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?


That's the one thing I like about cds.the amount of music that can be on it.I gave been going back to lps.The cost are crazy....I used to buy lps that , when on sale were under 3 dollars.The time yes In deed ,maybe 15 mins a side....You get up and change the album....I would clean the new lp to be played some times that's a lot of time  changing records.
Hi Limomangus,

A good vinyl system is very addictive, but yes a lot of work to keep. Its worth it if the setup is good though. A lot of great LPs out there in thrift shops at $1 - $2 ea. I like house music too and there are many superb collections out there. Dependent on recording, a CD will sound very high quality on a good player and system. Streaming can sound amazing too, but the reason I started this thread, was to share my concern with spotty streaming quality from services such as Tidal. I listen sometimes to Soundcloud, and I have found so much great music, really superb, on there. Soundcloud is a the platform where so many young talented musicians, djs and amateurs offering to share their music. I’ve found much music including house music on vinyl and converted and streamable on Soundcloud.
CD player all day every day. 
 A nice CD player, descent cables, 
and the toughest is the recording, some CDs are horrible, some sound flawless, that is the factor.
it don’t matter the CD player, cables, amp, speakers, a bad recording will sound bad regardless of quality of components. 

CD player all day every day.
A nice CD player, descent cables,
and the toughest is the recording, some CDs are horrible, some sound flawless, that is the factor.
Just make sure you get the (used) earlier non-compressed cd issue and not the usually "horrible" compressed later issue.
Check here for the cat. no.

Remember "If there’s no quite there’s no loud" (dynamic range)
Listen/watch this

Cheers George
Yes, this is something a growing number of music fans are showing increasing  concern with.

Perhaps if the headphone enthusiasts lend their voice against this deplorable practice then something might eventually happen to rescue us.

It's quite telling that hardly any of the mainstream audio reviewers are going out on a limb against the use of dynamic compression.

How can this be so when they appear to seem to be advocating the best possible sound quality?

Could it be that they are really very little more than equipment shills, whoring their column inches carefully as to not offend their paymasters?

The nerdy pen pushing eunuch 
advertising wing of an industry trying to keep its head above water whilst in the middle of some strange global changing of the guards experiment?

For sure, audio playback might be small potatoes in comparison to what's happening elsewhere, but for anyone with any interest in music, surely life-like dynamic range is up there with things to be concerned about?

Ok, the artists themselves want to sell more product, make more money, and that often means making it sound comparitively louder, and that's fair enough.

Therefore it's up to us, the consumers, to refuse to buy any more music that has had its dynamics deliberately reduced.

It's not good, and it's not High Fidelity.

"Now, you see this one-eyed midget shouting the word "Now"
And you say, "For what reason?" and he says, "How"
And you say, "What does this mean?" and he screams back, "You're a cow!Give me some milk or else go home"
And you know something's happening but you don't know what it isDo you, Mr. Jones?"
99% of the population want convenience over sound quality. The future of "true-to-the-source" music recordings is bleak!
Regarding reviews: Just look at the way the new remix/remaster of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" has been praised to the heavens.  The dynamic range of most Beatles releases was never that great to begin with, but DR7?  What a sellout.  I bought the 3-CD set on the first day of its release recently, and I thought it would be better than that.  Enthusiasm got the better of me; I should have checked the online database first.

   Worst ones I have heard are the scorpions releases from about  maybe 6 years ago....,...I think...?..
bought the Japan release ones, wow, even bought the standard releases of maybe they would be better.
if your familiar with those, they have so much treble, I mean, it’s extreme cymbals, the highs are so on top of everything , I managed through the first song, and have them stacked in a cabinet, to maybe sell some day. Even with my super warm Energy RC-70s’, the treble is so in my face, it’s painful. 
 Broke out my first or 2nd Mercury presses. So much better. 

Worst ones I have heard are the scorpions releases from about maybe 6 years ago....,...I think...?..

Yes to me it seems that from early 2000 up to now, they were nutz on compressing (squashing) our music with most re-issues and re-masters, and new albums too.

Compression is the Covid 20 virus version of the music industry.

It called "DYNAMIC RANGE", and it gives the ears/brain a chance to breath and relax!

