoonReady certification, work is carried out with signals up to PCM 32/784 and DSD512. There is no power supply included; it is best to use a linear Uptone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2.
Cambridge Audio CXN v2
On the Cambridge Audio CXN v2, you can simply admire the design of the model is admirable. Equally advanced is the stuffing of this streamer – a powerful DSP-processor, support for MPEG-DASH adaptive streaming technology, HLS protocol, Adaptive Time Filtering upsampling module (with which all signals are scaled to 24/384 parameters). Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Chromecast are all in stock. The sound reveals luxurious and enchanting notes so highly appreciated by audiophiles.
Auralic Aries G2.1
Serious upgrade – in version G2.1 Auralic Aries has got a double case with smart shielding, new anti-vibration mounts, as well as a new version of Lightning D OS. The power supply on USB interfaces has also been significantly increased, which ensures compatibility with a much larger fleet of equipment. Otherwise, everything is fine too – double galvanic isolation, dual Femto Clocks and Tesla G2 platform (2 GB RAM, 1 GB cache and 8 GB internal storage, Bit-Perfect Multi-Room). Streaming to DSD512, PCM 32/384. The luxurious, plastic, rich sound of the Auralic Aries G2.1 captivates at once – we have a representative of the real High End league.
A highly customized streaming computer – machined aluminum chassis, passive cooling, carefully selected and optimized hardware, and a modified “clean” Linux-based operating system. Antipodes Audio EX can be used both as a streamer, as a server, and as a network storage (PCM up to 32/768, DSD512). But, the device shows the maximum capabilities exactly as a streamer – when all its processing power is directed to work with a digital stream. In this case, the sound goes to a new level and casts doubt on whether the age of pure analogue is so long. The crystal clear sound of Antipodes Audio EX makes you believe the impossible.
The Major League is undoubtedly a full-fledged Ultra High End. Aurender W20 has full functionality of both streamer and audio server. Before us is a precision development in every sense – battery powered LiFe PO4 (revolving mode of operation of lithium-iron-phosphate batteries), ADPLL (All Digital Phase-Locked Loop) circuit on an FPGA matrix, an OCXO thermostated crystal oscillator, two 6 TB disks and 256 GB SSD cache and own checkpoint based on Aurender Conductor App. The sound of the model makes you believe in the impossible – it contains gloss and charm, the notorious “diamond” so beloved by audiophiles. And, of course, holography and outstanding detail.