Tough choices

December 1, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

When do we make the decision to compromise? To choose convenience over quality of experience.

It is far more convenient to stream music than play it from a disc. And yet, discs of the exact same music still outperform by a noticeable degree music streamed by even the best systems.

Being basically lazy I tend to lean hard in the direction of streaming. Certainly, I can hear and very much appreciate the differences between the physical copy and the streamed version. But that said, the convenience of streaming is so enticing…

It’s a tough choice knowing where to draw the line.

Where is that line for you?

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88 comments on “Tough choices”

  1. Maybe it’s the twelve years between you & I Paul, but I wince when I hear people say that changing a CD is not convenient…it’s certainly more convenient than cleaning a 12″ vinyl disc, fiddling with a tonearm & turning said vinyl disc over after 22 minutes, cleaning again & fiddling with the tonearm again.
    Where DO we draw the line?
    Given how emotionally satisfying listening to vinyl is (to some audiophiles) than digital storage (CD/Streaming) I would refer to one of my favourite old chestnuts, that I’ve said here many times, & that is:

    ‘Anything worthwhile in life takes effort’

    Funny how vinyl takes the most effort & streaming the least…can you see where this is heading? 😉
    High-end audio should be about ‘No compromise’.

    By the way Paul, congratulations on the PS Audio – ‘Stellar M-1200’, ‘D’ class monoblock amplifier winning ‘The Absolute Sound’ magazine’s 2021 ‘Product Of The Year’.
    You must be proud as punch…good for you sir!

    1. You hit in one when you said.

      ‘Anything worthwhile in life takes effort’

      I do not do vinyl at all but putting aside even the aspects of whether there are SQ benefits there are brain benefits with the ritual.

      Physical/mental attributes with many steps can stimulate brain activities that are beneficial to each of us. So, the vinyl with all the steps is possibly better for your brain than playing a CD. It will even better still than just a couple of clicks with streaming. It is the same with reading a book and just turning the pages. The list could go on.

      For those posters here who favour streaming because of ease and access to an immense resource are neglecting their brains. They are also missing the benefit of superior listening pleasure with the CD. Streaming is convenient but the SQ is definitely less.


  2. “And yet, discs of the exact same music still outperform by a noticeable degree music streamed by even the best systems.”

    That’s not a fact, it’s an opinion, and at best it’s probably only shared with a few audiophiles. Just look at the figures for CD sales on the RIAA website.

    As far as I’m concerned, Paul has missed out a step. I stopped playing CDs (and I never used SACD or DVD-A) in 2009 in favour of ripped or purchased files, stored on a network drive, which I did for 5 years, before I started streaming, by signing up to Qobuz in October 2014. So I have never compared a CD to an online stream.

    If Paul’s CDs sound better I suspect it is more to do with the hardware than the media. Is he still using a Mac mini? Does he still prefer spinning a CD to listening to his forthcoming Octave server?

    I never saw ripping and then streaming as a compromise, only as progress.

    1. I am relatively sure that the PS Audio music server is nothing but a phantom – quite in contrast to my Phantom Gold active loudspeakers from Devialet. 🙂

      1. Man, you guys crack me up. What would make you conclude the PS streamer is not going to ship? Perhaps my lack of writing much about it?

        I love how we jump to conclusions.

        The streamer is in the works. Our engineering team has been incredibly slow and unproductive. Their time has been commutated between redesigns necessitated by the parts pandemic and just slow going. We’ve spent an entire year producing nothing new which is frustrating for us all (believe me). But let us not jump to conclusions about what will appear or won’t appear.

        The new product launch road is not a straight line these days, unfortunately.

        1. Maybe it is only a problem of customer expectations versus dealer demands & PS Audio’s priorities – unknown to us? I rather expected a PS Audio music streamer based on the deep experience in digital audio, galvanic isolation and know-how about best connections (LAN-Rover, I2S, etc). I never expected a diversification towards loudspeakers which obviously required similar degrees efforts as an electric car from Apple. 🙂 And you have an earlier launch here than Apple!

          1. I am sure you’re right. It’s always about expectations vs. reality. Deviating to loudspeakers, though, has nothing to do with the schedule of launches for electronics (just FYI).

            Loudspeakers and the engineering resources required to get them going never crossed the line into the the engineering resources needed to get electronics moving. Chris Brunhaver, our speaker engineer, is a force of nature to be reckoned with. A literal one man band.

