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?


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This is an interesting subject with no correct answer no matter how long or how frequently it is discussed. One can offer all of the technical explanations to explain their belief there they hear one format sounds better than the other but at the end of the day it is how it sounds to the listener and that will vary from person to person. 

I have followed high end stereo and the various formats of music that have evolved since 1965 and spent time extensively listening to all of the music formats in reasonable high quality equipment. For me, I prefer the sound from a well recorded CD over all of the streaming. BTW, I have a collection of over 2500 CDs, 1200 vinyls, 40,000 on a separate hard drive in AIFF format, 300 cassette tapes, and subscription to several streaming services. 

At the end of the day, whether you think the sound quality from streaming is better than CDs is reflection of your system and what appeals to your ears and that will vary from individual to individual.
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