General Audio Quality / Streaming Queries

Witterings

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Sep 17, 2020
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I'm currently upgrading some HiFi but never really looked into things like bit rates etc. and thought I'd best do so before making any decisions especially as music has so changed from the CD player.

Not exclusively but if streaming I use a mobile phone / tablet currently from Amazon Music (that could change to Spotify / Tidal) to an Echo plugged into the stereo .... I'm guessing though it's not playing the media on the phone / tablet but instead it's telling the Echo what to play which then takes the music directly from the internet?

The Dots though, can they cope with the HD Ultra or is it then playing a lesser quality version and if I put a DAC in between would it make any noticeable difference to the overall quality of sound?

I also have Chromecast Audios which I can cast to and have built in DAC's, would they be better quality / handle the higher res files than streaming through the Echo Dots.

In essence my query is will either option give better overall quality of sound and would a DAC make much difference to either of them ... if not then I'll probably consider a streaming amp but would like to exhaust the options I currently have available before considering that.
 

shipworm-archaism-recede

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Nov 29, 2021
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Not exclusively but if streaming I use a mobile phone / tablet currently from Amazon Music (that could change to Spotify / Tidal) to an Echo plugged into the stereo .... I'm guessing though it's not playing the media on the phone / tablet but instead it's telling the Echo what to play which then takes the music directly from the internet?
I think it depends upon how you interact with the Echo Dot. If you are simply using Bluetooth then the phone/tablet remains as the streamer, but the Amazon apps may hand off the stream. Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect are technologies that hand off the stream from your phone/tablet to another playback device that supports them. I understand the Echo's support Spotify Connect but I know nothing about tidal.

The Dots though, can they cope with the HD Ultra or is it then playing a lesser quality version and if I put a DAC in between would it make any noticeable difference to the overall quality of sound?
I believe only the Echo Studio supports Amazon Ultra HD music playback.

If you plug in an Echo Dot to the stereo, the Echo Dot is doing the DAC. Like all electronic products, the dots (like the Chromecast Audios) are compromises in quality to achieve a price point. They are both cheap so you can presume the DAC circuits won't be as good as a dedicated DAC costing many times their price. Even so, the difference won't be night and day. Furthermore, only you will know if your ears can detect it, no matter what the resolution of the stream.

You don't say what Hi-Fi you have, but IMO, you won't appreciate any potential audio quality improvements from hi-def streaming sources over compressed ones without a dedicated DAC or streamer with a good one built in. Whether or not your ears will be able to tell the difference between compressed and hi-res streams on a better DAC is another thing. It's also a certainty that only you will be able to determine whether or not it is worth spending the money for any improvement you do notice.

Assuming that your Hi-Fi doesn't have digital inputs, I recommend comparing the Echo and CCA with a streamer/DAC you can buy from Amazon with the option to return. You don't have to spend a great deal, you could combine a WiiM Mini streamer with a Topping E30 DAC for example and see what compressed and hi-res streams sound like compared to the dots. Get someone to blind test you and see if you think it is worth exploring further. If you do notice a difference that you are prepared to invest in, then you can draw up a list of streaming amps to audition.

Edit: correction referencing Ultra HD instead of HD.
 
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Edbostan

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Aug 5, 2021
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I'm currently upgrading some HiFi but never really looked into things like bit rates etc. and thought I'd best do so before making any decisions especially as music has so changed from the CD player.

Not exclusively but if streaming I use a mobile phone / tablet currently from Amazon Music (that could change to Spotify / Tidal) to an Echo plugged into the stereo .... I'm guessing though it's not playing the media on the phone / tablet but instead it's telling the Echo what to play which then takes the music directly from the internet?

The Dots though, can they cope with the HD Ultra or is it then playing a lesser quality version and if I put a DAC in between would it make any noticeable difference to the overall quality of sound?

I also have Chromecast Audios which I can cast to and have built in DAC's, would they be better quality / handle the higher res files than streaming through the Echo Dots.

In essence my query is will either option give better overall quality of sound and would a DAC make much difference to either of them ... if not then I'll probably consider a streaming amp but would like to exhaust the options I currently have available before considering that.
I have an Echo and subscribe to Amazon Unlimited. It plays HD tracks at no extra cost while my legacy Sonos products which feed my Onyko amplifiet take standard resolution tracks. I just need a pair of high resolution ears drums.
 

Witterings

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Sep 17, 2020
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I think it depends upon how you interact with the Echo Dot. If you are simply using Bluetooth then the phone/tablet remains as the streamer, but the Amazon apps may hand off the stream. Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect are technologies that hand off the stream from your phone/tablet to another playback device that supports them. I understand the Echo's support Spotify Connect but I know nothing about tidal.


I believe only the Echo Studio supports Amazon Ultra HD music playback.

If you plug in an Echo Dot to the stereo, the Echo Dot is doing the DAC. Like all electronic products, the dots (like the Chromecast Audios) are compromises in quality to achieve a price point. They are both cheap so you can presume the DAC circuits won't be as good as a dedicated DAC costing many times their price. Even so, the difference won't be night and day. Furthermore, only you will know if your ears can detect it, no matter what the resolution of the stream.

