WiFi streaming — streamer vs. through iPad

I’m currently streaming Qobuz in my HeadFi rig to my DAC via my iPad via an upgraded dongle and USB cable and was pretty happy til I hooked up my CD transport and realized it sounds much better than than streaming.  After speaking with some folks here I’ve since realized I need to get a dedicated streamer hardwired to my router to up my streaming performance, but I’ve got a couple situations where going hardwired won’t be possible and will be forced to use WiFi.  My question is, if I’m using WiFi would there still be a sonic benefit to using a streamer (I’m planning on getting an iFi Zen Stream BTW) versus going wired through my iPad or will using WiFi completely nullify any sonic advantages the streamer brings?  Thanks for any thoughts/advice. 


Wifi works fine when there are few neighbouring networks and not too much traffic to different devices on your own. In a city setting wifi tends to be challenged by lack of bandwidth and too many sources for distortion. When you have a  lot of other networks near you, choosing a channel that isn’t used by others rather than have the router select automatically can help. Under no circumstances use mains based wifi repeaters, they attract too much distortion. As always: try and see how it sounds.

A streamer with only an Ethernet port does not require hard wiring.

Just get a wall wart WiFi extender and plug in next to the streamer.. then plug into that. $59 solution. Mine and many $100K systems work great off of that.


I have streamed, as you, have from PC, Macs, iPads… you want a dedicated streamer. Whole different category. My vinyl and streaming sound the same. You can see my system under my ID. But this can be done in different price categories.

We have a lot of experience here a wifi to ethernet extender can work well the only issue is if you are trying to acess other roon endpoints which won't work through roon


However if your deal is to just use the server or streamer In this new access point that will work well


The reason most servers only offer ethernet is speed abd reliability however we have set up servers this way and they worked perfectly 





I use this little wireless bridge to then hardwire to my streamer/DAC: TPLink N300. Aside from being tiny and unobtrusive it has the benefit of being powered by 5V micro USB so I was able to use a spare linear power supply to further enhance it. I was using a USB wifi dongle in the SOtM sMS-200ultra streamer I had at the time and was shocked at how much better the sound was with hardwire via wifi bridge. Also switching out a generic ethernet cable for a Supra CAT8 brought a very noticeable improvement I was not expecting.



The TP Link AC750 looks interesting to me — thanks @eugene81 ​​​@ghdprentice ​​​​@audiotroy from your experience do you have any WiFi extender recommendations that have worked particularly well?.  Thanks a lot guys!  This has been SUPER helpful. 

I tried extender technology with not much success.  I dropped the cash for a Linksys Velop mesh network.  Plugged the Roon server directly into one of the nodes.  Totally stabilized my system and my home network as well.



With a good wireless network really no need to hardwire to an extender. A mesh wifi network should be part of this. An extender just uses a existing wifi network and extends it so really not getting any better speeds than before. I use mesh networks in two locations and fantastic speeds and nil latency. 

If your WiFi is strong, it should not be a problem. Fidelity is the same, WiFi or Ethernet. What is different is that with weak WiFi, one can get dropouts and lost connections.

I have two streamers that have both WiFi and Ethernet, and neither one sounds different via WiFi than it does on Ethernet.

One is an Auralic Aries G1; the other a Raspberry Pi 3 with Allo DigiOne card and external WiFi dongle. The latter I would think to be similar to the iFi unit.

I don’t know if you are considering one, but I did not have good luck with a powerline Ethernet connection, tried and discarded years ago. It would not make a strong, reliable connection.

And yes, for some reason I don’t quite understand, a directly connected tablet has never produced sound for me nearly as good as either of the streamers.

BTW, I don’t use Roon so that’s not an issue.


Even If I didn't have ROON I would plug my streamer directly into the Mesh node.  As mater of fact I have both the ROON server and the Streamer plugged into the Node as I sometimes switch over and listen directly from the Streamer when I want to compare SQ. 

OP, I would just use the same company that makes your router… if Netgear get Netgear… if Linksys get Linksys.

If you later want to improve a bit get an EtherRegen to go in between the extender and the streamer. But good streamers isolate, cashe, and make up for signal deficiencies.


The iFi Zen Stream is a great streamer, you will enjoy it. It does Wi-Fi very well, but I have mine hard wired and connected to an extender. But before that, the Wi-Fi worked great.

