Streaming through upconverting DAC - can I even improve audio quality?

New to streaming but have been at this hobby for over 50 years.  Started by getting a Marantz SA-10 SACD player that enables streaming through its DAC only via SPIDF.  The SA-10 upconverts everything to DSD 11.2.  So I started with ifi Zen Stream via ethernet, good Belden 75 ohm cable, then upgraded streamer to ifi's linear power supply, which made an improvement I could hear through balance of system, Luxman 590axii and Yamaha NS-5000 loudspeakers.  Sounds good so I'v e started to look at other streamers thinking it could get better, including the new Eversolo DMP-A8 (where I could use its DAC or the Marantz) and even the $5200 HIfi Rose RS-130 (streamer only).  But here's the thing:  so far, just using free Spotify 44.1 redbook quality, 1) since the Marantz upconverts everything to DSD 11.2 would I gain anything from a premium streaming subscription? and 2) the Ifi's femto clock and it's purifier noise removal works on the signals into the unit (clock) and then out (purifier on coax) and then the Marantz' dual clocks take over, so is there anything to be gained with a different streamer's clock? Or have I gotten the quality to about as good as its going to get without investing significantly more in another higher end DAC and streamer?  Should I be able to get SACD quality via streaming or maybe I'm getting that now and it's just that streaming sounds different than a SACD.

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... here’s the thing: so far, just using free Spotify 44.1 redbook quality ...

Free Spotify is no better than 160 kbit/s according to its website. That's lo-res lossy.

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Yeah, you’re scraping the bottom of the streaming barrel and there’s much more to be had.  Upsampling Spotify???  U gotta be kidding me if you think that’s even close to being as good as it gets.  Upgrading your streamer to something from the likes of Aurender or Innuos and adding a good DAC will take you way, way ahead of where you are now. 

You really would benefit by ditching Spotify and subscribing to Qobuz. That alone will provide a very noticeable change in how you’re hearing things.

Thanks, I'll give Qobuz a try first.  I'm trying to compare streaming to music I know well that I play on CD or SACD which is the only way I can judge.  I guess I don't understand if any signal the stream outputs is getting upsampled and upconverted to 11.2 what difference it makes as to what signal is streamed as input.  I'm sure the answer is technical and I'd be surprised if everything doesn't make a difference.  More experimentation is certainly in order.  Trying to find the sweet spot bang for the buck.  

But here's the thing:  so far, just using free Spotify 44.1 redbook quality,

Where did you get that info? It's totally incorrect. Spotify doesn't offer any redbook ouput. They have nothing but lossy streaming at a max of 320kbs. And the free service tops out at 160kbs when streaming.

Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon, Apple and others offer 16/44.1 which is REDBOOK CD quality in lossless formats.

Yes, better streamers and better DACs will sound better but you really need a better streaming service to make that a reality.

The 44.1 redbook quality I am referring to is the sampling frequency of the linear PCM signal input to the Marantz DAC.  That's what the Marantz manual says.  What I'm hearing sounds as good as CD but of course the Marantz is upsampling.  Maybe the 44.1 is a default number since that's the lowest frequency supported by the Marantz and what's happening is the Marantz is upsampling and converting Spotify's 160kb signal.  I've never been able to find any really good review on the Marantz DAC when streaming through its coax input.


I’m not really big on the upsampling thought process as I believe that if the gear can’t reproduce 16/24/32 bit audio in the first place there’s no point in worrying higher sampling rates.

So much of this depends upon the design and build quality of each component as well. From what I’ve read in your first post I would start with comparisons between your SACD players output and how that compares to streaming content. If you’re playing CD’s this will be more of an apple to apples comparison. Note the differences of what you like or not and start your focus there.

I use a Naim Uniti Core to store/playback my CD’s. I have a lower model Lumin U2 Mini transport for streaming. Although I listen to the music through the Lumin almost everyday I still prefer the sound of the ripped CD from the Naim- regardless of what format or sample rate the Lumin is streaming the music in. I run the Lumin native- even though it will upsample to 512 or something crazy it’s always playing the file in its native format.

My point with this to start simple and work with what you have from a basic level rather than being lured into what seems to be greater features. You may find in the end that they really don’t perform with that great of a difference or that the gear you’re using isn’t really that good at performing them anyway. If you start with a basic comparison- CD player 16/44 Redbook through your chain vs streaming 16/44 through your chain you’re able to analyze the difference. Use that a while and get comfortable before moving up to comparing CD against upsampled streaming content. You may find that those features aren’t really that important to you and if they do turn out to be at least you’ll have invested the time into discovering the nuances between both. Have fun and enjoy!

Spotify uses a lossy compression algorithm (Advanced Audio Coding or AAC - link) to deliver audio while saving on bandwidth and storage space. This means that some of the audio information is discarded during the compression process. These are parts of the audible spectrum that a psychoacoustic model has deemed inaudible. The compressed audio is then decompressed into a format and sampling rate suitable for your DAC, in this case 44.1 PCM. No matter how much upsampling your equipment performs on the resultant audio data, the discarded information is lost forever.


