- Local files on dedicated server e.g Melco/Zenith/Core - clearly superior
- Local files on dedicated server - marginally superior
- Can detect no difference between local files and hi-res Tidal/Qobuz
- Hi-res Tidal/Qobuz - marginally superior
- Hi-res Tidal/Qobuz - clearly superior
I’m still(!) contemplating going to the dark side and going streaming. I would be grateful for a collective view in the experience on the best method. I dislike PCs, they are really a business tool for me, so have no wish to entertain Poweramp or some such, so if not Tidal/Qobuz it would be a dedicated server.
Appreciate there are other variables - routers/switches etc - so all comments welcome but in your experience please complete my poll.
I was going to cast a vote but then realised none of my responses matched the options available.
My experience is that it’s entirely system dependent. Using my 202/200 HC2DR and NAPSC I find there are differences between local in using my Zenith, Qobuz and Tidal but they’re largely of presentation rather than quality e.g. Pink Moon by Nick Drake has a slightly more forward vocal on Qobuz. It’s not “better” it’s just different. Choose the one you prefer.
I’ve also found that high resolution albums are different but again not necessarily better. King of America by The Costello Show being a fine example of this. Give me my red book version stored locally any day.
All the above suggest that the differences are down to mastering not format and this has been reinforced when demoing replacement integrateds at home. Plugging in an Enleum AMP-23R instantly emphasised that high resolution from Qobuz could be far more “different” than my current system allowed me to hear. Nevertheless those differences don’t always appeal and so, again, mastering.
It has utterly convinced me that adding switches and filters etc. is of less relevance than just getting a better system.
Our recent listening with Tidal Max has shown that some hires versions sound no different to a local CD rip.
But if you find the right recording then a Tidal Max stream beats local CD rip (especially at 24/192).
And if you play hires files from a local server that does seem to provide best SQ (although any difference from the streamed version with a decoupled streamer and DAC is very marginal). We have a Core and Synology NAS with Asset - content sounds the same from both sources over ethernet.
Those with gen1 devices such as 272 will definitely find local content better, as we did. With a gen2 device (NDX2/NSC222) streaming is vastly improved. Decoupling DAC from streamer improves things further.
I voted Dedicated Server Superior.
I like to ‘own’ my music so will always prefer to purchase my favourite artists and albums….but I have recently started using Qobuz, more as a ‘browsing’ and potential ’pre’ purchase mechanism I guess…I have to admit I see the potential for falling into the First World ‘Convenience’ hole of streaming and never needing to purchase music again over and above the Qobuz Sublime subscription, but it’s something I want to resist….I guess I’m old school, but I like the ethos of purchasing artist’s music….
I also would argue for the inherent greater control that having local files offers re metadata and organisation, not to mention the opportunity of storing the highest resolution files that are available, as well as any possible alternatives there may be – it’s not always certain that the likes of Qobuz/Tidal will be streaming certain versions….
I also have my reservations re streaming over the Net…In my head it’s like saying a 4K video stream via Netflix is the same as from a 4k BD disc – it’s not! Yes, I know FLAC is lossless and the new generation of streamers are doing great things, but I still just lean towards the ‘purity’ of a direct local transfer of a hi-res file….I’ve yet to attend a Naim demonstration – or any other manufacturer for that matter – and witness them streaming Spotify et al into the ND555 and Statement…!
Finally, and just a heads up, whilst I appreciate your desire to avoid a PC even if you go the dedicated server route, I’d say it would be unlikely to be a reality 100% of the time….unless you really don’t give a stuff how things are tagged by whatever system you choose, it’s almost certain you will be needing to intervene and amend in anything from a minimal through to an extensive fashion….!
I have all my music on a QNAP NAS, plus CD/Vinyl.
Every so often I subscribe to a streaming service, currently Amazon, but done Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal, Apple.
I never get beyond the trial period as I just never use them enough and find searching/creating playlists a bit of a pain. My wife can’t be bothered with streaming and only listens to music now if I have it on. She finds the whole thing too complicated.
I know a lot of people use them to try new music, but often I can get a feel for new music by listening to the sample on Apple Music. I generally decide to buy after 2-3 tracks.
On balance, of all the ones I’ve tried, I like the sound of Qobuz the best and find it quieter (maybe cleaner/slower) than music fron the NAS.
If I got rid of my NAS and physical media Qobuz is what I would go for.
Early days but unsurprisingly the vote seems to be panning out along the lines of “it depends what you own”.
I have a Melco N100 connected via USB to a Chord Qutest DAC. Very simple, user friendly, works flawlessly and sounds excellent. Avoids all the potential problems of streaming over a local network.
Mike - re the other thread I’ll open a new one and report back when I get a response.
Sorry for the diversion.
It is important to compare like with like, the same album mastering, resolution etc. It’s not really totally system dependent, the variables you introduce will be a streamer and maybe a server. You already have an excellent system so adding a similar level streamer/server should facilitate the comparison, plenty of good products to choose from, as you mention, Melco/Innuos/Naim.
All things being equal I would say local files on a dedicated server would be clearly better. Good luck with your trip to the dark side.
You may prefer local files for all of the reasons mentioned by the other responders on here but you can also get the benefit streaming. Streaming can be a great way to discover new music. You then have the option to continue streaming or you can purchase the music that you have streamed.
I use Quobuz and in the beginning I would download/buy the CD and rip. Now I do not purchase music and only stream. I use Roon which allows me to create playlists consisting of local files and Quobuz streams.
Great to have options!
For me local streaming is clearly superior to Tidal/Qobuz (hi res), but Qobuz hi res is vey good, and superior to Tidal IMO. In most cases however I find a locally streamed 16bit file sounds better than the same 24bit file (album) streamed from Qobuz, although there are some exception where the 24bit Qobuz file sounds superb. Most 24bit Qobuz material generally sounds better than 16bit Qobuz material.
