My speakers are active Genelec studio monitors for professional use. Each speaker contains three DACs and three amps paired with the three speaker units inside the speaker. The input is in the digital AES/EBU format, which is for recording studios.
This means that I need a streaming solution that can output AES/EBU, or that can output a standard USB format (which my ’Berkely Audio Design Alpha USB’ then converts to AES/EBU.)
Many streamers have a USB socket that you can connect to an HDD for input. But very few have a USB output.
Then my solution may work if you have a DAP. I just tested this.
I have a Shanling m3X digital audio player (DAP).
I have installed USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) on this DAP.
I have then hooked up my DAC using the USB input of the DAC and the USB-C output of the DAP.
UAPP immediatly displayed a message that my DAC has been detected and asked if I want to use that.
I answered yes.
Then I simply turned on the “upnp renderer” option in UAPP settings.
I used any app to remtoly control UAPP that is selected as a renderer.
There you go => Streamer with USB output
How good does that sound ?
I don’t really know about AES/EBU but if that is like XLR, you can also directly get a 4.4mm balanced output to 2 X XLR cables and get rid of the DAC and use the integrated amp of your DAP.
I also own the Fiio m11 Pro which has 2 X AK4497 DACs and I don’t see why I would use any other DAC’s than those
I have had all four possibilities that I suggested to you here and have been able to compare them over the last few years:
ProJect Stream Box Ultra S2 (Probably the predecessor to MX Stream): Inspite of all the marketing speak, I did not find the Stream Box to sound any better than a Windows PC or another Intel or Raspberry based Volumio streamer via USB. I personally would not follow that path further. I never got the Stream Box to run smoothly with its original software. When I flashed standard Volumio onto it, it ran fine and stable. If you would like to try that, PM me for instructions how to do that. ProJect support had actually told me how to do that and their product manager also runs the Stream Box with plain vanilla Volumio instead of the ProJect OEM version (that says a lot). CAVEAT: I do not know whether the MX Stream can be flashed the same way. I would suspect it can, but there is no guarantee.
(used) NUC: Probably the cheapest solution, stable with Windows or Volumio. You will still have a USB link between the NUC and the Berkeley USB. I find USB links to be temperamental at best. I know of very few streamers that sound good through their USB output. Odroid N2 is one and Volumio Rivo is another, then at another price level, the MELCOs are good. The Odroids are old and keeping them alive is probably not something you want to get into.
Volumio Rivo: Allows you to get rid of the USB link. Going from Rivo to the Genelecs via AES is probably just as good (if not better) SQ wise as going NUC → Berkeley USB → Gelenec. The limiting element is not the Berkeley, but the NUC. A plus for the Rivo is that it has a USB output, if later you want to add a USB DAC, instead of using the DAC built into the Genelecs (not that that would sound any better …)
iFi NEO Stream: Sound slighty better through its AES output than the Rivo. The difference is small though. The plus of the NEO Stream is that it has a built in DAC, which allows you to connect a headphone amplifier via analogue, should you ever want to do that. Rivo only has digital outs. On the downside, NEO Stream does not have a USB out, just Coaxial and AES.
The last two solutions drastically simplify your setup and are probably the best bet to let you concentrate on enjoying music. I am 66 and I have definitely discovered the beauty of simplicity. Getting rid of distractions has become an important thing for me.
Wow, this is awesome advice. Thank you for taking the time to be so thorough in your explanations.
You wrote that the iFi NEO Stream sounds slightly better through its AES output than the Rivo, so I thought that might be “the one”. But then I see that the iFi doesn’t accept input from Bluetooth. That’s a major drawback.
Well, then I suppose I’ll go with the Volumio Rivo. I hope it’ll be a long and happy marriage. I’ll read some reviews of it before I press the button.
I feel a bit sad about leaving the Musical Fidelity behind, though. The build quality inspires love and trust, and also I respect the brand and its dedication to creating great sound systems. I would have loved it to work, but apparently, their software is a mess. You’re right, I don’t have time to spend trying to make it work.
Using a Raspberry Pi is pretty much the next (relatively small) step from turnkey, as it’s just about the simplest setup. For high quality sound I’d advise a Rpi3 or Rpi4 with a HifiBerry Digi or a compatible digital out hat. Just install Volumio as advised, power down the Rpi and plug in the digiboard. Reboot and Volumio will set it all up for you, the only thing you’ll have to change is the output, from analog to digital.
Hook it up to your stand-alone DAC via Toslink or coax and enjoy.
UPDATE: I’ve now bought a Volumio Rivo instead of the Musical Fidelity MX-Stream.
I worried that compatibility issues with my SSD or with my DAC might play a role in the MX-Stream not working, so I’ve taken them out of my chain. They’ve never even been connected to it. Instead, I play from an SD Card through the AES/EBU output of the Volumio Rivo. Nothing else is connected.
This unit also doesn’t work. I’ve asked for help with it here
Just to resume:
I bought a Volumio OEM streamer (Musical Fidelity MX-Stream). It doesn’t work.
My dealer spends days trying to get it to work. He can’t, either.
My dealer orders a new MX-Stream. I never see this unit; my dealer tries to make it work in his shop before handing it to me. But he can’t. It’s also defective.
I return the MX-Stream and buy a Volumio Rivo from another dealer. I try to use it in an entirely different setup. This unit is also massively defective.
Volumio and Volumio OEM is BY FAR the most frustrating encounter I’ve had in my decades as an audiophile.
I don’t get why so many people here adore Volumio. Are you the kind of people who love spending all weekends during the year trying to make DIY speakers work? Do you find units that work boring? WHAT IS THIS?