        2. Aside of the time factor, I think we’ll never hear, what kind of (possibly sonic or other) compromises the redesigns made by any company during COVID times meant compared to the original designs, right?

          1. I think you are probably correct. Most are trivial though necessary.

            One I will tell you about is our change of the USB input chip from Xmos to Comtrue. We probably never would have made the change had it not been for the parts pandemic but I am glad we did. It’s a much better part. Sometimes you get lucky.

    2. I just started to read the comments and so far you are the only person who believes that streaming actually sounds better than listening to a CD. I humbly disagree with you based on what I hear listening on my system. I have reason to use three sources to listen to music on my system. Streaming for convenience and finding new music but I purchase New music that I hear when I am streaming in CD or vinyl record format. CDs and vinyl are for pleasure of listening for the most part. I certainly stream music when I am cooking, cleaning or just doing things around the house. We each chose our own ways of doing things and this is my particular way. I just do not agree with you about the quality of streaming versus CDs.

      1. Hmm..something must have gone wrong with my first attempt answering your 8:31 comment, Stimpy2.
        What I wrote was that, with the exception of vinyl (I stopped 1990) I totally agree with you.
        Streaming for exploring and background, cd’s for “serious” listening in the evening.
        Still sound better than streaming (may change in the future) on my pretty high end “rig”.
        I don’t wanna sound (and am not) snobbish, but too many people compare streaming with their crappy, el cheapo cd player and then tell us that streaming “sounds so much better”. Yeah right.
        All my audio buddies feel the same and so do a lot of reviewers (for what it’s worth).
        But, of course, eventually, streaming will win this “battle”. Physical media will go the way of the Dodo in the not so far away future. And I’m fine with that.

        1. Even though my Wadia CD Player is just over 20 years old, I still am very happy with the sound quality that I am hearing. I’m sure there are higher quality sounding CD players and transports on the market now but until this unit breaks down, it stays in my system. if my source CDs are high quality then I hear high-quality. There are still so many Audiophiles that listen to vintage equipment and love the sound. I tip my hat to them. There experience may or may not be mine but they are entitled to their experience. As technology moves forward you are probably correct about where the reproduction of music is headed.

      2. “I just started to read the comments and so far you are the only person who believes that streaming actually sounds better than listening to a CD.”

        I never actually said that. When I sold my CD player in 2009 I bought a Linn Akurate DS. It only has one input – ethernet – so I couldn’t even connect a CD player. So I’ve never compared the two directly. I’ve been through several system changes and two room changes since I last played a CD 12 years ago, all I know is for serious listening my streaming system sounds magnificent and is just enjoyable as my vinyl system, which is far more expensive.

        The only fair comparison would be to feed a stream into a high quality transport/DAC like the Marantz SA-12, so the stream and CD output are going through the same DAC and output electronics. Do you then limit the stream to 16/44, bringing it down to CD resolution, or accept higher data rates?

    3. “And yet, discs of the exact same music still outperform by a noticeable degree music streamed by even the best systems.”

      That’s not a fact, it’s an opinion, and at best it’s probably only shared with a few audiophiles. …. So I have never compared a CD to an online stream.”

      And I thought irony was dead!!!

  3. My take on today’s post, it’s as much about life as it is about hi-fi. Compromise factors in to just about every decision we make, even if we prefer to think it doesn’t. As for the line, we don’t have to think of it as fixed, or even straight, but hopefully following an interesting and varied route within a framework of compromise.
    With all this compromise going on would it be true to say we can often be found in a compromising position 😉

    PS. BTW, if Paul is basically lazy, then the hard working employees at PS Audio will be burned out before they’re thirty.

    1. I started building a dedicated music room and it evolved into a private cosy room for my wife and I. I did not compromise on sound quality, she did the interior design and the end result is a room they we both enjoy. Things others would see as a compromise, such as choosing a smaller room, have turned out to be a very good decision.

      The idea that if something is convenient and works at the touch of a button, or by voice command, is of lesser quality, is just preposterous. It’s old man’s thinking (metaphorically speaking), because younger men have taken the double to come up with better designs.

      Instead of saying CD/SACD will always be better than streaming, just design a streamer than is better than CD/SACD.

        1. I don’t think it’s subjective, I think it’s better design.

          PS Audio clearly learned this the hard way with their speakers. After about three or more prototypes, even one they demonstrated at a show, they went to a product designer to arrive at the FR-30.

