Sound Quality of streaming

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. Read 3269 times.

Freo-1

Sound Quality of streaming
« on: 17 Jun 2019, 02:58 pm »

Been looking into streaming options lately, and have to say that I'm not all that impressed with the sound quality from the various services.  The sound from the disc spinners (optical media) seems to be better quality than what's available from the services.  I also think the HD streaming services are not worth it, since the VAST majority of music available is not sourced from HD media to begin with.


Looking for feedback on this.  At first I thought it could be a jitter issue, but I ruled that out.  I switched from a McIntosh input to Devialet, and the sound improved markedly, but still not as good as optical (in general).  I have come across some exceptions, which makes me think it's the source material.

avta

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 608
Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #1 on: 17 Jun 2019, 03:24 pm »
Which services have you tried? Tidal has some high resolution streams which should sound quite nice through your Devialet. You can try it for free if you haven't already done so.

bacobits1

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #2 on: 17 Jun 2019, 03:49 pm »
Using a newly purchased Node 2i into an upgraded Yggdrasil and Qobuz HiRez it's pretty damn good here.
Yes the quality of material is all over the place. To be expected.
Using very good wires. Yes my transport will still beat it.
I refuse to buy into Tidal because of all who own it.

mcgsxr

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #3 on: 17 Jun 2019, 04:33 pm »
I have roughly 5TB of FLAC and some hirez that I stream around my house.

I use Apple Music on the go.

It all makes me happy.

OzarkTom

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #4 on: 17 Jun 2019, 04:42 pm »
Amazon will be upgrading there streaming services  this fall, I believe. That is what I am waiting for.

Tyson

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #5 on: 17 Jun 2019, 06:52 pm »
IME Qobuz sounds better than Tidal.  You need a good streamer and DAC, but very good sound is possible.  Not as good as a dedicated music server, but relatively close.

randytsuch

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #6 on: 17 Jun 2019, 07:12 pm »
I have tidal, haven't tried qobuz.

My ripped CDs sound better than tidal.
But tidal give me access to a ton of music, I've listened to a lot of stuff I'd never had heard otherwise.

And since I don't know what the CD's sound like for all this new tidal stuff, I don't know what I'm missing lol.

If I really like, I guess I could buy the CD, but then I would have to rip it.
I've gotten lazy, all my existing CDs are ripped, and anything new I stream on tidal
Streaming sounds fine to me, good enough that I don't feel the need to go buy CDs.
Mostly I stream CD quality at home and lower rates when I listen from my phone.

Randy

gefski

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 44
Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #7 on: 17 Jun 2019, 07:18 pm »
For me, the 16/44 FLAC files from Tidal sound great, only slightly eclipsed by the same album ripped. And when I consider what I've spent and gone through to acquire music for about 50 years, Tidal is a screaming bargain.

iMac/Audirvana  --  Dante Ethernet unDAES-O  --  AES/YggyB

Freo-1

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #8 on: 17 Jun 2019, 07:19 pm »
IME Qobuz sounds better than Tidal.  You need a good streamer and DAC, but very good sound is possible.  Not as good as a dedicated music server, but relatively close.


Good to know.  The DAC I'm using is very good, and the streamer had some software bugs, but seems to be working better with the latest drop.

WGH

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #9 on: 17 Jun 2019, 08:14 pm »
I haven't tried Qobuz but I have Tidal for a 90 day trial and it sounds like a good radio station. If you have full range speakers you will notice there is less there there, the highs and lows are attenuated and imaging is not as precise with less depth too. Sometimes I can find a nice selection of songs to clean the house to.

Art Dudley's review of the Naim ND5 XS 2 Media Player has a good description of the Tidal sound:
https://www.stereophile.com/content/naim-nd5-xs-2-media-player

"Have I saved the best for last? Not in terms of sound quality: That honor would have to go to the best files I played via Roon from my laptop, or from portable USB storage. Nor in terms of the selection of recordings, or access to previously unheard jewels: In those regards, there's no beating Internet Radio. But for now, services such as Tidal and Qobuz are where variety and quality intersect, offering the music lover the path of least resistance to pretty good sound and pretty good selection. So I guess I've saved the easiest for last."

audioengr

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #10 on: 17 Jun 2019, 08:38 pm »
Your first thought was spot-on.  It's the jitter of the devices you are using mostly, but there are also two other things at play:

1) if you are using Ethernet, significant improvements will result if you use an audiophile switch and an audiophile Ethernet cable, like those from SOtM.  If you are using USB, then adding a regenerator like the SOtM tx-USBUltra makes a big difference.  The two USB cables must be high quality as well, such as the Wireworld Platinum.  I have both of these setups.

