Jump to content
IGNORED

Why is streaming sounding better than music played through my DAC? I'm confused.....


Recommended Posts

I have a VERY odd problem that just got onto my radar screen in a random way.

 

First, here's my equipment:

Coda CSib integrated amp

Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC

Auraliti PK-90 USB server

Buffalo USB 3 external hard drive

Dynaudio Focus 380 speakers

Audience Au-24 SE speaker cables

Cardas Clear XLR interconnects

Cardas Clear & Grover Huffman power cords

Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB

Apple Airport Express

Radio Shack stereo mini to RCA cable (for Airport)

 

The issue: Due to a random happening, I ended up listening to music streaming from my office computer (2009 iMac) onto the system above. The music on my iMac is either encoded AIFF or ALAC directly ripped from CDs.

 

The way my system is set up, I can switch from playing streaming music from my iMac to the system above with the push of a button on a remote. Out of curiosity (mostly to see how bad the streaming version was compared to the DAC), I listened to several of the same songs in 44.1 via both options. I was STUNNED to hear that depending on the song, there was either a negligible difference between the two methods, OR, the streaming version was better in almost every way: bigger (deeper) soundstage, deeper bass, same or better level of realism, etc.

 

I ended up installing Audirvana on my iMac and listened again....this made the differences between streaming and direct DAC even bigger. Thinking something was wrong, I plugged my Ayre DAC into my (old - 2007) Macbook laptop via USB in order to bypass the Auraliti server, which I thought might be the weak link in the system.

 

Comparing the iMac streaming vs the Macbook>Ayre DAC the differences were smaller, with an incredibly slight edge going to the streaming version. I even installed Audirvana on my Macbook, and I would say that while there are very subtle differences between the two methods, in terms of quality, the differences are negligible.

 

I have now tried many different file types, and the only way that the Macbook>DAC beats the iMac streaming is if I compare an HD file (e.g. 96) on my Macbook with the 44.1 encoded version streaming via my iMac.

 

I have had several audiophile friends over here that have loved the sound of my system, and know that Airport can only stream ALAC 44.1 versions of music.

 

So, finally, to my question: what is going on here? Why am I getting this result? What am I missing?

 

Thanks in advance for reading....and pondering.

 

Matt

Link to comment

I'm not totally clear what your comparison is here. Is it

 

1. Aurality (or MacBook) --USB--> Ayre QB-9 DSD --Analogue--> Coda CSib

vs

2. iMac --Network--> Airport Express --Analogue--> Coda CSib

 

Thank you for clarifying...

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

OK, fair question. I am comparing the AE plugged directly into my Coda integrated with streaming files (wirelessly) from my iMac versus 2 separate signal paths:

 

1) HD>Auraliti>Ayre>Coda

2) Macbook>Ayre>Coda

 

The streaming from my iMac sounds better than either of the two signal paths (1 or 2) listed directly above.

Link to comment

Great offer Dave, thanks :-)

 

I know it sounds like I'm an idiot, but I actually have a good ear, and classical training in piano. I am completely surprised by what I'm hearing - I did NOT expect or want this to happen - and am looking for some explanation(s).

Link to comment
Great offer Dave, thanks :-)

 

I know it sounds like I'm an idiot, but I actually have a good ear, and classical training in piano. I am completely surprised by what I'm hearing - I did NOT expect or want this to happen - and am looking for some explanation(s).

 

Well... The obvious answer is that the DAC in the airport express is outperforming your other gear. That's the simplest idea. You can try streaming to the airport express from the MacBook and see if the quality goes down. If it does, then there's bound to be a setting or something awry there. If not...

 

I will say that the airport express is pretty good, especially for the price. I found plugging in analog connections directly to my powered speakers from the airport express resulted in really enjoyable sound. I only replaced it because I wanted something more flexible. If it turns out that the airport express is the best sounding thing I'd just go with it and sell the other stuff:)

Link to comment

Hi bikalot,

 

One thing I can think of is that the USB connection is at fault. I am not a big fan of USB for audio because it is a perfect path for noise from your computer ( especially one that is not tweaked to lower electrical noise) to go downstream.

 

There are many other threads regarding cleaning up the noisy USB connection using e.g. SoTM/PPA/JCAT cards, IFI USB, USB-SPDIF converters. I have put a scope on USB before and after cleaning up the 5V and it is not pretty.

 

By using a wireless connection you are cutting the ground noise and the Ethernet transformers help reduce noise. This is also why many folks see improvements with dedicated audio streamers.

 

Food for thought...

 

Cheers

Link to comment
Great offer Dave, thanks :-)

 

I know it sounds like I'm an idiot, but I actually have a good ear, and classical training in piano. I am completely surprised by what I'm hearing - I did NOT expect or want this to happen - and am looking for some explanation(s).