          Paul goes on and on about compromise repeatedly. I just don’t see it that way. I see no reason why good design cannot optimise many things without compromising any of them.

            1. We have a chair between and slightly behind the front baffle of the Wilson speakers. From that seating position the ceiling speakers sound better than the Wilson because they produce immersive sound, whereas 2-channel audio is designed for a focused listening position. They are also better for home cinema than the Wilson speakers.

              There is a difference between whether or not you have to compromise to get good 2-channel audio, and comparing two products that are designed to do different things.

              I understand that one of the developments in my sound/lighting system is motion detection, so DSP will adjust the sound depending where you are in the room. In this context you can say it is a compromise to use 2-channel audio at all, because it requires a fixed listening position.

              1. That’s interesting. I never considered the concept of two channel audio a compromise per se, (though in many ways it obviously is). I suppose our individual compromises happen depending on what we are trying to achieve.

                  1. ” I’m wondering why he even bothered to buy the Sabrina’s”
                    Haha…very legitimate thought. Indeed, why bother. Let alone the cost. It beats me.
                    I think Sonos Play One would have sufficed.
                    I heard they sound very good when you sit in between the 2 speakers 🙂
                    Well, good enough for our non audiophile, “somewhat” jingoistic friend from GB., aka SntbcwS.
                    BTW., everything’s going fine here Fat Rat. Thanks for asking.
                    Last weekend I attended an audio show.
                    Waiting for the 3rd antidose, coming next year I guess.
                    As long as I can keep spinning my silver discs, I’m ok.

                  2. Firstly, the light/sound system was only launched in May 2021, we bought the Sabrina’s in December 2020, although the ceiling system is so good my wife asked at one point were we keeping the Sabrina. My excuse was you can’t play records through the ceiling system, plus she chose the speakers.

                    The two systems do different things. For one, my first requirement was intelligent lighting.

                    When both of us are in the room the 2-channel system makes no sense, so we use the ceiling speakers. On my own, as it is immersive, it is amazing with certain types of music.

                1. I absolutely agree with you Richtea. Anyone who lives in the United States right now understands what happens when people don’t compromise. Compromise is essential in so many ways.

                  1. The analysis from the UK is that the USA political system has broken down because it is now dominated by hate rather than reason. Republicans voted against the Infrastructure Bill even though it benefits their states just to spite the Democrats and not give them a “win”, and Republicans who voted for the Bill BECAUSE it benefits their states then get censured.

                    I think most audiophiles respect other audiophile’s choices, whether it be CDs, streaming, valve amplifiers, etc. Unfortunately Paul’s post makes a categorical statement of presumed fact that CD’s outperform streaming. He’s entitled to his opinion. Not all will share it.

  4. Convenience has always been significant for me. I switched from vinyl to CD because I thought the sound was better, but the reduction in fiddling about was a definite attraction. The switch from CD to streaming was primarily motivated by he availability of a huge music library, but the ease of use was also a major asset. My choice of equipment, and the disposition of speakers, is also dictated more by convenience than absolute sound considerations, but then I do not class myself as an audiophile!

  5. There is such a thing as background music and the quick an easy playlist shuffle, especially for my son is definitely through streaming.
    However for dad over here, he spares no expense. 😉

    I’m a serious listener whereby I love to put myself in a position to engage and immerse myself into the music the best way I know how and physical copies of my music is part of that experience and it is a big important one.

    I don’t look down on streaming at all, but it is unfortunate that many can’t separate themselves from it because many upon many people nowadays are not serious listeners.

    If pointing and clicking is your ritual I feel sorry for you. ✌️☺️

    1. For the most part when we point-and-click it takes a little bit away from being social. That doesn’t mean that there are many reasons to point-and-click in today’s society with this technology but it has pulled us away from speaking face-to-face with other human beings not by just pointing and clicking but as a means to an end… e,g. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. It’s not a matter of me being an old-fashioned senior because my mind is as young as most 30-year-olds. I just see the reality of the world we live in now.

  6. Is playing the digital music material directly from a computer wired to a dac and into the amplification components controlled by a wireless remote still categorized as streaming?

    How would you compare the above to music played from a disc?

