Tidal vs Tidal via Roon

As I was testing my newly arrived SMSL Su 9 DAC today, I played variously songs that I’m familiar with via Tidal directly into the DAC vs through Roon. Same amplification and speakers.

Although theoretically the two methods should sound the same (same digital source), I am noticing a material sound quality improvement using Tidal through Roon. The Tidal direct method sounded a bit bright, and missing something a the low end. Whilst via Roon, music just sounded more organic and full bodied.

Anyone else noticing this?

It may be because Roon is transcoding from FLAC to WAV.

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Did you listen to MQA files? Roon does the first MQA unfold (and I think this is the default in the settings)

I don’t think this should be the case, and even if the WAV conversion was done, it should still sound the same, as ultimately the data source (i.e. the digital bits that makes up the song) is exactly the same.

listened to both - and both sounded better via Roon for some reason.

No idea then :slight_smile: (assuming you have no DSP configured in Roon). I tried briefly just to be sure but don’t think I noticed any difference when playing Qobuz and local rips via Naim app (and UPnP for the local rips) vs playing them through Roon

Edit: And yes, regarding Guinless’s following post I have an NDX2 but have UPnP set to transcode to WAV, taking the flac decompression variable out of the equation. Though I can’t really distinguish UPnP streaming flac either

FLAC requires decompression and this is how Tidal deliver their music. Roon will perform the decompression first and your streamer then has no work to do other than play the PCM stream.
This is probably more noticeable on a first generation Naim streamers rather than on the new models.

What are you using as the source for your new DAC ?

Actually it’s a native pcm stream not WAV.

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Thanks for the explanation, learnt something new today

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I always found Roon sounded better for Tidal than Naims implementation. Qobuz and Roon are pretty much even I find. I think the API for Tidal is likely the difference and perhaps is less efficient code than the Qobuz one. How you finding the DAC ?

Hi james, I’m building a small system for the office. Looking to have the RPi + SMSL Dac fronting a Nait 2.

Quick update. I made some setting changes in Tidal app such as volume pass through, and deselecting volume equalization. The sound quality difference is much smaller now, but Roon still has a slight edge.

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Ah ok. As others have said, having Roon do the heavy lifting, allowing the RPi to just work as an end point should be better than having the RPi doing all the work. Probable explains the preference for Roon rather than native Tidal via the RPi.

That should make a nice office system :+1:

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I have done some comparison vs a Devialet Expert Pro 220, with Nait 2 as the amplification. So effectively comparing the DAC in the Devialet vs the SMSL Su 9. I bought the Devialet a few years ago after a very extensive demo vs a 272 /250 DR, and I thought back then that the Dac in the Devialet was better than the one in the 272, and I rate it highly.

Compared to the Devialet, the SMSL DAC actually sounds surprisingly similar, but probably even more clean, neutral and discolored. To my ears I very slightly preferred the Devialet sound, although perhaps I’m more used to it. I can imagine others may as likely prefer the SMSL sound. My wife who listened in thought there was no difference at all.

The Devialet gets lots of good reviews for its DAC and costs 15x the SMSL, so the fact that a 400 USD Dac is competitive is quite amazing.

The other Naim streaming product I have used extensively is the Superuniti. Based on now somewhat vague memories, I thought the SMSL + Nait 2 combination sounded materially better.

Overall I’m quite happy with the SMSL Dac (thanks for the recommendation) although the 3 feet wobble issue is getting on my nerves a bit. Will do a DIY fix as you did.


Yep the wobble annoyed the hell out of me instantly. So off came the feet and added my own isolation pads for a £10. No idea why they chose three it’s just not practical as its not evenly balanced internals due to the layout. Glad your enjoying it’s reproduction, it shows how far DAC technology has come and you really do not need to spend a fortune to get one sounding great.

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