The great benefit of subscription streaming is the huge catalog it opens up, and the ability to explore new music is just wonderful. I probably spend half my time exploring new stuff and playing albums I don’t own from Qobuz, and half my time listening to locally stored files from my Melco server.
In my experience Ethernet cables, servers and switches all make a difference to SQ. I have had best results from CatSnake 6a and Audioquest Vodka streaming Ethernet cables, Melco server and the addition of the EtherREGEN switch.
But to start with I would suggest you just use basic Ethernet cables, get a good quality server (unless you decide to start with say Qobuz only) and add a good switch like a used Cisco 2960 (that has been factory reset). You will have to think how you will rip your CDs to your server although some servers include ripping engines.
I would strike out Tidal from streaming, as it would confuse the results. IME, Tidal sounds the worst, even far worse than MP3 or Spotify.
My vote is for (1), but it would only be valid without Tidal.
@LindsayM I refused to move to the dark side for years. For all the talk I didn’t think any of the first generation of Naim streamers could touch my first generation CDX2 for PRaT. I moved when the CDs had started to spread unacceptably across the living room floor and, by accident, I found a streamer/server that sounded lovely and the whole family could instantly understand. Indeed they took to it before I saw what they did.
It’s an Innuos but I think that’s by the by. In the end stuff will either sound good to your ears or it won’t. I think the Innuos app is superior to the Naim but, again, it’s by the by. If you find the right sound you will live with any compromises in user interface to whatever extent you tolerate such things. Some people will get by and some people will end up selling the box because the app did their head in. Nothing anyone posts here should deflect you from “Is the sound of this engaging” and “do I understand and like how it operates” whether that’s buttons on the box or via an app? At this point only those things matter.
FWIW I deplore the look and UI of my Chord DAC but it just sits there. I don’t have to look at it or do anything beyond powering on/off daily so I can live with it.
Once you have those basics of sound and UI sorted I seriously wouldn’t get involved in switches, filters, cable quality etc. for quite some time.
Innuos suggested to me I lived with their enclosed cheap ethernet for a year before I thought about changing it. That was great advice. After a year I experimented and realised that, in my system, cables sounded different but not always better. Audioquest Vodka sounded smooth and well balanced but I actually preferred the attributes of much cheaper Chord C-Stream. That is also not perfect but it improves on what I had and at negligible cost. Similarly, although people will adamantly refute it, I found that an amp change had far more impact on noise floor, coherence and detail than any cable, switch etc. The thing is, in your system and in your home you may find the exact opposite. Far better then to focus on source and usability and then take time to see if there is anything else you want to try and figure out why.
There are endless threads and whole websites dedicated to such things. There is absolutely no doubt they can make a difference but the caveat is “only in some systems and circumstances”. If you buy your source and don’t hear an issue then you don’t have one and none of these things are, as often presented, absolutely essential. Indeed the suggestion they are is probably one of the key things which continues to put many off streaming.
I only use Tidal streaming and have found that originally Hi-Res MQA sounded better than 16 Bit FLAC and now Hi-Res FLAC on Tidal sounds better than the 16 Bit FLAC.
I dont have any local streaming capability (no ripped and stored CD’s) but am more than satisfied with what the music library choices are and the sound quality that Tidal offers, its very good in my last 4 years of use and have no need or desire to rip my very large collection of CD’s as its still very easy to just play a CD.
A CD digital input to my Streamer/DAC sounds a bit better than 16 Bit FLAC from Tidal but not as good as Hi-Res from Tidal generally but with a few exceptions and Pure Audio BluRay 24/96 or 24/192 digital input to my Streamet/DAC sounds a bit better more often than not than Hi-Res MQA or Hi-Res FLAC from Tidal.
Thank you guys for the inputs.
I have the chrome bumper gear with a Sonos port. I use Amazon music HD and have had absolutely no problems. The hook up of the equipment took me about 1 minute… Amazon seems to have everything that I’ve looked for and I’ve used the forums what are you listening to for new music.
I voted option 2 but to be honest if you asked me to A v B local vs Qobuz (on the same master) I doubt I’d be able to tell the difference blind.
My advice is to consider whether you will likely rip your collection or not. If you are going to keep your excellent CD player I think it would be best to just use Qobuz which will have most of what you already own and just play the CD when it’s not available.
My advice to dip your feet would be to get a Wiim Plus Pro as it’s relatively cheap and will let see what you think of streaming. If you want to go a bit higher up the food chain, Bluesound Node x is a good bet. A bit higher up would be the bottom of the Innuos range.
Many of the internet cables / router / switches cost multiples of the Wiim Pro. Bits aren’t just bits in digital replay but there are a lot of expensive bit carries that are fur coat and no knickers - obviously all IMHO.
I haven’t voted because I haven’t compared. I stream only from my owh local store of rips and downloaded files. (Other than variously free services such as Spotify, Utube etc to sample new music, not concerned about sound quality).
My version of streaming is like 1/2, but there are two varieties of these not identified in your poll, one where files played from the device to a DAC, and another where they are streamed from the device across a network to a streamer. I do the former, and that way my music does not go across a network, so I can ignore all the fuss about ethernet cables, switches, switch power supplies etc. I have not directly compared the two approaches - when I set up this way it sounded better than NAS across network to streamer, but that wasn’t the only change at the time.
CD quality stream on Qobuz & the same CD ripped to my Core sound identical to my ears. A HiRes stream on Qobuz done well beats both but can sound worse. HiRes is the potential but done badly feels a bit like the loudness wars.
I take exception to that!