Streamer or Universal Player recommendations needed.

Discussion in 'Digital Sources' started by eljr, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. jayjayjayjay

    jayjayjayjay AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Here is Tidal on my Android box application as per earlier explained. Sound is 70-80% of a CD at best.

    IMG_0311.JPG IMG_0306.JPG
     
  2. Johnny 007

    Johnny 007 Active Member

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    If you think there's that much of a difference between what you're hearing from Tidal and what you're hearing from a CD, then I think something is not quite right. Although I haven't done any detailed comparisons between streamed Tidal music and CDs (I also have SACD discs), I'm pretty sure that if you blindfolded me and ran a comparison, I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference, and that's without MQA at all.

    Maybe in a while I'll run a test. I have some SACDs that are also available on Tidal, so I'll see if I can tell the difference.
     
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  3. Johnny 007

    Johnny 007 Active Member

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    OK, I just listened to Norah Jones on Tidal and on SACD through a Marantz SA8005 and then into my Bryston DAC, preamp, and power amp and then to Magnepan 1.7s. The SACD sounds a little bit better, but not by much, and even that might be my imagination. Later, I'll try one of the other systems I have set up, temporarily, with the same music. Tidal on MacBook Air with MQA to Parasound Halo P5 via USB, to an Emotiva XPA 2 Gen 2 to some B&W Nautilus 805s. I played around with that yesterday a bit and it sounded good, but the equipment is different.
     
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  4. jayjayjayjay

    jayjayjayjay AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Hi Johnny,
    It is quite a stark difference for me. I have an old Sansui AU-alpha777DG direct out of Japan. It has he sweetest of sounds. It is old school but I am obsessed with the warmth and sound stage. I usually play CD's embarrassingly on a Pioneer DV-667A. I bought it 10 years ago for Blue Ray discs, but it has an astounding SACD reading ability. SACD recordings are rich, deep and you feel like your the conductor! I have tried other CD players but keep coming back to the 667A.

    Now the quality of sound I am getting out of Tidal is good. Don't get me wrong, however, at the moment it is quite clearly:

    100% for SACD
    93-4% for CD's
    70-80% for Tidal. It is very clear, not minor, night and day.

    The other issue is I have to put the volume about 15% higher on the amp for Tidal compared to CD/SACD. I am not sure what that is indicative off?

    I do not know if there TV is trying to convert the digital signal (acting as DAC) and send it via Optical TOSLINK to the amp or not. I would assume that is impossible because the signal should still be digital to go over the Optical TOSKLINK. Well that's what I assume logically, but then weirder things have surprised me. I would hope the internal amp DAC is doing the work, but I do not know how to determine this.
     
  5. Johnny 007

    Johnny 007 Active Member

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    I noticed the volume difference between the Tidal/Lightnng (Auralic app) output and the SACD output, but that just takes a small adjustment when you're making comparisons.

    As for which of your DACs is doing the process? Maybe you could start the thing up with the TV in the mix and then change the cord to go directly into the amp? And of course, I think Toslink has it's limits, compared to what you could achieve via a USB connection. I forget the exact limit of the Toslink, though.
     
  6. KevinCorr

    KevinCorr AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I just returned from Thailand and plan to move there permanently in a few years. I saw a big row of hifi stores in the Fortune Mall in Bangkok. that is near the MRT subway exit Thai Cultural Center. That is the most high end gear I have seen in one area in my life. I would like to get more into digital but have to go offline right now. I have considered the Bluesound Vault2. I have a lot of speakers and amps so it does not seem practical to not loose my shirt on them to get new gear. I hope to keep the best of my 5 hifi systems and add digital. I have thought about Auralic, Naim, Bluesound, meridian etc.
     
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  7. Johnny 007

    Johnny 007 Active Member

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    Anyone planning a move to Thailand should at last give some thought to the electrical system difference between there and the USA. Over there, they use a different voltage, so you'll need equipment that can be switched or a converter. I'm not sure if that usually works out OK. Of course, some of the equipment you might have can be used with no problem. For example, I can charge up my laptop, no problem, and an Apple Airport Express seems to work fine.

