The improvement using my circa 2006 MacBook was nothing less than astounding. Through the stock audio output, the audio was grainy and, well, mediocre. With the Music Streamer connected, the sound was transformed from grungy to gratifying. Is it the sonic equivalent of a Meridian, Wadia, Audio Research, Cary Audio, Burmester or other high-end CD player or D/A converter? Of course not, but at $99 it doesn't pretend to be. (For $299, the HRT Music Streamer+ provides refinements like more upper midrange and high-frequency resolution, bass definition and soundstage depth.)
Will the Music Streamer work miracles on your computer's audio? I have no way of testing every computer out there, including models with high-performance sound cards, but if the improvement on my computers is any indication, I'm betting you'll hear a significant change for the better.
• In my testing, the HRT Music Streamer provided a dramatic improvement in computer music sound quality.
• The device is simple to connect to a computer-based audio system.
• It's compact, and easy to use with a desktop or laptop.
• You can't connect an iPod directly to it--the Music Streamer doesn't have a dedicated iPod docking connector.
• It's plain looking--er, some would say homely.
• It's not an all-purpose D/A converter--you can only use it with the USB output from a computer, not with, say, the digital output of a CD player or transport.
The High Resolution Technologies Music Streamer is a compact outboard USB-compatible D/A converter that can be a boon to anyone who wants to enjoy good sound from computer music files and streaming audio. It made a major sonic improvement compared to my computers' stock D/A converters. I can now truly enjoy listening to music from my computers, and that's an improvement in my quality of life, not just in my audio gear.
• Read more source component reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com.
• See a review for High Resolution Technologies' iStreamer USB DAC.