You don't say what Hi-Fi you have, but IMO, you won't appreciate any potential audio quality improvements from hi-def streaming sources over compressed ones without a dedicated DAC or streamer with a good one built in. Whether or not your ears will be able to tell the difference between compressed and hi-res streams on a better DAC is another thing. It's also a certainty that only you will be able to determine whether or not it is worth spending the money for any improvement you do notice.

Assuming that your Hi-Fi doesn't have digital inputs, I recommend comparing the Echo and CCA with a streamer/DAC you can buy from Amazon with the option to return. You don't have to spend a great deal, you could combine a WiiM Mini streamer with a Topping E30 DAC for example and see what compressed and hi-res streams sound like compared to the dots. Get someone to blind test you and see if you think it is worth exploring further. If you do notice a difference that you are prepared to invest in, then you can draw up a list of streaming amps to audition.

Edit: correction referencing Ultra HD instead of HD.

Brilliant and cheers for that ..... The WiiM Mini looks like it could be a great replacement for Chromecasts and has the likes of Amazon, Spotify, Tidal etc. as well as Apple compatible and looking at the numbers advertised it may work with Ultra HD as well.
 

shipworm-archaism-recede

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Brilliant and cheers for that ..... The WiiM Mini looks like it could be a great replacement for Chromecasts and has the likes of Amazon, Spotify, Tidal etc. as well as Apple compatible and looking at the numbers advertised it may work with Ultra HD as well.
You're welcome.

I just bought a WiiM Mini after reading Darko's posts about it here and here. I'm pleased with it because it brings an old mini stereo system of mine into my multi-room AirPlay setup.

It seems like a good quality product for the money. Support from the manufacturer over some queries I had was excellent too.

Be aware that the analogue audio out is not brilliant, as you might expect from a DAC in such an inexpensive product. If you want to get the best out of Ultra HD streams, you'll need a separate DAC with a TOSLINK port too.

The specs say it supports Amazon Music and Alexa, but I've never tried that.

Let us know how you get on.
 
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Witterings

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Be aware that the analogue audio out is not brilliant, as you might expect from a DAC in such an inexpensive product. If you want to get the best out of Ultra HD streams, you'll need a separate DAC with a TOSLINK port too.

Be really interesting to know how much difference an optical out straight to amp vs digital out to DAC then to amp would make ... got this funny feeling I may just try it to see and if it doesn't ... worst case I'd use the DAC on another computer to bypass a cheap onboard soundcard.
 

Witterings

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What amp and speakers do you have?

A Denon M39 DAB mini system, which has RCA and Optical I've literally just upgraded speakers from Monitor Audio BX1's to B&W 607's

I think I'm going to try the WiiM Mini streamer and Topping E30 DAC combo and if I like it just buy a 2nd WiiM for multi room as I'd much rather everything through one input in each of the rooms and it'd do everything I want it to and CCA doesn't play well with Apple and they're less and less interested in supporting CCA ... that said I'm more Android but do have both.
 

clothears

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Be really interesting to know how much difference an optical out straight to amp vs digital out to DAC then to amp would make ... got this funny feeling I may just try it to see and if it doesn't ... worst case I'd use the DAC on another computer to bypass a cheap onboard soundcard.
I had good results using a chromecast audio via optical link to a Cambridge Audio DACmagic streaming Qobuz for some time, until I got a bit tired of no gapless playback with chromecast, and that I found the Google Home network app can be a bit unstable and lose the Chromecast connection a bit too often. Overall it was pretty good though, eventually I changed to a Node 2i having had a taste of HiRes streaming. Apart from some recent ISP issues that seem to be BT specific (see separate post) I've loved every minute of it. I'm totally converted to streaming now.
 

Witterings

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I changed to a Node 2i having had a taste of HiRes streaming. Apart from some recent ISP issues that seem to be BT specific (see separate post) I've loved every minute of it. I'm totally converted to streaming now.

I did have a powernode on trial (along with theB&W 607's which I'm keeping) but I didn't think it warranted the cost against the amp I have and it made my existing speakers sound considerably worse.
I was chatting to the guy's in the shop about it and he said they're main strength is streamers, adding and amp to one was almsot a bit of an afterthought so maybe that's where it fell down ... although surprising as they're in essence NAD.

Shame as I really liked it in every other way.
 

clothears

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Nov 18, 2014
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I did have a powernode on trial (along with theB&W 607's which I'm keeping) but I didn't think it warranted the cost against the amp I have and it made my existing speakers sound considerably worse.
I was chatting to the guy's in the shop about it and he said they're main strength is streamers, adding and amp to one was almsot a bit of an afterthought so maybe that's where it fell down ... although surprising as they're in essence NAD.

Shame as I really liked it in every other way.
I have the 2020 node 2i playing through a Rega io amp into Q3050i floorstanders. I've got a fairly large room with high ceiling. The amp drives the floorstanders with ease and I think it gives a great balanced sound. The only negative is the headphone stage of the node isn't great, but my sennheisers sound great plugged into the Rega amp so its not an issue .
 

Witterings

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playing through a Rega io amp

When I took teh powernode back to the shop and said how I found it they suggested a Rega instead .... I ,ay go that route down teh road, teh WiiM should be here in a couple of days which will give me the streaming capability and in which cas may look at it then ..... although these things have a habit of snowballing.
Having suddenly appreciated the soumd / clarity of the new speakers it's made the ones in the lounge now seem lacking / muddy especially walking from one room to the another.

Ohh to win the lottery :)
 

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