Qobuz Hi-Rez Not Necessarily the Best Sound


I stream Qobuz using Roon into a Bricasti M1SE DAC/Streamer into a Benchmark HPA4 headphone amp and then into various Kennerton or RAAL headphones.

Lately I have been comparing different versions of recordings on Qobuz.  For instance, lately it has been Depeche Mode but also Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, and Supertramp.  Oftentimes there are several versions of titles, usually Hi-rez files of 24/192 or similar, versus the standard 16/44.1 resolution versions.  Sometimes there are remastered versions in various resolutions.  

Quite by accident I have found that the highest resolution versions are not necessarily the best-sounding versions, often preferring the remastered and/or standard resolution recordings.  Today, for instance, I was listening to DM's A Broken Frame.  The 24/192 sounded a little sharper with perhaps a little more detail and spaciousness but was amazingly dynamically compressed.  The difference was not subtle.  Going from the 24/192 to the 16/44.1 remastered version was going from a bland recording to one that came alive.  I guess it goes to show that higher rez files are not necessarily superior sonically.

Anyone else found this to be the case in their streaming?  Thanks.


I am curious if those trashing MQA’s sound quality have a streamer/DAC that performs the full three step MQA unfold? Reason I ask is I have such a combo that is also able to play maximum resolution HiRez Qobuz files (up to 24/352) and I find that my preference for one over the other on a given track or album is about 50/50. Both have their turds but also many outstanding sounding remasters and I find the ratio to be about equal between the two formats.

I suspect that MQA (Tidal) is at a distinct disadvantage when one’s streamer/DAC does not fully unfold MQA files. Choosing not to invest in full MQA unfold capability is understandable, but to continually trash it without hearing it at its full potential is a bit misleading IMO.

Though again, it wasn’t doing that say, 3-4 months ago or thereabouts, so I’m still convinced that Qobuz did do something to enable the capability

@hankeson, You know computers have a mind of their own at times. It’s hard to explain why they do things sometimes, but they do them, and then they stop. Let us know if your DAC is set up to upsample x4.


Thanks for the comment! I too just finished auditioning catalog titles making notes of which to buy a physical copy of (CD). Ironically on Spotify no less!


Thanks for jumping in. It seems this conversation has melded down to “hi-res” streaming service offerings vs the real thing, whether that source be a physical copy or a file of the original.

I’ve never been a believer in MQA- read a lot about it and decided not to participate but since you’ve brought it up what are your thoughts on how it compares (in ideal conditions) to that of the real deal? 

@designsfx I am agnostic to the debate about the virtue of MQA other than I think it is getting an undeserved bad rap on Audiogon regarding sound quality. IME relative sound quality is always determined by the quality of implementation regardless of format.

Assuming the “real thing” is live music, my thoughts are that MQA can provide a listening experience as close to that of live music as can reproduced music on any playback format. They all fall short of providing a perfect suspension-of-disbelief listening experience, yet the best implementation of each can get in the “spooky real” zone. How close each comes to being a convincing replication of the source event has much more to do with the recording and mastering quality of the media than the format and, of course, the quality of the reproduction chain is important. As the latter becomes increasing more accurate and revealing, the limitations of the former become the obvious ceiling for achieving truly convincing and satisfying reproduction of recorded music.