Now, to get the best sound quality, get yourself an external hard drive and load all your music on it, connect to the Stream via the USB port, and use the iFi app to play your music. This eliminates the need to use AirPlay, which is the biggest degradation in SQ. If you have Tidal, it also has Tidal Connect for best sound quality directly through the Tidal app.

If you use AirPlay, you are going to defeat the purpose of a dedicated streamer IMO.

Airplay is a very inferior transfer mechanism.

A high quality streamer will sound the same with stored files, CDs, vinyl albums, and better on higher resolution streamed files (Qobuz has 1/2 million high resolution albums). To achieve this, you simply need to choose the appropriate components.

Airplay is very compressed , but even mconnect  upnp app on apple devices is poorer quality than say bubble upnp on android as the signal gets processed via the apple device rather than handed off directly to the streamer ( but it's still way better than airplay. 

A streamer is going to give you a good lift in SQ.

100% avoid power line networks you do not want that noise in your mains.

Wi-Fi can be excellent if you have good coverage in your property but quite a few folks including myself find hard wiring Ethernet to be better , however I've got optical isolation and an Etherregen between my router and my stereo.

If you want to keep it simple and lower budget wifi is a good option and may well be better than Ethernet cable directly from router to streamer.

Get a good broadband bandwidth for the best experience with fewer dropouts.


good luck

My streaming took a substantial jump in quality when I got a dedicated streamer/DAC combo and relegated my PC to simply being the streamer/DAC's controller. As expected, sound quality went back to not-terrible-but-nothing-special when, just for kicks, I once again used my PC as the streamer/DAC.

I stream through a MacBook Pro usb into holo spring dac. One of the biggest sound improvements I made was to hard wire with cate6 to gigabyte switch. I will say the sound stage and bass came to life. I was very happy with the bass improvement as it is now tight and defined, the muddy thud was gone and you can now distinguish between an upright and a guitar. Wifi does work but no matter what you do wifi can only carry so much of the 1’s and 0’s. I am still going back and forth on going streamer only but have not. Part of my thought is that a streamer is just a dedicated computer and not sure how much it will change from my MacBook. I will upgrade my signal first going with the Small Green Computer fiber optic package. I stream Qobuz and internet radio mostly Austin Blues Radio direct from their web page.

I use ethernet extenders(TP-link), Uptone Audio EtherREGEN with Cat 5 cables into Bluesound Node 2i , outboard Benchmark DAC with excellent results, though not SOTA, for sure. As with analog, find huge differences among source material(redbook v HR), and the recordings themselves. Admit to enjoying the convenience and ability to easily learn new music and musicians via QOBUZ.....LPs remain superior in my system, but my analog front end is also WAY more $$ and SOTA. One thing I learned a while ago..I must UNPLUG all my ethernet extenders in the house(3) before I play LPs, as they add significant noise to the analog system

A dedicated streamer is the way to go.  WIFI can work just fine as it does for all of my audio and video streaming. It is important to understand that it might take some trial and error and perhaps some expenditures to get WIFI working well. 

If you have strong WIFI in your listening room, you might not have to do anything but get your streamer connected to WIFI.  I get the best results using the 5 Ghz WIFI band.  If you have issues using your current WIFI network, then you can try  different types of extenders.  I tried all of that and I ended up installing an ORBI Mesh network that has been working very well for quite a while.



If you can use ethernet cable do so. I get about 30 Mbs with WiFi and 300Mbs with ethernet. 


Just less chance of losing signal. 



How are you streaming through the iPad? Is that not wifi? I don’t get it.


If you are using the music service app (or any app like youtube) on the iPAD it’s Wifi to the app. But if your DAC or integrated has USB in you can use digital output on the iPAD and go USB to either of those devices. You could use Airplay I suppose to do it wirelessly to devices that are Airplay enabled.

I have played around with streaming through my iPAD and it sounds purdy good but does not match my streamer. Use it primarily if I want to watch a video or something and have better SQ through desktop system.


Hi @soix, have you put thought into how you’re going to get Qobuz to the iFi Zen Stream?

