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?


So, if you are going to put effort into digital, put it in streaming.

Trouble is very good chance your not going to get the uncompressed original releases of your last 30 years of favorites. You get the re-released later compressed ones, as I’ve shown.
Unless your very young and don’t listen to anything over a couple of years old like us old farts, as it’s all compressed these days and you have no reference to hear it uncompressed.

What would be great is a streaming company that "says" it will only stream the uncompressed old 1st releases of the music, with no extra compressing on their part to save streaming space, this could then be called
                                 "The Audiophile Streaming/Downloading Site"

Cheers George
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Thanks all for your excellent feedback.


- We tested the BDP-09FD’s internal Wolfson DACs, and feeding the digital signal using Coax digital cable to the Expert Pro 220’s own ‘magic’ DAC. I guess I just like the sound of my player’s DAC too much. Both were really excellent. Listening to CDs from Fourplay, Bob James, Stanley Jordon and more, in each instance the results were unambiguous. The CD yielded a superior sound to mine and my son’s ears. I hate to use superlatives, but the difference was dramatic. The sound from the player / disc was altogether clearer, more consise, fuller, bigger, more effortless / less strained even when the decibels were increased to loud levels, to say nothing of definition and detail especially in the upper mid / treble hf region. Low  level listening was more resolved too. 
Mastering92 brings up interesting points re; latency and EMI. George, I think your point on mastering is very intriguing also. I will investigate.

I do understand that a full non-compressed stream should sound no different in quality between different digital formats using like DACs / amps etc. Again my streaming setup is not complete, lacking a good streamer server, although in my son’s system both Tidal and qobuz run optimally on the Devialet Expert Pro 220.
Stating old stuff here.  When cd’s came out 1 k of ram was about 1000 dollars. The red book standard for music was ahead of the means to store it or read it accurately in real time.  Reading digits off a spinning disk has inherent errors up to 5 percent depending on the condition of the disk and the quality of the transport and laser.   Dacs essentially have to guess where the missing information is based on algorithms.   Once you had cheap enough buffers like the original ps audio rom systems the errors were gone.  Now with solid media the digits can be stored without error and served yo an asynchronous dac.  No matter how good your CD player is, the process is flawed and outdated.
now there are data issues when you rip your cds to memory that are probably not audible, purchased 16/44 will provide excellent sq.
Streaming, like Class D amplifiers, are both getting better and better and at a very fast rate! 
With streaming everything matters in terms of getting great sound quality.  The software used is VITAL folks. Ridding the digital front end of noise is critical.  In the end, streaming CAN sound every bit a good as the best CD players.  Just no doubt.