  7. In answer to your question, I enjoy streaming because it allows access to new and old albums that I do not have in my collection. The difference in sound quality is significant between streaming (Apple TV 4K) to a CD (Marantz SA7003) is significant. I blame it on the poor DAC in my amplifier (Marantz SR8012). Currently saving up to purchase PS Audio stereo mono-block amplifiers. After that, I will be looking at a streaming device with a good DAC.

  8. Perhaps the additional effort required to change the music selection drives many of us to listen to a CD or vinyl more intensely than streaming. Like paying for and attending a live performance, versus streaming a free recorded video. Becoming invested makes a difference.

  9. I upgraded my stereo a year ago and it now includes a streaming device. It plays through a Sprout that has a lower cost subwoofer and GR RESEARCH speakers to play what I am streaming.

    I last upgraded about 45 years ago. The sound quality for me is exceptional. A Qobuz and Neil Young subscription brings me any music I wish to hear.

    Last week I read an article about the Rolling Stones and the string of five albums they put out in the 70’s and 80’s that were considered their best.

    One of these, Exile on Mainstreet, was an album I never owned. But many of the songs I recognized. One in particular has become stuck in my head. “Sweet Virginia” has me wanting to “scrape the
    S**T off my shoes”.

    Maybe I am audio-compromised, but to have the ability to search and play any song/ album is incredible. Listening to ELP’s Brain Salad Surgery once again reminds me of the time Progressive Rock was my favorite music.

    And I will still order from PS Audio the Audiophile shirt/hat. My upgrade was a monumental giant step from were I have been most of my life. I’m not running with the one percent who are closer to perfection, but I also know I am in the 2-3 percent vs. those listening to MP3’s and their low quality ear buds.

    1. bbqdadco,
      Good for you!
      As long as you like what you’re hearing out of your
      current home audio set-up, that’s all that matters.
      I love me some ‘Exile On Main Street’ & ELP too 😉

    2. I would buy a T-shirt or a Cap from PSA but my collection of all types of T-shirts and Caps is overflowing in my closets and my drawers. Perhaps after I get my holiday bonus check i’ll show my support and make a purchase. The gear looks nice and I would like to add it to my collection.

      I sent Nelson Pass and America’s Cup (Intrepid) Cap and he sent me back a picture of him wearing it which gave me a kick. I don’t know if he actually continues to wear it but I hope he does. I hesitated to send a Cap to Paul because he’s always wearing the PSA logo Cap or T-Shirt and he may be interested in one but… Paul, if you are reading this let me know and I’ll be happy to send you a Cap, just send me an email.

            1. Good going Paul!

              We need to bring products back to being manufactured in our own country. We made a wrong turn many years ago out of greed and we should have measured our international trade rather than gone crazy buying almost everything from China. Corporations are going to have to settle for lower retail pricing instead of bottom lining their stockholders with big profits. None of this thought process is rocket science, It all stems from power and greed at the highest levels.

              1. Well cat’s out of the bag and cannot easily be put back in. I for one appreciate the global economy. There are services we cannot get here and skill; sets others can only get here in America.

                The last thing I would do is start pushing to move things home again unless by doing so we get better things.

                For example, our upcoming speakers, the FR30, have cabinets and drivers we custom designed and then we have them made in China. We do that because there is nowhere in the United States that is capable of doing it with the level of skill and attention to detail as our friends overseas exhibit. If someone in the US wants to develop the skills and invest in the infrastructure necessary to obtain the level of quality we demand, then we’d use them if for no other reason than to get rid of the shipping expense.

                I would suggest, however, that some things are better handled by different cultures and skill sets. “Just because” is not a good enough reason to switch.

                A great example is semiconductors. I can see no reason to bring them home when there’s nothing to be gained.

                On the other hand, if we are hurting or lacking for something then I fully agree it’s time to bring it here.

                We live in the world and together we should be a strong community of nations working together. Isolationism for whatever reason has always been a bad deal.

                1. I went overboard on my last comment because of the world economy right now. I do not agree with you about semiconductors continuing to be made in Taiwan because it looks imminent that China is going to make a play to take them over. They are the only country that knows what they’re doing and that’s part of our supply chain problem right now. I believe that Intel is in the process of bringing people over from Taiwan and building the largest chip manufacturing facility in the world in Arizona. I am 10,000% in favor of that.

                2. Paul,
                  I had no problem with China being the manufacturing engine of the world until the CCP started behaving badly.
                  Now the West is funding China’s military & there will be a much bigger price to pay down the line than anyone can imagine right now.

