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HRT iStreamer

 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4505
Registered: May-05
I posted this last night, but somehow it's not showing up. Weird...

I've read the HRT Streamer thread a few times. Seems everyone really likes the HRT stuff. I've got to make some major changes in life, and the majority of the system will be boxed up...

My wife and I are sick of not being around family. Our daughter needs more family around (and we could certainly use the services of 6 grandparents - my parents are divorced and re-married).

This year we spent $38,400 combined in rent a daycare. $1600 per month for each. We're in a ton of debt and pretty much out of places to borrow from.

We're moving back to the Albany, NY area, where we both grew up and our families reside. We're moving in with my wife's parents so we can pay off our debt and save for a house of our own. You can get a great house for about $150k or so in a good neighborhood there. Where we are now, the median house price is currently $550k. Needless to say, we'll never be able to afford an average house where we are. Regardless of that, our daughter knowing her family is the most important thing to us.

So...

I've got to pack up the system and store it for a while. I'm going to bring the B60 and use it as a headphone amp. With my Etymotic ER4S IEMs (in ear monitors) it sounds fantastic. Can't use the Rega DAC and Apple TV, as there's not much room. Everything gets a bit too hot to stack them all on top of each other.

I'm thinking HRT iStreamer to the B60 to my headphones. The iStreamer takes the digital output of an iPod and DACs it. Basically what the other HRT stuff is doing to computers - substitute an iPod for a computer, and you get the idea. I have no desire to have the laptop and external hard drive running to listen to some tunes. Especially if I've only got a few minutes to listen. I can also use my iPhone, which I have a pandora app on it. I can get apps for other services like it too. After I move out of my in-laws' place (man that sounds bad), I can use the iStreamer in either the main system for my daughter's iPod (my wife gave up her's to put Kathryn's music on it) or a secondary system.

Audioquest makes some iPod dock connection to USB cables. I'll try that out and see how that goes too. I'm a bit sceptical of it, but I've heard differences in digital cables. I guess this is pretty much a digital cable.

There's not too many iStreamer reviews out there. Anyone heard one? I'd be interested in hearing about it.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 15113
Registered: Feb-05
Interesting changes, Stu. Sounds like you made the right choice for your family. Good on you and your wife, your daughter will be the richer for the choices you make now. Never heard the iStreamer.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4507
Registered: May-05
Music Direct has them and the Audioquest cables. They've got a 30 day return policy, and I got a bunch of gift cards for Christmas, so why not give it a go?

We'll all be better off due to the move. It'll suck for a while, but that's the price to pay. I get along with my in-laws far better than my own parents; they're not the issue. I just sucks to be 35, married, and a child, and have to move in with the patents. I estimate 9-12 months before we're where I want us to be financially. My wife thinks about 6 months or so. I think I'm far more realistic about it, but I really hope she's right!
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4508
Registered: May-05
Just to add...

At the end of the day, it's not about some million dollar dream house in the hills. It's about having a comfortable home where my wife and I can raise our daughter, and about her knowing her family. Nothing's more important than that. I like to think we're relatively modest poeople who don't need extravagant possessions. We just want something respectable that we can call our own.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 15116
Registered: Feb-05
That's what I figured, Stu. Nothing pretentious about you. You've been clear all along that family is first. Give your daughter all the opportunities for a good foundation now. My little girl died this year and I have nothing but regrets, not a place or feeling I would wish on anyone. You 'ARE" doing the right thing and I commend you for that. You'll be in your own place jammin' soon enough...meanwhile you will have made everyone's life better...that's a win the way I see it.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4509
Registered: May-05
I'm deeply saddened to hear that, Art. As a father, my sincere condolences. I know it was a struggle for quite a while, but I was hopeful that things would change. Regardless of the circumstances, there's always regret. Well, there's always regret when someone cares. Knowing you as well as I can know you through a forum and emails, I'm sure you did everything you could, and did it with her genuinely best interests at heart.
 

Gold Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 1160
Registered: Dec-06
My condolences on the loss of your daughter, Art. Can't imagine how that must feel.

Stu, short term pain for long term gain. 6-9 months often goes by in the blink of an eye. The first part of that will probably be tough (adjustment) but I'm sure you'll gradually get comfortable, and then before you know it you'll be house hunting and looking forward rather than back. Just make sure where ever you land has a good spot for your system!
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3626
Registered: Jun-07
Art- Sorry for your loss. As a father I couldn't imagine the pain you have gone through.

