I’d like to know if you find that the SQ of the best streaming services available at the moment (TIDAL, QOBUZ) sound equal than their cd-rips (same albums, same masterings). Some people say they prefer original ripped files: They say they sound more “natural” to their senses. You can even read that even good cd reproduction with good cd players betters streaming in terms of SQ. Thank you for your answers.
Depends on where the rips live. If they sit on a high-end server directed-connected to a USB DAC, IME they will likely sound better than streams pulled from the cloud but also better than those same CD rips hosted on a NAS / server located elsewhere on the network.
You can not really compare how a file sounds between CD readout and “streamed” as this intrduces many additional aspects in the comparison beyond the file vs. file view.
By using “streamers” or file based reply you simply connect a lot of additional components to your system. These also happen to generate additional noise (on the signal as well as on the ground). How many there are, how much pollution you generate etc. depends on your implementation (single box streamer, vs. fully distributed NAs storage, streamer, renderer with Ethernet and USB ….). With a good cd transport (so a device only spinning the disc and delivering the data to an external DAC) you do not get these. There would also be the discussion on which data interface to deliver the 0 and 1 to your DAC you use and how this is implemented. But there are manufactures who offer USB input and USB cables who will still tell you that their DAC sounds best connected via AES. If you want to compare how files sound then that is only valid using the same path to yur system. Otherwise the difference is not from the “files”.
I will venture out onto that limb!
I have Tidal. In Hi Fi mode, it’s not as good as CD (Oppo 205,) but in MQA mode, slightly better than CD.
SACD outperforms all Tidal modes.
I have both Tidal HIFI and Qobuz, plus probably 1000 ripped CD’s, 800 High Res titles and probably a couple hundred DSD albums.
If you took like one track and compared them then you would still be lost as most of this stuff has like 4-10 different files for which their roots were based. I found that out comparing some Talking Heads tracks as I had original CD, remastered CD, 24/96 downloads from HDtracks, Tidal and Qobuz.
In general terms this is how things shake out. If you had the same file between all these formats then the one that sounds best will be the format that requires the least amount of processing on your computer. So the order would be something like this:
Downloaded track on hard drive in AIFF format or flat file (ie not compressed).
Downloaded track on hard drive in FLAC or ALAC (ie bit true but compressed).
Qobuz since the download is in FLAC
Tidal because now you have MQA which is delivered in a FLAC envelope.
CD ripped in a flat format (ie AIFF, WAV/WAVb).
~~~ Now depending on your dac and it’s ability to convert MQA information, that may push Tidal even or above Qobuz.
Do note that when you are streaming you really need a hard line to the internet. If you are using WIFI then the sound is not going to be as good. Also if you distribute the work over the network say as a server to a renderer then of course the variables change even more.
I use iStat monitor on my all my Macs which shows core usage, memory, network, disk everything and I can see graphical representation of each over time. It’s pretty easy to gauge how well things will sound from that.
Gordon, I am not sure I understand your ranking of file formats. Are you really suggesting that a downloaded track (FLAC format) on a hard drive (16bit, 44.1 kHz) will sound better than a CD ripped to WAV or transcoded to WAV? I certainly wouldn’t expect this to be the case.
I subscribe to Tidal Hi-Fi, and I find that most streamed Tidal music sounds very nearly as good (in some cases as good) as my locally ripped CDs. I find that hi-res downloads (which I purchase mainly from Qobuz) are in many cases subtly better than their CD quality equivalents, although this is often difficult to assess because of mastering differences. However, some of my best sounding albums are CD rips that are not available (as far as I know) in hi-res format.
Lastly, I am of the opinion that Tidal MQA Masters often sound subtly better than Tidal’s non MQA equivalents when played through an MQA enabled DAC. This is also often quite difficult to assess because of mastering differences between the two.