I thought it might be useful to share with you my journey in trying to find a Roon endpoint that Ive been progressing over the past couple of months. Before I get into it, I want to confirm I am in no way associated with the any of the manufactures of the kit Ive tested, I just wanted to find the best endpoint I could within a £4000 budget. For me it has to sound warm with a large sound stage, detailed but not digital sounding.
My setup is Audio Note Soro SE Signature amp, Audio Note 2.1X Signature DAC and Audio note AN/E speakers. The DAC only has SP/DIFF and no USB connection so this limited the some of the choices. I have ROON running on an Intel NUC i7.
I started off with the Roon server connected directly to the DAC via a Hiface USB to SP/DIFF convertor, as I believed that all digital was digital and how could it make any difference. The Hiface went faulty so I replaced it with a Musical Fidelity expecting there to be no difference. As soon as I connected it there was a difference in the sound quality, proving to me that not all digital is equal. This triggered me to start the journey to find the best endpoint. This is the kit I tested, in my opinion in order of sound quality:
HiFace USB to SP/DIFF – very coarse and digital sounding limited sound stage
Musical Fidelity V-link – a step up from HiFace but still a long way to go
HifiBerry Digi+ - Gets the sound off the Rasberry Pi, not really hifi but great value for money
Bluesound Node 2i – very digital and bright sounding, didn’t sound realistic to me, good sound stage
Auralic Aries G1 – Very large sound stage , but again sounded very digital and processed and not a natural sound and I found it fatiguing very quickly
Meridian 210 – nice sounding player, quite neutral and not digital, but I found the sound stage to be compressed, it seemed you know the sound was coming from the each of the speakers but not much in the middle
DCS Bridge, very smooth and realistic sound, lacking some slight detail, nice sound stage, but is it now value for money?
Allo Digi+ Signature with Linear power supplies, amazing value for money, very smooth sound, huge sound stage, occasionally slight lack of realism but impossible to beat at the price
Lumin U1 Mini, this is the one Ive settled with for now, the music sounds very realistic and the speakers seems to disappear, huge sound stage, very easy to listen to for hours with getting fatiguing. Occasionally a little bright but nothing I cant live with.
DCS Bartok – absolutely sublime, tracks Id heard 100 times before sounded like remixes, this brings every bit of detail without sounding digital or processed, only problem is it was way out of my price range.
So the next step is to get a linear power supply for the Lumin, I will let you know if a few months how this upgrade improves the sound or not.