Downloads vs streaming

I believe I am still on the Beta list for the Airlens, but have a question regarding purchasing downloads vs streaming. I currently subscribe to Qobuz, and more and more of their offerings are in Hi-Res. My question is, and this only relates to sound quality, not wi-fi reliability, NAS capacity, or streaming service dependability etc: if an album is available for streaming in say 24/192, and that same album is available to download at the same rate (stored on a NAS), will there be any difference in the sound quality? I currently have both an Aurlic Aries and a Lumin T2, and I am having trouble discerning any difference.
Any and all comments appreciated.

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I believe you answered your question. If you really can’t tell the difference the answer is no.


Paul and others made some experience with Qobuz being better than Tidal, but both worse than streaming from local drives.

You don’t know what streaming services do or will do with watermarks or whatever influences in their files.

I think depending on the transparency of your gear you will or will not hear the differences, but I’m sure they are audible with very resolving gear. From everything I’ve heard even quite much for anything except Qobuz.

However it makes no sense to think about anything your setup isn’t resolving (except if you plan major upgrades).

Don’t trust the Internet. You can only decide for yourself. There is no agreement to the answer here if you ask more than 1 person and that’s the only guarantee when asking this question :wink:

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Thanks for all the input so far. My reason for asking is I am old (think vinyl), and all the discussions around digital, i.e. hacks, tweaks etc leaves my head spinning. I have 2 systems that I think are reasonably well dialed in, so it is very possible I’m trying to hear something that just isn’t there. My understanding, or lack thereof, of 0’s and 1’s is rudimentary at best, and I just didn’t know if there should be a difference between streaming and downloads. Again, thanks for your comments, they are greatly appreciated.

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There is no guarantee that what the label sent the streaming company is the same as the thing you can buy / download. And, there is no super easy way to determine this either.

Personally, I don’t care. If I like something enough I buy it but the convenience of streaming vs sound quality… well… I tend to prefer the convenience over hyper-critical evaluation on if I can tell a difference. If I want to get hyper-critical I’ll go buy the thing and tell everyone it’s better for my own benefit.

Maybe, if you have the means, more important thing about the download is the artist makes more money from your purchase than your stream (and especially when buying from places like Bandcamp). That alone should maybe put you in the camp that the local file sounds better (because you are supporting the artist).

Anyway, 1’s and 0’s are 1’s and 0’s and if the label handed the same file to the streaming company that you can buy / download then its the same 1’s and 0’s hitting your DAC. But, also, we all know the 1’s and 0’s are not the only thing you hear which is why each person needs to compare on their own system and make their own decision. If it sounds the same to you that does not mean you’re missing anything. It just means your digital playback chains are of equal quality.

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@jag2003 This is the best advice you are going to receive. If it sounds good to you it is good for you.

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Exactly as above. The decision is between you and your ears. I stream 98%. Can I tell a difference between Miles on jRiver at 24/192 and Amazon HD or Qubuz- no. I have not even tried DSD yet. Why- because what I’m listening to sounds amazing. Also (God forbid) I use a PC as a server. I could not tell a dang difference between a N100H and my PC ( except for the crappy GUI vs a large screen) However I do run a Matrix from the PC and I do believe that helps a lot.

Which ever sounds best to you is the absolute best choice… Best of luck.


I struggle to hear the difference between streaming vs. local but different hardware and sources is very obvious. Streaming from the Innuos sounds much different than the Bridge. However, I don’t notice much of a difference between streaming files from Qobuz compared to the same file that is saved on the server.


I don’t understand the situation/observation described here and earlier in this thread. How can you stream the same file from Qobuz as that which is on your server? They are literally two different files located in two very different “physical” locations. One resides on a “hard drive” of some sort that is, more or less, directly connected to your renderer, bridge, transport or whatever, and the other is located on some server somewhere out in the “Cloud”.

I would not be surprised at all if a file sounded different when played through Roon versus from a file saved on a “server”, what with the differences in their origins and the “trip” they have to make to be converted by your DAC.

I am sure I must be missing something in the discussion or failing to understand the conventional use of one or more terms in this discussion.

Relatedly, it has often been my experience (not always, but often) that I tend to prefer a file physically stored on my NAS or iMac rendered by JRMC over the (literally) same file rendered by Roon (and I have taken the care not to have Roon or JRMC do any DSP-ing of the files). I have both software packages on my iMac.



Just a guess, but I’d say James is using Roon to stream/play the files.

When I started streaming around 2010 I had a good player, state of the art at the time (Linn DS), which has stood the test of time. However, the data was coming from a pretty rubbish server and it really did not sound that good relative to what is possible now, at a much lower cost. There was no online streaming involved, it didn’t exist at the time.

You have very high quality hardware that will do a fine job with data from any source. You can believe in conspiracy theories about online files being doctored in someway, or you can just enjoy them at a far lower cost than buying each individual release.

I have the same server that PS Audio use, to which @jamesh referred above. I’m pretty sure that it buffers stored files and downloaded files in the same way, so playing a streamed or stored file is the same data played back the same way.

With your hardware there will likely be no audible difference and it’s just not something to worry about.


Thank you all for your input. “Upon further review” perhaps I could have asked; should you expect any SQ difference between a streaming file vs a downloaded file of the same resolution?
I agree 100% that it ultimately is between me and my perception, but like many in this obsession I sometimes suffer from FOMO.
Thanks again.

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I too have a Lumin T2. And I haven’t seen any difference between 24/192 files between internet streaming and from my local NAS. For that reason I don’t bother with Qobuz anymore.

However, I have detected differences between a DSD64 file from my local NAS and spinning an SACD on the PST routed to the DS DAC. The SACD/PST/DSDAC has better resolution and openness to the sound.

Yes, sometimes.

I have yet to identify the necessary and sufficient factors that result in a different sound at the listing position, but I often prefer the file I have ripped or downloaded to the same record (with the same “resolution”) available to stream from the cloud by Qobuz, Tidal etc.

The real kicker is (as I mentioned previously) I also tend to prefer the sound from one rendering/library software over the another when listening to the exact same file I have stored.


Looking forward to others sharing their experiences and preferences…

DSD data on a SACD is 1xDSD, i.e. DSD64. So it is the same data as in a DSD64 file of the same music. There can be no difference in resolution due to the data, only the playback hardware. unless the NAS is converting the data to PCM.

I meant that I hear the resolution of the DSD64 sound better when from the PST/DSDAC.

It just means less noise is added to the signal with the PST feeding your DAC, therefor clearer sound. After all, it’s the same bits.


For what it’s worth I agree with the sentiment that it generally is indistinguishable. I created a hi res masters playlist where some of the songs are coming from local while others are coming from Qobuz. To me it ultimately comes down to the recording of the song and not where it is coming from.

How do we know it’s the same bits? Most SACDs were originally recorded in analogue or PCM, and many (I don’t say most) of those titles are rather old releases in SACD format. When released they were sometimes mapped into 5.1, which may have led to some kind of simultaneous “remastering” of the 2 channel layer.

I believe it is also true that most DSD files you can download were also analogue or PCM, and it is not obvious to me that they were transcoded to DSD64 identically to any prior or current SACD release. Especially when were are talking about rather esoteric SACDs from Japan.

By contrast I would agree that most 2 channel 44/16 downloads probably are bit equivalent to any prior CD release, especially when they cite the same mastering or remastering date.

I am less sure of bit equivalence for hi res downloads vis a vis unreleased PCM masters. And I am not addressing the issue of MQA streamed files vs hi res PCM downloads of the same music.

All my thoughts here are sheer speculation of course.