My current setup is barebones: We run Roon Core on my iMac, which connects to a library of digital files and uses Tidal (Hi-Fi) as our primary sources, and stream wirelessly from the iMac to a number of different B&W Formation speakers (wedges, flexes, soundbar/bass, audio connected to amp and passive speakers in our barn, etc.). The formations are good up to 96.
Would adding a DAC, wifi streamer and dedicated Core machine produce noticeably better sound? I know that SQ is in the ear of the beholder, but just wondering if anyone else out there has gone through similar progression with good results.
I should mention that i have an Oppo HA-2 SE portable dac that i use in combination with iPhone and headphones, and i’m just reading about how i think I could attach it to the iMac, but would it go through the Oppo and then out to the formations?
Jake it’s more nuanced and require multiple changes but then yes it would.
Having a dedicated Core like a Nuc running Rock does nothing else but run Roon so there are chances that it can help, but your current Mac may also be doing a bang up job
With the recommendation of Ethernet backbone then and dedicated streamers it can make a difference.
But it’s not for everyone and can be a lot of effort.
The real question you should be asking is are you happy with your current sound, and if not what improvements you think you might need.
What about DAC? In the scenario that we stream from TIDAL to the B&W Formation speakers (we have many and love their sound, even though they are ‘capped’ at 24-bit/96, which is probably the limit of any noticeable difference for my hearing), the streaming is RAAT (“bit-perfect”), so would attaching a DAC to the Mac even do anything?
(now wearing snowshoes on my asymmetrical isolation feet)
After a couple of years on this forum, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re wondering if you’re getting the best sound, you’re not. Not necessarily because anything is wrong with your setup, but because you’re uncertain about it. Hearing is a psychoacoustic experience, and anything that unsettles your mind about it will affect it adversely.
I think even Roon suggests that there is better SQ when there is a streaming endpoint between a Roon Core, read noisy computer, and an end point device(s), read streaming transport + a DAC… Wired is better than WiFi… All noise is additive…
Sound quality aside for a moment, if I may - I would also recommend that a wired streamer is preferable to a wireless one. I have issues playing back MQA/High res Tidal tracks (the dreaded file taking long to load message and then skipping the track) using a wireless connection which no longer occurs when using a wired connection. Hope this helps.
I do have the Mac hardwired to the router, and we are lucky to have almost gigabit speed. That, combined with the Orbi mesh, means no drops/trouble streaming. I’ve got a barn up the hill about 150-200 yards from the house, and I stream 192 up there no problem.
The problem with our main house is that it is timber-framed, and thus running wires isn’t really feasible at this point. That said, the B&W’s sound really good, especially with the Formation Bass. I can play the same music everywhere in complete sync, or different music in different rooms, and it all just works. So, in a way I just answered my own question: the music sounds great, and we’ve got more of a whole home thing goin’ vs dedicated listening space, so I’m pretty content. (The mind always is curious: “if I just added one more piece would it sound better?!” HAH.)
Seems unlikely you’ll hear a big difference. I haven’t heard the B&Ws but I suspect your biggest bang for the buck may be different speakers and possibly a dedicated amp. As others have said the only way to know is to try it yourself.
This is as good as you’ll hear. The formation speakers are active speakers meaning they contain streamer, dac, amp, and the speaker themselves. You can’t replace / bypass any of that when using an active speaker. You’ll need start with a set of passive speakers and build out a nice 2-ch system.
Then nothing to upgrade
You can dive into the deep end of separate components, speaker / amp matching, better DAC etc. but its a time consuming hobby.
I have tree systems, my living room is the most revealing and all changes I make on the network, changing the roon server from a nas to a computer, changing the power cable of a switch they all affect the living roon sound in a perceptible way.
The other two systems are not that revealing, they show some changes but not that much.
I do not know those specific b&w personally, but I have had some nautilus speakers in the past and they tend to be very revealing of the source material and gear.
Depending on the system, making an upgrade can be a big or a little jump or even a downgrade sometimes, the variables are so many that giving an advice on the right upgrade is a risky thing. The best is trying to listen to the desired hardware and have your own conclusions before investing.
Quality of recording > Speakers > Amp > Speaker placement / DSP / Acoustic panels > (reducing) Noise that isn’t music > DAC > Streaming device.
DACs make such a small difference that it’s hard to recommend upgrading one unless it’s for specific features or connection types, but if you know what you like and understand the incremental differences then perhaps it’s worth it to you. If you don’t have a DAC then it could be worth it - a MiniDSP SHD has DSP, measures wonderfully and does streaming so that would be easier to recommend than most.