Optimising sound quality of Apple Music

Yes, as long as you can put up with some of its idiosyncracies, like the elaborate process for getting the belt back on the platter using the supplied pink string! On mine, there is a slightly raised lip around the edges of the deck, which the platter overlaps with. Put a 180g LP on the platter, and it’s practically resting on the lip, which is obviously not ideal.
It’s all worth it in the end, though.

Another way to be sure you have the same mastered music in streaming and CD is to buy a CD of a recent release and then look for it on a streaming service. With classical and jazz you can go to a site like Presto Music and read the reviews, also if the release is in high res then they usually sell high res downloads too.

Linn recordings, for example, are usually pretty good sound quality although I think the musical quality is a bit of a variable.

I don’t know what the equivalent would be for other music like pop/rock, but the principle should be the same.

Yes, I think picking a recent release is the best strategy to avoid multiple masters confusing the issue.

I have ordered an Audioquest USB cable, it’s going to take a few days because the dealer has no stock at the moment.

This is bull*

When using apple music you can use equlisation and other sq improvements. Also apple Music is not Bit Perfect, meaning you have to manually set the bitrate to the max supported by the interface. Please make sure it is integer multiple of the original source bitrate, otherwise some artifacts can arise. Just use spothlight and type midi. Its self explantory.

Play around and see what happens.

Sadly this won’t change anything :joy:

But you can’t even get cd quality via Airplay 2 for Apple Music

I have written quite a lot about this including on this from. In my opinion there is a lot of nonsense spouted by so called audiophiles on this.
Ethernet or wifi provides pros and cons, and what sounds best to you will depend on your products used.
Wifi, certainly wifi 5 or 6 have the potential in offering advantages over Ethernet in terms of out of band noise. But poor wifi implementations will make Ethernet obviously better.

I have moved all my music servers and proxies to wifi now and arguably it has never sounded better.

So for given product evaluate what sounds best for you… I did.

Unfortunately I find Apple Music compared to Qobuz inferior for immersive listening. Almost certainly this is down to the Apple Music replay software, and possibly their LUFS processing compared to Qobuz.

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I have with my RME DAC and others and it’snot made one bit of difference what cable I use, the cheap USB one that I bought off Amazon or the Audioquest ones I tried. I also tried one of these supposed reclockers again no difference. Sounds exactly the same which is fantastic. If anything it’s very hardware dependant and not a universal truth. Maybe before asynchronous DACs they had more issues but from all the USB DACs I have had which have all been asynchronous, not one has been affected. Any DAC worth its salt these days should not be affected by a USB cable if it’s using a half decent USB implementation which are not expensive items. If it does I would send it back and get something else.

Apple Music does indeed appear to suck - I imported a CD into Apple Music using Apple Lossless encoding, on playback it contains huge amounts of distortion, completely unlistenable. I repeated the exercise with the error correction checkbox turned on, and got the same result. Unless my Apple Superdrive is knackered, it appears Apple is releasing software without testing the most basic functionality.

I’m not sure about that. I thought Airplay supported lossless (CD quality), but not hi-res?

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Airplay 2 does, but not via Apple Music it downgrades it to aac. This has been covered to death since it came out and shown by Naims head of software. If you have a legacy Airplay device that doesn’t support airplay 2 then you will get lossless up to 44 1/16 but if it’s Airplay 2 you dont, most seem to think this is down to getting it’s mulitroom to be in sync.

Ok, I’ll take your word for it. This is all bleeding-edge technology, isn’t it? I was naively thinking it can’t be that hard to play music from the Apple Music service, and into a 2-channel stereo system at CD quality. Turns out it is far from simple, more like an ongoing project where you are constantly hitting roadblocks. Oh well, keeps me off the streets, I suppose!

Apple just don’t care about hifi it doesn’t sell devices. The smaller services like Tidal and Qobuz are more open hence why they are integrated into most systems, same for Spotify with connect. They added lossless because Spotify said they where as me too, but without a proper way to actually use it without plugging in your phone , iPad, mac to an external DAC. They still believe aac is good enough and most can’t tell the difference.

Just read through this thread and was moved to add a few helpful comments.

But first, a few experiences to share, just for fun…

Apple Music
I’m a big fan of Apple Music. Myself and others in our house use this streaming service a lot. However, because of some of the reasons you are discovering, I don’t use it connected to any of our main or separates Hi Fi’s. Like others here, have long since concluded Apple envisage replay though their own ecosystem only and do not consider these sorts of applications. It’s a shame.

I started with iTunes many years ago, along with iPods, etc. Later, we ripped all our CD’s and used a ALAC archive of our collection. We Love iThings and use iPhone, iPad’s, MacBooks and iMacs here. The integration across devices is seamless and a joy. So, Apple Music gets used at work and on the move.

Audiolab M-DAC
For a long period, we used an ALAC archive of our CD collection with an Audiolab M-DAC. First, with headphones. Then later, with a Naim amplifier and full system.

The M-DAC is a brilliant little package and at that price point it’s difficult to beat.

