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Playback Quality of Network Storage Music Files vs. Local Storage Files


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There seems to be conflicting viewpoints on this forum regarding playback quality of music files stored on a network, e.g. a NAS device. For this discussion assume all connections are via ethernet and not wireless.

 

In an earlier post I made as a newbie considering networked audio, and asking basic questions about making connections, some comments were also made about networked audio not being up to snuff with locally stored files (say, on a HDD inside a computer, with a direct connection to a DAC, which is my current configuration). That is, the network setup, whether it be all the cabling, switches, NAS etc., could diminish sound quality in some way.

 

Yet, I see devices such as the Rendu, Auralic etc receiving rave reviews for the quality of music they can deliver through a network.

 

So, what are the viewpoints and facts about this issue, and what can I expect for changes in SQ by moving to a networked system? I understand that devices such as the Auralic, Rendu etc. might also impose their own sound signature, but if it's possible to exclude these effects, what about the sound quality changes of just the network itself (cables, switches, NAS etc), if it's even possible to consider these separately?

 

Thanks.

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An interesting question kilroy.

 

You are unlikely to get a definitive answer as there are too many variables at play here, however I have a couple of comments based on my own experience when I moved from USB playback (Mac + Audirvana +DAC) to ethernet (NAS + MinimServer + Rendu + BubbleUpnp):

 

1) It is worth going for the simplest approach that gives sound quality you find satisfying because this will minimise the time required to tweak the system, and you will have more time to listen to music.

 

2) A blanket condemnation of wireless in a system is misplaced. I found that using wireless has no noticeable effect on sound quality in my current setup BUT I took great pains to minimise any potential effects. I use a wireless bridge (with an airport extreme at each end) which should isolate the hifi DAC etc from electrical contamination from the NAS, switch etc. To minimise the effect of RF on the hifi I placed the airport extreme at the hifi end of the wireless bridge a couple of metres from the Rendu, DAC etc and used a wired connection. Of course if you go down the network route you will need wireless somewhere in the system so that you can control playback, choose your music etc. I turned off wireless for all devices local to the hifi apart from the airport extreme at the end of the bridge.

 

Just my two cents.....

 

David

ALAC iTunes library on Synology DS412+ running MinimServer with Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 tablet running BubbleUPnP for control >

Hi-Fi 1: Airport Extreme bridge > Netgear switch > TP-Link optical isolation > dCS Network Bridge AND PS Audio PerfectWave Transport > PS Audio DirectStream DAC with Bridge Mk.II > Primare A60 > Harbeth SHL5plus Anniversary Edition .

Hi-Fi 2: Sonore Rendu > Chord Hugo DAC/preamp > LFD integrated > Harbeth P3ESRs and > Sennheiser HD800

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I've been experimenting with various digital music storage schemes for a few years now. Local PC storage, USB and of course NAS.

 

I settled on external NAS (Synology in my case) for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I use a fan-less PC (Running JRMC) for music playback into a dedicated music room, thus spinning disks are a definite no-no for physical noise. My system consists of Meitner MA-1, Conrad-Johnson Preamp/Power amps and Mageepan 20.7s. The Meitner connects via Async USB - ASIO to the dedicated PC.

 

My personal opinion on the matter is that I've never been able to detect any issues with sound other than obvious ones in cases where something is very wrong causing clicks, pops, dropouts etc. The Synology NAS works absolutely perfectly in this regard.

 

OBTW, my NAS is connected through standard Gig-E, via two HP Switches (ProCurve) to the dedicated PC.

Many argue that ethernet cables, connectors, NAS types, CPU types, Hard Drive types etc.etc. can all affect issues like sound-stage width, overall tonality etc. Again, in my case as hard as I've tried I've never been able to confirm these beyond an occasional case of my own expectation bias.

 

Good Luck!

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I believe that your question will eventually lead down the infinite rabbit hole of cable discussions.

 

Having said that, I believe that you need to make your choices based on functionality and don't do anything stupid like run ethernet cables over fluorescent lamps or motors. I also run the Rendu / NAS on their own router switch.

 

Life is too short and there is too much music to listen to.

 

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought", Sir Thomas Beecham. 

 

 

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Also just another experience, as there are too many possible variations.

 

Expensive Ethernet cabling is not needed, just quality construction and termination. Blue Jeans Cable tests each one and is affordable no-nonsense.

 

The differences I heard with WiFi vs hardwired or NAS vs highly tweaked computer were an inconsistent increase in noise floor. This is likely due to the phenomenon John Swenson has measured where the receiving chips have to work harder to re-ask for data packets in certain setups. So perhaps in my setup there is interference on WiFi and the streamers tried are susceptible.

 

If using Wifi I would recommend 5Ghz to reduce interference and AC for speed when listening to large files.

A decent Wifi bridge is the WD My Net AC.

 

Try it out for yourself as the noise floor issue I have might not be a problem for you at all. And in either case it is very subtle.

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As other have said, it all depends ...

 

On my system, there isn't a difference between RAM Disk play vs. NAS play. My local system's environment is high noise due to my graphics card and 4K monitor, fans etc.