                  The chief of MI6 in Britain announced yesterday that more than half of their staff are engaged in dealing with China’s spying efforts & their intellectual property theft.
                  Does this sound like a country/government that we want to be funding?

                3. BION, The 3rd or 4th largest semiconductor plant in the world is right here in NY. It is called Global Foundries. It is a little north of Albany, NY.

  10. Paul, I think you’re right, physical disc (in its optimal environment) must be even better than streaming when in its optimal environment, simply because of less noise problems.

    But this I think is certainly not valid for disc spinning in general, but only if various measures like caching, isolation, switching off mechanical parts during playback etc. are taken. Furthermore results will be very different against streaming unisolated from online networks vs. against streaming from optimized local storage.

    So disc doesn’t equal disc and streaming doesn’t equal streaming. I think a general statement as you made it should be substantiated.

    That disc spinning has no future but streaming is a noticable step back in sound quality is an unfortunate development for digital and the necessary effort to improve that, is not tolerable for most consumers, as it tends towards typical vinyl rig optimization effort. Hopefully you can influence that positively, I know you’re on the works.

    My drawing the line between convenience and sound quality?

    I gave up and not reentered reel2reel. For missing convenience but mainly also for the missing amount of available music.

  11. Here comes the rub….?
    If we go on the premise that physical media sounds better than streaming then we need to clarify all the parameters used to make that assertion. That probably won’t happen.

    Take an Octave Records release for instance…
    We’ve been told the vinyl disc sounds better that the SACD – the spinning SACD layer sounds better that a streamed file of the same bits – now what about the CD layer of that SACD? Is that better sounding than the 96 or 192 versions?

    What happens when higher rate DSD recordings are done? Then a Transport capable of Reading a 2-4x DSD data from a DVD will be still be the silver standard? (As compared to the gold standard of taking that DSD file and cutting vinyl)

    How can all the glowing reviews of PSA equipment be relevant? (Congrats to Darren and PSA BTW) In almost every case the reviewer uses streamed music as the source. So one can assume the “glowing part” is even more pronounced when it spins.

    Of course I don’t live with the choice of having specific Transports, DMP’s, unavailable modified speakers, the latest in amplification, top of the line cables, or have my own recording studio, so it’s easy to sound and think cynical.

    The compromise that has to be made then is that I live with sub standard sound from the source to the speakers to the room. It’s easy to say, why bother… maybe it’s even easier to say why discuss or read any of this… if walking away from music, the equipment, and the contentment I get from them was easy I’d already be long gone. In the mean time I’ll take it as fact that physical media sound better… with the caveat being “it depends”

  12. From yesterday…
    “ We can download a digital file from anywhere in the world and it will sound the same regardless of where it came from or how it got to us.”

    Do we need to burn that file to a disc to optimize the playback sonic qualities?

  13. Fortunately I know what I prefer and that’s all that matters to me.
    I am with paulsquirrel today (2:22). Server/ripper (?) in the making (?) for about 5 years (or is it 6 ?) now…
    Same story with “a” new DAC.
    Too busy with speakers I guess, alas. Or is developing software without glitches for a server just too difficult for PSA and is the project buried ?
    I wouldn’t be surprised.

  14. A dozen years ago, ripping music to a hard disk, playback of this ripped music sounded better than the best CD player. I sold my $3000 Classe CD player because of this and other reviewers back then states the same. As for playing streamed music from anywhere on the internet, the last few feet determine how your music is going to sound. If your streaming music doesn’t sound as good, then fix your network infrastructure in your home/business

  15. Talking about tough choices…
    What shall we do first, what next year(s). Speakers, dac, server, more speakers, ripper, dac, one speakermodel, more models, dac, server/ripper, new pre and/or power…
    Aaargh…these choices I have to make as a CEO are killing me 🙁

    I think next year PmcG writes his daily post from a psychatric hospital.
    He couldn’t cope with all these choices and went bananas.
    Oh well, junior will take over (he’s just waiting for it) and lead the brand into a glorious future.
    And then, finally, the server will be launched. Hallelujah,

      1. Never streamed, never will??
        Umm… do you not regularly post links here to various song via youtube?
        Uh…. that’s STREAMING!!
        Rat’s on FIRE!!!