Stu- Bravo bud. Your doing the right thing. Family first indeed. My bro and his wife did the exact same thing a few years back and he claims it was the best thing he has ever done. After doing so he was able to purchase a 1600sq ft bungalo with 2 acres of property for 164,000 in Plainfield.

I have not heard the i-streamer Stu but have heard two models of the HRT family in my own setup and liked them both. I preferred the Plus model over the DACMagic which says a lot considering its half the price. Also, the models I had have all been replaced with current, upgraded models which I hear are even better. I am sure the I-Streamer would have similar sonic characteristics as their other DAC's which I am told are amazing for the money. Even their older models were out of this world for low dollar.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4510
Registered: May-05
Thanks Nick. I can't find many reviews on the iStreamer, so I'm going by their reputation and reviews of their other stuff. I can't imagine that it would be a departure from everything else they make, but I guess just about every company has a product that doesn't live up to the rest of the line.

Music Direct has a 30 day trial period, so I'm pretty confidant that I'll be fine if it's not what I'm looking for. I think I'll hold it up to the standard set by the Music Streamer II rather than their + or pro stuff, as it's priced around that price. I'd be willing to bet that it's the same internally as the II, as it's only a few bucks more. Adding the iPod stuff adds to the cost.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 15120
Registered: Feb-05
Let us know how you like it. I still plan on solving my HRT problem...dagnabbit.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4512
Registered: May-05
Getting ready to order it up right now, Art. I'm going to order an Audioquest iPod to USB cable too. It has the same trial period, so I figure why not? It's about $30 for a 5ft cable, which is a bit longer than the standard iPod cable. Even if it's no better than the standard cable, it's a bit longer which helps with handling the iPod.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 15124
Registered: Feb-05
I'd like to try that AQ cable as well.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3629
Registered: Jun-07
Wholly crap its gotta be better than that string can cheap az$ IPod cable Stu! haha! I am staring at one as I type this. I would bet the AQ one is far superior.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4513
Registered: May-05
I ordered the cheapest one, as that's all that's in stock and I'm just trying to see if there's an audible difference. If it was an analog output cable, I wouldn't have bothered because the analog output of the iPod probably isn't good enough to show differences. Since the cable will be digital out, I figure it's got a decent shot at making an improvement. Add to that that the iStreamer isn't going to be a primary source after I get my own place, and I don't think I should go too crazy with it.

Can't really see the point in the Audioquest iPod to USB cables other than for the iStreamer. Does any other digital iPod dock accept USB? Perhaps the Naim Uniti and UnitiQute? Strikes me as odd that they'd make that cable, but I'm not complaining as it definitely serves my purpose. Then again, I'm sure they've done their homework on the market. Who knows, maybe their's more products like the iStreamer on the way.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3630
Registered: Jun-07
Good points. Maybe they have done their research or maybe like most cable manufacturers their marketing team is busy busy. lol.

Either way it was a good choice to go with the cheapest IMO. Cant wait to hear your thoughts on the iStreamer. Its an intriguing little piece.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4521
Registered: May-05
I got it yesterday, but was too tired to give it a listen.

Listened a bit today, and I hate to say it, but so far I'm not impressed. Hopefully it needs a bit of warmup time and/or my B60 needs more warmup time too. The B60 usually needs a good half hour to open up and let the magic happen.

The iStreamer was a demo unit, so I'm not sure how many miles it has on it. Not really sold of burn in with non-moving stuff though.

It's definitely not the B60 and Etymotic ER4S combo. With the Rega DAC, they sound awesome. They show my speakers a trick or two. Not that I think they're better, but they do some things no speaker can - eliminate the room, and get up close an personal with the music.

I'm not expecting the iStreamer to be on the same level as the Rega DAC, but at this point it barely sounds better than straight out of the iPod or an analog dock.

There's been nothing for praise for it and the other HRT gear, but I'm not hearing it. It sounds closed in, dull, and grey.

Hopefully it just needs to warm up. I left the iStreamer and B60 powered up for the last few hours. Typing away on my iPhone while my little one's napping on my lap. Once I get her to stay asleep, I'll go back to it.

