CD Quality Versus Streaming Quality


I realize this will be a contentious subject, and far be it from me to challenge any of the many expert opinions on this forum, but if I may offer my feedback vis-a-vis what I am hearing, and gain some knowledge in the process.

i will begin saying that my digital front end setup is not state of the art, but i have had the good fortune to listen to a number of really high-end systems. I guess the number one deficit in my digital front end is a streamer server, and no question about it that will improve the sound.

My CD player is a universal player; Pioneer BDP-09fd. It uses Wolfson DACs. It has been modified to a degree. I have bought and sold other players, but kept this one, because it has a beautiful sound that serves the music well.

Recently, i ventured over to my son’s place and we hooked up my player (he doesn’t have one and rely’s on streaming only) We compared tracks / albums of CD quality and master quality streamed on Tidal with ‘redbook’ CDs I have. For example, some Lee Ritenaur CDs and some Indian classical and the wonderful Mozart and Chopin.
His system is highly resolving.

we were both very surprised to find the CDs played on the player to be the better sound. And not just by a little. The sound was clearly superior, with higher resolution and definition, spatial ques, much better and clearer imaging. Very surprising indeed. Shouldn’t there be no difference? This would suggest the streaming service is throttling the bandwidth or compressing the signal?

i am most interested to hear others’ observations, and suggestions as to why this might be? I do love the convenience aspect of streaming, but it IS expensive for a chap like me of fairly modest means. The Tidal HiFi topline service is $30 per month I believe, something the good lady is not too thrilled about. God forbid I should suggest Roon on top of that I may likely get my walking papers. I jest, but only partially LoL. My point is, if I pay this sort of money, isn’t it fair to expect sound to equal the digital stream from the CD player and silver disc?
Thoughts?

AK





4afsanakhan


Well the earlier uncompressed "used" ones are now demanding far more than what they were new on ebay. So you know the streaming companies aren’t going to shell out for those. They are going to go for the cheapest they can get, which unfortunately is going to be the later/latest highly compressed versions.

Just look at this, which do you think the streaming company will end up getting 28 years difference for the same CD only the oldest one is uncompressed. Look at the shocking difference in dynamic range!!
https://dr.loudness-war.info/album/list?artist=Traveling+Wilburys&album=Traveling+Wilburys

Cheers George
My SQ rule based on my experiences!
Original LP
Remastered analog or digital LP
CD
Hi res Tidal streaming
Streaming
MP3
OP

this topic has been explored in many threads here.  Personally I see no reason why one digital technology should be better or worse than another.  A CDP can extract the bits and send it to an internal DAC, leaving all the streaming issues aside, such as provenance of the masters, the quality of the streaming service, whether the ISP is throttling bandwidth in this era of Zoom and everyone getting all of their entertainment over the Internet, the home router, and the quality the streamer.  For me, given all the links in the chain just described, the wonder is that streaming can sound as good as it does, but the claims that it inherently is superior to CD replay are just marketing blather 
As noted above, music is often re-mastered for streaming, making direct A/B comparisons between those and the original CD's very difficult. Whether hi-res is audibly superior to to Redbook is still an open question in my own mind.

MQA is another whole can of worms. Many contend that MQA "folding/unfolding" is not a lossless process, and some artists have removed their catalogs from Tidal, because the end result was not to their liking. Tidal maintains that MQA content must be played back through proprietary MQA-licensed gear to achieve a complete sonic "unfolding".

I've personally opted to stream hi-res for my own system from Qobuz, rather than Tidal. Qobuz offers FLAC content quality up to 24/192 for many releases. Another streaming alternative is Deezer, which provides CD-quality content streaming. Subscriptions to both Qobuz and Deezer together can be had for less than the price of a top-tier Tidal subscription.

Let everyone go to streaming. I will continue to happily scoop up their unwanted CD's at goodwill gfor pennies on the dollar, just as other people did years ago with LP's.