Same file, different sound quality: Qobuz vs. JRiver

Dear Naim forum users,

I usually stream music locally through JRiver, however I subscribe a Qobuz plan from time to time in order to discover new albums. Everytime I compare the sound quality between JRiver and Qobuz (from the NAIM & Focal app) I find some subtle but very important differences. Qobuz always sounds lively, it’s a touch punchier and clearer, instrument separation is more evident too. They should sound exactly identical, but that perception is the same even with albums directly bought from Qobuz and streamed through JRiver. Also if I play the same file from a USB flash drive on my NDX 2, sound quality is almost identical to JRiver.

Am I the only one experiencing this? Which software is affecting the sound and which one is the correct one? It’s become quite a niggle for me. I want to point out I use Audiophile 24-bit DAC mode on the DLNA server (audio mode set to “original”) and that I’m not using any DSP .

Thank you very much in advance for sharing your thoughts about this.

There are so many ways to deliver the audio these days, even from the same source, it’s probably not surprising things aren’t quite the same.

Logically yes, you’d expect an ‘identical stream/file’ to sound the same but often not in practice.

I’m not quite sure exactly how things are being played back if I’m honest.

Presumably you’re listening ‘source’ is the NDX 2.

You have a DLNA server with stored music on your LAN.

You have a computer running JRiver - presumably this accesses files on the DLNA server. How does JRiver then output to the NDX2? I’d assume you have an output device hooked to the computer sending digital out to the NDX2.

With Qobuz you are either playing via the Naim/Focal app or downloaded Qobuz files on the DLNA server via the JRiver. Or does JRiver allow a Qobuz login so you can stream non-purchased Qobuz material to the NDX2 as well?

I won’t be able to tell you which sounds correct but there are so many variables it’s hard to be sure. My guess would be that if JRiver sounds the same as files saved to a USB stick in the NDX2 then it is likely to be more faithful than an internet based Qobuz stream. Even the ethernet cable you use (or is it wifi?) to the NDX2 could potentially alter the sound of LAN or internet streams.

How does playing a Qobuz file saved to the DLNA server direct from the Naim/Focal app using Servers compare to the ‘same’ Qobuz internet stream?

I do agree, in my opinion it’s totally fine to a certain extent.

Yes, the NDX 2 is my source. JRiver and the albums are on the same computer, no secondary drives or NAS are involved. JRiver is set not to transcode or alter the original files, so they are streamed directly to the NDX 2 (I control the stream either from JRiver or the Naim & Focal app).

I’m not aware about a way to login Qobuz through JRiver, that option might exist but I’ve never been interested in that. However I play albums from Qobuz inside the Naim & Focal app to ensure the best quality possible.

I would cautiously say that Qobuz offers the least correct presentation (despite being very nice) if I consider how I perceive sound through JRiver and the USB flash drive. So that is quite a surprise to me. I only use the ethernet cable, no wi-fi. As you said there are so many factors involved in this, the answer to my question is not straight forward.

The audio file (bought from Qobuz and imported into JRiver’s library) sounds less vivid, not as clear and not as punchy (I can clearly feel that when drums and bass start). Soundstage and instruments are less precise and distinctive (e.g. piano, guitars and cymbals). Even if that’s not said anywhere, it almost seems that Qobuz applies an equalization when files are played through their software…

So… how to understand where the problem might be?

Take a look : Can you hear a difference in streaming audio software? We are going to find out! - YouTube

Thanks for the link, I’m pretty curious to hear their conclusions. That’s quite a long video though!

I had a quick look at the video, that’s interesting. At least I know I’m not the only one thinking that different softwares have a different sound.
On the other hand, reading comments here and there on this forum, I was surprised that many people felt no differences on various occasions.

Not everyone experiences music playback the same or has the auditive aptitude to discern the differences. I’m pretty allergic to people who project their own experiences as normative.

If you do hear a difference, you do hear a difference. There are ways to optimise your experience, as you can gather from the video.

In my system, Naim app sounds different than Roon, Audirvana sounds also different than the other two.