2) The playback software makes a huge difference as well. I have compared many for Ethernet, including Jriver, Twonky, Roon and Linn Kinsky.  Linn Kinsky and Kazoo win hands-down.  I have also compared many USB playback apps, including Amarra, Jriver, Audirvana, Foobar2K, and others.  Amarra and Audirvana win.

If you optimize the playback hardware for jitter, use the right playback app and add the equipment I listed, you will get stellar results.  I just compared a $20K Accuphase transport using my reclocker to reduce jitter and my computer audio playback is still better.

I use a USB converter with the SOtM tx-USBUltra regenerator and two Wireworld Platinum USB cables to stream Amazon Prime music from my Mac Mini.  These tracks are 256K MP3 lossy encoded, but it still sounds amazing.  Not quite as deep or focused as .wav files played locally, but for casual listening off-axis it's superb.  For local files, I use an older version of Amarra.

Streaming Tidal or Qobuz with Linn Kazoo or Lumin with an Ethernet renderer is really good as well.

You just need to get the right equipment and player software.

Yomaha

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #11 on: 17 Jun 2019, 08:48 pm »
I'll throw in a vote for Qobuz on sound quality and Tidal for a broader selection of music (broader than Qobuz for what I like at least).  I've used Sounddiz to sync my Tidal/Pandora thumbs up playlists to Qobuz, but was only able to find about 85% of the songs. 

I use Roon with a PS Audio DSD Sr. DAC and I have really enjoyed it. 

charmerci

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #12 on: 18 Jun 2019, 12:21 am »
How about your own "radio station"?

As I listened or did other things, I would just download my CD's over time - it took a while. (FLAC into JRiver > DAC) Now I have over 10K songs and I simply listen to all of them now on shuffle. That's, at 3 minutes per song - 500+ hours of music and if I listen for 6 hours a day (who does?) that would be 83 days before I hear the same song again.
« Last Edit: 19 Jun 2019, 12:20 am by charmerci »

dB Cooper

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #13 on: 18 Jun 2019, 12:40 am »
After I installed Rogue Amoeba's SoundSource on my Mac Mini, I discovered that many audio sources (players, streaming apps, and browsers) are actually capable of adding gain at their maximum volume settings, thereby resulting in clipping on very loud passages. (The little meters in SoundSource turn red when clipping occurs.) If you are going into an external DAC, as I do, system volume is fixed at 100%. SoundSource has a way to adjust the system volume into the DAC somehow, but doing this (or adjusting the volume at the amp, after the DAC) does not 'un-clip' the source if that is already happening. I used a combination of musical material, calibrated tones, and meters to set all these sources to the maximum possible level without any clipping on the loudest peaks. (VLC has a helpful mark on their volume slider that denotes unity gain, but none of the others do).

After eliminating the clipping, I can't with certainty detect any difference between Tidal playback and disc playback.

I wonder if others are experiencing something similar and are basing their judgments on faulty data. I would make sure your sources are not clipping before spending $$$ on tweaks. I can't speak to the merits of those, but I can tell you that a signal that is not clipping sounds much better than one that is- and if the signal is clipping, tweaks won't fix it.


(edited for clarity)
« Last Edit: 19 Jun 2019, 02:53 am by dB Cooper »

rollo

  • Industry Participant
  • Posts: 4465
  • Rollo Audio Where Home demo rules
Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #14 on: 18 Jun 2019, 02:49 pm »
After I installed Rogue Amoeba's SoundSource on my Mac Mini, I discovered that many audio sources (players, streaming apps, and browsers) are actually capable of adding gain at their maximum volume settings, thereby resulting in clipping on very loud passages. (The little meters in SoundSource turn red when clipping occurs.) If you are going into an external DAC, as I do, system volume is fixed at 100%. SoundSource has a way to adjust the system volume into the DAC somehow, but doing this (or adjusting the volume at the amp, after the DAC) does not 'un-clip' the source if that is already happening. I used a combination of musical material, calibrated tones, and meters to set all these sources to the maximum possible level without any clipping on the loudest peaks. (VLC has a helpful mark on their volume slider that denotes unity gain, but none of the others do).

After eliminating the clipping, I can't with certainty detect any difference between Tidal playback and disc playback.