 

When I want to listen quietly I'm using HQPlayer on my desktop to an NAA where I'm listening. I don't detect a difference in playing from RAM Disk or NAS when doing this either.

Custom room treatments for headphone users.

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It does make you wonder, My music starts in France, at Qobuz travels over a digital network into the UK telephone network into my local phone exchange, then a mile up some crappy telephone cable into my router, then over a wireless network into my Auralic Aries. How can that sound so good???

Plus if cables etc make a real difference, shouldn't it sound different every time I listen?

It could take a different route every time I stream but it sounds consistent.....

Setup:

Lumin D2> Roksan Blak> Focal 806

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Just to take the emphasis off of cables, because that was not my intent. Nor was it to open a can of worms.This was to address the network as a whole, or system. Does a music file that has to travel a distance, and go through several devices more than music stored locally, sound different. I am likely to reconfigure my system to networked soon, have no direct experience in doing so, and was looking for any positives and negatives before I commit.

 

Thanks so far for the feedback everyone.

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I'm not sure anyone can answer that for you as no one knows what components you are using and their overall impact.

 

I no longer listen to any local music and all my content is streamed in FLAC from Qobuz and i'm very happy with the quality.

Setup:

Lumin D2> Roksan Blak> Focal 806

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Components shouldn't matter, it's a comparison of locally stored music system vs. a network system, as explained in posts #1 and 8.

 

For what it's worth: new laptop - 8 GB RAM - internal SSD - external USB HD with music files - Server 2012 R2 - Audiophile Optimizer - JRiver - Jplay - USB cable - W4S DAC-2 DSDse.

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I believe that your question will eventually lead down the infinite rabbit hole of cable discussions.

 

Having said that, I believe that you need to make your choices based on functionality and don't do anything stupid like run ethernet cables over fluorescent lamps or motors. I also run the Rendu / NAS on their own router switch.

 

Life is too short and there is too much music to listen to.

 

I concur with this recommendation, let your choice be based upon convenience, usability and the features you want.

 

For me, I wanted a music system that was easy to turn on by anyone. I want to be able to select music playback via an iPad or iPhone. I preferred to not have to have a computer in the equation ( if nothing else, an extra button to push to turn on ), thus I went with an Auralic Aries. And given the large number of music files I had, plus other files I wanted to store in one central location, I chose a NAS solution, a Synology.

 

That was my preference based upon my needs. If I had different storage needs a HD connected to the Aries would have been fine in lieu of a NAS. If my budget was different or I didn't want an easy to turn on/off system, a computer would have ben fine.

 

Wireless vs ethernet. No detectable difference in my current setup.

 

In the end though, I agree with the above, don't lose focus on the real goal, which is to be able to enjoy listening to your music. Most of your time should be spent on that as opposed to tweaking a system. IMHO.

 

And to OP, your current setup looks like it should make you very happy.

Silver Circle Audio | Roon | Devialet | Synology | Vivid Audio | Stillpoint Aperture | Auralic | DH Labs

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The OP's question is one I have been wrestling with as well. In the thread about Aurender's new products, I asked if there were sonic differences between the local HDD X100 and the NAS-access N100. Sure, one has an SMPS and the other has a linear PS, but why have both products? No answers so far. Local internal HDD means drive failure may not be something the customer can repair in the field. Which makes the NAS approach more attractive.

 

I guess there is some question about whether the metadata available to your tablet is the same with both approaches. That could be critical.

 

The other missing ingredient: I want access to streaming services as well as to my own music collection. The Aries offers this, but not the Rendu or Antipodes. Aurender does TIDAL but not internet radio. I want it all! :-)

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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  • 2 weeks later...
The other missing ingredient: I want access to streaming services as well as to my own music collection. The Aries offers this, but not the Rendu or Antipodes. Aurender does TIDAL but not internet radio. I want it all! :-)

 

The Antipodes provides TIDAL, QOBUZ, SPOTIFY, as well as internet radio, and a number of other music services.

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The OP's question is one I have been wrestling with as well. In the thread about Aurender's new products, I asked if there were sonic differences between the local HDD X100 and the NAS-access N100. Sure, one has an SMPS and the other has a linear PS, but why have both products? No answers so far. Local internal HDD means drive failure may not be something the customer can repair in the field. Which makes the NAS approach more attractive.

 

I guess there is some question about whether the metadata available to your tablet is the same with both approaches. That could be critical.

 

The other missing ingredient: I want access to streaming services as well as to my own music collection. The Aries offers this, but not the Rendu or Antipodes. Aurender does TIDAL but not internet radio. I want it all! :-)

 

Dan, I have posted several times about the Rendu (in my case Signature Rendu) doing Tidal and internet radio. Tidal requires (so far) using the BubbleUPnP control point. Internet radio is via any control point (simply add the radio URL M3U to your Minimserver library). As Rodrigaj states above, it works very well.

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thanks everybody; i stand corrected. the methods for accessing these things all sound greek to me, but i will do some exploring.

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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