Best music streamer without DAC

Folks- I appreciate the passionate responses and interchange to my question- thank you. Although I’m not well versed in audiophile grade streaming, my field of expertise is in sound recording and my own experience has demonstrated to me- personally- that investing in the recording components that sound best to me (having taken the time to select them based on my own preferences) always yields the best results. Sadly (or not, since the end result pertains mainly to a level of personal satisfaction that one finds acceptable for themselves- and this can’t be quantified), I have consistently found myself opting for equipment that is the most costly. In spite of this, there are many in my profession who would disagree with my choices, just as many still subscribe to the notion that there is no audio perceptible or worth capturing above 48k/16bits or that anyone who uses an expensive power cable, interconnects or USB’s with their audio gear is a sucker who is quickly parted from their money. I started with the output of my MacBook Pro and graduated to better systems, finally arriving at the DAVE/MScaler combo and the Sonoma M1. At each step along the way- even as I did things like add better cabling and different types of power conditioning to my system, I noticed the difference all these things made- for me- and I felt these differences were all significant enough to justify both my expanding listening system and the associated expense. Someone else could have an entirely different experience and therefore, I would not denigrate another person with a system that incorporates less expensive components than mine, as their enjoyment is no less valid than mine. At the same time, I’m certain there are systems out there that probably make mine sound pretty average. Nonetheless, since my job is to listen to and analyze music, I tend to work better if I’m hearing as much detail and excitement (which is often exclusive of “the most accurate representation”) as I can get from my listening system, hence my desire to improve on something I’m already happy with. Once again, I appreciate all the weighing in and happily invite any further comments- thank you.


Having started, like you, with a MacBook Pro and LCD-X headphones, I’ve experimented with various cords, cables, absorptive materials, room correction software and a variety of electronics. But I haven’t been willing to try the new, very expensive streamers because I had already blown my big dollar audio investment in the Meridian ecosystem (which sound I’m very happy with), and because the Allo DigiOne Signature seems to compete favorably with other quality S/PDIF sources that I was already familiar with.

I was hoping that this thread would attract people who have experienced products within your $3K-$5K budget who could shed some light on what would be gained if I were willing to upgrade from the Allo or my Meridian 218.

Any big spenders out there who also know the products that I’m using?

Thanks for the recommendation- the Signature is one of the systems I’m looking at. Have you had the opportunity to compare it with the Lumin U1 or the Auralic Aries?

dCS bridge if finances stretch

stunning piece of kit I use with my Blu2/DAVE combo

No, I haven’t. Like you, I am still waiting to hear from forum members who have actually spent time with less expensive solutions like the Allo before upgrading to the high dollar stuff. What are the differences, and how dramatically different?

I’d also like to know about their speakers and listening habits so that I can try to relate their impressions to my own experiences. For example, I can hear a significant jump in how realistic a well-recorded acoustic jazz trio sounds through Meridian active speakers when using the Signature instead of the original DigiOne, which I also own. I can describe those differences.

I wouldn’t recommend spending the extra money on Signature, however, if you planned to listen through my perfectly good Audioengine speakers. Any of these combinations can be said to sound “great!” “stunning!” -but compared to what?

Does one have to own the very best Wilson or Focal or Name-Your-Favorite $peakers in a fabulous listening room to justify an expensive Lumin, Auralic, dCS or Name-Your-Favorite $treamer?

1 Like

Oops- that message was actually meant for the gentleman who recommended the Sonore Signature Rendu. In answer to your last (presumably rhetorical) question, I have no idea. I’m just seeking some references for streaming devices so I can try some in my own system and decide which one I prefer.


I have Rpi4 with Allo DigiOne feeding an Audiolab M-DAC and Sennheiser HD800 headphones

I do not have hifi standard speakers so my listening is 90% headphones.

I find the mix very satisfying, the HD800 are a bit unforgiving with poor source material but get a good recording this system is wonderful. The caveat is I am 70 so years of golden ears is well past.