Cheers George
I don't mind a bit of compression if it'll allow me to scale down the volume yet still allow me to get viscerally caught up in the music. Compression makes the musical performance room-friendly. To me, truth of instrumental & vocal timbre and the ability of the machinery to play a tune are far more important than slam or how deep the bass goes. I want to be able to understand the lyrics (or not understand them when that's the artist's wicked intent). I want to be able to recognize an artist's individuality & tone, and to appreciate the acoustics of venues. I want to be able to be caught up in the fun when the producer/engineer plays wicked games with the "truth." I love microdynamics. I don't need to be punched in the nose.

To me, truth of instrumental & vocal timbre and the ability of the machinery to play a tune are far more important than slam or how deep the bass goes.

Tune?? how is that possible, when the foot tapping bass, sounds like a stick of salami being smacked on a bed mattress, in the 3rd music pass.

All it serves to do is give listeners fatigue. Because it’s relentless in it’s average level and there’s no quite parts to let the music, your ears, and your brain time to breath.
If it were live, there’d be no compression, just like any sound in life.

Can you imagine if life’s sounds were compressed to all the same level!!
eg: distant traffic noise being the same volume level as the singing bird in the tree next to you

"If you have no quiet you can have no loud"
It’s called dynamic range. Why screw up our music by taking it away??

Cheers George

This is quite simple, with the present development of technology, a traditional CD player setup will play as good as a streamer costing at least three times as much. So, if you have a CD player costing 5000 dollars and want the same from a streamer, look to spend around 15-20,000 dollars. 

So, if you have a CD player costing 5000 dollars and want the same from a streamer, look to spend around 15-20,000 dollars.

Still got the problem of what ’s being streamed to you is very well the compressed later re-issues vs the uncompressed CD early issue.

Same album different issues

And the majority of new music today is compressed too, only a few artist/bands are saying "NO to Compression"

Cheers George
I’ve run into sound quality issues recently running Qobuz. I posted about it here. It caused enough grief that I signed up for a 3 month Tidal trial. I have since tested multiple albums to compare Qobuz and Tidal and in 99% of the cases I prefer Tidal. Qobuz sounds flat with glaring mids that results in an uneasy overall presentation. Vocals are more recessed and are set further back, details are more subdued. With Tidal the music just flows easier with better overall clarity and more relaxed, more inviting presentation. Acoustic bass has better texture. As I’m reading comments on this thread I see majority prefer Qobuz over Tidal. I’m wondering is it really that system dependent? I don’t dispute what others hear but at the ssme time I know what I hear as well.
As far as CD vs streaming…few days ago I had an opportunity to test a $550 CD transport driving my DAC via SPDIF cable and it bettered Tidal, Qobuz and CD Rips ( FLAC/WAV) files on the hard drive that’s connected to my streamer. It was just more engaging, more real sounding with better detail retrieval and better sense of conveying the emotions in the music with layers and textures that aren’t as apparent with streaming. Listening to streaming after listening to a good old original redbook CD sounded lifeless. Now don’t get me wrong…streaming sounds good on its own but not immediately after I heard the same material on CD.
Auralic Aries G1 streamer (Audience AU24se USB cable)
Bryston BDA-3 DAC
Rogue RP-5 pre
Rogue ST-100 amp
Martin Logan Montis speakers

Acoustic Zen Matrix Ref II
Acoustic Zen Absolute Copper
Sp. Cables - Audience AU24sx
Hi Audphile1,

Your experience mirrors mine.
For my ears, I can always hear better sound, because it is less forced even at higher volumes, more engaging - i can listen for long periods without fatigue - and the sound is just, well, more beautiful to listen too. When streaming is bad, my music-lover brain switches off to the music. I listen for perhaps 15 minutes then switch the amp off. Unfortunately, its been my experience of streaming from cloud services such as Tidal Qobuz or Apple, that as of late, the sound is too often unsatisfactory for longer listening.
I believe the reason Tidal sounds sometimes acceptable and sometimes better as a high-quality source than Qobuz is their space algorithms. Apple has implemented this ‘space’ algorithm in their streaming service too.
I am of the opinion that streaming a digital file, unadulterated, over today’s networks that are capable of high bandwidth, can yield results on par, or perhaps even better than CD. However, the problem is the file is not sent and received in ‘native’ pristine fashion. It is compressed then de-compressed - what have you - and the result to my ears is smearing, vague sound that is most obviously compromised in terms of imaging, with homogenization and distortion.

In contrast, I pop in a CD and more often than not the sound is clearly better, more resolved, and precise than the streamed version of that music (George;s point is well taken here). Notably the sound is less smeared with better imaging, more tone color and better texture. The sound presentation is more resolute, more defined and more present.