Again, I really, really hope it changes it's tune.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3645
Registered: Jun-07
Stu, the basic small design of the HRT units take quit a while to warm up. I agree with you that Burn In pretty much doesnt exist in such a small solid state design but where such a basic unit faults is its inability to get warm. Low levels overnight and a good solid listening session in the morning while your lovely daughter is eating breakfast. If it still sucks, send it back. lol. Hope it works out for you bud.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4524
Registered: May-05
The greyness, closed in and dull sound is gone, thankfully. It has definitely cleared up and cleaned up sonically. Far more dynamic too.

It sounds a lot better, but I'm not singing high praises for it yet. It's still got a few faults that maybe being plugged in overnight will cure. If not, I've got another 28 days to make up my mind.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 15187
Registered: Feb-05
Well it's a demo so the "non burn in" probably has already taken place. Could be that it simply isn't very impressive. Some HRT product probably get over hyped like the Oppo products. Still haven't heard one of those that I like.
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1473
Registered: Jul-07
For what it's worth, the two smallest components I have (the VDA-2 dec and Moon phono-pre) took FOREVER to sound their best. Weeks. I don't know why, but there it is for what it's worth. I went so far as to get a burn-in disk for the phono-pre.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3646
Registered: Jun-07
lol Art- Totally agree that Oppo is way over hyped. I only had the HRT Plus II in my system. Never A/B'd it to anything other than the DacMagic however. Jamie had a HRT Streamer II here and when we A/B'd it to my sub 1K MSB dac it got slaughtered. But for 150 dollar price tag it was quit surprising at what it could accomplish.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4526
Registered: May-05
I had more time than usual these days to sit and listen to some music. I listened a bit through my speakers, but mainly through my headphones, as pretty soon this is what I'm going to be living with for several months.

I think I was being a bit too critical of the iStreamer at first today, as I was comparing it directly to my Rega DAC. The Rega is 5 times the iStreamer's price and has a different function, so it's unfair to both components. But a comparison is warranted IMO. My DAC reference is the Rega DAC, as I think it's perfect. Not perfect to everyone else or even possibly anyone else, but in my system, room, and to my ears, it's easily the best digital sound I've heard. I've heard a little better in stores, but those DACs cost multiples of what I've got.

Through speakers -
Instruments sound smaller. It sounds like less music is coming out of it. The soundstage is smaller in every aspect. It sounds a bit congested, as instruments aren't as clearly defined in their own space. Oddly, most of the music sounds like its pushed back a couple rows, yet the highs are closer than with the Rega. It sounds greyer than the Rega. The highs sound a bit rolled off, yet they have a touch more bite/energy, and there's a very slight amount of silibance. Bass is a touch shallower in depth and looser, but it has more presence. That presence is a bit out of proportion, but not too much. The Rega gets my adrenaline pumping with this sheer presence and authority that the iStreamer seems to lack a bit. The iStreamer is musical, just not as much.

Through my headphones -
The difference in soundstage and size of instruments is negligible, and the congestion is minimized. Maybe an open pair of cans would make this more obvious? The first noticable difference was a slight sharpness and a bit of extra energy in the highs from the iStreamer. It's slightly rolled of in the highs compared to the Rega, but what's there is sharper. The cohesiveness of the ranges isn't as good. Bass is shallower and not as controlled. Not as appearent as with speakers, but still there.

Not that I want to, but I can listen to the Rega significantly louder than the iStreamer. When I push the volume with the iStreamer, that sharpness, energy in the highs, and lack of cohesiveness make for a not so good combination. At my normal level, it's not much of an issue. Once I get louder than the norm, it exponentially gets worse. With the Rega, I maxed out the volume and there was no feeling problem. It got too loud, but didn't have me wanting to rip off the headphones. At about 75% max, the iStreamer got very uncomfortable. Before you think I'm going to blow my ear drums, my headphones aren't an easy load and they're not efficient. With my speakers, the volume knob is normally at about 11:00. With my headphones, the same perceived SPL happens at right before 2:00.

The biggest difference again is the presence the Rega has. The Rega grabs your attention and keeps it. Not in a boom and sizzle way that gets old, but in a presence and authority way. Not in an aggressive and in your face way, but in a live on stage vs recorded music way. I guess that's the best way to describe the difference between them (regardless of if it's through my speakers or headphones) - the iStreamer sounds like recorded music; the Rega DAC sounds like live music.