    If I go back, I'll probably leave my stereo stuff here, in storage. It's not cheap to ship things halfway around the world, and then you'd still have to deal with Thai customs.
     
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  8. eljr

    eljr Koyaanisqatsi

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    interesting, do you have measurements or is this subjective?
     
  9. jayjayjayjay

    jayjayjayjay AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Subjective of course. I don't need to have equipment to tell me that the quality of sound from one source compare to another on my own system are significantly different. I however do not blame Tidal for this, I know it is in my equipment as I do not have a dedicated DAC or a DAC of this century for that matter.

    Playing CD's direct DSD or SACD is what quality I would like to achieve. I am continuing to work towards that goal. I recently missed out on a MSB Analog DAC second hand that has MQA conversion to suit the Tidal streaming, but I will continue the search. Maybe a Brooklyn from MyTech or another might find it's way to me soon. In the mean time I think I might grab Meridians smaller DAC to kick the process off.
     
  10. eljr

    eljr Koyaanisqatsi

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    not sure why you say of course

    if something is defective I suppose.

    Or if one is a record you could identify the cracks, on tape the hiss... or in your case, maybe you are using a noisy computer's DAC?

    other than that, the comparing of two different digital sources would be extremely hard to distinguish

    I know I can't. Heck, I can't distinguish between SACD and MP3.

    (it's amazing how most no one can)


    Good luck in your search for direct DSD or SACD, to you, quality from Tidal streaming, I am sure the Dac you settle on will.:beerchug:

    thanks for the reply
     
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  11. SoNic67

    SoNic67 Well-Known Member

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    I didn't have time to read the whole thread. For what is worth, Tidal Premium ($9.99/mo) is not looseless, and with good equipment and training you can surely tell the difference between lossy 320kbps and CD.
    Tidal HiFi ($19.99/mo) is looseless, and the FLAC files should sound the same as the CD's, unless they are modifying them somehow before streaming (processing).
     
  12. eljr

    eljr Koyaanisqatsi

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  13. 2broke4this

    2broke4this AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Okay, I just finished reading through this thread... and a couple things came to mind.

    The first is that unless I'm just not looking hard enough on my FireStick, there's no Tidal app (I looked last night). It's a great gadget (I've got two, a first gen and a second gen) that's wonderfully portable (really nice to take along on trips and use at the hotel). There's a Spotify app, and maybe you could sideload Tidal, but it's not on the Amazon app store. I'd be ecstatic if someone has contrary info, because I'd love to add Tidal to both of the sticks!

    For those of you that mentioned trying out one of the Bluesound gizmos, I'm listening to an MQA stream off Tidal through my first generation Bluesound Node, and it sounds pretty wonderful to me. I won't lie to you and tell you that I've done extensive A/B testing or that I could tell you if the stream is MQA or not without looking at the app, but I'm still darn happy. I was content with the sound I was getting before they added the "Masters" section, and this is just a fun bonus. I don't have an extensive CD collection (I've got way more records than I have CDs) to make real comparisons, but if you stumble across a good deal on any model of the Bluesound gear, I'd say it's worth a whirl!

    I have a computer in the guest room upstairs hooked up over HDMI into the receiver, and the software-decoded MQA sounds pretty darn decent that way, too. If you have a reasonably recent (definitely doesn't have to be super new, none of mine are) computer lying around, that may be your best bet if you NEED something that covers everything. They also don't HAVE to be ugly boxes, you can get a case that fits in nicely in your A/V rack for not all that much money. I'm frequently asked where the computer is.

    Anyway, that's enough rambling from me for now!
     
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  14. KevinCorr

    KevinCorr AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    I got the Bluesound Vault 2 and it is 120/240v, and even comes with a cord for each, the correct plug even.
    I am going to stay in Thailand for good and leave 4 systems behind.
     
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2017
  15. Ears of Tin

    Ears of Tin New Member

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    http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/02/411473508/how-well-can-you-hear-audio-quality

    This is my first post and I am devastated. For more than a decade I have only listened to digital sources. I have an EE degree and have bored many people with the Nyquist theorem. I consider myself to have below average hearing. I burned all of my CDs to 320kps mp3s. I buy music from amazon at similar quality. I download mp3s instead of flac when given a choice. I have over 50,000 tracks on my server.