I was/am a Qobuz user who upgraded to the iFi streamer. One of the major issues for me was the iFi doesn’t natively support Qobuz, Qobuz doesn’t have a Qobuz Connect yet, and the iFi still doesn’t support Chromecast. Casting is my go-to method for video streaming and was for audio streaming. iFi does support Airplay though, which you will likely use with your iPad initially. If I remember correctly, Airplay is limited to 24/48, however. Unless you’re willing to cap Qobuz at CD quality, you won’t be able to make use of some high res content on Qobuz without introducing something extra like Roon or BubbleUPNP.

My solution was to get a Roon server going on an old computer, which I have running in the guest bedroom. Once I had Roon up, I also subscribed to Tidal, which complements Qobuz’s catalogue. With Roon running both Qobuz and Tidal, I feel I finally have a catalogue that rivals Spotify/Apple Music. I much prefer Roon’s interface over that of Qobuz or Tidal, but I would honestly be happy with Spotify only if they had launched a CD tier.

You say:

I’ve got a couple situations where going hardwired won’t be possible and will be forced to use WiFi.

Like others have suggested here, you could use a Wifi extender, then run ethernet from the extender to the streamer. Rather than use extenders, I would recommend that you transition your home network to a mesh wifi system. The consumer-grade mesh systems include TP-Link Deco line, Google/Nest Wifi, Amazon’s eero, and Netgear’s Orbi line. They should all outperform extenders. If you’d like to take your home networking even further, look at the enterprise-grade gear by TP-Link and Ubiquity. I currently use the Nest router has the hub router with a Google Wifi 3-pack as the mesh access points. And I have hardwired the Nest router to the access points. 

I transitioned from streaming via PC, to a Chromecast Audio (a lateral move from PC), to upgrading the Chromecast (power cable w/ethernet adapter, iFi power supply, and iFi SPDIF Reclocker), and now I use the iFi Zen Stream. I have a review on this forum about the sound quality differences between the upgraded Chromecast and the Zen Stream. When I reviewed them, I used wifi connections for both.

I believe that starting with Wifi is fine. For me, a hardwired connection opened up the possibility of converting ethernet to fiber (and back to ethernet) immediately before connecting to the Zen Stream. And I believe that introducing the fiber line lowered the noise floor further. In an email with iFi, their rep told me they are investigating incorporating fiber in future products.

@classdstreamer Thanks for all the good info!  I noticed Qobuz wasn’t mentioned on the iFi Zen Stream page and was planning on asking about that.  That’s a big problem for me because I’m not going to listen to dumbed-down audio through Air Play and a don’t like Tidal and their silly MQA stuff either.  I’m amazed iFi is ignoring such a popular app like Qobuz — any idea why they don’t support it yet or if they have plans to incorporate it relatively soon?  And thanks for the info on Mesh and extenders.  I’m new to these products so can you explain why Mesh is better than an extender.  Thanks again. 


From all I have read, iFi is working on a connect feature like they offer with Tidal.

They are not ignoring it, but the development has to be a two way street it seems. Hopefully soon.

As I use Tidal, not an issue for me (and use the lower tier membership without MQA). But, until then, there is a workaround, an app called MConnect, that allow Qobuz to play directly through the Zen Stream. Downside is you have to use their (MConnect) interface. Roon is the other alternative, but personally, I’m not making that investment yet.

The Zen is a great streamer, not sure you are going to find better for the money. It’s streaming quality is constantly compared to more expensive streaming units.

I don't believe Qobuz is available with the IZen unless you use roon.  Others with more knowledge than I may say differently. 


I just explained how it can be used without Roon.

Agin, per an iFi rep, they are working on it. A rep who also acknowledged the MConnect app is indeed a workaround to use Qobuz directly through the Zen Stream until they get it sorted out. Or, as stated, use Roon, with the Zen Stream as an end point.

@bkeske Thanks a lot — that’s great info and a huge relief because I’m pretty set on the Zen Stream and not sure what I would’ve done if Qobuz didn’t work.  I’ve emailed iFi and will forward any new info re: Qobuz in case anyone else might be interested. 


You are welcome. It is ultimately only in iFi’s best interest to get a connect feature with Qobuz, as they already have with Tidal.

I have no reason to doubt they are working on it and will get this sorted out. But again, probably have to have the help/collaboration directly with Qobuz to incorporate within the Qobuz’s app. Something Tidal obviously did.

