I just ordered a Bartok today which will be my first streamer/DAC, and now I am starting to build the network side of the system. For those of you who use an Innuos (or similar server) as a server paired with a DCS dac, did it improve the sound quality or user experience compared to having either a cheap network setup with NAS/router, or an optimized one with switches/regenerators, associated PSUs, and nice cables?
I inquired with DCS and the local retailer if the Bartok would sonically benefit from a fancy server like the Innuos, and they both said no and that the network inputs were almost totally impervious to outside influence. However, when I demoed the Bartok playing Qobuz at the local retailer I could tell something really wasn’t sounding right to me coming from the digital inputs, kind of a noisy glare that I’m not used to with current USB/I2S PS Audio setup. Right now it seems to me that the ethernet game will turn out to be a lot like the USB game, a supposedly invincible format that ultimately requires switches, regenerators, fancy cables, etc. to sound great.
If ethernet optimization is needed for the lowest noise sound, the fewer boxes, less fan noise, and software tinkering, the better. The alternative is a not inexpensive “silent” NAS+linear PSU, Shunyata Alpha and Sigma ethernet cables and Uptone Etherregen. (I have a small living space so I need a server that I can have in the same room as the DAC. I’m also a big Shunyata fan.) This is why I’m looking at the more expensive option with Innuos, but I thought it would be wise to ask some other DCS owners for feedback.
(I know what the engineers would say about ethernet as a format, but at this point I’m unconvinced that it’s a free lunch in terms of sonics)