I mostly use Roon because I like the app, I only wish Roon sounded more like the Naim app.

I was going to mention Roon and Audirvana.

They sound quite different and even different major versions of Audirvana did. I generally preferred Audirvana but Roon was far more polished.

Same with Roon vs other playback methods - several people have mentioned that Roon doesn’t sound quite as good as other methods of playback, but there are many others who notice no difference.

While it’s tempting to compare different software I think any differences are fairly marginal and ultimately it should be about listening and accuracy is not necessarily what we want, more an engaging sound which triggers the emotions.

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The Roon option for me is because I have one software to control all devices in the home, if I only had one brand like Naim the Naim app could result for me, is simple not the most beautiful app but sounds great with naim streamers.

The problem is that I have HomePod’s, two denon amps other streamers from ifi, sotm and bluesound, chromecast on the tv’s and some Apple TV devices, and also two naim streamers.

I find Roon in this case the best, supports them all and I also could make streaming when not at home with arc, other than that Audirvana sounds better but is a more local solution, Naim App also sounds better but is brand specific.

Sometimes I find myself trying the naim app and concluding that has a more accomplished result, more air, separation overall more musical, better layered and more engaging, but the simplicity of Roon with support for all my devices turns out to be the app I use more, neglecting the others from time to time use.

For me that’s the best value of Roon, the sound is not one of them, is good but not great.


I agree, we aren’t all the same and audio is a very personal thing. I still didn’t get to the part where they talk about optimization, I can’t wait to hear it.

@sonwleo many do prefer Roon because is indeed a very nice app. I understand its appeal, luckily it’s not for me. Just wondering, do you have a DLNA server that you access from the Naim app?

I couldn’t agree more. When I mentioned accuracy I was just wondering what the audio reference might be but only to understand better what my preferences are. I usually consider what’s emotional to me, I don’t really care about perfect accuracy, even though a certain level is needed otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about a proper Hi-Fi experience. So far JRiver has been nice, however Qobuz has given me more emotion and made music more vibrant and layered. I was wondering, have you tried different JRiver versions? I wonder if the performance is different among different software versions too.

I’ve never actually tried JRiver, it’s not as expensive as I thought it was looking at the site.

I just let my Roon subscription lapse, and didn’t continue with the subscription based Audirvana last year. I wasn’t using them as much as anticipated largely due to a newer Mac with less memory making it difficult to run as much software as I’d wanted concurrently. Also partly due to cost savings as little point paying for things you don’t use much so an old mobile contract and mobile broadband contracts have been ditched recently.

Have you tried the Qobuz Desktop app? I really quite like it - simple to download items you’ve purchased and to stream those you haven’t. It used to have a UPnP beta but I can’t figure out where it’s gone! It should allow Chromecasting in hi-res to the Nova but I’ve not tried that recently - the iPhone app never managed gapless due to technical factors. No replacement for Roon, JRiver or Audirvana etc I suspect but I like the fairly simple interface which seems extremely responsive these days.

I use Asset UPNP for the Naim App to stream my files. I suppose this is what you are asking.

@Alley_Cat JRiver has a decent price overall. It could be better for sure (especially the interface IMHO), but it does offert lots of possibilities and I due value its quality (i.e. DSP and EQ are the best I’ve found so far, they helped a lot when I was watching Netflix and bluray movies, I was really surprised as I usually don’t like to apply any equalization).

Yes I did try the Qobuz desktop app. I find it great, much better than the integration inside the Naim & Focal app, it’s much easier to explore and find music in my opinion, but also to open booklets and read info. However I stopped using chromecast because some Naim technician said it degradates the music performance, stresses the streamer and doesn’t have proper buffer implementation. Indeed I can surely tell that Qobuz sounds much better through the Naim & Focal app (it’s airy, cleaner and tighter) and the buffer difference is huge. I didn’t know about the UPnP beta function, what a pity it’s not there anymore, I would enjoy it. You might want to use the Naim & Focal app on your iPhone instead of the Qobuz app.

