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Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?

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Posted on April 17, 2020 at 12:44:05
ph5y
Audiophile

Posts: 178
Location: DC
Joined: October 30, 2010
Forgive my ignorance. I like being able to click on a link on my computer and hear a song, but I notice that most of my CDs and LPs sound better than what I hear on Apple Music, YouTube Red or Amazon. Maybe I just need to use a good DAC rather than feed from the computer but I suspect it's more than that. I did use the internal DAC when I was listening through a ProJect Maia but have gone to a different amp. Is it the MP3 format that's the problem? Is there a free streaming service that provides high res or good res versions of Boomer classics, jazz and classical?

Thank you for any comments and please forgive my ignorance!

It's never too late to turn back the clock.

 

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RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 17, 2020 at 13:37:26
John Elison
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Qobuz is a streaming service that streams hi-rez PCM as well as ordinary CD resolution. It has FLAC files of 24/96 and 24/192, which sound good on my system. On the other hand, I've also found some excellent sounding music-videos on YouTube as well.

I think your DAC can make a substantial difference. I recently bought a Mytek Brooklyn Bridge and it seems to improve the sound quality of just about everything I listen to. I also own some FiiO portable digital players that sound awesome, too.

Good luck,
John Elison

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 17, 2020 at 13:40:36
PAR
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What you suspect are indeed the reasons.

A good hi-res streaming service does not come free. Main candidates are either Qobuz or Tidal but you will need a DAC that will process <24/192 (Qobuz) or is MQA capable (Tidal). At this level streaming can be equal or superior to CDs.

This is a big subject and there is a lot to go into. However if paying a monthly subscription is beyond you then I would stick with your CDs and LPs.

"We need less, but better" - Dieter Rams

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 17, 2020 at 15:06:24
ph5y
Audiophile

Posts: 178
Location: DC
Joined: October 30, 2010
Thanks very much for your suggestions. I'll check them out!

Best,
PH
It's never too late to turn back the clock.

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 17, 2020 at 15:09:08
ph5y
Audiophile

Posts: 178
Location: DC
Joined: October 30, 2010
Well I can afford something like a Schitt at $99 or a Dragonfly. And I might be able to afford a streaming service though it's always nice to get stuff free. I'll check those out, thanks!

PH
It's never too late to turn back the clock.

 

Bit density, posted on April 18, 2020 at 08:14:58
E-Stat
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I am listening to a 96/24 track on Qobuz at 2766 kbps (kilo bits per second). Compare that to Apple Music at 256 kbps AAC or MP3 typically at 320 kbps.

Another variable is the quality of your network accessing the online content. Noise can be added along the way if not carefully chosen.


 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 18, 2020 at 11:09:32
DDzStereo
Audiophile

Posts: 64
Location: North of Toronto, Ontario
Joined: July 1, 2009
most often, often you get what you pay for

 

RE: Bit density, posted on April 18, 2020 at 11:09:52
ph5y
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Posts: 178
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44,000 samples per second times 24 bits per sample = 1,061,760 bits per second = 1062 kilobits. By the Nyquist Theorem that should be enough. If that's right, only the Qobuz is sufficient but I may be overlooking a lot of stuff. Maybe 20 bit samples are sufficient. I'm not an engineer.
It's never too late to turn back the clock.

 

RE: Bit density, posted on April 18, 2020 at 11:18:21
E-Stat
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By the Nyquist Theorem that should be enough. If that's right, only the Qobuz is sufficient but I may be overlooking a lot of stuff. Maybe 20 bit samples are sufficient.

There is far more to what's involved with audio quality than merely meeting the Nyquist requirement. 44.1 requires brickwall anti-aliasing filters that cause time base distortions and pre or post-ringing into the pass band. Higher sample rates afford more gradual filter slopes and avoid such.

From what I've read from some experts, 20 bits is indeed enough. There's one inmate engineer who states that in his tag line. 24 is merely the next standard value for commercially available digital components today.


 

RE: Bit density, posted on April 18, 2020 at 11:47:26
ph5y
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Posts: 178
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Any time marketing is involved you will have people touting features that are neutral or negative.

It's never too late to turn back the clock.

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 18, 2020 at 18:41:10
AbeCollins
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Most mainstream services use AAC or MP3 lossy compression and is noticeably lower quality sound than a CD or LP but often sufficient for casual listening for the consumer masses.

Tidal streams in CD quality or theoretically better with MQA encoding/decoding. But even taking MQA out of the picture (it's mostly just smoke and mirrors) it sounds quite nice and on par with my CD's.

CD quality = 44,100 x 16-bits x 2 = 1.4112 Mbs

Qobuz streams in CD quality or better w/o MQA so depending on the tune it can be as high as

Hi-res PCM = 192,000 x 24-bits x 2 = 9.216 Mbs

I listen to my lossless CD rips as well as Qobuz and Tidal streaming. It's all very good and my CD player and TT haven't seen the light of day in years. They're both down in the basement collecting dust ;-)


 

Thanks for your comments! nt, posted on April 18, 2020 at 19:52:42
ph5y
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nt
It's never too late to turn back the clock.