    So I take the NPR test and I got 6 out of 6. JUST SHOOT ME!
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
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  16. Audiofreak71

    Audiofreak71 Boerboelicious Subscriber

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    I'm using an oppo udp 203 with chrome cast connected for Tidal and the 203 is also connected to my computer with which I run all my flac files etc via a 5tb HD connected to the computer, works excellent sounds equally good . I do plan on getting an Oppo Sonica Dac to see if I can get any sonically better .
     
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  17. Vinyl Rules!

    Vinyl Rules! Well-Known Member

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    Here are my thoughts: (1) Consider a Universal player - Specifically the Cambridge Audio CXU. It has two HDMI inputs; and (2) And consider a Chromecast for Tidal, Netflix, and a multitude of apps you can "cast" from a Smartphone, tablet, or laptop.

    I recently bought a CXU and I am astounded by how good it sounds. Here's my CXU review I posted on Amazon:
    ---------------
    Forget the Oppo's, this is the one to own if you want a player that is extraordinarily good sounding on audio discs AND is amazingly good with both DVD and BluRay video discs. I have an Oppo BDP-95D and the CXU is significantly better with audio and slightly better with video than my Oppo BDP-95D.

    Initially, I was leaning towards the Oppo BDP-105D and I almost ordered one, but I'm glad I waited. One reason Oppo discontinued the 1xx series players was that MediaTek, the vendor for one of the chips in the 105D, ceased production of the chip they were supplying to Oppo. This chip provided HDCD decoding for the 105D (and all the other Oppo models).

    HDCD decoding for HDCD encoded discs is important to me. Almost all Joni Mitchell and Grateful Dead CD's are HDCD encoded. And many country artists continue to release HDCD encoded CD's, but they are not always flagged as an HDCD disc. So what's the big deal about HDCD? Well, the HDCD encoding process adds an additional 4 bits of information to a CD. Standard Redbook CD's are 16 bit discs (16/44), but HDCD discs are 20 bit discs (20/44), and these extra bits add additional dynamic range to the recording. The result (IMHO) equals the sound quality of a SACD (Super Audio CD). And there is no loss of sound quality if you play back an HDCD disc on a non-HDCD player: The disc sounds like any other Redbook 16/44 CD. Microsoft bought the rights to HDCD several years ago but they've made no effort to market it to the major music labels.

    When I made the decision to add a newer player to my system I wanted a player that sounded good with music. About 75% of my listening is to Redbook CD's, some HDCD's, and a small number of SACD's and DVD-Audio discs. The other 25% is used to view DVD and BluRay movies. I don't do any streaming yet, but Tidal's lossless service interests me and I could download the Tidal app to my Smartphone/iPad/Laptop and "cast" audio stream to a Chromecast plugged into the rear HDMI input on my CXU.

    No one in my area (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) had any Oppo BDP-105D's left in stock, but I found a couple of on-line retailers that had a few 105D's. I liked everything about the Oppo BDP-105D: I have their BDP-95D, and an older Oppo DV-970HD and and an Oppo DV-981D, and they have been fantastic machines. I've never had a problem and Oppo's customer service is legendary. And the 105D has the ESS Sabre 9018 DAC chip which is one of the best available. And the 105D has received stellar reviews for both its audio sound quality and its video playback.

    I was about to order the Oppo, but then I read a review of the Cambridge Audio CXU in "What HiFi," a British publication. They gave the CXU very high praise in their review, and they noted both the audio reproduction and the video playback was BETTER than Oppo's BDP-105D, which they had previously reviewed.

    I then did more digging in various Internet audio and video news groups and forums, and I found many people who thought the CXU sounded better on music and was slightly better on video when compared to Oppo's BDP-105D and BDP-95D. The only negatives people noted with the CXU were: (1) No headphone jack; (2) No balanced XLR outputs; and (3) No Netflix app, and general criticism for the few apps that came with the CXU. None of these were important to me. I have a separate headphone amp for headphone listening, I don't use balanced XLR connections in my system, and an inexpensive Roku device provides NetFlix and many more apps than any universal player on the market. Or I could use a Chromecast for streaming services.