My music includes rock , acoustic folk etc but a lot of classical, specifically keyboard. Piano and harpsichord are both stunning on the right source.

I run Riopeee XL and the system has been absolutely trouble free for 2 years. For comparison I also have a Cambridge Audio CXN which I run from JRiver via the M-DAC. i find no difference.

Good luck


I have an Audiolab M-DAC, and have it listed for sale elsewhere, using it as a headphone Apm/DAC now.
Do you think it is sufficient to drive headphones like the HD800?

I use an RPi2 directly connected to USB on the M-DAC and have no complaint on the SQ with my Bose QC15 (that will be replaced soon).
Using Roon now for over a month and have no stability issues with the RPi2 as a streamer.
Playing grouped with my Hegel with a Bluesound Node2i on coax, my work mac with output to my Mac monitor and the RPi2 connected to my M-DAC the music is absolutely in sync.
So absolutely happy with the streaming solution so long.

Hi no problem at all with HD800, 300 ohm

I have a -3db headroom adjust and volume leveling set to 14UFS in Roon and at a comfortable listening volume I SHOW -15db on the M-DAC. As you know it will go to +3db flat out.

Even for ear splitting rock I have never gone flat out

It has been my primary headphone amp for years.

I also have the Bose QC25 which obviously need a bit less oomph but still sound great. If you are looking for a headphone amp keep it. Mine must be 7-8 years and is used every day literally.


Steven, Can you go into some detail about the upgrade from DigiOne to Link 2? I’ve been using the DigiOne since it was first released without complaint but the Link 2 looks very interesting to me. Still, 900 is a lot of dollars, about twice as many as my DAC. Thanks!

Just to complicate things, Stack Audio also sells Link II with optional linear power supply. I didn’t know about this when I bought it a month ago. I’d have to hear more about how linear power supplies improved similar devices before buying.

In his YouTube review of the original Link, Hans B stated that because of its internal power filtering, his beloved Power Booster LPS provided only a modest improvement in SQ over the stock power supply.

Good to know.

Also, the Link II goes into my Chord mscaler powered by Poweradd battery, so that should stop any further noise getting into my Dave. It already sounds smooth and liquidy, so not looking for any further improvement. The usb directly out of my Nuc sounds a little flat and dry in comparison.

I have the same setup with mScaler and Dave. My journey with streamers started with Sonore microRendu and then the ultraRendu. I finally settled for Auralic Aries G2 and did cancel my order on the Signature Rendu. I’m very happy with the Auralic and it was a big step up from the ultraRendu. Actually bigger step than the one from Mac to ultraRendu. I really think you should try to demo the Aries G2 (or 2.1).

I have also tried the Allo USBridge Signature with Shanti power supply. But I must say I was very disappointed at the performance. No real perceived difference from having my Mac as a streamer. I returned it (kudos to Allo return policy though!)

Two systems? Do you need two streamer endpoints?

Thanks- that’s very helpful. I’ll be auditioning one in the next few weeks (along with the Lumin U1 and perhaps and Aurender streamer), will report back.


Hi Charles
The unit just gave an increased clarity to the music. I always felt the ND5 a bit ‘muddy’ in my system and picked up the DigiOne out of curiosity and using Riopee felt it ‘cleaned’ up the delivery. It was the technical data on the Link that got me interested ie designed around cleaner power and maintaining integrity of the digital signal and to be quite honest as they were offering a refund if not satisfied I took a punt. I have had it about a year, upgraded to the Riopee based software from the original Volumio and no longer have the upgrade urge. I feel it is an uplift in terms of clarity and musicality on the DigiOne as the DigiOne was on the ND5.

Thank you for the reply. Very nice sounding.


My Allo DigiOne Sig / Benchmark DAC3 HGC / HPA-4 / LCD-4 sounds mighty fine.

1 Like

Is there a DDC available with full MQA decoder?