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Streaming High Res Audio

What is the best way to stream Hi-Res audio? 

Streaming Hi-Res audio can be a bit of a challenge. With so many opinions floating around on the internet and Youtube, it can be confusing to determine the best way to do it. However, look no further because there is only one way to ensure the highest quality audio streaming experience. The best method is to connect a fast streaming device with network and capable processing power to a fine DAC via an USB cable. The reason for this is due to the asynchronous USB connection, which means there will be no clock jitter or distortions as both devices independently buffer data before processing it internally. In addition, there will be no data transfer underruns over the USB connection, provided the devices used are fast enough. This advanced setup ensures that you receive the highest audio quality and clarity possible. You can easily set this up by following the technical specifications recommended by the manufacturers of the device and DAC.

Select the best DAC for your budget.

When on the hunt for a DAC (digital-to-analog converter), it’s important to keep in mind that the quality of the DAC will significantly impact the final sound quality of your audio system. Therefore, it’s advisable to invest as much as you can on a good quality DAC. Avoiding cheaper Chinese products is highly recommended, as their driver software may not be as comprehensive as the driver software of more expensive options. The latter option is vital for Hi-Res DACs because Windows and Mac OS do NOT have drivers to support all their features!
An adequate DAC should come with a good internal linear power supply with two separate power supplies within, preferably with two separate toroidal transformers for the digital and analog circuits. You can expect that the more extensive and more feature-rich DACs will come with a heftier price tag. So, investing in them will prevent future regrets.
Look for a DAC that streams PCM and DSD independently, meaning, without internal DSP data processing. Multichip solutions can do this, but AKM chips like AK4493EQ, AK4495EQ, and AK4497EQ are excellent examples because they have two separate circuits inside the chip to achieve this. Technical information on AKM chips can be found on their website.
It’s worth noting that there’s no need to invest in a DAC with streaming capabilities as your streaming device will do this for you. Instead, invest in a DAC capable of PCM and DSD up-conversion, which converts to a higher bitstream (and provides better dynamic range). Lastly, ensure that there is a Windows ASIO driver available for the DAC you’re looking to purchase. Expect to spend anywhere from €1000.00 to €2000.00 on a high-quality DAC. Our top recommendation would be the Teac UD-505, but if you’re on a tight budget, try searching for second-hand Teac UD-503 or NT-503.

The correct streaming device.

Are you in search of the perfect streaming device for your entertainment needs but unsure of how to go about selecting one? Look no further as we have curated some important factors to consider to make an informed decision. Firstly, speed is key, so it is recommended that you opt for a powerful Mac or PC with either Mac OS or Windows instead of Linux. This is simply because Linux may not have compatible drivers for the necessary DACs, which you will need for optimal performance. Furthermore, your chosen streaming device should be able to easily decode MQA while still offering a seamless experience while navigating the streaming APP. A laptop or computer with an Intel I5 processor, at least 8GB memory, and MVME SSD storage is ideal. For enhanced enjoyment, consider using an Intel NUC device connected to a large LCD TV and a wireless multimedia keyboard for control. When it comes to networking, UTP or 5GHz WiFi will suffice, and there is no need to invest in expensive, so-called ‘audio-grade’ network switches as they are not necessary. Instead, direct your focus and resources towards investing in a high-quality interlink between your DAC and amplifier to get that premium audio experience.

Setup for streaming.

When you’re setting up your audio streaming, there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure you’re getting the best quality possible. Firstly, it’s important to note that Bluetooth, Airplay, and DNLA are not the best options for streaming Hi-Res audio. These protocols do not offer high enough bitstream rates, which can result in lower quality sound. Additionally, when choosing your streaming app, it’s essential to choose one that connects to your DAC using ASIO. Many popular streaming services, such as Spotify and Tidal, do not allow you to select your driver, which may affect the quality of your audio output. However, Qobuz is an excellent choice for connecting to ASIO correctly. Finally, if you’re wondering how Roon connects to the DAC, this is not immediately apparent, but using ASIO can help bypass intermediary Windows software and provide more direct access to your audio output, reducing latency and improving sound quality.

Something about music streaming services.

As part of our research on music streaming services, we have discovered significant variations in sound quality between the most popular platforms on the market. To help you understand these differences, we highly recommend trying the setup and method we have outlined above. By playing a familiar CD that has been converted to FLAC, and then listening to the same album on a music streaming service, you will be able to discern the nuances in sound quality. For instance, pay close attention to the ambience or soundstage, and the reproduction of lower frequencies. Also, if the bitrate is lower than the original FLAC file, expect the sound to be a little lacklustre. Interestingly, even Tidal’s Hi-Res audio files couldn’t match the original FLAC file reproduction, only Qobuz can offer a comparable, high-quality listening experience.

What digital audio format do you use for your audio archive.

When it comes to ripping audio CD’s, it’s important to consider the file format you choose. FLAC is a great option since it saves storage space on your device and maintains the same quality as the original CD, as it is a lossless format. In comparison, PCM and WAV formats occupy more space on your storage device. Additionally, if you have a large existing WMA database, you can easily convert it to FLAC format using one of several free tools available for download. Therefore, when considering which file format to choose for ripping audio CD’s, think about the benefits of FLAC and the opportunity to convert WMA to FLAC. By doing this, you can save space without sacrificing audio quality.