    Since music (and HDCD decoding) is important to me, I took a chance and ordered the CXU. I would be able to compare it to my Oppo BDP-95D, and if the CXU disappointed me, I was going to return it and order an Oppo BDP-105D.

    About a month has gone by and the CXU is a keeper! Music and film soundtracks on the CXU are more realistic, the CXU has more depth and "soundstage," and the CXU sounds much less digital than my 95D. Even my wife noticed the difference, and she began pulling some of her CD's out of our collection for me to play. I was surprised that the CXU sounded so good: The Oppo BDP95D uses the same ESS Sabre 9018 32 Bit DAC and the same two-channel audio output circuit used in the highly acclaimed Oppo BDP-105D.

    I'm not sure how Cambridge Audio is able to get such great sound out of the CXU. The CXU uses five Wolfson 24 bit WM8740 DAC's (Wolfson has newer DAC chips that could have been used), and the CXU upsamples all data before it is sent to the Wolfson DAC's. Cambridge Audio says this upsampling reduces jitter and latency. And the CXU uses these five Wolfson DAC's for music decoding versus the single ESS 32 bit 9018 Sabre DAC used both by the Oppo BDP-105D and the BDP-95D for music decoding. So the Oppo should sound better than the CXU since it uses a newer 32 bit ESS 9018 Sabre DAC versus the older 24 bit WM8749 DAC used in the CXU. But it doesn't: Music (and film soundtracks) sound much more real on the CXU than on the BDP-95D, and the superior sound quality of the CXU trumps the Oppo BDP-95D.

    Most of you probably know Oppo is now selling 4K players. The Oppo UDP-203 is the replacement for the BDP -103D and Oppo's website says the replacement for the BDP-105D is coming soon. I've not read any reviews yet of the UDP-203, but it (and the replacement for the BDP-105D) does not decode HDCD. So they are not something I will buy. And I'm not convinced 4K Ultra High definition BluRay discs have a future. More people are streaming, more 4K streaming content is becoming available, and physical media sales continue to decline. And Hollywood is now asking retailers to stock THREE versions of popular movies: (1) 4K UHD BluRay; (2) "Regular" BluRay; and (3) Standard DVD. And the new 4K UHD BluRay's are not cheap.

    This is an untenable business model and I don't think the new 4K UHD BluRay's have a future. Most average customers can barely tell the difference between a DVD and a BluRay of the same movie, and there is not that much difference between a 4K UHD BluRay and a regular BluRay unless you have a 4K projector and a high-definition screen (both are quite expensive) or a 70" or larger 4K UHD TV. IMO, the market will slowly grow for 4K UHD streaming content, but I think the future for expensive 4K UHD BluRay physical media is bleak.

    Cambridge Audio uses the same MediaTek chip set in the CXU that Oppo used in their BDP-1xx series and their BDP-9x series players, so once they go through their remaining inventory of MediaTek chips, they will have to replace the CXU. The retail price of the CXU has been lowered in England (their home base) as well as in the US. This suggests to me that they, like Oppo, are discontinuing the CXU because the MediaTek chip set with HDCD decoding has been discontinued.

    The Cambridge Audio CXU is a really good unit. IMHO, it has the best video performance of any standard BluRay player on the market, and its audio quality is extraordinary. I believe you would have to spend more than $20,000 on a CD player (yes, there are some that cost this much, and more) to get something that sounded at least as good on music. Buy one while they are still available! [The current online price for the CXU is $799, a big drop from its $1,299 introductory price] As always, YMMV. :rockon::rockon::rockon::rockon::rockon:
     
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  18. botrytis

    botrytis Trying not to be a Small Speaker Hoarder Subscriber

    This is a tough one. As others have said, there is not many that cover it all. Since you have jriver already, why not a small pc running another copy? You can certainly do it that way?
     
  19. KevinCorr

    KevinCorr AK Subscriber Subscriber

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