Also, don’t be surprised if it’s difficult to distinguish between audio compressed with AAC and compact disc audio in a blind listening test. After all, these types of tests are used in the development of compression algorithms.


Finally re: SACD, you can think of the resolution as similar to that of 20 - 24 bit PCM audio depending on the demodulation approach so any lossless hi-res music service out there will get you good performance as long as the recording itself was mixed and mastered well.

Upsampliing is like putting Bud Light into Waterford crystal.

If you don't start with something better, that's all that you're gonna get. Target practice.

Upsampling does not add more data to a source. Nada! Therefore useless! It's not like analog where a more advanced stylus profile will follow those tiny groove undulations to extract more musical detail. 

Yes, I'm understanding it now and have been researching.  I will do some more listening to the same music I know well on CD, SACD,and streaming via Spotify and Quobuz.  Thanks, everyone.

OP, your speakers and amp are way above average. If you're going to get in the world of streaming, IMO your streamer should be on equal footing with the rest of your components. My suggestion is to look for something like Innuos Zenith MK3 or Aurender N100. Yes they are expensive, but with a system like yours you will absolutely appreciate what they bring to the table. 

Another benefit of these particular streamers is that they provide a way to store music locally via the built-in hard-drives (SSD). In essence, they act not only as a streamer but also a music server. Why is that important? Well, first you can rip your CDs and play them via the streamer (or music server to be more precise). Second, there is a ton of high resolution music that you can purchase from many online stores. These units will make it easy to organize all kinds of music. IMO, a lot of high-res music (e.g. 192/24 or DSD) sounds better when played via local storage vs. streaming from services like Qobuz, albeit, they are surely closing the performance gap.

Lastly, please ditch Spotify. Go with Qobuz or Tidal, and enjoy the music!

Your player should allow true high res on its usb input


If you play quobuzz or tidal you will get high res 24 192k sampling which does sound better then a cd at 44k as per your dac it is probably not upconverting but changing pcm to dsd internally and even so a higher data rate sple gives the dacs input a better sample to work with which may still sound superior


You will get far better sound with a much more advanced server

We import the 432evo servers amd they sound amazing and beat both Innous and aurrender see the threads here


Also running usb should sound better then spdif as usb offers asyncronous data transmision

DAVE and Troy


US importer 432EVO music servers



I don’t mean to pick on the OP or engage in Audio Heresy, but it’s interesting that he has been listening to a compromised source, namely Spotify Free, and enjoying it. It isn’t until others have been pointing out how compromised his source is that he is starting to become seriously concerned. Now, the OP states he is a veteran listener, and speaking as someone who just flunked his hearing test, some of that may be due to an age related loss in auditory acuity. However it is more likely that Spotify is doing its job with its algorithm.

I have spent a large chunk of my background listening the last 10 years to a radio station, Radio Venice, that sounds pretty good. Fire up a CD on the same system and the improvement becomes obvious, but listening in isolation, I can and have whiled away time listening with much pleasure. I was surprised to discover, when I purchased a streamer that displayed bit rates, that it broadcasts at 128 bps. Listening critically I can tell that my local Classical station, WFMT, which broadcasts at 320 bps, sounds better, in terms of more air around the musicians. However, instrumental tone is largely preserved at the lower bit rate. I always thought that iTunes over a mid Fi system or headphones sounded pretty good. There are some low bit rate stations however that sound awful. The BBC Radio3 probably sounded better to the French Resistance listening clandestinely in WW II than I can get. I don’t think that bit rates tell the entire story. There have to be differences in the algorithms that make a significant determinant in audio quality.  I used to subscribe to Spotify years ago and always thought they sounded pretty good, and remember thinking that Ogg Vorbis must be a superior compression system.

My main experience with upsampling comes from a DAC that I used about 15 years ago, when I know my hearing was better. It would upsample to 96 and 192 I listened mainly to CDs sourced from whatever my CD player was back then. I remember for the most part being impressed by the lower upsampling setting. It seemed to expand the soundstage, particularly in the front to back positioning of the Orchestra. The higher upsampling rate however sounded off from the get go. It seemed like the same soundstage was moth eaten, as if there were gaps in it. Eventually I just went fo no upsampling.

Native / pure DSD - yes, it sounds good. Upsampling - so so. I don't bother with it (using a Teac NT-505, Topping E30ii, etc DAC).

