HRT Music Streamer II
The HRT Music Streamer II is an asynchronous-mode USB audio converter, capable of high-end audio reproduction
- A great-sounding digital converter for your PC
The HRT Music Streamer II is a great-sounding digital converter for your PC. It's a costly item for its small size and simple construction, yet a great investment for its big, natural sound, bringing to life the music in your digital library.
Price$ 199.00 (AUD)
For most listeners, good digital sound from a computer is a fait accompli, a done deal. The built-in soundcard on a PC or laptop promises '20Hz to 20kHz' reproduction, so providing you play uncompressed WAV or lossless digital formats like FLAC or Apple Lossless (ALAC), you're getting sound as good as a CD player, right?
Well, not necessarily. Or less courteous to the efforts of PC makers, almost certainly not. For one thing, audio circuits hate computers.
Audio amplifiers and analogue circuits are easily upset by the interference from radio-frequency noise – such as the multi-megahertz clocks cycling all through a personal computer. So the first stride forward in sound quality is usually found by simply locating the digital-to-analogue converter (DAC) away from a noisy motherboard and its switch-mode power supply.
A quick-and-easy solution for this can be found in the shape of the USB audio adaptor. Working out of the box without additonal drivers or software on modern Macs and Windows PCs, these devices take raw digital data audio from the computer, with the minimum of fuss.
But audio data still needs some care in its transport, lest its precise timing is subtly smeared, leading to a form of audible distortion often dubbed jitter.
This can make for a harder, grittier sound with a looser sense of musical timing. In short, the sound may be rough-edged and glassy or vague and tuneless. Or all these things.
Adaptive versus asynchronous
Until recently, sending sound over USB relied on a default transmission protocol called adaptive-mode USB audio. In short, the essential clock timing signals needed in D-A conversion are derived here from the computer's clocks.
Like the long-standing S/PDIF interface used to connect CD players to outboard converters, a bi-phase clock recovery system is essential to recreate the timing pulses required to reassemble the binary stream correctly.
It kind-of works, but perhaps not as well as a more up-to-date system, known as asynchronous mode USB audio.
Asynchronous mode USB audio now has the host (the computer) and the outboard converter's clocks free-running relative to each other.
Crucially, the converter device itself dictates when data packets are sent from the host, ensuring a timely flow of data with no chance of overflow or underflow in the data buffer.
Put another way, rather than passively receive whatever the computer dishes out, asynchronous mode devices such as the HRT Music Streamer II take a much more pro-active role, telling the computer when to send data packets. And the final D-A conversion is referenced to a precision local clock, right inside the unit.
In the case of the HRT Music Streamer II, the digital input receiver module is actually a transceiver – able to transmit instructions back to the host as well as receive music data packets. HRT employs a Texas Instruments TAS1020B chip, under the guidance of the company's own custom firmware to do this critical work. Set up this way, interface jitter is said to be eliminated.
After this, a Burr Brown PCM1793 chip (specified for 24-bit/192kHz operation) carries out the actual D-A conversion in the HRT Music Streamer II, from digital bitstream into analogue music.
Care has also been taken to ensure good isolation between the computer and audio system, lest unwanted noise intrude into those precious audio circuits. HRT quotes a greater-than 20 megaohm isolation figure.
In practice, the HRT Music Streamer II appears as 24/96 device to the computer; a true audiophile standard. Which is not so surprising when you discover the pedigree of the HRT Music Streamer II.
HRT stands for High Resolution Technologies, and Mike Hobson of audiophile record label Classic Records. Both Halverson and Hobson have been championing the benefits of 24/96 audio since at least the early days of DVD in the late 1990s.
Kevin Halverson told us, 'Our goal has been to bring to the average person a bit of what makes a high end product worth the price of admission.'
Join the newsletter!
Samsung QLED 8K TV
Ballistix Tactical Tracer RGB 3000
Bang and Olufsen Beoplay A9 Speaker
Ballistix Sport AT
Cartier Calibre de Cartier Diver Watch
Apple iMac Pro
Toys for Boys
Osmo Coding Awbie Game
Nix Pro Colour Sensor
ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac
Tivoli PAL BT
ESET Smart Security Premium
Little Bits DROID Inventor Kit
ESET Internet Security
Oregon Pro WMR500 Weather Station
SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3
Naztech Xtra Drive Mini + 256GB microSD Card
Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth Speaker
Ikea RIGGAD work lamp with wireless charging
TimeFlip Magnet Simple Time Tracking Device
This Holiday Season, protect yourself and your loved ones with the best. Buy now for Holiday Savings!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Samsung Galaxy Watch review: Brilliant but not quite a breakthrough
- 2 HP Omen 15 (2018): Full, in-depth review
- 3 HP Envy x360 13 (Ryzen): Full, in-depth review
- 4 Moto G6 review: A solid mid-tier effort with few compromises
- 5 Dell G5 review: Easy to live with
Latest News Articles
- AMD introduces 12nm Radeon RX 590 GPU
- Razer introduces the BlackWidow Lite
- PAX AUS 2018: HyperX branch into membrane keyboards with Alloy Core RGB
- ASUS introduces Prime X299-Deluxe II and ROG Dominus Extreme
- MSI announces custom GeForce RTX 2070 Series
PCW Evaluation Team
I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)
It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!
The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.
I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.
If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.
If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.
- Razer Phone 2 review: One for the fans
- Oppo R17 Pro review: Full, in-depth, Australian review
- Google Pixel 3 XL review: Ghost in the machine
- Which flagship TV is best? Sony 4K HDR Bravia 2016 versus LG 4K HDR OLED 2016
- 10 Blu-ray movies / Best looking Blu-ray movies