Sound difference between streaming bridges?

Hello,

Are there sound differences between streaming bridges?

I will change my system from a MacBook used at Core and streamer by WIFI to the MacBook used only for the Roon Core an a seperate Bridge/Streamer by LAN.

Do you think that there are differences between a Cambridge MXN10 used as a bridge and a Lumin U2 Mini?

The DAC would be a Chord Qutest fed by SPDIF Coax, followed by an Audionet Pre1G3 and ATC100 actives.

Which streaming bridge would you prefer in this combination?

I don‘t use upsampling and prefer lossless.
Regards Rüdiger

If the DAC and the analog side is the same, there will be no difference.

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Although those are revealing loudspeakers, that Chord DAC is resistant to jitter and any other upstream nonsense from the transport. You won’t notice a significant difference in sound quality. Based on personal experience, I’d suggest a WiiM Pro over the Cambridge Audio and Lumin options because WiiM’s software and integration with Roon is excellent. For streaming transports, software quality is more important than hardware.

There’s some fuss over WiiM no longer supporting Apple AirPlay, but I assume that’s a temporary situation, I assume due to licensing issues or some other nonsense.

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WiiM still supports receiving AirPlay.

It’s the AirPlay cast (sender/transmission) that was pulled from the devices. Possibly due to licensing, IDK

A streaming bridge has the same sound impact as the crossings the UPS truck is using on delivering your CDs.
None!
Both are only waypoints in the delivery chain.

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Thank you for answering.
I had a Wiim Pro in my system. It sounded clearer but a little bit brighter in opposite to the MacBook alone, I guess. The symptom was that I liked to use the red warm filter of the Qutest. Now the Wiim is in the living room because the WIFi signal is not strong enough in the cellar, where the great hifi system works. My first work is to bring LAN into the cellar.
Thanks for the advice.
Regards Rüdiger

Depending on transparency of your remaining system you will be able to hear the differences between digital transports (streaming bridges as you call them).

As an example, one of the easily catched differences can be the “digital glare” - e.g. added/distorted information in high frequencies - causing the unnatural “brightness” , usually comes with having “more detail” as the lower amplitude sounds get more pronounced. Listening to good recording of female voice is usually good way to spot this issue.
There are many more ways digital transport can affect the resulting sound (while still keeping everything bitperfect of course) as unfortunately I have not yet heard DAC which would be completely agnostic to connected digital transport (regardless of the claims about DACs jitter-resistance or galvanic isolation).

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Seeing that your DAC measures like this, I‘m taking your comment with a large grain of salt …

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I would like to correct your assumption, this has nothing to do with some specific DAC.
As i mentioned before i had this experience with several different DACs (Mytek Brooklyn, Chord Hugo2, Topping D50 , PS Audio DS/mk2 etc).

Still, my current streamer is RPi based, although with many tweaks found in commercial streamers it’s far beyond just plain RPi - and all those small changes bough improvement in sound. My ultimate goal was/is to get my streamer on the level of the best CD/SACD transports.

Of course. No doubt. But it’s probably worth pointing out that this may be unique to your experience, based on current acoustic and psychoacoustic research and knowledge. That is, your experience may not, in fact probably will not, be shared by others. More’s the pity!

I find this curious. Relying on motors to spin discs at constant speeds so that lasers can pull reflections off sometimes-imperfect physical media only for it to be buffered then decoded by early D/A technology… That might sound different, sure. An interesting goal. Not one I’d pursue.

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Have you also measured one by any chance? Using hearing as a measuring device is not exactly scientific.

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If what you said was true no streaming services would exist. If each of the ten thousands switches between the servers and your own device would add/distort the smallest portion of information, at the end no music would arrive.

Please inform yourself how DIGITAL data transmision works and you will not longer need any snake oil devices. If an inbetween device would add/distort anything no bank would allow online banking and at the end the whole internet would be worthless.

