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Download quality

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Posted on July 7, 2020 at 11:01:53
Dave Billinge
Audiophile

Posts: 943
Location: Hampshire
Joined: June 7, 2005
I'm still not too impressed by the sound quality of my classical downloads. I've got plenty now, nearly all 24/96, and few seem up to the standard of a good SACD, even in stereo only. There is something slightly glassy and strained about the sound. Hard to define. Everything is decoded by the Oppo 205 and output from HDMI to the Marantz 8805 so apart from downloads coming off an attached HDD and SACDs coming from the inbuilt diskdrive there is little to choose. SACDs are largely surround of course - I suppose that might be significant.

Dave

 

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Wow, Dave - that's not my experience at all, posted on July 7, 2020 at 14:45:42
Chris from Lafayette
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Location: SF Bay Area
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February 6, 2012
However, there's a mitigating factor on my system: my downloads go through a newer equipment path than my discs do. (The discs use the DAC built into my Marantz AV 8003, which is getting pretty long in the tooth these days, while my downloads go through my exaSound DAC and then into the AV 8003 via its analogue inputs.) In general, on my system, I'd rank the platforms as follows:
  1. Downloads played back via my Mac Mini and exaSound DAC
  2. Disc incarnations (CD or higher rez)
  3. Qobuz streaming (which also goes through the same path as my downloads)
Having said this however, I want to emphasize that the differences can be quite close, and that, sometimes, the Qobuz streaming files sound every bit (no pun intended!) as good as the other two platforms. Also, I wasn't clear from your post if your downloads are mostly surround? (Most of mine are.)

 

RE: Download quality, posted on July 7, 2020 at 15:41:48
PAR
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Posts: 1430
Location: South London, UK
Joined: June 4, 2019
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  Since:
June 4, 2019
Putting aside the MCH aspect as you say that your lack of satisfaction is equally in respect of stereo material your experience does not reflect mine.

I think that there has to be something not quite right with your replay system. In fact I am certain.

Please advise what type of file download you are selecting; FLAC, .WAV or other?

I understand that your files are stored on an HDD. Please advise what brand and if self powered 3.5" or USB bus powered 2.5". These factors will have a significant impact on the sound that you hear as will the micro USB 3 to USB A cable from HDD to Oppo. I have a lot of experience with these aspects and now consider some USB HDD drives as basically unsuitable for use as music storage as their performance is lamentable.

Are you using any USB conditioners or is the HDD just plugged into the Oppo?

Kind Regards

Pete


"We need less, but better" - Dieter Rams

 

RE: Download quality, posted on July 7, 2020 at 20:23:04
Dave Billinge
Audiophile

Posts: 943
Location: Hampshire
Joined: June 7, 2005
Thanks PAR that has alerted me to several possibilities. Nearly all my files are FLAC 24/96 stereo, downloaded from Presto Classical. They are stored on a Western Digital WD2500XMS-00 250GB USB powered 2.5" hard drive. This is connected via a standard USB 1 metre lead (i.e. nothing special) to the Oppo. There are no input conditioners of any sort since I reasoned that the Oppo must buffer and re-clock the input.

The master copy of this music library is stored on the main PC and of course backed up locally and to the cloud. The WD HDD is merely a convenient device for connection to the Oppo.

My excuse for this uninspiring source is that I have really only arrived recently at a significant collection of downloads, must be 100+ by now. These have never been treated with the seriousness of my LP and SACD/CD replay.

Dave

 

RE: Wow, Dave - that's not my experience at all, posted on July 7, 2020 at 20:27:12
Dave Billinge
Audiophile

Posts: 943
Location: Hampshire
Joined: June 7, 2005
Thanks Chris. My detailed reply to PAR and a glance at your replay devices already suggests a reason for my dissatisfaction. I have been mulling over the Melco Audio products but self-control keeps getting in the way!

Dave

 

RE: Download quality, posted on July 8, 2020 at 02:35:09
PAR
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Location: South London, UK
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June 4, 2019
Dave, there are just so many possibilities to improve what you are hearing. I suspect that you must be aware that file replay is now the preferred medium of a huge number of experienced 'philes and that it would not be so if it did not sound good.

I will start by pointing my finger at the combination of FLAC files and their processing by the Oppo 205. I have tried to find any reference to the decoding of FLAC files in the Oppo 205 manual but can find nothing. The Oppo is now quite an old machine and updates have not been available for some time AFAIK. There are many postings on various audio hobbyist forums concerning the audibility of FLAC processing.There is also a very detailed article in Martin Collom's HiFi Critic magazine on the subject from a few years ago.

I have test files of the same programme material with and without FLAC processing (at level 5 which seems to be more or less standard). Subject to the replay method FLAC processed files can sound inferior. However using JRiver one can decompress the FLAC files before replay rather than on the fly. This improves things considerably and may serve to support the general feeling that this is a latency problem. I have now moved to a network streaming solution where, with this costly example, there seems to be no audible difference between the FLAC compressed and non-compressed files. BTW my test files are FLACs, just that one has had no compression applied.

Moving to the storage medium, I have never had even what I would consider tolerable results from 2.5" drives. This was my very first discovery concerning good sounding audio from file replay some years ago as I had originally envisioned a simple and space saving system based around those small portable drives. This was also where I found the problem with the supplied connection wire. I had bought the drive from Amazon and started to read the user reviews. These were not from people storing audio files but general computing users complaining that the writing speed from the device was too slow and that using a replacement cable seemed to provide a fix. So I purchased a cheap cable also from Amazon and there was an audible improvement. Later I found Audioquest Carbon in the micro USB 3/USB A configuration and that constituted a significant upgrade. If you are tempted they are normally available from stock in the UK from the excellent Futureshop online.