        Fer’instance, you posted the Shuggie link – t’was awesome, and a new exposure to me – I happily streamed more of his stuff throughout the day. Great opportunity. And I thank you for sharing the STREAM…

        PS – sorry about the Mrs laughing at you. I’m SURE she was referring that ONE time you….. danced, maybe after 1 too many Fosters Roo piddle….

        Hey…. roofie, roo pee, just different countries’ methods used to increase your luck on a date…

        **HUMOR kiddies… I’m NOT condoning anything here…**
        And I MISS the days when such a disclaimer was NOT necessary.

        1. Kip,
          Streaming through my main system.
          Streaming (YT vids) through my laptop is hardly Hi-Fi.
          Love that you tried to pull me up on that though 😉

          If you put in a ‘smiley’ or ‘winky’ face emoji
          then there’s your disclaimer my friend.
          “Canada oh Canada!”

  16. I make the decision to compromise on sound quality and emotional engagement, and I choose convenience over quality of experience, in every context other than when sitting in front of the big stereo. When listening to music on the big stereo I focus on maximizing sound quality and emotional engagement without compromise — which, for me, means all-analog vinyl and tape.

  17. As an old cybersecurity person from the 80s a FAQ was “how do I best protect my computer information…answer: never go on the internet…” Yet the value of information was always that it mattered to others. Thus, the compromise was to use the information in a secure environment. I moved from the analog to digital sound from CD to streaming because of the “the value of information”. Right now I am enjoying listening to a playlist of Wagner’s “De Meistersinger” and Bomsori’s “Violin on Stage” from Qobuz high definition steaming. What may be compromise to others has me highly engaged and directing the music. I’ve listened to $300k systems in showrooms that didn’t move me (PRaT) like my system…so again, enjoy what floats your boat. Happy Holidays to all!

  18. Paul, I am not going to beat you up over the schedule for the Octave music server. Also I do not view playing high quality digital music files from a server as streaming. Of course you have got to use good interconnects, but it is not streaming.

    So what do you think is the problem with streaming?

    1. I wish I knew. I smell something afoul, to be honest. I suspect compression schemes.

      For example, why does Tidal sound different than Qobuz for the “exact same” CD quality music?

      Logically, the answer would have to be that they aren’t identical which then begs the question of what’s different.

      1. So now we’re back to yesterday’s topic where, I felt logically, suggested something happened to the stream on its journey. You mentioned the maths are done to check it’s bit perfect but equally have stated previously that things can measure the same yet sound different. I suppose it’s a case of just keep digging. Do you want to borrow a spade 🙂

        1. Yes, it’s confusing. What we know. Digital audio files can be transmitted, copied, and shared around the world in bit perfect form. Doesn’t matter how far or how many. Bit perfect in all respects.

          We also know these same files sound different when played through different mediums.

          Thus it is logical to assume that if a bit perfect file sounds different on different mediums then clearly it’s that last mile/the medium as it converts the file to audio that is the culprit.

          I very much suspect it has to do with when we go from one dimension – data – to the next dimension – conversion and timing – where the problems/differences lie.

          Sounds like a new post is in order.

          1. That’s exactly the point. It’s not the data itself, it’s how it’s processed, and the rips on my hard drive are exactly the same data as was on the CD.

            Having primarily streamed for over a decade I’m in agreement with Jazznut below that much of it is to do with noise reduction. Having rebuilt my house this year with the opportunity to put in separate shielded drained mains feeds for both the hifi and modem, on a separate phase from the rest of the house, isolated copper and fiber Ethernet, very low mains impedance (0.19 ohms at the consumer unit compared to Fremer’s 0.44) and only 15’ under concrete to the audio power receptacle, then conditioning, a lot of the work is done before getting to the server. The total cost of cabling was around $500, but the result splendid.

            I really wonder how much consideration people here have given to setting up low noise streaming. Using a laptop for streaming would be akin to using a laptop with a CD drive (if they still exist) and complaining about CD quality.

      2. Paul, when you’re talking of streaming here today, are you only or mainly talking of streaming from music providers or also from local hard disk? This would make a few things clearer.

  19. I grapple with the question of streaming versus playing vinyl or CDs all the time but, for now, streaming is winning out. Certainly, there is the convenience factor of streaming, supplanting CD as the former format of convenience. However, the bigger draw is the sheer access to music and the immediacy of that access. If I hear about a recording, I can usually find it to stream right then and there without the delay of first shopping for it. Also, streaming services often point me to music I may not have been aware of. If there is a degree of fidelity lost, access to the music outweighs it, for me.