I wonder if others are experiencing something similar and are basing their judgments on faulty data. I would make sure your sources are not clipping before spending $$$ on tweaks. I can't speak to the merits of those, but I can tell you that a signal that is free from clipping sounds much better- and if the signal is clipping, tweaks won't fix it.

   Excellent finding and advice. The variable volume control on iPeng which I use for Innuos server was a major change in quality of sound. I only stream FM radio WBGO that is.
   Still out though on playing a disc either ripped into server or with dedicated transport.


charles

dB Cooper

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #15 on: 18 Jun 2019, 10:57 pm »
The lossless streams on Tidal/Qobuz/Idagio (this last one is all classical and has much better search for that) sound indistinguishable to me from direct playback.

Another potential problem point (I'm speaking to Mac here because that's what I know) is that if the bit depth and sample rate of the file being played differ from the system default of 16/48, what you play may be resampled up or down to that unless (as with Tidal, Fidelia, Vox, Swinsian and some others) the software you're playing through changes the MIDI settings to match the file. Most don't, but it is in Tidal's, Vox's and Swinsian's prefs. Not a gross problem like outright clipping but potentially audible as it entails an unnecessary transcode.

I'd be interested to know what others find if they look into this. Mac users, SoundSource has a trial period.
« Last Edit: 19 Jun 2019, 02:56 am by dB Cooper »

mitch stl

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #16 on: 26 Jun 2019, 03:01 am »
I finally got around to trying streaming. I'm still in the free trial of Qobuz but have already decided its a keeper. Sound quality is excellent and it is fun to have immediate access to a library with 40 million songs -- makes exploring fun and easy. (I went with Qobuz due to their higher focus on classical.) It is still interesting when I find stuff in my collection that Qobuz doesn't have, though.

I have a large collection of ripped music (about 60,000 songs) on a dedicated Vortexbox running LMS, which feeds a Touch with the digital out going into a Bel Canto C5i, feeding a pair of Ohm 1000s. With this setup, it hasn't been hard to do set up a playlist where I can compare the Qobuz stream back-to-back against the lossless copy of the same song on my server. The sound quality is identical as far as I can tell. Certainly good enough for my aging ears.

dB Cooper

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #17 on: 26 Jun 2019, 03:58 am »
Mitch, you might want to look into Idagio and Primephonic. Both are classical-only services that offer lossless streams (Idagio is only $10/mo.!) and their 'claim to fame' is search functionality that is much better suited to classical than the way the 'bigs' have their search engines set up. Idagio offers a 30-day trial and Primephonic, 60. Do 'em back-to-back and you've got three months of free lossless classical and a good idea which you like better. I doubt either matches the Tidal or Qobuz catalogs but the search functions (at least partially) make up for it.

A_shah

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 476
Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #18 on: 26 Jun 2019, 07:54 pm »
Using a newly purchased Node 2i into an upgraded Yggdrasil and Qobuz HiRez it's pretty damn good here.
Yes the quality of material is all over the place. To be expected.
Using very good wires. Yes my transport will still beat it.
I refuse to buy into Tidal because of all who own it.


I also picked up a BS node 2i , have both Tidal & Quboz pretty satisfied with the listening experience ! I use the Coax from the Node 2i into a PS audio DirectStream  DAC and the RCA outputs into a Don  Sachs pre-amp , & the Toslink output into a 205 UDP  , all inputs do sound differently- but good enough for me , I don't rip CD's   HI-Rez definitely sounds better with Quboz  :popcorn:

Asghar

RandyH

Re: Sound Quality of streaming
« Reply #19 on: 26 Jun 2019, 08:30 pm »
I started streaming about a year and a half ago.  I ripped all my CDs to a network drive.  Later I added Tidal and later added Qobuz.  I really enjoy the streaming experience primarily because of the vast library of music I now have access to.  As far a sound quality I have been impressed.  More often than not I cannot tell the difference between ripped files and streamed files from Tidal or Qobuz.  Compared to my CD player I do sometimes think the sound quality from the CD is better....perhaps being a  little more refined.  I have pretty good digital front end components (Bryston BCD-3 CD player, Sony ES5400 SACD, Lumin T1 streamer/DAC).  I don't think it is a given though that a CD will always sound better.  A lot depends on the quality of the player vs the quality of the streaming device, the quality of the files you are comparing, and the quality of the mastering of these files.  The sound quality differences, if in fact they do exist, are relatively minuscule and are outweighed by the broader selection of music at my disposal and the convenience.