Apple Music - Apple Mac Mini - via usb - Audiolab M-DAC +, looks like a fine solution.

Pink Triangle
We had a Pink triangle for about 10-15 years, from new. Loved it to bits.

At the time, I bought it because I genuinely thought it was a better deck than the alternative LP12’s. However, had trouble with drive belts (always falling off and needing re-instating) and power supplies (repaired several times, probably build quality). In the end, these troubles persuaded me to let it go. Now regretted, I wish I had kept it.

The PT is a hugely capable deck.

Now coming to your original post. All of the positive suggestions made in your OP will probably help improve a good Hi-Fi.

Question - is the turntable your main source?
I’m asking this question, in case your ears are accustomed to vinyl, (mostly).

So, this leads on to my main point in writing is to share an idea under the heading "(4) Something else I haven’t thought of!"

For what’s its worth, like you, we also have a NAC72 in our house. Context : We recently acquired NAC72 - HC - NAP140 maybe just over a year ago. These came into our house to use between a Linn LP12 and Epos ES14’s we already had here and to make a classic vinyl only system. However, we quickly missed access to CD’s. So, in recent months, we have been experimenting with CD and more significantly streaming, albeit ripped CD’s (FLAC) from a new Innous Zen Mini server.

For more details, take a look here.

There is some learning from this experience that may be helpful to your thoughts.

Naim NAC72
The NAC72 makes a perfect partner in a vinyl based system. After all, it was literally designed for vinyl record play back. However, comparing with our Linn record player, we have found it can be a bit harsh with modern digital sources. (Wether this is streaming Qubuz, a CD player or a server archive). I’m able to say this, as we also have other, more recent Naim amplifiers in the house.

I had a similar experience recently, whilst experimenting with interconnect cables. Streaming from the Zen Mini into the NAC72 sounded harsh at higher volumes. But fine at modest levels. So, we swopped a Naim NAIT XS 2 in with the Zen Mini. The problem disappeared. Also tried Zen Mini with SN3 and PMC Twenty5 24i, at the dealer. Again, no discernible issues. So, my finding is more modern Naim amplifiers are better suited to modern digital sources.

In our case, careful matching of interconnects - between Zen Mini and NAC72 - eventually did the trick

Anyway, it’s another thought that might help you in your journey

Good luck


Today it is pretty normal to do 2 masters. One for CD and one for streaming. CD is a fixed format and easier to hand-optimize. But every streaming service under the sun right now have different LUFS requirements (and Apple have their own stuff) - so for streaming you simply do like a -14 LUFS master and leave it to the service. Possibly one more for Apple.

Today there are so many streaming services and to optimize for each (at least hand-optimize) would be expensive, and they all have more and more diverging demands. Add to this the cost of administrating a lot of files (and paying for separate distribution).

I wouldn’t count on any recently mastered content being exactly the same between streaming and CD. And I don’t see why it should.

It would be interesting if streaming services actually declared how they process the content. Like the dithering debate 15 years ago when Avid finally provided such a flowchart for Pro Tools (and after this enabled dithering when truncating from the then 56-bit mix-accumulator to 24-bit).

Are Apple baking that into the files are just as metadata. Tidal offer normalisation control in their apps on by default but it can be defeated or is this something in addition?

Wow, it sounds like we have very similar tastes in audio equipment.

That’s a good point about the NAC 72, I hadn’t considered the fact it was built for vinyl and may not be very digital-friendly.

Anyway, buying an Audioquest USB cable certainly helped with improving the sound. The next step for me is to get an Ethernet socket into the listening room, which is upstairs (router/modem is downstairs in the living room).

My dealer has kindly offered to lend me a Bluesound Node for the weekend, so that will also eventually happen.

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Tidal wants normalization to -14 LUFS when you upload to them if I remember it. And they do only album normalization. I.e. if you deliver album normalization to that they should leave your track untouched no matter the user setting.

While Apple want -16 LUFS on uploaded files, their level control only lifts quieter material (they use no limiter so it can go loud). On playlists they normalize per track. But if the user play an album they do it for the album (so tracks keep their relative level).

Spotify wants -14 LUFS on the upload but the user can select -11 LUFS -23 LUFS. Like Apple they lift quieter tracks but have a limiter. And they also do like Apple on playlists vs. albums.

Then you have Pandora, the do not use LUFS but want -14dBFS (may remember it wrong). think). And so on. So it pretty common you ship -14 LUFS to everyone except Apple (they are so big it motivates going the extra length).

The majority, about 90%, never change this setting.

For a CD master you go close to 0dBFS and use special metering that simulate the effect of 8x oversampling and interpolation. The material I have done is private libraries and is not critical so I use -3dBFS. And without the special metering you need to set at least -6dBFS. This is to avoid clipping in the analog part of many DAC-chips as the oversampling interpolation may give levels over 0dBFS - and this clips the internal op-amp of many DAC-chips (this has been known for 20 years now, but I beleive many are still on the market).

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