    While the other side of my question is around how much fidelity I might be missing out on, the audible quality of streaming, especially HD streaming, very much provides the clarity and detail to create a viscerally satisfying experience. Even 320 kbps, on a quality playback system, sounds good to me. I would have to be listening very critically to hear the difference compared to an uncompressed format. At that point, I am listening to the gear and the medium, more than the music. The playback technology ay be what this hobby is about to an appreciable extent, but having immediate access to a sonically satisfying reproduction of the music I want to hear with any of the better streaming services available, keeps me grateful for streaming and the universe of recordings that I can access on demand.

  20. Just to clarify, is Paul talking about physical CD vs. listening to the same album from an Internet streaming service (Quobuz, Tidal, etc.) or listening to that same CD having been ripped to a local storage device and sent to a DAC via a good quality streamer?

    In my case, when I buy a silver disc, I immediately rip it to my NAS, rescan my library and play it via my Auralic Aries G1 into my DirectStream Sr.

    I do quite often listen to Internet streaming for background music while doing chores and it does expose me to new artists, but when it’s time for serious listening, the go to is my locally stored music (which does include vinyl.)

  21. That line is usually Scotch # 4…
    It is more dependent on the listening session. Sometimes I want to enjoy these songs or this music, sometimes I want to be bathed in the utmost quality achievable. But mostly it is a timeline. I find there is almost always an initial ‘warming up’ of the ears & hearing (especially with Mags) and my best quality material rarely sounds best right at first. Here’s where streaming or sampling new stuff (or just cds I’ve not yet sampled) in the soundroom. After some “ear tuning” time, the HQ material sounds better. The ‘save the best for last’ really does apply here.
    I don’t understand the ‘refusal’ to stream. Tidal and Spotify have exposed me to endless fabulous new artists I’d otherwise likely never known about. I then purchase their music – direct from them when at all possible. My music collection skyrocketed when internet met up with musical applications. I stream & utilize internet radio most days at work & still find myself running to the monitor to see who is playing. (“Oooh, let’s see if that’s available to purchase in hi-res?”) Radio (& now streaming) – remember, that’s how artists originally GOT their sales exposure…? “But it doesn’t really pay the artist..”. I hear that one all the time. Nor did radio. But it certainly created album sales! I understand and even respect folk’s refusal to stream, but it’s kinda like saying ‘I’m ONLY gonna eat foods I know, stuff grown locally or meals by recommendation’. Good place to start & mostly remain, but there’s a plethora of stuff out there you’re missing out on.
    And if it’s a sound quality thing? That also comes back to original recording quality. Most of the new streamed stuff I trend sounds better than MANY of my cds.
    C’mon you folded armed nose up curmudgeons….. STREAM!! You just might find & make a new friend! ☺️
    (And then – buy their album!)

    1. I don’t agree at all. Perhaps in the future I may change my mind when the technology is up to snuff. I don’t know what type of streamer you are using but if you happen to own a Mola Mola then I may make an exception.

      Now when you speak about you never know and may purchase a vinyl after streaming I’m in 100 percent agreement.

  22. The line is between when to take the car or take the motorcycle to the grocery store for milk. The car frequently wins and December answers the question until about April. 😎

  23. The comparison of streaming to CDs or analog vinyl seems reflective of a similar issue with photography. I got interested in photography just prior to the digital photography coming into vogue. Initially, analog film photography was superior to early digital photography in every way. Then digital advanced to being on par with analog photography, then working its way into professional usage. Now the photographic format of convenience is the cell phone camera, which is overtaking all but the state of the art gear in digital photography and then only to discerning eyes and when the image is enlarged for wall framing or larger.

    Nevertheless, good photography exists in all mediums. Ultimately it is the composition that draws one to a photograph, with resolution and even the sensor size that took the picture being secondary to the artistry. Digital technology advances in photography as it does in audio. Once the medium reaches a certain level of high quality, I aim to enjoy the artistry first and ponder the technical vehicle secondarily.

    Make no mistake, I enjoy following the technology and the gear. That’s why I follow this forum and Paul’s video content. However, to my ears and eyes, the technology has advanced such that the distinctions in absolute quality are no longer as disparate as they once were.