The Marantz SA-10 has two USB inputs but they cannot be used for streaming and both are synchronus.  One is a USB -A used strictly for stored music and the other is USB-B which is dedicated to iPod input, and older versions at that.  The SA-10 is unfortunately dated in this USB respect although from what I read unless a DAC is uber expensive most of the streamers sound better through COAX.  I think the method of streaming USB vs. COAX also has something to do with the clocks in both units and which one dominates in each of the two methods, but I'm not sure.  I know the Marantz has two femto streamers and the ifi has one. The SA-10 does have an optical streamer input but the ifi Zen Stream does not have an optical output.  Just because the SA-10 manual is a little confusing, I connected the ifi Zen Stream via both USB inputs and got nothing.  Anyway, my goal in getting the SA-10 was to make sure I had a high end SACD player and I liked the idea that, like the PS Audio Direct Stream, which went out of production at the time because it used a Toshiba disc drive, of converting and upscaling everything to DSD.  The fact that the SA-10 allowed streaming at all I considered a bonus if I were to try streaming.  My first attempt was to use a usb cable from my Macbook Air laptop and be able to sit across the room so I invested in a long usb cable and thought the sound was decent, but not good.  The next goal was to try a dedicated streamer at a minimal investment so I found a new ifi Zen Stream for $275 and that sounded good.  Then, of course I had to read more and found linear power supplies make a difference so for a few hundred bucks got the ifi version from Amazon.  No question the sound improved.  I made sure I had a true 75 ohm SPIDF cable.  My goal in all of this was to use the setup to preview music and then if I really, really like it, buy it on disc.  Now, however, I found the streaming setup sounds really good, even on free Spotify with its low bit rate lossy transmission.  No doubt the "Dac-less dac" in the SA-10 with its proprietary Marantz MMM conversion and DSD output has something to do with that.  I'm guessing for the investment what I'm getting is pretty close to optimal free Spotify sound.  So those goals have been achieved.  Now, the next step is to do some more critical listening as best as I am equipped) to compare cd and the streaming setup and then see what changes with Quobuz.  I don't buy that many CD's or SACD's anymore so I can then consider a Quobuz subscription to break the disc habit.  Whether it pays for me to take a next step to another DAC or streamer or combination might be questionable at that point and the investment spectrum is wide open.  I am intrigued with the new Eversolo DMP-8 because at its price point it would enable me to compare the AKM chip dac sound to the Marantz.  Plus if I can figure out the connections the Luxman has two sets of balanced inputs.  One would be used for the current setup with the Eversolo streaming through the Marantz DAC and the other can connect to the Eversolo DMP-A8's balanced inputs.  The Luxman then with its front selector dial lets either of its balanced inputs be used as an integrated amp or just as a power amp.  So the Eversolo could then be used with the Luxman power amp.  The Marantz SA-10 also has digital outputs and the Eversolo DMP-A8 has digital inputs so the system can be connected that way, too.  There are so many ways to see what sounds like what I think it would be very interesting. 

Completely untrue usb with a good streaming device and cable with a high res source puts spdif to shame also the marantz website says the usb can hook up to a pc.


And the sa 10 is asyncronous


From marantz directly The SA-10 is designed to set a new standard in audio. Whether listening to ... Asynchronous mode rear USB, Yes. Bit-perfect transmission, Yes. Signal

Yes, I can use my Macbook Air and did.  I wanted to hardwire ethernet but use the computer from across the room so I purchased a 25 or 30 ft. usb a to usb b cable with an inline booster.  There was also the need for a uab c to usb a connector since the Mac only has usb c.  This was in my living room so I was getting the data stream to the Mac vis the computer's Wifi 5.  The ifi streamer is connected via ethernet to the modem/gateway.  So then, when I use the MAC wirelessly it is sends the signal over ethernet to the ifi.  For whatever reason, the ifi sounds much better than the usb directly to the Marantz although its been a while since I listened that way and I never tried the setup with a shorter usb from the computer to the Marantz.  It's just too inconvenient to do that and sit in the sweet spot on the other side of the room.  I thought I had read synchronous, but I guess I was mistaken.  However, the way the Marantz is made its USB inputs are for connection to a computer or a memory device/stick or for files stored on an ipod or iphone.  For connecting to a device with digital outputs, streams, and using the Marantz as a DAC, the digital inputs on the SA-10 are only coax or optical.  The ifi Zen Stream has 2 usb-a 3.0 outputs and I tried both into both the Marantz usb-a and usb-b inputs and it does not work.  I thought that was a synchronous/asynchronous issue but it's something else in the way that handshake has to be configured that simply was not designed into the SA-10.  The word "streamer" is absolutely not mentioned once in the SA-10 manual.  I'm not technical enough to understand how the SA-10 is engineered to only take a digital in signal via coax, but unless I'm missing something or there's some magic trick or device to insert between the ifi usb output and one of the SA-10's usb inputs to allow it to stream that way, it's only coax for streaming through the SA-10.

I wouldn’t worry too much about what the Marantz SA10 internal DAC is doing. Worry about feeding it as good of a source as you possibly can. Spotify just isn’t great. Tidal or Qobuz will be much better. What streamer to get will totally depend on your budget and the functionality you want.

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For checking if your system can do DSD, you can download a sampler from the Native DSD site for a symbolic cost. If the playback of the sampler disables the volume control on your mac / pc (or your DAC tells you this is DSD), you are probably in the right zone. If not, it is probably DSD downconverted to PCM (or in a PCM ’container’, DoP), which is not what you want. True / native DSD to my ears sounds better, across a variety of streamers and DACs. This is due to a better file format (compared to PCM) but probably also to the simple fact that the pc or dac volume is bypassed. But in order to take advantage of this, you cannot have your DAC (with volume bypassed) directly into your amp, you need a preamp or an integrated amp that includes a preamp. Your volume control is now no longer in the digital part of the chain, but in the analog part, after the DAC. A sonic benefit, often.