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Another thread destined for the go slow pile @moderators

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Well, every time the Oort Cloud of bits-are-not-bits fallacy sends another comet that comes close to the Sun and becomes visible, someone needs to track it and make sure it won’t pose any danger to Earth. It’s unlikely it will stop any time soon.

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I fully agree it’s my experience in my setup and other systems I had chance to listen to during their several-years evolution.

I am pretty sure it’s not psychoacoustics and seeing where is this thread going I will rather just focus on constructive questions:

  • Indeed, disc transports have their own inherent issues, but apparently now quite well covered during the years. Fun fact - i had excellent SACD transport on loan and found that CDs won’t really play its best until it’s treated before , however this player had USB input for thumb drive and believe or not, the thumb drive was always playing as good as when the disc was treated. i’m lazy so treating CDs before play is not the way i want to go, i just want to achieve that sound quality from my streamer :slight_smile:

  • i do not own measurement device on the level required for this purpose (it would cost almost as the whole audio chain) If someone thinks Scarlett 3rd gen ADC is capable enough I can run any measurement desired. I made some jitter measurements in the past - based just on Software changes , just to get a picture rpi-usb-audio-tweaks/README.md at main · maniac0r/rpi-usb-audio-tweaks · GitHub

  • i fully get people to which any change upstream to DAC should not make any change at analog output until the bitstream is affected in digital domain. With my electrical engineering background with focus on digital technologies i had the very same view until I had chance to try my first audio HAT on RPi. The difference between USB out and HAT from plain RPi was huge. Also the same HAT with different clock sounded different. Also different power supply for streamer, or it’s ethernet cable and ethernet switch etc.

That made me doubt the theory or better said it opened my mind for further experiments and shifted my standpoint from what we have been taught in school (which i later (too late) found out was just very simplified to reality) to why these things interact , why is it happening etc.

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Everything involving hearing is psychoacoustic.

Here’s something that doesn’t break the bank. If the difference is that huge, I would expect it to pick up some differences:

E1DA Cosmos ADCiso Hi-Precision Analog To Digital Converter For Audio Testing (aliexpress.us)

I would think that someone with an engineering background would go to greater lengths before doubting the theory [based on which engineers built these machines] over unverified subjective impressions. I mean, really, no measurements at all?

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Thanks for the link, i’ll look closer to that device .

Indeed it’s hard even for trained ear and agree it can be also easily misleading (that would be the psychoacoustic part), meaning i had to repeat some comparisons several times to make conclusion , so trusted measurement equipment would help indeed.

Regarding the “theory” vs manufacturers - if you look closely to high end streamers vs basic ones, you will find the differences , basically focused on making the streamer more agnostic to environment , or in other words making sure the output to DAC is as close to ideal as possible regardless circumstances. And in my experience it can work - for example with Aurender (can’t recall the model, it costed around 5k) the impact of changing ethernet switch is barely audible (always sound good), while with simpler streamers the impact can be really significant.
There is no magic behind, just meticulous removal of imperfections , be it timing, electrical or even emmited RFI&EMI.

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I’m interested in what properties of digital audio transmission from transport to dac you think are responsible for harder high frequencies, or steely treble. In there some special changes to the 1’s and 0’s that makes the treble come out differently?

Perhaps one bit perfect USB streamer is not the same as another bit perfect USB streamer, again perhaps you can educated me as to what phenomenon in a digital replay system is responsible for this?

If I apply these changes to my laptop, can I get brighter whites and bluer blues on the screen? Assuming your theories apply to all digital data transfer and not just audio.

Now that I think of it, I was using my phone in the bath and noticed that the £ sign on my online banking seemed a bit wetter looking.

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P.s. in case it wasn’t clear from the sheer amount if tongue in cheek there. There are no differences between streaming transports outputting the same data stream. It is physically impossible for there to be any, and any such differences between them, their connecting cables and power supplies, are purely imagined by the poor fools that buy them!

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Note that if one is using an rPi3B+ or earlier, the Ethernet and USB ports share the same bus. This is not optimum for various reasons. But the good news is that this is no longer true on the rPi4 or rPi5.