Music path - sharing opinion on a few configurations

Over the years I have been enjoying forums such as this one where I was able to ask opinions and help for trouble shooting. When I can and fell it has added value, I try to contribute. Hopefully, this may interest someone (eventually…).

I was recently trying to simply my system (read: sell a few pieces to generate cashflow for new gears). I experimented with the digital signal path. That was triggered in reading a discussion (on another site) where the member compared the performance of a NUC with another streamer (multiple $K) and found no difference in SQ despite having a very revealing system. I then wondered if I can do something similar. Let me explain.

Current setup: NUC 7i7 with ROCK + LPS(very low noise) in my mechanical room; Lumin D2 as an end point (not using the internal DAC) with external LPS; and Audio Alchemy DDP-1 with external LPS as the DAC.

I decided to plug my NUC directly to my DDP-1 (no Lumin in the path) - USB connection. My theory was the less equipment in the path, the better the SQ. Asked the wife what she thinks - answer: why is the sound so flat, so dull, lifeless… OK, no success. Not to mention a few “pops” in the sound and lots of sibilance :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Now, less get rib of the DDP-1. New test: NUC back in the basement, Lumin as an end point but also as a DAC. Asked wife again: smooth, good voice (especially female’s) but the rest of the music is “blended”, not define. Basically, a good mid-fi system, not more. Hum… failed again. :neutral_face:

After a few hours of experimenting with cables, etc, back to the original setup - wow, so detailed, no sibilance, you can finger point the musicians. :smiley:

So what? Why is there much difference when using the NUC directly on my DAC? What is the added value of the Lumin in that streaming chain? Honestly, I have theories but no real answers. What can I do to have even better SQ - better digital cables? No sure it would change anything but…

Opinions welcome!

You did not say anything about your speakers or room… Good speaker placement and room correction via acoustic treatments and a little help from Room EQ Wizard (REW)…

I am driving my Reference 3a with a Bryston 2.5b3 and two bass cabinets (cannot really called sub woofer) with a Bryston 4b set via minidsp.

The room is terrible but was able to manage something. I tried a few times to maximize low frequency through REW measurements but I was never satisfied of the results. Ended up simply having my own house curve defined by “hear” and not from a mike. The results are serious ditches in the mid bass but I am ok with those for now

Ok… I will take a shot at the difference between a direct connection between your NUC and DAC versus the direct connection with the Lumin… The NUC is a general purpose computing platform and an electrical noise storm producer where the Lumin is a single purpose, precision made, electrically quiet device… Although bits are bits, there is additional electrical noise that may be conducted (egress / ingress) in an analogue path from digital device to digital device via USB, Coax, etc… Maxwell, Tesla and Faraday suggest all things transmit and receive… This RFI/EMI noise does have an affect on the analogue stages of a DAC… All noise is additive… Consider adding some wide band and base absorbers to your room…

Thanks Digital Dude. That can certainly explain part of the effect. That would means the Lumin act as a noise filter in the digital domain, correct?

To be more clear… The Lumin gets everything in the digital domain (read bits are bits) right and gets everything in analogue domain (read rfi/emi/etc noise rejection) right too… A DAC is a Digital to Analogue Converter… What happens when both Digital Data and Analogue Noise signals as Data and Noise are sent to it…


Thanks for the explanation.