This isn’t always to be the case. Sometimes it seems to me a switch is flipped and the the cloud stream sound is so much improved. I just wish it was more consistent. For now, I am considering giving up on streaming, as this is frustrating.
I forgot to mention in my post that I also used Roon for over a year. It is just flat out impressive when it comes to managing your streaming services and local HDD/NAS music as a database that puts everything at your fingertips. It also has this amazing feature to auto play similar music after you’re done listening to a song or an album, and I discovered tons of new music that I never heard before. The convenience and this Roon “radio” feature managed to temporarily conceal additional levels of sound quality degradation introduced by Roon alone. I canceled Roon after I compared streaming using my streamer as Roon end-point vs streaming using the streamer’s native app and forgoing Roon altogether. I felt that with Roon the dynamic range was further reduced causing the music to sound even more lifeless. I never looked back. 
But…I wouldn’t totally give up on streaming though as it provides new music discovery, selection and convenience that can’t be beat. I just hope some of these frustration inducing variables can be worked out at the source and they find a way to stabilize it. For now, I am on a hunt for a CD transport.
Again, one needs to optimize streaming setup. In my early days of streaming, the two transports I was using in that period of time, PS Audio Perfectwave and/or Mark Levinson ML37, both top grade transports, bested streaming. Over time, as upgraded streaming setup, beat cd transport, this on cd rips over NAS. Over time and even more streaming upgrades, streaming now sounds extremely close to cd rips. I prefer Qobuz to Tidal by slight margin, use Roon with no digital processing.
I am in shock how much better it sounds spinning a silver disc via the Audiolab 6000T via audioquest diamond spdif vs the same music streamed from a Roon nucleus plus via audioquest diamond ethernet into my router and then audioquest ethernet into my DAC (DCS Rossini) I'm not sure if there is some kind of degradation because of the way the cables come into the router then to the DAC but it's not even a close call here, drastically better via the spinning silver disc.  Discs are cheap and I've started adding to my collection once again


I am in shock how much better it sounds spinning a silver disc via the Audiolab 6000T via audioquest diamond spdif vs the same music streamed from a Roon nucleus plus via audioquest diamond ethernet into my router and then audioquest ethernet into my DAC (DCS Rossini)

What gets streamed you, you cannot find it’s provenance, which date re-release your getting, it’s usually the latest or close to the latest
Which means it’s probably far more compressed that the earliest releases.
Here’s what I mean, they only made the one album, but it was re-released many times, and got more and more compressed the later the release gets.

And the Boss.

Cheers George


I have an update. In lieu of a dedicated streamer on my list of must-haves, I may have corrected the inconsistency of streaming quality. More available bandwidth and also noise reduction.

As a point of reference, currently streaming Apple Music (the newly improved Lossless / Hi-Res service). Cannot say yea or nay if this service equals or beats Qobuz or Tidal, but am hearing great sound. So, two major changes that have affected change;

1. Got replacement router modem from Frontier. This time, went into the software admin application and enabled the separation of 2.4G from 5G. Allowing selection of 2.4G or 5G.

2. My son gifted me an Asus RX3000 5G WiFi router with excellent WiFi and 5G performance. Plugged that in to an ethernet port on the Arris NVG468MQ Optical Fiber (ONT) router, now operating in 5G mode. The Asus is well reviewed. My rationale for an additional router is to extend the performance over the the Frontier router and gain performance by connecting to the Asus RX3000 5G network.

I don’t watch TV regularly - a couple of times a week really. Kicked things off first with video content, a show on YouTube, streamed from my computer. launching from the Brave browser circumvents continual advertisements, I watched a beautifully filmed Turkish drama serial called Karadayi. First indications positive. Things were on the up and up. The show was streaming in full HD 1080p. It has until now almost always down-converted resolution to 720p, maybe a sign that I have been dealing with bandwidth limitation all the while?

And that is what has happened. I am hearing better sound more consistently  from streamed content than I did before. Much closer to good Redbook CD quality.

