The vagaries of digital audio-ENOUGH!

Personally, I have never listened to an mp3 file that did not sound like it was “lacking” something in comparison to uncompressed digital files.

Maybe I have just not had the pleasure of hearing a “superbly recorded and mastered mp3” track.

:thinking:

Cheers.

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I have a different take. The fact that the market seems to be demanding (or the fact that the vendors think there is a market for) a better quality music/streaming experience leads me to believe that there is and will continue to be a demand for superior performance (not that “Hi-Res” necessarily means “superior performance”).

I think this is an encouraging development in the “mainstream” market.

Regards.

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My new streamer:


My daughter broke her iPhone X and the screen works only now and then. I kept it working long enough to get Roon on it and set it up to never go to sleep and to be a non-private zone. And so far, so good. And free.

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In general I agree it is encouraging, however, that both stopped at CD quality however is telling as Darko contests. As long as I have been in this hobby higher resolution/quality product has been a niche item not generally considered worthy of a premium price by the mainstream market place. I consider premium vinyl, SACD, high bit rate CD, MOFI, and similar specialty vinyl release options to fall into this category. Hopefully I am incorrect and Hi-res digital streaming will take off and all recordings going forward will be mastered, mixed and released at the highest available resolution.

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High resolution audio will never be mainstream as the benefits are incrementally small and not easily perceived by the public.

This is unlike television where high definition is obviously much better to even the uncaring observer - like me. :slight_smile:

Additionally, HD television needs only the purchase of an HD set - no fussing with speaker placement, no matching of components, etc. And for most people, hearing their favorite song is enough . It need not be reproduced to a high standard to be enjoyable.

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It wasn’t long ago that conventional wisdom held that MP3 was good enough for the unwashed masses and their portable players, 'phones and ear buds.

I remain optimistic that sound quality will continue to improve “in the mainstream”.

Time will tell.

FWIW,

SEE

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That particular wisdom was/is something I never bought into. I am a rather late comer to streaming, and rely heavily on LP playback supplemented by redbook CD for items that are not typically available on vinyl. I know have Tidal and find it to be a great option for investigating new releases, or items of interest not currently in my collection. I too would like to see Hi-res take off. :grinning:

Agree, but is CD quality streaming any different when played over Bluetooth, cheapo Airpods or a wireless speaker at the beach? In the end, hi-res will become mainstream when the marketing makes it a worthwhile differentiator – regardless of whether the benefits are perceptible to the mainstream consumer. I look forward to more availability and like all audiophiles, will be positioned to take advantage of more hi-res music.

I agree. At least that was my conclusion some time ago. The inconvenient truth is that it’s ubiquitous and a (mostly) convenient way to transfer binary data between digital devices.

Accepting that, I set out on a quest to consolidate all the inputs to my DS DAC into just one I2S input. I was using USB, TOSLink and the Bridge II as inputs but these limited my access to the higher resolution DSD rates which I wanted to explore. Some forum members were also suggesting that the DAC sounded better with only one (I2S) input. I wanted to explore that too.

A while ago I had already made the decision to move away from physical media, giving away my vinyl collection, ripping to file my CD and DVD collection and boxing up the media and storing it out of sight. I now download the highest available resolution of the material I like. If it’s only available on CD then I’ll buy that and rip that to file.

So the brief was to provide a simple (which is moot in itself but I am a believer in the KISS principle) scheme of channeling all the sources I use through the DAC’s I2S input. To be able to deliver both PCM and DSD formats transferred from a ‘digital device’ (PC, NAS server and the like) to the DAC in the least distorted way possible. In addition, allow components in this scheme to be upgraded or replaced as knowledge and technology improves.

I explored many schemes described in this forum and elsewhere but settled on using a NAS server that presents my music library as a shared folder, a Windows PC that reads the music files and a protocol converter and reclocker. The latter converts USB to I2S, stripping off the USB clock signals and accurately reconstructing them on the I2S side. The USB to I2S converter can interpret both PCM and DSD data as, of course, does the DAC.

The big problem with using USB for music files appears to be that it’s clock signals are readily susceptible to interference from other processes in digital devices. This is just one of many schemes that tries to isolate the bits of musical information from the all important timing information until it’s as close as possible to the analog conversion.

I guess I’m just trying to encourage you not to give up on using USB for music files. ‘Vee have ways…’ :wink:

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Agreed. USB is capable of a lot of things, but also seems like it is the most capable of improvement - which some take as a negative, as a proof that it is sonically inferior. But I don’t think that other means are perfect - there are just less available means of improving them, due to being less used. At least that’s how it has seemed to me.

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A few comments…

I agree with the OP’s sentiment… recently have had a number of conversations with an industry friend of long standing… seems digital is now MORE complicated than isolating your turntable, cleaning your LPs, and getting the VTA right. HOWEVER I can definitely report that all the pain is worth it; the recent configuration of my system (many digital boxes + a Tambaqui, + a bunch of other very expensive borrowed optimizations) was at times beyond words, and certainly exceeded what I thought possible from my BHK + Focal Pro ‘back-end’. So: hang in there.

