After ROCK came out, I installed it on an i3 NUC and connected its fanless case to a Musical Fidelity V90 DAC via USB. ROCK didn’t much improve the same problems with the sound quality (lack of image specificity, congested soundstage, very litte depth to soundstage, very little bloom) I was having with Windows 10, so I recently retrieved the SBT from the garage, moved the ROCK NUC downstairs to serve Roon via ethernet, and connected the SBT via SPDIF to the Musical Fidelity. Sound was much improved, but, hearing the improvements, now I have appetite for more!
Eventually, I want to land on what I consider a long-term DAC. At this point, there are several candidates (Berkeley Audio Alpha, HoloAudio Spring, etc.), but that list is inevitably going to change the longer I wait. Until then, I’m wondering if it’s worth the effort and expense to upgrade to something in between.
Part of my problem making this decision is that I’d like to stay away from USB, but that cuts down my options in a way that limits the information available for non-auditioning research. The number of DACs that accept an ethernet signal (network audio adapter included, I guess) is small compared to USB DACs. My three reasons to stay away from USB: 1) noisy format requiring band-aids; 2) the V90 DAC is limited to 24/96 from its USB input, and I’d like to use its hi-rez playback while I wait for the next DAC; and 3) I hope that, in the next few years, the high end will move towards ethernet and away from USB, as a matter of sound quality.
The obvious choice is a Raspberry Pi HAT of some sort (HifiBerry, etc.). However, I wonder if there is a sufficient improvement in sound quality over the SBT to justify the expense. After a linear power supply, it seems like the Raspberry Pi option will cost from $150 to $450? If the improvement is not going to be much noticeable, I’d rather just keep the money in my “stereo savings” account and keep waiting for the magical day when I sneak home a new, heavy-hittin’, network DAC.
I’m assuming that a linear power supply added to the SBT won’t improve things much (according to the chatter on the interwebs). Also, I don’t care about MQA or DSD.
Anybody out there that has made this journey that might point me in the right direction? The rest of the system should be able to show most changes in equipment pretty well. It reveals changes in cables readily, so I’m not worried about that potential issue.
Thank you for any guidance you might offer.