I think that the improvement is down to more consistent bandwidth availability, enabled by 5G perhaps? Also, could it be that by plugging in the Asus RX3000 somehow EMI /RFI noise is being more effectively addressed? Any views are welcome.
You're experiencing the value of network optimization. Streaming should sound as good as cd rips or cd's over transport if one has network in order.
Going back to the very original post.   Most streaming I have heard( (I am not an expert on streaming )  sounds good but at the end of the day does not sound like music to me.   We are in an era of hyper detail and ,leanness.  I do not hear a guitar players nose hair moving when he is standing in front of.  I do not want to hear it through the system. It is almost like the harmonics are stripped or something.  A decent CD players sound more like music to me and vinyl takes that a step further.  I think ears have changed as to what is good sound and naturally your mileage may vary.  Each to their own.

Thanks for your observation. I do get what you are saying. My latest experience has me much more willing to go the whole hog down the streaming path - albeit not giving up CD - because i definitely hear a major improvement after sorting out the network. I am convinced bandwidth was probably responsible for my experiencing a sub-optimal result. The best way i can describe it, is when someone sends you a vid of very low res as a text message. Its small so you can’t see it properly. Try and expand it and it looks awful. I think something similar happens with streaming. If the bandwidth is affected, the file will down-convert, resulting in a smaller lower quality image that loses any sense of scale and proper imaging. It sounds hard and distorted. Now i have been using the newly revamped Apple music with lossless and high res. They also have a spatial audio / atmos for compatible headphones /DACs. Replacing my modem / router and running 5G, the Apple service has quite honesty sounded really really good. I am very impressed. Yes compared to my current, admittedly limited streaming setup, CD as far as I can hear does sound more complete. I think anyone with good hearing could tell instantly. But then, i do not have a dedicated streamer. Logically there should be no reason why a bitstream at full resolution should sound any different than CD.
Cheers and happy listening.

I know this topic has been hashed to death, but I wanted to add one other consideration: I just got an Audiolab 6000cdt transport running into my PS Audio DAC, and I am astonished to hear what it's doing.

If I compare any CD track on the transport to the same track streamed from Qobuz through the same DAC, the difference is pretty dramatic. Through the transport, the first thing I notice is the dimensionality of the music. It's like the difference between looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon and standing on the rim of the canyon. Really.

Instruments and voices exist as separate, individual sources. Reverberation tails are much more apparent, as is the timbre and texture of the instruments. The frequency spectrum is fully realized--I never realized how much was missing in streaming. Everything is as clean and natural as I could wish. No CD player has ever done this in my system. Using a transport elevates CDs to a point where I'm comfortable listening to them next to my Well Tempered turntable. 

Post removed 

Decided to listen to the CD player last night. Its been a while. In this case, a modified Pioneer BDP-09fd sending the analogue signal via old transparent ultra cables. I was not in the mood for analytical comparisons between Qobuz and CD stream, but did compare several Mozart pieces that i have on disc and available on Qobuz. Also put on some Jamiroqai and Sting. The Qobuz is hi-res. The CD is 16/44 Redbook.

The CD was altogether more engaging. Really much more musically satisfying and dare I say it; more beautiful. Much more tonal density, much more presence, clearer, better definition, more concise and ‘there’ with CD.

I hate doing this. One realizes streaming ultimately is a great convenience, but in my case, doesn’t challenge CD as a state of the art playback medium.



The CD sounds better. Can you tell me more about your "modded" Pioneer BDP-09 ?


Happy Listening!



Can you tell me more about your "modded" Pioneer BDP-09 ?


Happy Listening!

Hi Jafant,

I bought the player from a serious enthusiast. He had modded the player to include some form of vibration damping, dynamat treatment and fuses. I believe he did something with the power supply. I am not quite sure, but i have compared this BDP-09fd player side by side to two other BDP-09fd players. The improvements are immediately obvious and compelling. The most general way I can describe it is a more musical presentation. With this modded player, the center image is certainly more present and clear while the sound presents as ‘bigger’, without losing focus. I also perceive better rhythmic drive / better timing. That might be the result of eliminating the smearing associated with noise. 



Thank You for the follow up. The BDP-09 is still a Reference Player. Sad, that Pioneer does not support these Vintage products. If you find out more specifics about the "mods", contact me.

What other gear is in your System?

Happy Listening!



I recently picked up the BDP-09 for my collection and system. Do you have any more information regarding "Mods" performed on your player?  Feel free to PM me if you do not wish to divulge here.


Happy Listening!