  24. There is no compromise really. If you rip (or download from HD tracks) a full resolution copy to a SOTA server it is as good as spinning the disc and infinitely more convenient. I stream from spotify for exploration and discovering new content. If I like something and want to own it I buy the disc, rip and retire it and add it to my library managed by JRiver/Jremote for playback on the main system. I also have a full copy of the library in MP3 on my iPhone for use on the road or in the car.

  25. I spent a lot of time yesterday comparing the sound of a few tracks I am very familiar with on Qobuz vs a ripped WAV file played back on a Windows PC with Foobar2000. Same computer, same DAC. The WAV file had more clarity and impact. Is this because I am getting the Qobuz file over a “medium strength” Wi Fi signal? Should I expect a difference with an Ethernet connection (not convenient)?

    Answering Paul’s question – I do enjoy Qobuz – it exposes me to a lot of music that I might not hear and a lot of music sounds “good” on it, but in the back of my mind I always know I’m not getting the best sound I can.

    1. Agreed, not every audible experience has to be the do-all-end-all of audio bliss, sometimes you just blurt out Hey google, play 70s pro rock or Alexa – play Radio Paradise. Which incidentally has this bizarre effective way of mixing absolutely EVERY genre of music ever recorded together into a blended swamp water musical soup of just about everything. I’m SURE there’s gotta be some sort of drinking/guessing game one could play along to Radio Paradise…

    2. Very few audio streamers/servers use wifi and it is certainly not recommended, because it generates a lot of electrical noise and uses a lot of power. A typical PC consumes about 200w, compared to 15w for my audio server/streamer. So the streaming may sound worse because you are using the most electrically noisy source on an already hot and noisy electrically machine. You also have a lot of mechanical vibration in a PC, which may be worse if the machine is running hotter with wifi. Generally audio servers run cool or cold and don’t have fans. Mine also has quite a lot of vibration damping.

  26. I have subscriptions to Tidal and Qobuz coordinated with Audirvana as the player, so I’m heavily invested in streaming. But for things I really like I buy the CD or preferably SACD and rip it to my NAS, even then I’ll often listen to the same album on one of the streaming services. I never actually enjoyed the act of playing vinyl or a disc. I was first in line when they came up with CD changers even though most weren’t audiophile quality and a certain Pioneer model was completely unacceptable, now with the advent of streaming the only one I have left is in our SUV. But it’s not just about convenience, of more importance to me is diversity. For our last regular Saturday listening session I chose Dirty Honey and Vivaldi The Four Seasons, both via streaming service. As technology improves I’ll be along for the ride, listening thru my 40 year old speaker drivers of course.

    Gotta go for now, we’re off to get our booster shots,

    Y’all have a good one


  27. For serious listening I use my main system which is all analogue and tube based. For background listening I use a secondary system with CDs. I have never used streaming because having heard it I thought it to be significantly inferior to a good system. I my case convenience is not the deciding factor, quality of sound is. Also I am quite averse to forcing myself to like something I do not react to favourably. Regards.

  28. Boy did this topic take a left turn at the first junction. The original question was where do we individually draw the line between quality and convenience? Which is always a compromise.

    For example, I use Jplay Femto in preference to Roon or Jriver because it sounds much better (my system my ears). But Jplay has a minimalist interface, provides very little metadata and has no ability to drill up/down/sideways through the music collection like the other players do.

    This dilemna between interface convenience and wonderful sound quality was recently reinforced to me when I read the Taiko Extreme music sever is delivered with both Roon and Jplay Femto installed (although they cannot be used together). It’s left to the user to decide what matters most.

    I compromise too. I use Jriver for managing and browsing the music library and Jplay Femto for deeper listening. I value quality over convenience, but only to a point.

    Where are your limits? Will you wait for ages for playback to begin (Bughead), revel in the ritual of the vinyl record or let Spotify decide what you should hear?

  29. Hello, y’all,
    Have you ever heard of a small Dutch company called Grimm Audio? The men working there have made their finest peak of active speakers with DAC’s inside, AND a fabulous streamer with a ROON core inside. The streamer does magic things with the sound of other digital gear that you connect too. Stereoplay made sure to announce (on Nov. 12, 2021) that the Audiophile product of the year is the Grimm Audio MU1.
    Check it out, please. I don’t have the speakers, that is a pity, but listening to MU1… Mmmm…

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