 

There's an really good old saying that goes like this, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth".

Hard as it is, folks just can't help themselves.

David

Link to comment

Very interesting Tranz....this fits into some feedback I got today at the California Audio Show. The two leading contenders to explain the situation were: USB at fault (similar to what you stated above), the Ayre DAC doesn't live up to it's reputation. A local audiophile kindly agreed to loan me another DAC next week, so I'll start there and see what happens. Thanks for the feedback.

Link to comment
Very interesting Tranz....this fits into some feedback I got today at the California Audio Show. The two leading contenders to explain the situation were: USB at fault (similar to what you stated above), the Ayre DAC doesn't live up to it's reputation. A local audiophile kindly agreed to loan me another DAC next week, so I'll start there and see what happens. Thanks for the feedback.

I too am getting the best digital I've heard from using a wireless connection:Airplay or Airparrot. Would be interested how the Ayre sounds connected to the digital out of AirportExpress and then to the amp?

Link to comment

I think the real answer to why it is not sounding as good is fairly complex, but USB is probably at the heart of it. First different Mac OS sound different, second the Macbook is a fairly weak source (I know I heard a big increase in fidelity when I went to a Mini), and third using a USB drive and a USB dac on a Mac is a no no for best fidelity.

 

Add to that the above made comments about USB noise and it is not inconceivable that the streamed source may sound better. First low cost thing I might do is run the drive off an Airport extreme and ether to the imac and get a powerless usb cable for the QB(. That should up the SQ significantly. Alternatively you could get a firewire case for the drive and run that direct to the imac and use a powerless usb cable for the QB9.

 

Both should outperform your current wired topology. YMMV. Good luck tweaking.

Link to comment

You should reduce your variables. First mount your music drive over the network (macbook is client) then A/B Macbook->DAC using both USB and SPDIF. Also copy the music file to the Macbook hard drive (not external USB) and retest. I've certainly used a Macbook -> USB -> Ayre with great results so you have a problem in your system somewhere. Its very possible that the external USB drive (I'm not a fan of external USB drives) is thrashing your USB connection. The other likely problem is your fancy USB cable ... try monoprice! Put magic ferrite cores on it:-)

Custom room treatments for headphone users.

Link to comment

How does the irdac compare to the analog out of the airport express?

I have an Airport Express connected with an optical cable to an irDac, and this is also connected to the computer with USB. I've compared both and to me they sound exactly the same.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Link to comment

OP, have you checked the "Sound Enhancer" settings in iTunes on your streaming setup (iTunes menu->Preferences->Playback tab)? I know that years ago, I was confused by how well the stock analog output of the AE sounded in comparison with my higher-end setup and figured out that Sound Enhancer was turned on, which, while adding extra artificial effects and processing, did result in a more enjoyable experience.

 

Turning it off lowered the playback quality back to what I would have expected from the AE and made me feel a lot better about all the money I spent on my good gear :-)

Link to comment
Sounds like you are experiencing what I learned a year ago. Streaming protocols bypass more PC jitter when the data is read off the drive for transmission and sent to a renderer for clocking. My JKMKIII asynch USB converter has been gathering dust ever since I tried UPNP streaming.

 

Hi Davide,

 

Thanks for sharing. Did you ever try a NAS like a Synology instead of the WS2012 box? Or a wireless bridge to your Oppo instead of the direct CAT6e connection?

 

Cheers

Link to comment

I purchased a Synology DS214play about 10 days ago, am using it now instead of PC as NAS. Its the equal or better of the tweaked PC solution I was using as NAS for audio performance. I did find that with the WD red drives there was a sense of harshness but swapping them to SSD eliminated that. And I've abandoned connecting devices off the switch also as that seems to cause connectivity peculiarities, have them direct connected to router with GigE ports. Connecting via wireless with Oppo was always inferior to wired connection, suspect that's part of why folks are excited about the Auralic Aries capabilities.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

Link to comment
I have a VERY odd problem that just got onto my radar screen in a random way.

 

First, here's my equipment:

Coda CSib integrated amp

Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC

Auraliti PK-90 USB server

Buffalo USB 3 external hard drive

Dynaudio Focus 380 speakers

Audience Au-24 SE speaker cables

Cardas Clear XLR interconnects

Cardas Clear & Grover Huffman power cords

Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB

Apple Airport Express

Radio Shack stereo mini to RCA cable (for Airport)

 

The issue: Due to a random happening, I ended up listening to music streaming from my office computer (2009 iMac) onto the system above. The music on my iMac is either encoded AIFF or ALAC directly ripped from CDs.

