Dedicated device between Laptop and Qutest DAC for SQ?

WITHOUT wired ethernet. I am in a basement and don’t have physical access to the router, and don’t “need” access either.

I understand Roon is a network solution, but I simply don’t need it, and it’s overkill. I play music from one laptop on one DAC on one system. I use redbook. Am I overpaying for Roon? You betcha, but I don’t carez I like it. It integrates well, does a good job, and only annoys me because I use Android. Even if I were streaming, which is 10% of the time, the wifi from the laptop is more than sufficient as evidenced by the fact I have never ever had a problem.

Ok, with that out of the way, I’m looking to make sure I get the best possible sound quality. I have 5 ASC tube traps, the room is treated, I use all Class A amplification from the DAC to the power amp, and I even move loveseat, tv, and tv stand out of the room and listening chair in for a listening session. I have vibration control under all devices. So please understand this question IS the low hanging fruit for me now; it is not frivolous or irrelevant.

It seems EVERY product I look at doesn’t work for me for some reason or another. So here I am.

My laptop is a beastly XPS 9570, has wifi, and a 45w i7 processor, not the laptop “U” processor. Seems a waste not to be able to use that as a roon core, but the tradeoff is potential noise.

I simply want a “perfect” dedicated music streaming laptop or computer with Wifi. Bonus if it has storage capabilities to free up space on my laptop, but not necessary. Preferably with low power requirements so it can be run from a linear DC power supply. I drank the Kool-aid in regards to clean power and isolating from mains, and it has served me VERY well.

Alternatively, I would like a product to fit in between my laptop and DAC that can give me piece of mind that I am getting as close to perfect SQ as I can without spending several thousands of dollars. I understand this may cost $1000+, but I’d rather not fork out several thousand dollars.

I’m just trying to pick the low hanging fruit in every aspect of my system, but having trouble finding a solution in serving music to my DAC.

I also understand that Rob Watts says the Chord Qutest has galvanizic isolation and ANY source, even a cell phone is just as good as another. Well, I’m sure that’s good enough for most people, but he was dead wrong about better 5v DC power not making a difference, so I want to make sure I’m getting the best out of my equipment.

Please help!

Chord say optical is the best connection for their DACs . Get a raspberry Pi4 install Ropieee add on the best spdif hat that supports optical (needs wired for setup, you configure wireless after its all installed and don’t need wired). Job done. Or use USB from the Pi. Other options are not generally wireless except for Bluesound Node2i which is reported to have bad wireless implementation or the Aurilac Aires Mini is another USB prebuilt.option.

In terms of perfect galvanic isolation, that would be a perfect solution. In terms of clocking etc, many people believe that timing is key, and a raspberry Pi would be far far from optimal.

One of the products that I’m considering trying is a pre-built solution that would theoretically take care of both of these issues at the same time.

I am however worried about bitperfect streaming, and haven’t done a ton of research into this middle man product, but once I get a few answers here it will be on my list of products to compare

Get a USB cable between laptop and your DAC and enjoy the music !
IMHO, that’s all you need.
Don’t waste your money on “fancy” bridges or anything else.

Ok. So you believe that source is irrelevant. That’s fine, but not helpful. I’m trying to pull every last ounce of performance out of my system.

Mostly, yes.
If you want to have a dedicated audio streamer you could use an RPi4 and that is all you need, from my point of view.
In that case, you will also need a storage for your audio files and a dedicated OS like Volumio, M00de, Gentooplayer or piCorePlayer.
Roon will offer you a multi-room solution.
My recommendation is to give a try to piCorePlayer.

Through personal experience in my system I found that the source is crucial, as is isolation. I found separating the core (in your case your laptop) from the endpoint and ultimately the DAC worked best.

You could buy a dedicated streamer/endpoint (many to choose from at all prices ranges) and put that between your laptop and DAC or replace your laptop with a well engineered server like those from Innuos that would connect directly to your DAC. The first option worst best in my system.

You could still use a DDC like the Denafrips with or without the two approaches above to provide further isolation. Personally I use this.

Hope that’s helpful.

Yes. Definitely helpful. The problem I am running into is that every Room streamer/endpoint wants to have it’s own dedicated network connection, and I want it to just use the laptops wifi connection.

The Qutest will perform exceptionally well when connected directly to the laptop running your core. It was designed with a “dirty” computer in mind and is up there with the very best of all DACs from a measurement perspective. So my advice: don’t sweat it.