I have reached the same conclusion. I use tidal master streaming the highest tier service they provide and listen to what they call the master tracks. Using the same DAC with my CD player ( ARCAM CDS50) I can tell subtle detail that is more present in the CD, the dynamics are sharper and sound stage is wider. The difference became even more noticeable recently as I upgraded to a pair of KEF R11 Meta floor standers. I check the streaming bit rate and frequency to make sure it is playing FLAC at 48KHz theoretically a higher sample rate than CD but the sounds is inferior. Even non audiophiles can sometimes tell the CD sounds cleaner or nicer or whatever better. 

I think the difference is in mastering or how the album is digitally encoded at first place by the streaming service. I think it is optimized for  most low end and those tiny streaming speakers. When the information is lost during the encoding then play back at higher bit rate will not recover the lost tones. Of course this is just a guess but I have no doubt even the so called Master streaming does not sound as good as a CD for many albums when played back through a Hifi system. It’s great that CD is so cheap these days especially lightly used CDs. I see myself collecting more and more 

I sold my reference quality cd player 15 years ago because ripped music sounded better using 3rd party software like Pure Music. I still have a Sony $1500 SACD/cd player that I have used maybe 5 times in the last 10 years. With high res files and mqa, I sold my $15k turntable and all my vinyl and have never regretted it. 
Looking at some of these posts, they are using cheap stuff like blue jean cables or $100 audioquest cables, like those are high quality. My old usb cable when I used to own that flawed interface was close to $1000. 
The reader software you use makes all the difference for playback quality. If you use Apple’s iTunes/music software, anything will sound better. But if you use Audirvana or Roon, your playback quality goes way up.

Also, when you use a cd player, are you using toslink or coax outputs into an external dac? If so, those are the worst out[uts to use but not as bad as usb, so you already compromised your sound. Or if you use the single ended or balanced outputs, then you are really compromising the sound quality because you are using the internal dac inside the cd player. I have never heard a cd players internal dac sound any good (same goes for dacs built into integrated amps) compared to a standalone quality dac, like the Briscati, DCS, or PS Audio standalone dacs.


My experience has been that streaming great sound but takes much effort. It took me over 1 1/2 years to get the sound of streaming to match my CD Transport and Vinyl sources. Neither I nor my two sons hear a difference now switching between CD or streamer at 44.1/16. Hi res sounds even better but generalizations do not work well with audio. For example, the best sounding vinyl still competes well with the best hi-res audio files. But some hi-res audio sounds the same as 44.1/16 files and some CDs sound better than their vinyl counterparts. Only keep in mind that different pressings of the same vinyl can sound better too.

One of the good, or bad things about this hobby called audio is that we need contrasts to know if one sound is better than the other. Our ears adjust to the sound of our system and we have to hear another system, source or live music outdoors, in a club or in a hall to determine if our system is better/worse. The same goes for sources. So I started out with my CD Transport/DAC combo which sounds great to me compared to other systems I have heard as well as my vinyl source. I bought a music server/streamer and ripped my CDs to FLAC files and got a subscription to Roon. It took a little work finding the right USB cable to get FLAC files and CD to be indistinguishable. At that point streaming was good but not up to CD or FLAC files. After going through various configurations, cables, power supplies, FMC’s, different SFPs and so on I got to a final configuration that makes streaming equivalent to CD, FLAC and downloaded hi-res files.

I am not saying this is the only way. I’m sharing my configuration to help others save time/money.

1) Ditch the ISP’s modem. Get a good quality modem. I also added a low noise power supply to the modem and router. Can’t say that I would hear the difference in an A/B comparison but it is a relatively low cost upgrade. I have coax cable internet service.

2) Get a good quality router. Ethernet cabling is a must for good streaming but a good wifi router should do no harm to the network signal.

3) Get a good audio grade network switch. I struggled with the idea of spending thousands on a network switch. When the LHY SW-8 came out I grabbed one and love it. Very effective. Until then I was using a fiber optic link between my router and streamer. It is good; but the SW-8 is better. Now, the thinking would be that two good things together would be even better. Wasn’t the case. The SW-8 performs best direct into the router.

4) Use Ag plated ethernet cables. Full silver might be better- I don’t know. Silver plated cabling makes a difference. Well worth the minor investment.

I’m sure others have different experiences. Many paths to the same goal. Everything matters. Also, my SW-8 is plugged into my power conditioner.

I’ll add that the silver plated ethernet cable between the streamer and network switch makes an obvious difference in sound and same between the network switch and router. But the silver plated ethernet cable between the modem and router was not as obvious a difference.

It seems the further from the source, the less difference cabling makes.