We need to distinguish between files and streams.Andrewjvt said:Then surely a photo would not print correctly Or a video on Netflix would make mistakes? It's all data at the end of the day?
Are music files so complex/temperamental that they need special treatment.
What else in industry/science etc suffers the same problems as music files?
As it's all data surely there will be other examples.
If it's only music files then we need to ask, why?
Files (FLAC, WAV, XLS etc) can be reliably moved from one place to another using commonplace technologies which detect and also correct errors. So when you transfer a file across your home network, the file is split into packets and the TCP protocol ensures that all of the packets arrive at the receiving end or an error is reported. USB has a mode which works in a similar manner, so when you save your spreadsheet to a USB drive, you can be confident that either the data will be successfully saved or you will receive an error message.
Streaming music from services like TIDAL works in much the same way as transferring files. When TCP is used and a packet is lost in transit, the streamer will ask the server to retransmit that packet. Obviously, if this happens part way through a song, the streamer and server have a limited time window in which to correct the error. Most streamers and software players use a buffer to cope with such eventualities. If the buffer empties completely, the output will normally be muted until some more data arrives.
A digital transport will typically output audio streams such as PCM or DSD sent via S/PDIF, AES and USB audio for conversion by a DAC. This is markedly different from transferring a file or streaming from an Internet service. These streams do not include error correction. Reconstructing the original analogue waveform from these streams depends on more than just having the bits arrive in the right order. The timing of the bits is crucial too. These streams are essentially just a continuous series of samples. The timing of the samples is determined by the rate at which they arrive. Variations in the timing (aka jitter) lead to corresponding variations in the analogue waveform. In modern systems there are various schemes employed to minimise jitter or recover an accurately timed signal from a jittery input signal, but every DAC I know of will have an easier time working on a low jitter input signal.
There are probably other variables in play too. Digital signals are ultimately transmitted between and within devices as voltage changes. The speed with which devices can switch voltage and conceivably also any noise present in these essentially analogue waveforms, might affect the ability of the receiving end to accurately recover the original digital signal and timing. There is quite a good primer here...