What I tell everyone who is having digital woes is: 1) get a dedicated streamer 2) get a dedicated server and 3) if you still have problems look at USB cables. HOWEVER getting high res, DSD256, etc., is not the priority. Getting your redbook playback sounding better is, and good streamers and server definitely do this. Consider high res formats a total bonus – additions to your digital front-end should justify their cost on redbook playback only. I don’t agree with Darko on everything, but I share his focus on redbook, and support his assertion that high-res is a distraction for most listeners (and I’m someone who listens to a LOT of high res Qobuz).

I have had fine experience with Allo boxes at the low end, and great experiences with Antipodes and Innuos products, both of which are a) dedicated solutions and b) have user-friendly interfaces.

USB: I agree it is a crappy format we are stuck with. Unfortunately very few dedicated streamers, including most from the brand mentioned above, support any other format natively. If you have a DAC with other inputs (particularly HDMI), investigate those. There are devices Antipodes as well as Matrix and others which convert USB to HDMI.

In your case with the SGCD, you want the best USB input you can get. USB input quality is 100% synonymous with sound quality, for redbook. Try an Innuos Mini or an Antipodes EX with an AQ Coffee USB cable and I’ll bet your problems disappear. And compared to an iPhone, I’ll bet the sound quality will be beyond your expectations (with redbook).

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Yes agreed…except for us less fortunate who have this disease that can be an all consuming pursuit for a perfection that in reality does not even exist…But I do enjoy the ride on this crazy train…

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I find the digital streaming/ server route to be vastly superior in terms of library management. I have a lifetime Roon license and have had very few technical issues getting the rig set up. The combining of local and streaming libraries is brilliant in Roon.

For sound quality, physical media remains the champ. There’s something unnecessarily complex and yet more synthetic about the whole streaming music server approach. The server/ streamer is invariably some form of a computer. Even high end servers are basically low powered linux computers. And there’s the hard drive, or NAS, or some other computer centric storage bin, and the cables. And streaming services involve an unimaginably complex system that probably bounces off satellites and an incalculable number of machines just to get the music to your house. And then there are the hoops to connect all that computer centric stuff to your sound system.

Physical media, like CD’s, SACD’s, vinyl, and tape cut all that monkey business out. And for me, that sounds better. However, library management is Paleolithic compared to Roon.

I don’t see it so much as one vs the other. The two systems simply do different things well and which one is right for you, depends on your priorities. I went years not touching physical media. Now I’m 80% physical and 20% streaming. There is a time for every season under heaven.

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Love my Sonos, and I do spend more time listening via my Sonos network than I do my ‘big rig.’ It’s on the deck, in the kitchen, garage . . . . I only wish I could play my high res files via Sonos. That said, I have had very few issues over many years of listening to my files via my PS Audio DSDsr-based setup. I use the BridgeII via Ethernet to the router. It is as reliable as my Sonos, only it sounds a heck of a lot better!!

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So the lesson is I need to get a DSD Sr.

Lol. Thanks for all the suggestions. I do appreciate it. There’s something that the Pi-type streamers are dishing over USB that Roon and the SGCD just don’t like. I still have some open digital inputs that I can use, and DSD files aren’t that critical to my life. If I stick to normal things, everything works fine. The bleeding edge is just that-bloody.

Appreciate y’all.

Mike in Dayton

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Here’s my digital set up: Auralic Aries G1> Audience USB> Chord Mscaler > Two Audience Spidif BNC> Chord Hugo TT2.

I have zero issues.G1 just works. And it’s on WiFi! I’m not sure why folks have so many issues. I did bail on PSA a few years back especially after the Bridge difficulties.

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Getting a DSD is almost always a good idea – even though there’s a new version. I would look on the used market. The top-end of the performance possible with that box is very high, particularly if you bypass and remove the bridge (which you will only do if you’re kinda crazy and don’t have an aversion to extras boxes and $$$). But the performance with the Bridge II is very good and very simple.

The recording and mastering matters most, followed by fit of speakers in a room and amplifier SQ.

Vinyl, CD and redbook CD files are all you ever need. Anything beyond is a major decline of returns on investment. A landslide.

I tried high reds too, it sounds good but is simply a ongoing PITA.

A love that my BluOS is capable to do 24 bit 192 kHz but just for the fact of headroom like the headroom of a power amp. What I love more about it is the simplicity of use. Not the set-up though, but BluOS gave great support.

This causes that CD and Vinyl are far from dead.

Just returned from vacation and was glad that I had my ripped CD’s on memory with me. Internet on holiday resorts or campings is as bad as it can get and using mobile data across the border is a huge financial risk.

Indeed, the USB input on my Stellar Gain Cell DAC was nothing to complain about from a SQ point of view. But it is a universal interface with way too many options.

Toslink, SPDIF, AES-EBU are dedicated audio interfaces with standardized protocols.

I2S, USB and Network-protocol need standardization. Standardization will bring:

  • compatibility, thus less problems for the consumer (audiophile)
  • more support from the music industry

Thus much less hassle.

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My turntable has a power brick, to connect to the wall outlet, a pair of RCA cables to connect to the phono input of the amplifier and a ground wire to allow bonding to earth if required.

Like my CD player it does what it is supposed to do, which is play music. That is for good enough MM cardridges. Say, the mainstream fellows.

I fully agree with you, when you start investing in high cost, ultra sensitive cartridges, that pick up even signals from ET’s mother ship cruising another Galaxy. Than it becomes a PITA like high res digital.

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