If you later decide to use a network bridge get a Raspberry Pi. The Pi is not suboptimal; Roon sends asyncronous data and this is controlled by the DAC not the Pi.

Not heard one myself, but well reviewed: Stack

I agree, and yet I can’t expect Rob Watts to do absolute magic, just relative magic. When seeking perfection in a battle of engineers, my money is on Rob in a fair fight. But it’s not a fair fight when Rob’s isolation is limited in budget and other devices are unlimited in budget. I paid for a top notch DAC, and that exactly what I got. But I’m not done pulling performance out of it.

It’s the same story with the power supply. For the $10 or $50 spent on the power supply by Chord, it doesn’t stand a chance against a product like the Sbooster. Even if Rob says it’s good enough, he uses headphones! Love the guy, and he’s way more brilliant than me, but I know he is wrong on certain things.

So yes, you MAY be right. But I am going to overengineer the solution, and then back off and recoup my money if there isn’t much performance left to drag out of the Qutest.

Cool product. Nice pricepoint. Wants a Network connection input, but also has a USB in (detox). Not sure what that is, but definitely appreciate the info, will dig in deeper.

I believe it has wifi.

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Rob has stated that that you can expect the same performance with the wallwart as you would with a linear supply on the Qutest. (I can’t find the reference just now)

Rob doesn’t do magic: he’s an engineer and builds his designs to achieve his high standards. Do you really think they would ship a product that under perforrms because of the supply it ships with? I don’t see a Chord Electronics linear power supply for sale. Do you?

You have one of the best measuing DACS available; a Hugo 2 for all intents.

Well, I can simply state he is wrong, but he also kind of knows it. It’s a $10 wall wart vs. a $400+ power supply. In fact, I will use Rob’s own words against him. He recommends a battery bank for better performance. Furthermore, he recommends a battery bank that doesn’t utilize power switching to create 5v, but that has a natural 5v chemical battery power supply. Even then, there are better engineered solutions.

It’s not black and white, and whether Chord makes an upgraded power supply is irrelevant. It’s a mathematical game and they have to keep their price and performance in line. The laws of diminishing returns apply.

Anyone can be an engineer. Being an engineer isn’t about building great products, but being able to build great products cheaper than the competition. From this perspective, I have to wholeheartedly disagree, Rob does in fact perform engineering magic.

To bring this back on topic, Rob also states that his USB Galvanic Isolation eliminates noise from the source. He also states that Optical is best because it is perfectly isolated. These statements cannot be squared without an acknowledgement that the USB Galvanic Isolation is not perfect, but good enough.

That leaves performance to be improved through improved isolation, and it leave open the question of if all sources are equal.

I tend to think it’s common sense all sources are not equal, but I am willing to be proven wrong. The only way I can prove it right or wrong is by trying a better engineered solution.

I wish to tackle isolation and source issues at the same time, hence this thread.

It seems you’ve already made your mind up and wish to tinker. Good luck!

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Rather than paying $1000 for an isolation gadget, plus the fancy cables that go with it, I would buy a Nucleus. (Well, not “would”, I did buy a Nucleus.)

And then I would buy a Chord TT2, and then I would buy an M-Scaler (not “would”, I did).

Works equally well with USB connection, MicroRendu and Allo.
My theory is that with a good source like the Nucleus and a good DAC like the Chord stack you get great sound. That setup is not inexpensive, but you can spend a lot of money on extras (I did…).

Then I added Hifiman Susvara cans, and ooh…
Better than anything,

That is a legit solid solution that gives me storage as well. M-scaler is in the works eventually as well.

But the Nucleus requires a physical network connection to router. If I had that, I could have any product of my choice. I may end up having to pay to run a network cable, but as I rent and the house has been for sale for 8 months, I’m in limbo and don’t want to spend money on that until the house sells and I get a new lease at least.

I use Eero, a wifi mesh product. Love it because it has no configuration UI, can’t misconfigure it, just works. You can buy as many endpoints as you want. I have one for the internet, one for the Nucleus, and one for every zone.

It is a wifi mesh, but each node has two Ethernet jacks.

Ok. Bam. Now we are getting somewhere. I think you are saying that for $100 or whatever it is, I can buy an Eero and then have any Networked solution of my choice, like a room nucleus without a wired connection?