Running Roon on a Mac mini, I bought a Blue Sound Node 2i - nice piece of kit but no better sound than direct from the Mac via usb to Benchmark dac. Is a streamer a necessity?
The Node 2i can fully decode MQA through its DAC if that is of interest. On the other hand, I imagine the Benchmark is probably a much better DAC.
That was a factor in my buying it. Is there an MQA dac as good as the Benchmark 2? (Not Chord - I already have central heating). But your comment suggests the answer to my question - do I need a streamer? - is ‘No’
The answer is “no.”
I am pretty happy with my streamer, a Bluesound node 2. I can play Spotify, Pandora, Tune In radio, other music sources as well as Roon. And sometimes network glitches knock Roon out but the other sources are still there.
I think only you can decide that. Streamers feeding a DAC do make a difference to sound quality no doubt about it.
Things like listening experience and the rest of the chain matter a great deal though too.
A late 2012 i7 Mac Mini bootcamped to run W10 and Roon Core was inferior to my Sonictransporter i7 due to it being slower to cue up tracks and also the seemingly constant need to update W10. The sonicorbiter OS on the STi7 is hassle-free in comparison. Having said that, I use a networked Roon endpoint (OpticalRendu), so I cannot really comment on direct-to-DAC connection.
There are streamers that can work with Roon that are at least as good as older Benchmark DACs. The key for me is to find a good DAC maker who has decided to add a streaming module. So my choice, Teac together with the likes of Mytek have made reasonably affordable fully RAAT enabled DACs that process MQA and allow you to hide the core away. A single box, no USB, no additional power supplies, just a box that does the job.
Belated thanks to all who replied