A modern digital audio path, as a rule, does without disk transport – a streamer serves as the source of the audio stream to the digital-to-analog converter. A device that picks up data from cloud music services or a home network server and gently transmits the “digit” to the DAC. Progress in this area has stepped forward in recent years – the more interesting our selection of the best streamers of the 2021 season.
- Yamaha NP-S303
- Primare NP5 PRISMA
- AudioLab 6000N
- cocktailAudio N15D
- Sonore ultraRendu
- Sonore opticalRendu
- Cambridge Audio CXN v2
- Auralic Aries G2.1
- Antipodes Audio EX
- Aurender W20
Lots of opportunities for relatively little money. The Yamaha NP-S303 plays almost everything (AIFF, FLAC, DSD, PCM up to 24/192, has built-in clients for Tidal, Spotify, Deezer, Napster, Pandora, the AirPlay protocol is not forgotten), it also supports MusicCast technology. There was also a place here for a DAC based on Burr-Brown DSD1791, as well as a Bluetooth adapter. As for the sound, everything is in order – even if the device does not boast of textured bass, it will provide a very good spatial separation of images.
Price – $400
The miniature Primare NP5 PRISMA is the perfect way to extend the functionality of any digital input system to streaming. It has AirPlay2, Bluetooth, Chromecast, and Spotify Connect. The component is Roon Ready certified, can control other devices of the firm via RS232 and flaunts really brilliant sound quality for its price category.
Price – $520
The representative of the traditional British school of sound, AudioLab 6000N, knows a lot. DTS Play-Fi technology, work via the Ethernet port over UPnP, a whole scattering of outputs, including USB, work with signals up to 24/192. The fashionable ES9018K2M chip is used for audio output to analog outputs, and the proprietary Play-Fi application allows you to control the system from anywhere in the room. Exceptional attention is also paid to the food system. The result? Natural sound, to which (taking into account the price category of the device), it is absolutely impossible to express a single complaint.
Price – $619
Powerful thing. The cocktailAudio N15D is powered by a 1GHz ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processor, supports UPnP, has a Saber ES9018K2M Reference DAC “just in case” and allows for 2.5 ”drives. The model also has built-in clients Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Airable, as well as support for Airplay and Google Cast. Signals are processed up to the PCM 24/192 and DSD256 formats; the sound is distinguished by good detail and well-developed mids.
Price – $800
A proven classic that has been on the charts for quite some time. Sonore ultraRendu flaunts thus a solid sound without a shadow of discrete digital plaque, provides excellent timbre fidelity and spatial picture. A clean streamer – no frills in the form of internal or external drives, an arsenal of interfaces – receiving data over the network via wired Ethernet, outputting a digital stream to a DAC – only via USB.
Price – $830
Today it is one of the most modern and elegant streamers. The model is able to convert a signal received via fiber optic Ethernet into USB for subsequent transmission to a digital-to-analog converter. Sonore opticalRendu works more efficiently due to the galvanic isolation of the signal through the optical network – ideally, use the proprietary opticalModule ($270) with the device with an additional FEMTO clock generator. The sound quality is stunning, the sound flaunts a real “diamond” and demonstrates extremely solid musical imagery. There is RoonReady certification, work is carried out with signals up to PCM 32/784 and DSD512. There is no power supply included; it is best to use a linear Uptone Audio UltraCap LPS-1.2.
Price – $1260
On the Cambridge Audio CXN v2, you can simply admire – the design of the model is admirable. Equally advanced is the stuffing of this streamer – a powerful DSP-processor, support for MPEG-DASH adaptive streaming technology, HLS protocol, Adaptive Time Filtering upsampling module (with which all signals are scaled up to 24/384 parameters). Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Chromecast are all in stock. The sound reveals the luxurious and enchanting notes so highly appreciated by audiophiles.
Price – $1600
Serious upgrade – in version G2.1 Auralic Aries got a double case with smart shielding, new anti-vibration mounts, as well as a new version of the Lightning D OS. The power supply on USB interfaces has also been significantly increased, which ensures compatibility with a much larger fleet of equipment. Otherwise, everything is fine too – double galvanic isolation, dual Femto Clocks and Tesla G2 platform (2 GB RAM, 1 GB cache memory and 8 GB internal storage, Bit-Perfect Multi-Room). Streaming to DSD512, PCM 32/384. The luxurious, plastic, rich sound of the Auralic Aries G2.1 captivates at once – before us is a representative of the real High End league.
Price – $6200
A highly customized streaming computer – machined aluminum case, passive cooling, carefully selected and optimized hardware, modified “clean” Linux-based OS. Antipodes Audio EX can be used as a streamer, as a server, and as a network storage (PCM up to 32/768, DSD512). But, the device shows the maximum capabilities exactly as a streamer – when all its processing power is directed to work with a digital stream. In this case, the sound goes to a new level and makes you doubt whether the age of a pure analogue is so long. The crystal clear sound of Antipodes Audio EX makes you believe the impossible.
Price – $8200
Major League, without any doubt, a full-fledged Ultra High End. The Aurender W20 has the full functionality of both a streamer and an audio server. Before us is a precision development in every sense – battery LiFe PO4 (revolver mode operation of lithium-iron-phosphate batteries), ADPLL (All Digital Phase-Locked Loop) circuit on an FPGA matrix, a thermostated OCXO quartz generator, two 6 TB disks and 256 GB cache on an SSD, and its own control point based on the Aurender Conductor App. The sound of the model makes you believe in the impossible – it has a gloss and charm, the notorious “diamond”, so beloved by audiophiles. And, of course, the holography and outstanding detail.
Price – $28000