I then switched to 3.5" HDs using the Carbon cable ( nb: just its name, it has metal conductors) and found that these too varied in the result that I got. Briefly the best sounding by far were Toshiba Canvio.

I take your point about conditioners but much of the improvement that they bring does not relate to the digital domain but cleaning up the EMI and RFI that seems part and parcel of USB audio ( particularity regarding that 5V PS line).

Noting your temptation to buying a Melco in your response to Chris I would certainly indulge it if you have the means and if you might consider moving ( ripping) your CD collection to it. I admit that only 100 downloads does not provide sufficient justification but being able to select and play more or less your entire collection and have access to streaming services such as Qobuz from a tablet or phone is so convenient I would not go back. Incidentally my NAS is one of the Melco N1 series. In my particular case I do not use its (or anyone else's) USB streaming capabilities having access to a preferable alternative using dual AES/EBU. However this does not necessarily resolve any of your MCH requirements.

As I am confident in what I have said you can, of course, visit me and I will be happy to demonstrate each of these topics. That is, of course, subject to coronavirus lockdown rules which are less than clear on moving from a single household bubble to visits from a second ;-).

Best Wishes

Pete


"We need less, but better" - Dieter Rams

 

RE: Download quality, posted on July 8, 2020 at 03:04:40
Roseval
Audiophile

Posts: 1746
Joined: March 31, 2008
If this is your AV https://www.us.marantz.com/en-US/shop/avseparates/av8805

"Network music streaming supported via DSD (2.8/5.6MHz), FLAC, ALAC and WAV support for high-resolution, Hi-Fi listening"

You might try this option, eliminating the Oppo and maybe the culprit HDMI (can be very jittery, at least in the past it was).

If you don't hear a difference between streaming and the Oppo, the source obvious is not the problem.
The Well Tempered Computer

 

RE: Download quality, posted on July 8, 2020 at 03:16:20
Dave Billinge
Audiophile

Posts: 943
Location: Hampshire
Joined: June 7, 2005
Interesting suggestion, and I had not thought of doing that. However, a check through the 8805 manual reveals it cannot do anything but 2 channel files. Whilst the majority of my downloads are stereo, some are surround. Any solution using the Marantz networking facility is thus a restricted one.

Good idea though, thanks.

Dave

 

RE: Download quality, posted on July 8, 2020 at 04:12:35
Roseval
Audiophile

Posts: 1746
Joined: March 31, 2008
Maybe also try a USB stick.
Also limited to 2 channel but it gives you some more options to narrow down the problem.
The Well Tempered Computer

 

RE: Download quality, posted on July 8, 2020 at 05:23:09
Dave Billinge
Audiophile

Posts: 943
Location: Hampshire
Joined: June 7, 2005
Good point - can do that easily.

Dave

 

I've been pretty happy with mine, the only time I felt something was wrong was when accidentally selecting WMA, posted on July 8, 2020 at 07:34:48
jdaniel@jps.net
Audiophile

Posts: 21815
Location: No. California
Joined: December 16, 2003
It's Qobuz' default download setting, unless I need to figure out how to change it to flac or wav.

 

RE: I've been pretty happy with mine, the only time I felt something was wrong was when accidentally selecting WMA, posted on July 8, 2020 at 10:29:53
PAR
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Posts: 1430
Location: South London, UK
Joined: June 4, 2019
Contributor
  Since:
June 4, 2019
If you go to the Qobuz download store and log in ( same login as the streaming service), then open your account; " My Profile", "My Purchases" and you should find all of your previous purchases from them listed with a download button for each. From there you can download again selecting the format that you should have done originally. You select this from the menu at the top right under the heading "Format".

"We need less, but better" - Dieter Rams

 

RE: Wow, Dave - that's not my experience at all, posted on July 10, 2020 at 11:27:40
pbarach
Audiophile

Posts: 2471
Location: Ohio
Joined: June 22, 2008
I have also had no general issues with classical downloads. The first set that I purchased was the remastered Mahler 4 (Szell/Cleveland, from HDtracks). It's 24/192. There is more air around the instruments than in any of the CD issues of this wonderful performance. The only time classical downloads have sounded less than optimal was when the source materials had issues (e.g., Bernstein/NYP Rite of Spring, a great performance with shrill sound).

My "path" is streaming the files via WiFi from my home PC to an Oppo 103, which is connected via coax to a Marantz HD-DAC1. The DAC's analog output goes either to my Denon receiver or the DAC's headphone jack (Focal Clears). I've also brought the files to the Oppo on a portable hard drive, with little audible difference compared to WiFi.

 

when the source materials had issues, posted on July 10, 2020 at 13:33:21
Dave Billinge
Audiophile

Posts: 943
Location: Hampshire
Joined: June 7, 2005
Good point pbarach. I am beginning to wonder about that. Yet another instance of garbage in, garbage out. The support of others on this thread for the format send me back to the short test files from 2L that I downloaded some while back. These sound excellent played from my WD drive, stereo and multichannel. Maybe I can improve things - one always can - but I might have just hit on some less good downloads recently.

Dave

 

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