To be honest, if the iStreamer was for background music or to dance with my daughter to, I'd barely notice the differences. No way the Rega would be worth $1k compared to the iStreamer at $200. But sitting down and paying attention to the music, the Rega stomps the iStreamer. It's not close. The iStreamer is worth every penny of its $200 price tag. I'd take it over several entry level DACs I've heard that cost about twice it's price without hesitation.

But again, I think I've been unfair to the iStreamer. It's meant to maximize iPod sound in as simple a manner as possible. It easily does that. If it weren't for my Rega DAC, my criticisms of the iStreamer would be minimal.

I'll start singing praises for the iStreamer - it hits its intended nail squarely on the head and drives it all the way through. I'll easily live with it for the time being. It's the simplest and easiest way of getting great sound out of my iPod. But I'll really miss my Rega DAC while it's boxed up.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4527
Registered: May-05
Just to add to all that...

All files are Apple Lossless. I had the luxury of being able to A/B them quickly because I could play the same song through the iPod/iStreamer and Apple TV/Rega DAC because a lot of my library is on both devices. All I had to do was change the input on my B60. I did that a few times at first for sh!ts and giggles, but didn't need to as the differences were obvious enough to not need to quickly go back and forth. I'm also not a big fan of quick A/Bs, as I feel you lose something in the flow of music.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 15207
Registered: Feb-05
Nice write up, Stu.

I still have the $99 original HRT Streamer and for what it is and when I have it working I think it's a fine product.
 

Gold Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 1168
Registered: Dec-06
Think Nuck is a fan of the Oppo 83SE and 95. Said it needs a long run in time. I haven't tried my 93 yet for music. Have to sell my old Ultralink interconnects first and then buy longer ones (due to the move of the system) first.

Come to think of it, I think I did try the 93 for music when I demoed the Rega DAC, and didn't like it as much as my Apollo.

But, Oppo sure is good for video quality. Beat my old CA 650BD and Denon 1611 on that front. About the same price as the Denon, and cheaper than CA. I wouldn't hesitate to buy Oppo if the main reason is watching DVDs and Blu-Rays.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3654
Registered: Jun-07
I agree Dan. As intended the Oppo are probably one of the best Blu Ray players out there. What I meant by overrated was its music playback. Which is really not its main focus.

Stu- Nice writeup. Your findings are much a like mine of the HRT units I have tried. For the money, they perform well, and do punch above their price tag compared to most similar priced DACs. However, when compared to something considerably higher end like your Rega, or in my case at the time, the Bryston and MSB DACs, it starts to become apparent that it is in fact, a 200 dollar DAC at the end of the day.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4537
Registered: May-05
Well... I might not miss my Rega DAC and Yaras for as long as I thought. My father owns 2 income properties. The tenant currently in the house I grew up in told my father he's leaving at the end of the month.

I'll stay with the in-laws for a few weeks so I can clean up, paint, and do some odds and ends. We can comfortably stay their as long as we need to.

While I get along great with the in-laws (far better than my own parents), I'm extremely happy it won't be nearly as long as I thought it would be.

Best parts - other than my daughter living in the house I grew up in - I'll have a seperate area for the stereo, and a woodshop in the basement - table saw, compound saw and drill press. Only thing I don't know how to use is a router, but I figure my old man will yell at me and belittle me enough while he teaches me. I feel some projects coming on - racks, speakers, and a bunch of stuff to bring the house up to date. I'm a huge fan of carpentering lol.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 15264
Registered: Feb-05
Great news, Stu. It''s wonderful when good things happen to good people! Congrats!!!
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1492
Registered: Jul-07
That's awesome Stu. I'm happy it worked out so well for you.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3669
Registered: Jun-07
Great news Stu. Congrats bud. I would love to take on some carpentering projects as it intrigues me. Only issue is I have no clue how to do anything.lol.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4539
Registered: May-05
Thinking about building this around the end of the summer -

Upload

I figure I can add more shelves as needed. I might add another piece on the top for the turntable as in this pic. I figure having a shelf on top of a shelf may be overkill, but not for a turntable -

Upload

Hifi Racks (a UK company) sells them from 129 GBP per tier. Whats that, about $200 a level?

Nick,
Building stuff isn't too hard. You just need the right tools, a solid plan, and some creativity.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nickelbut10

Canada

Post Number: 3670
Registered: Jun-07
That looks like a cool project Stu. The bottom one looks similar to the Naim Frame units which sell for around 1200 a tier I believe? Maybe a bit less.

I would buy that!! Yours I mean.
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