Bridge, Streamer, Network Player, Roon Endpoint, Renderer - wtf

poonbean

Member
Jul 31, 2020
30
16
13
I feel like an idiot.
But, I simply can't seem find a clear definition nor explanation of what these words referring to boxes upstream of the DAC actually do and how they differ. Some boxes with what appear to have similar capabilities have completely different names, while others with similar names do not have same capability.

So, I thought I'd ask this group for help - having not found a clear explanation elsewhere. If there's a thread in WBF or a youtube or some other website, please point me there. If not, here's my take:

Streamer - any box that receives a network signal input (cat5 or fiber patch cable) - the box might output digital (which makes it a bridge), or might output analog (which makes it a dac) - so "streamer" is really an adjective not a noun.
for more confusion, msb uses the word Renderer, which can be added to their dac to receive ethernet.

Bridge - converts the digital signal from one connection type to another, for example from Cat5 to USB or toslink (digital in digital out), so a streamer bridge and bridge are really the same thing. For more vocabulary confusion Lumin U1 does this and they call it a Network Transport

DAC
- receives a digital signal (other than ethernet) and converts to analog out (duh)
DAC Streamer - receives digital signal including ethernet, and outputs analog (a la lumin x1, msb, and others on the way to simplify things, hopefully)

Network Player - perhaps a DAC Streamer, some have storage

am I close?
Unless it's me, sure would be nice if the mfgrs settled on common vocabulary for these things

I'm in the process of changing from a Dac that is a roon endpoint and has an ethernet connection to a dac that has neither.
Assuming a bridge is what I'll need to input the digital signal, suggestions for a good bridge without storage or upsampling would be helpful - so far I've come across:
- moon mind (which they call a network player, no usb out)
- lindemann bridge (no usb out)
- stack link (which they call a Network Bridge/Streamer/Reclocker, only usb out)
- auralic aries (which they call a streaming transporter)
- lumin u1 and u2 (which they call a streaming transport)
- dcs network bridge
- innuous makes something, but it has storage that i don't need

And now the Roon endpoint question - if the dac is not a roon endpoint, what's needed for the dac to receive Qobuz via the Roon interface?
I have the roon nucleus, but only because I like the interface and qobuz is fine, no stored files. If there's a way to lose the nucleus but keep the interface that'd be great.
 
Last edited:

tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
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Most any capable modern computer can act as the Roon Core. You could thus dispense with the Roon Nucleus (which is just a stripped down, optimized for Roon audio computer anyway). The general purpose computer could also act as your control device for the Roon interface.

Audio manufacturers want to sell you stuff and make money. That doesn't mean that dedicated streaming devices etc. don't work well. They do. But you don't need any dedicated streamer or even a dedicated DAC to listen via Roon to Qobuz streaming.

For example, from my iMac computer desktop system I can make the computer the Roon Core, and stream Qobuz either from the Qobuz app or the Qobuz web interface via headphones. I also download the Roon control software to the computer allowing use of the very nice Roon GUI. Or, I can just listen to the streams directly via the Qobuz app.

My Apple AirPods Max headphone connect to the computer wirelessly via Bluetooth.

I also use NAD Viso HP-50 headphones via a wired connection. I can either let the computer do the DAC work and connect the headphones to its analog headphone jack, or take the output of a USB-C connector through a DAC dongle from DD Hi Fi which does full MQA decoding from Tidal Master files.

I can also let my Benchmark DAC 3B do DAC duties. I connect the computer to the Benchmark via USB, then the Benchmark drives a Mjolnir electrostatic headphone amp and I listen via my Stax SR-X9000 electrostatic headphones.

In all these cases, the iMac computer could act as both Roon Core and Roon controller. There is no separate streamer. In actuality, I have found that running Roon via the Roon Nucleus+ as the Roon Core sounds slightly better than using a general purpose computer like the iMac so I actually do use the Nucleus+ as my Roon Core. But I suspect that most listeners would regard the sonic differences as subtle, not really significant.

I love the Roon interface, but, honestly, even via the Roon Nucleus+, the sound of streaming via Roon is not quite as good as when I stream via my Lumin X1 using the Lumin App for streaming. The sonic difference is more noticeable than the difference between using the Nucleus+ as the Roon Core and using a general purpose computer as the Roon Core. Again, though, this is still pretty subtle. But via my Sanders 10e electrostatic hybrid speakers, it is enough to make me use the Lumin App to listen most of the time.
 
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tmallin

WBF Technical Expert
May 19, 2010
824
271
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Chicagoland
Perhaps that explanation got more complicated than necessary. The bottom line is that you don't need Roon or any "streamer" to listen to any streaming audio source even at a high level of fidelity.

My favorite example if my iPad Pro. I attach to its USB-C jack a DD HiFi TC35 "Eye" portable (USB stick-sized) DAC, a $100 item. To this you can plug in high-quality, high-sensitivity headphones like my NAD Viso HP-50 and listen even to native Hi-Res PCM, MQA (it's a full MQA decoding DAC) or DSD streams in wonderful fidelity even at quite high volume.

All you need to do is download to the iPad the Tidal and Qobuz apps (you have to pay for Tidal and/or Qobuz subscriptions of course), an internet radio aggregator service, or any particular other streaming services or links you may want to use, like YouTube, Jazz Radio, Sirius/XM and others. From the iPad you could also access your network music files, or load such files directly onto the iPad if it has the hard drive space for this (you can get up to a TB of storage on iPads these days, enough for more than 1,000 albums in WAV format.

No computer, no streamer, and no Roon or Nucleus is needed. No, you won't get the wonderful Roon GUI this way, but the sound will be at least as good, if not better than streaming via Roon.
 

poonbean

Member
Jul 31, 2020
30
16
13
Thanks for the feedback, especially a solution to using roon without the nucleus - tho seems like I need to keep the pc running for that to work.
I'm actually searching for confirmation that my understanding of these various boxes and the vocabulary is accurate.
 

kenreau

Well-Known Member
Sep 11, 2014
12
1
133
I feel like an idiot.
But, I simply can't seem find a clear definition nor explanation of what these words referring to boxes upstream of the DAC actually do and how they differ. Some boxes with what appear to have similar capabilities have completely different names, while others with similar names do not have same capability.

So, I thought I'd ask this group for help - having not found a clear explanation elsewhere. If there's a thread in WBF or a youtube or some other website, please point me there. If not, here's my take:

Streamer - any box that receives a network signal input (cat5 or fiber patch cable) - the box might output digital (which makes it a bridge), or might output analog (which makes it a dac) - so "streamer" is really an adjective not a noun.
for more confusion, msb uses the word Renderer, which can be added to their dac to receive ethernet.

Bridge - converts the digital signal from one connection type to another, for example from Cat5 to USB or toslink (digital in digital out), so a streamer bridge and bridge are really the same thing. For more vocabulary confusion Lumin U1 does this and they call it a Network Transport

DAC
- receives a digital signal (other than ethernet) and converts to analog out (duh)
DAC Streamer - receives digital signal including ethernet, and outputs analog (a la lumin x1, msb, and others on the way to simplify things, hopefully)

Network Player - perhaps a DAC Streamer, some have storage

am I close?
Unless it's me, sure would be nice if the mfgrs settled on common vocabulary for these things
Please add the term "Server" to the list.
 

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