No doubt iFi and Tidal were working on the integration well before the Zen Stream was released, as it is so much incorporated into the actual unit.

@ bkeske. Posted before I saw your comments.  RU actually using with Qobuz and does ot work?

Not trying to be too skeptical but I've been told too many times by reps that something is avaiable and come to find out its not.


No, I don’t use Qobuz, but have thought about it. May get a trial one of these days.

In terms of MConnect, I have downloaded it, and checked it out, (for the use of the Zen and Qobuz), and looks likes a direct connection between the iFi Zen and the app is pretty straight forward.

Select Qobuz, log into your account, select the iFi as the streaming source, play music without the need for AirPlay or Roon.

Why not download it and try yourself?

I just went through something similar with the new Node and usb out.  It took them over 6 months to put out the update and now that they have people are still having problems including me.  I don't own the IZen yet so just trying to find out for sure before I buy one.

Thanks for the info



I highly recommend Qobuz. My audio dealer kept recommending it to me… finally I did it… I couldn’t quite figure out why I waited… they have around 500,000 high resolution albums vs around 50,000 for It’s nearest competitor. Don’t wait!

I find the library on Qobuz totally lacking. Tidal is a little better doesn't sound as good. Spotify actually has the best library but worst sound quality (not to mention they're a bloodsucking tech company that doesn't pay artists). I hope a new option comes along soon!

Can someone explain why Mesh may sound better than an extender? Is it better at avoiding AC wire line noise?

I agree with @bkeske on software being a two-way road. Qobuz Connect is something Qobuz has to make, which is a tool to help streamer manufacturers implement native support easier. Qobuz is considering making a "Connect" option like Spotify and Tidal have, but last I check Qobuz hasn’t committed to the project yet. Without a Qobuz Connect product, streamer manufacturers have to write bespoke code to implement a service, which I imagine is resource and time intensive.

I treat the iFi streamer like the Sonore and SOTM products--they’re made to be used with Roon. @soix if you’re like me, you won’t want to use MConnect or BubbleUPNP for long to use Qobuz with the Zen Stream. Roon is a much more elegant and convenient streaming solution, but it will take some initial setup to get going.

I wouldn’t say that a Mesh Wifi system sounds better than using extenders. I’m saying you could use this opportunity to improve you home Wifi while also connecting a hardline to your streamer. If your only interest is sound quality, whether you go with a mesh system or extender, just make sure the access points support ethernet out to connect to the streamer. Once you have a wired connection, I would recommend converting the ethernet line to fiber optic. Small Green Computer has youtube videos on how to do this for about $100 of gear. I believe that adding the fiber line was a significant sonic improvement. 

I do not think you are going to hear a difference between an extender and mesh. I have had a friend that has had noting but problems with mesh. Mesh is just newer. So, tne bugs will get worked out. But. My experience suggests the biggest difference is in the streamer you use. The better the streamer, the better it isolates and sounds better with any input.

So after listening to and learning a lot from all the great info here, I’ve decided to dip my toe in on the cheap to get an idea of what improvements I’ll get in my system running hard wired vs. just using WiFi.  I bought a TP-Link RE650 used in very good condition for $67 that I’ll connect to the Zen Stream through a 1m Wireworld Starlight 8 Ethernet cable I found for $200.  I’m thinking AC wire line noise might not be as big an issue as the TP-Link will be powered through an Audience power conditioner that I’d think will mitigate the impacts of any line noise.  So while certainly not a SOTA setup I figure this will be at least good enough to compare WiFi to hard wired with the Zen Stream and I’ll just upgrade from there as necessary or desired.  Thanks again(!!!) for all your help here — you not only enabled me to get started but also provided great info for future potential upgrades (Mesh, fiber, ENO, etc.) that I’ll inevitably be exploring in the future.  I’ll follow up with my findings after I get everything settled in case anyone might be interested. 

Definitely follow up! 
One item to note - WiFi extenders and mesh network nodes generate noise. Just keep an eye/ear on it when you have your extender close to your audio components and cables. I had to move the eero mesh node I use to feed my Lumin streamer away from my phono stage and cables as it was spilling over and creating all kinds of noise. It’s better to run a longer Ethernet cable and keep you wifi module away from your system.  

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‘’Great move. I look forward to hearing the results you experience.