Digital Dilemma

I purchased an inexpensive Onkyo C-7030 CD Player more as just a transport, but also to use as a benchmark to compare to streaming music on-line. With intentions to get the streamed content to sound as good, if not better, than the CD player could muster.

After sitting my wife down for a listen (she has better ears than me) and playing Tidal, Quboz and then the same tracks on a CD, the CD was the clear winner every time. It also seems the CD playing without using the Gustard R26 DAC didn’t even sound all that much better than when played through the CD Player only, bypassing the R26. That doesn’t say too much for the R26 DAC or alternatively, it says a lot for the DAC in the CD Player!

I am using the R26 as the renderer via a LAN connection that is optically isolated. There are a few filters and adjustments on the DAC, but tweaking those still didn’t get the sound quality up to that of the CD Player.

A lot of you say you have achieved streaming that sounds as good as your analogue systems. What do you think, do I need a betted DAC?



So the conclusion was that the same CD played through the R26 sounded more or less the same as when you played it only through the Onkyo only? That implies that the R26 isn't the cause of any sonic differences you're hearing.


Make sure the volume is matched if you try to compare the streaming service against the CD player. Even a small difference in volume can make you prefer one over the other.


Finally, keep in mind that the streaming service can have a different version of the same recording in their library. If you want to test your streaming playback chain, I suggest ripping the CD to FLAC, streaming the files through the R26 and comparing that against the CD played through the Onkyo.

LOL at all the excuses.  Has anybody actually LISTENED at length to a C-7030 CD player?  It is a true hidden gem.

Bottom line is that the Onkyo C-7030 is a very good transport with an outstanding  built-in DAC.  It will be hard to beat that unit with other digital front-ends even using separate transports and DACs.   To equal the performance of the Onkyo built-in DAC, it's probably necessary to fork out $4K or more.  It's just that good.  And as a transport, the C-7030 does a quite nice job although some might find it a little slow on seek.  

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have been using a C-7030 for years mostly as a transport.  I get somewhat better results on CD playback using an "Unobtanium Black DAC" that was a custom-built prototype by a now-retired manufacturer.  

A Lot of this apparent disparage of sound quality, Isn't coming from your streamer but from the source of the music that the particular site is using or even the engineers that originally recorded the album.
I get angry when some people accuse some device for bad sound quality when they are listening to a poorly engineered or mastered album. And I see a lot of this.
On the other other hand there is a matter of what the quality of the is when listening to streamed music. I know on Qobuz that you can see what their source quality is supposed to be, i.e. HD or CD. I seldom see HD even offered on may of the songs I want to listen to, so just because it is coming for streaming site doesn't mean it is a superior quality recording that you are reviewing.
Finally I often see certain albums offered on Lets say, Youtube that are from the exact same source as Spotify or Qobuz. So many people will talk trash about one over another yet they are the exact same source file being played. This can be seen and proven by noticing that on some cuts they tunicate a song or have a particular oddity like a skip in the middle of a song that is apparent on all sites. This shows that possibly much of our music is given to the sites from some 'OFFICIAL' source, to al sites. This would indicate that it isn't the source that is different, but "POSSIBLY" something  like a sites streaming algorithm or web connection is the fault.


What can be off putting is when beliefs are stated as dogma-usually in this case as “streaming always sounds better than CD”.  This dogma has become so prevalent that people think there is something wrong with them or their systems if they conclude other

Spot on comment. Multiple threads on these comparisons with the same replies. Of course if you increase the quality of the audio streamer your sound quality will escalate. The exact same case holds true as you increase the quality of a CD transport. It is possible to achieve superb sound quality with either type of digital source. It just depends on which direction one chooses to follow.

It you’re drawn to the “vast library at your fingertips “ then digital streaming is obviously alluring and desirable. If you really enjoy and into physical media then a high quality CD transport is the ticket.


IMHO - the technology is not there...Yet. I have always seen streaming being marketed and applied more as a tool of convenience used in phones, cars, refrigerators, lightbulbs, earpods etc... Very seldom is the emphasis on quality. 

There is alot of great advice given here to maximize what you are attempting to achieve. Perhaps, most probably, in time the technology will get there.

That said my direct experience has been... 

a  $4K investment - in a Mojo audio build out, which included top rated drivers, storage, a seprate power supply,  master clock, dac and cables.

And after all that - it still was not as good as playing redbook CDs. The Mojo is  very good as streamers go, But the closest it ever came to sounding almost as good as red book CD -  is when I connected a $9k power cable to it.