 

RE: Thanks for your comments! nt, posted on April 19, 2020 at 06:43:12
Roseval
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A simple experiment might be to rip a couple of CDs to a lossless format.
Now you know you have the same master and the same quality.
Play this on your PC.
If it sounds worse (internal DAC + internal amp) compared with the CD player, it is the hardware at the PC.
A external DAC might be an improvement.

The Well Tempered Computer

 

Good idea! As soon as I can find my CD player(-: nt, posted on April 19, 2020 at 07:12:15
ph5y
Audiophile

Posts: 178
Location: DC
Joined: October 30, 2010
nt
It's never too late to turn back the clock.

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 19, 2020 at 18:50:17
Daverz
Audiophile

Posts: 2058
Location: So. California
Joined: September 24, 2002
Computer analog outputs are not necessarily horrible, but experience does not give me high expectations for them. So I would suggest a USB DAC like the Topping E30 ($130) or Schiit Modi 3 ($99). If you listen with headphones, consider the Topping DX3Pro ($220) or add a Schiit Magni 3.

I like the idea suggested earlier to compare computer playback of rips of your own CDs to get a baseline.






 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 22, 2020 at 15:51:15
kh6idf
Audiophile

Posts: 1312
Location: Texas
Joined: May 2, 2001
I was listening to Qobuz today via my Schiit Modi 3 and Stax SRM-252II / SR-003 Mk2 earphones (I also use SR202 at times). The sound quality was excellent.

I have yet to hear any difference playing anything above 16/44.1 so I have the quality set to 16/44.1.

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on April 23, 2020 at 18:50:28
airheadair
Audiophile

Posts: 370
Location: California
Joined: October 18, 2010
I am surprised by your statement about your turntable. I have many LP's with music that is not available in digital format as far as I know. And, for some of these, the LP sounds better than the digital version (for some it is the other way).

 

RE: OK there's a little white lie in my last comment, posted on April 23, 2020 at 19:42:51
AbeCollins
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I brought the TT up from the basement for a couple weeks last year and played with it side-by-side with my digital gear. It sounds excellent but I became a little impatient with the rituals associated with vinyl.

I would say that 99% of what I enjoy is readily available to me at my finger tips (on the iPad remote control) from my CD rips combined with streaming 'hi-res' from Tidal and Qobuz.



 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on May 9, 2020 at 10:13:09
Freo-1
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Posts: 794
Location: Florida
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Agree with the DAC observation. I stream music occasionally from You Tube, and use either a Devialet Expert (SS amp) or Oppo Sonica DAC (Tube amps) for playback. Both systems sound pretty darn good with the DAC/Amp combo.
"What this country needs is a good 5 watt amplifier!" (Paul Klipsch)

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on June 14, 2020 at 18:04:03
jrlaudio
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December 0, 0000
To the OP, it's not ignorance. It's what being offered commercially for the masses. Some here in this thread have mentioned some streaming services that do offer better quality files.

I just can't listen to anything in compressed formats (well maybe FLAC and such), and YouTube I limit to my Google/Nest stuff, never through headphones and never in my audio system. It's just ... well ... ACK!

I am used to 24/192 WAV from working in the studio. My own digital archive files off my NAS server are my own that I made using Apogee converters at either 24/96 or 192, and always as WAV files. I run a gigabit V6 network and have Tb's (32Tb as of today) of storage capacity, so I don't concern myself with lossy formats or using uncompressed file types.

I think the issue lies in the fact that people go on the cheap when it comes to certain important things, and spend big bucks on the minor things. Like using compressed formats to save storage space. Storage is cheap these days, especially for audio sized files. Why compress? Heck, why stream? The issues of "consumer digital" has always been skewed to the quick and easy, with sound being compromised as a result. Using USB for instance for DAC's, or computer outputs with less than stellar audio interfaces. Ear buds?! Really?! At home? You know how many times I have listened to music on my smartphone? Umm ... never. It's not that I'm a snob ... it's just all this sounds really bad.

And that "inmate engineer" who says higher than 20 bit is pointless ... well ... he would never be hired by me. Probably never listened to music on anything better than under-powered 30 year old Yamaha NS-10's.

And if I hear the name Nyquist one more time I'm gonna punch my dog.

(PS: I don't actually have a dog).

 

RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on October 25, 2020 at 10:05:19
John Elison
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The problem might be with the particular recording. If nothing sounds good from YouTube, then it's probably your DAC and stereo system. I play YouTube from my Oppo BDP-105D through an external Mytek Brooklyn Bridge DAC into my main stereo system and I've found quite a lot of excellent sounding music.

Best regards,
John Elison


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RE: Why do most digital recordings online sound bad?, posted on November 10, 2020 at 00:58:30
fantja
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Posts: 13591
Location: Alabama
Joined: September 11, 2010
Too much compression.

 

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