It would be nice if every audio recording had something like a VIN number, so that it could immediately be compared with another (supposedly) "same" recording.
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It is not the technology, it is the mastering of the music. Even with CDs, you can find early CDs that sound MUCH better than later CDs because of the change in mastering. A lot of more recent material is, as others mentioned above, very highly compressed. This is actual desirable for those who listen casually, listen with earbuds while in high noise environments, listen in the car, etc., but it sucks for those who want higher quality sound. It is really not the fault of the music industry; it is the public that actually favors compressed music. If you want the best digital source material, you have to actually seek particular CD issues or download files from sources offering high quality material.
You have opened up a can of worms :-) I see same old folks, hopping from one thread to another cascading their stale biases.
BTW, if you invest time and efforts in a good streaming setup, you will be rewarded with sound that equals or better than CD’s. And you can have high resolution streaming (Qobuz) for as low as $12.49 per month.
A couple of issues to consider in your listening test with your son’s system.
1. From my experience, Tidal is the worst sounding of all of the major streaming services. My impressions of the sound quality of streaming services is:
3. Spotify Premium (320 kbps Ogg Vorbis which is not lossless)
5. Amazon HD
2. Analog noise in the form of EMI and RFI has a major impact on the sound of digital. What source did he use for streaming? If it was a PC or Mac that could be a reason why streaming sounds much worse.
Now I will admit that I replay digital music from both local files and streamed through Qobuz (and some Spotify Premium). Local files DO still sound better to me presumably because local files attached to my streamer have a shorter signal path to my amplifier than files streamed via the Internet going through Comcast’s cables through my WiFi router, etc. BUT, I found that these changes that I’ve made to my streaming signal path all have made a noticeable improvement in sound quality to a degree that streaming music is quite enjoyable.
1. Switching from WiFi on my streamer to Ethernet via a TP-Link RE230 WiFi extender
2. Switching from an AmazonBasics Cat 6 cable to a Supra Cat 8 Ethernet cable (~$70)
3. Adding an Audioquest Jitterbug noise filter onto the USB output from my streamer
4. Using a Stordiau Lush USB cable (~$200)
5. Using a Shunyata Venom power cable ($135) on my DAC
6. Linear power supply instead of a switch mode power supply for a streamer. I haven’t tried this yet because my Pro-ject streamer is supposed to benefit less from this change.
The reason why all of these changes have improved the sound is because they help block EMI/RFI from getting into the signal path. As I heard, Darren Myers, analog engineer at PS Audio, say on his Hi Fi Podcast just this morning: Getting digital audio to sound good requires more than just plug-and-play. Every component in the digital signal path can matter and setting up digital audio for good sound is as complex as setting up a turntable and cartridge.
My perspective is that even if you can’t get streaming to sound quite as good as CDs, the ability to hear all sorts of new music is really fantastic.
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