I would like to hear thoughts or opinions on replacing the Monitor Audio A100 that I have been using as a streamer/preamp/DAC to act as a Roon endpoint and take the TV optical audio signal.
- The reason for change is the device is not working (I may get it going again, but this is the third one and I would like to move on).
- The options that stand out are the current Cambridge Audio CXN and the Creek Audio Ruby 2 DAC module.
- I welcome any commentary on these 2 options, thoughts on a Roon endpoint, or an alternative path.
Here are the priorities that I have been trying to sort out.
(1) Easy to live with - this really means that the girl should be able to click “Watch TV” on the Harmony remote without jumping through extra hoops. Easy to switch audio between TV and Roon.
(2) I need a Roon endpoint and the ability to connect the optical from the TV.
(3) Good DAC. I really enjoy the lively and enthusiastic MA A100. Something less exciting will be a let down. For example, I built a hifiberry DAC+ Pro on a Raspberyy Pi4 just for fun (Rpi4 / Ropieee XL), and while it works, I much prefer the sound from the Monitor Audio A100. Most of my library is CDs ripped from my collection, but now that I have Roon and (the cheap variant of) Tidal, basically all of my listening is through the Roon app (I do not expect to have interest in MQA). I might like to change things one day as I have some hi-res files that get downgraded over AirPlay, so perhaps playing them at their potential would be fun, but not a big current priority.
(4) DAC with Balanced output. Will connect to Creek Evolution 100A. There is a Creek Ruby 2 DAC option that fits inside the integrated amp, so that could work instead.
(5) Standby. I could not stand the thought of that little warm (100F) Raspberry Pi 4 sitting there drawing power 24/7. For this reason, I am uncertain about using an RPi Roon endpoint.
(6) Show rate/display. Something that looks cool. This is a low priority, but a color display of the album or a neat readout of the file specs is a nice to have. Or else a handsome (or invisible) box.
I like the Topping D90 DAC. It is well reviewed and looks nice. I am not sure how easy it would be to switch between optical and Roon (ideally it can be added as a device on the Harmony and then I can adjust the Activity settings). But then I would need a Roon endpoint. And I am not sold on that warm little Pi. Is there a version that puts the Pi into standby mode?
Creek Ruby 2 DAC Internal Module
Alternatively, there is the Creek Audio internal module (Ruby 2). It is about $500 and can still be found, although getting scarce as Creek is going to come out with new products. There is not much in the way of reviews, and nothing that really seems persuasive either way. It would be nice for the convenience of no extra box to connect or deal with powering on and off, and I can control the input on the amp via the Harmony. It would still need a Roon endpoint.
Cambridge Audio CXN 2
Now is officially Roon compatible. Seems like an all-in-one device the way I was using the Monitor Audio A100. Perhaps it supports higher res since Roon used AirPlay to connect to the MA A100.
So is the Cambridge the way to go? At $1,100 it is more than the Ruby 2 with an RPi (+/- $700), but it seems to check all the boxes. How can I make a good decision on whether to buy or pass on the Creek module? And if I were to get the Creek module or the Topping D90, what would I use for a Roon endpoint? Is there a way to build an RPi that goes into standby? Is there another option?