Looking for streamer advice

I recently purchased a Nucleus and I am looking for streamer to go to my Amber 3 DAC. I was using a Orchard Audio Pecanpi Streamer/DAC into my Hegel H160 but recently made change to my system no computer in music room. I would like to stay under 2k new or used. I currently stream with Tidal and music from my NAS. What streamers should i be looking at that have USB to DAC.


I use a SOtM sMS-200 and it works flawlessly. There are more expensive flavors of SOtM streamers, so you can go right up to your $2000 limit or stay far under it. SOtM also makes “audiophile” Ethernet cables, filters, and switches if that’s your thing. I don’t see the utility in those but I don’t knock those who do.


Why not use your Nucleus? If you put an SSD drive in it, it is totally silent. I have my Nucleus connected by ethernet as well as HDMI to my Oppo 203 DAC and stream Tidal and Qobuz. Is your DAC not a Roon ready device or does that even matter if it’s connected directly to your Nucleus?

Is USB is the best quality input for your DAC? I’ve owned/own a variety of specialty DACs and USB was in some cases just a convenience input that did not match the quality of S/PDIF coax, AES, or I2S. Will you be streaming through the Nucleus? If so, worth looking at the simplest good quality Roon endpoint around. For USB, something like https://allo.com/sparky/usbridge-signature-player.html has got good feedback if you are willing to do a bit of configuring, or for simpler out-of-the-box setup, https://www.sonore.us/ultraRendu.html. Personally, I’m a fan of http://www.pi2design.com/store/p19/PI2AES_-_PRO_AUDIO_SHIELD.html but that requires more assembly (both hardware and software) and does not do USB.

Something like an ultraRendu is a great product but you need to be careful to identify any limitations of the USB component of your DAC. A used Lumin U1 mini would be another thing to look at in your price range.

This is good point. I am talking to Fred from Lampizator today.

I just use a standard Raspberry Pi with RoPieee. Use one of the USB ports to talk to the DAC. Works well with my Mytek DAC. Use Pi 4 if you are using Ethernet, Pi 3 is OK for WiFi.


“purpose-built to support only audio”

But there’s no DAC, no audio output jack. It’s got Ethernet, so it also supports networking, and USB ports in addition to the “Audio USB” port. What are those other USB ports for? It’s got a Web GUI, so there’s a web server running in it, too.

How gullible do these folks think we are?

I also recommend the SOtM SMS-200. I have the Ultra Neo version and it has been flawless and it sounds really good in my opinion.

Oh, I’m sure it works well. I just wonder if it does anything a $75 Raspberry Pi doesn’t do.

I don’t currently use USB DAC inputs, but for the several years I did, I carried out several tests between USB sources to various DACs. I asked my wife, who has a trained musical ear, to listen to alternative sources without knowing what was what (she doesn’t care about gear details anyway, just about great sound). She could pick preferred sources consistently. This is not surprising, because DACs differ in their ability to reject electrical noise carried by the USB connection, and the less able ones benefit more from a carefully built USB source.

Yes, there’s a lot of snake oil in this space, and more expensive is not always better, but there are also actual audible differences as you vary USB sources for some (otherwise good) DACs.

I certainly believe that in the abstract. But without details of what’s actually different in the outputs of the two devices, I’m not willing to substitute a price difference for a real explanation/measurement.

You’ll have to do that research yourself if you are interested, but at the time I did find some relevant measurements indicating that the noise floor and distortion of some DACs were affected by USB sources. These days, I ignore USB for audio and rely on Pi2AES which to our ears beats anything else at a really nice price (just a very satisfied customer, in case someone wonders).

Nope. They want to charge me an extra $375, they need to explain why. Otherwise, not interested.

Well clearly you aren’t their type of clientele.

1 Like

Pro-Ject Audio Stream Box S2 Ultra
is a roon ready endpoint and delivers USB (to a DAC)
with a HDMI output for an external display.

Actually yes, it takes about a workday to accomplish one succesful update. I have never managed to spend more than 15minutes when updating a Pi.
But yes, they sound quite different to a Pi, quite nice!

As I said, I completely believe that. I’m sure that some DACs are affected adversely by some USB sources. But what I want to know has nothing to do with that. Namely, what exactly are the differences between the USB ports of the Pi, and the “Audio USB” port of the SotM box? What is it that the SotM box is handling that the Pi doesn’t? That justifies the $375 premium? That’s the part I’m missing.

1 Like

I agree with you on that, for sure. SOtM (and some of its competitors) are remarkably opaque about what is supposed to make their devices better than a Pi. Some others more oriented to the DIY market have been more explicit about their design choices, mainly using a separate board with better power regulation, and in some cases using an optical isolator between the main Pi board and the board that feeds the DAC.Pi 3 USB shares a bus with its Ethernet and is claimed to be relatively noisy output compared even with a Pi 4.