 

The way my system is set up, I can switch from playing streaming music from my iMac to the system above with the push of a button on a remote. Out of curiosity (mostly to see how bad the streaming version was compared to the DAC), I listened to several of the same songs in 44.1 via both options. I was STUNNED to hear that depending on the song, there was either a negligible difference between the two methods, OR, the streaming version was better in almost every way: bigger (deeper) soundstage, deeper bass, same or better level of realism, etc.

 

I ended up installing Audirvana on my iMac and listened again....this made the differences between streaming and direct DAC even bigger. Thinking something was wrong, I plugged my Ayre DAC into my (old - 2007) Macbook laptop via USB in order to bypass the Auraliti server, which I thought might be the weak link in the system.

 

Comparing the iMac streaming vs the Macbook>Ayre DAC the differences were smaller, with an incredibly slight edge going to the streaming version. I even installed Audirvana on my Macbook, and I would say that while there are very subtle differences between the two methods, in terms of quality, the differences are negligible.

 

I have now tried many different file types, and the only way that the Macbook>DAC beats the iMac streaming is if I compare an HD file (e.g. 96) on my Macbook with the 44.1 encoded version streaming via my iMac.

 

I have had several audiophile friends over here that have loved the sound of my system, and know that Airport can only stream ALAC 44.1 versions of music.

 

So, finally, to my question: what is going on here? Why am I getting this result? What am I missing?

 

Thanks in advance for reading....and pondering.

 

Matt

 

Talk about a serendipitous discovery. I think a lot of it has to do with the digital input/cable interface and jitter production. I used a highly modded AE (Zardoz by dBSystems out of France) as a source since 07 and people used to mock me on Audiogon for doing so. There is a lot of merit to that approach. I am now using an Auralic Aries to stream music via a computer-centric NAS (Minimserver) and it sounds great

Link to comment
I purchased a Synology DS214play about 10 days ago, am using it now instead of PC as NAS. Its the equal or better of the tweaked PC solution I was using as NAS for audio performance. I did find that with the WD red drives there was a sense of harshness but swapping them to SSD eliminated that. And I've abandoned connecting devices off the switch also as that seems to cause connectivity peculiarities, have them direct connected to router with GigE ports. Connecting via wireless with Oppo was always inferior to wired connection, suspect that's part of why folks are excited about the Auralic Aries capabilities.

 

When you say you were using your computer as a NAS does that mean via something like Minimserver. The wired versus wireless SQ has always been interesting to me. There is no difference to my ears with the Aries and thus wireless is my choice.

Link to comment
When you say you were using your computer as a NAS does that mean via something like Minimserver. The wired versus wireless SQ has always been interesting to me. There is no difference to my ears with the Aries and thus wireless is my choice.

 

Thanks Davide.

 

Hi Geardaddy,

 

My guess is it is all in the implementation. If using inferior LAN cables issues occur. If using low quality, high noise, high ripple switching power it will impact results. If your wiring management is lacking, e.g. too close to power lines, other EMI fields, it will have an impact. If your wireless router is not stable enough, or bandwidth is not high enough, or shared, or there is other signal interference, quality might get impacted. Are LAN isolators used? As good as the weakest link applies here too I think.

 

So it is not as simple as wired vs. wireless.

Link to comment
Thanks Davide.

 

Hi Geardaddy,

 

My guess is it is all in the implementation. If using inferior LAN cables issues occur. If using low quality, high noise, high ripple switching power it will impact results. If your wiring management is lacking, e.g. too close to power lines, other EMI fields, it will have an impact. If your wireless router is not stable enough, or bandwidth is not high enough, or shared, or there is other signal interference, quality might get impacted. Are LAN isolators used? As good as the weakest link applies here too I think.

 

So it is not as simple as wired vs. wireless.

 

Agreed and good points. I think there is some looming consensus that Ethernet is a superior digital interface versus USB at the ground level. I would love to see measurements of this stuff.

 

Since you seem to be something of a techie, are there theoretical advantages to a pure NAS setup versus using a computer + software like Minimserver to create a faux NAS???

Link to comment

Don't have an Aries, believe part of the excitement over it is that it has enhanced logic to deal with the variability of wireless transmission media vs wired and supports the fastest wifi standard (ac).

 

Main issue with a PC is that it was designed to be a jack of all trades... trying make it a server your main optimization task is turning off all those unneeded services constantly stealing CPU cycles without turning off so much it stops working. A built to purpose NAS starts from least services needed state.

 

 

Minim server is just an alternative to whatever media server app comes with your NAS. I didn't like it as a PC server app but as a Synology app its sound is just fine.

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...