@sonwleo couldn’t it be Asset to make a difference on audio performance? Whether I stream a song from the computer or the Naim app, it does sound exactly the same. Things change only when I use Qobuz.


It’s also unfathomable to me how software can sound different on my systems (272, Superuniti). In my case, UPNP sounded flat and dull when streaming from JRiver, Asset, Bubble etc compared to native Tidal.

Recently I had to explore options to stream Tidal outside of the Naim app because I did not want to upgrade to firmware 4.8. Was lucky enough to stumble across Mcontrol. UPNP never sounded so good, it’s even better than native Tidal.

Here’s the kicker - Mcontrol Lite (free) sounded better than the paid version on my iPhone. The iPad version is very close to the Lite version.

In fact I do use the Naim/Focal app most for controlling my Nova, it was the relative lack of use which made me ditch Roon and Audirvana (which was also unstable but could sound great, just disliked the subscription model). I only really use the Qobuz iPhone app via CarPlay in the car - effectively stopped using it due to lack of gapless and wanting to get the hires audio played at better than Airplay quality.

I actually find Airplay to sound very good, I just wish they’d enable the proper hi res features that Airplay 2 is capable of and which Naim have said the streamers can already support if only Apple threw the switch. I probably spend more time watching music videos on YouTube Airplayed to the Nova from an AppleTV than I do listening to music alone. I also enjoy lots of movies/TV Shows played via Airplay. The SQ is excellent, or at least the visuals make many things I enjoy more immersive - maybe I’m concentrating less on the actual sound and enjoying the music more.

I mainly use the Qobuz desktop app in the study - to download movies or to stream audio to a pair of Homepods or Airpods while I’m working/browsing.

Someone mentioned in another thread that the UPnP beta was still in their Qobuz app, maybe it’s not implemented on the Apple Silicon Macs yet as I could have sworn it was there on my older Intel Mac.

Thanks for the comments on J River - may be worth a demo when I have some free time to take it for a proper spin.

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I’m surprised you preferred native Tidal to Bubble UPnP, as the latter sounds significantly better to me. (Note that I’m referring to BubbleUPnP server, which I run on a Synology NAS, not the Bubble app on Android).

Why would you not want up to date firmware on your streamer?

Maybe this could be a mix of hardware and software working better or worse in some system contexts.

I jumped on Roon almost when it started as a lifetime user, build the systems around taking Roon into account. But it is not the first time I notice Roon is not sounding as good as others, before Roon I used Audirvana, bit perfect and tried other packages like amarra and JRiver.

Audirvana sounded great, but it was not the most stable software at the time, bit perfect, amarra, fidelio and others needed the computer next to the dac, and no network devices were supported, I exchanged some sound quality for a better overall user experience with Roon, that also opened the experience to my family, they started to use Roon on their devices to stream, discover and listen their music, one server for the whole family.

At some point discovered that a more powerful computer with a better power supply gives a significant uplift to roon, but I have been a little lazy to get one.

Today I look at Roon and I think is over priced, needs a lot of resources and sounds ok, I like it but I really could live with any of the others. But I also think Naim is over priced for what it gives and I also have it, and for the same price there are better sounding solutions, but is a solution to accomplish an objective that works for me.

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Houston we have a driver issue. LOL! Welcome to the wonderful world of streaming. :grinning:

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@ChrisSU Yeah I was referring to BubbleUPNP. I know majority here prefers UPNP but like OP the native app just sounds better - more rhythmic, better dynamics and texture to instruments and vocals sound fuller. I didn’t get a chance to AB test native Tidal on fw 4.4 against MControl but I think the latter is even better. Not sure why UPNP via other music servers sound flat and dull - I used my desktop instead of a dedicated NAS. That could be a factor but my local flacs and hi-res stuff sound awesome when streamed using MControl via UPNP.

I tried fw 4.8 on many occasions but it just doesn’t work with my systems. It has touter bass but at the cost of the sonic signature I mentioned above. I actually tried it again recently with a pair of ATC SCM19 passive (loaned by dealer). I’ll give 4.8 another go when my ATC SCM19 active speakers come in about 6 months!

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