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Cheapest way to listen to Hi-Res music?

wass1985

Active Member
I'm not a massive audiophile but I appreciate good music when I hear it. I've got nothing fancy sound system wise, just a LG soundbar with subwoofer that's hooked up to Amazon Music.

I'm thinking of moving to the next level now, what is the cheapest and most practical way to listen to high quality music. I'd like to go down the vinyl route if I'm honest but I've read you can get SACD that is just as good a quality.

What would you say is the best route to go down and what exactly do I need?
 

gibbsy

Moderator
SACD needs a specialist player, new they start at around £800 or there are some blu ray players, labelled as Universal Disc players that are somewhat cheaper that play blu ray, DVD, CD and SACD. SACD titles are expensive, no getting away from that, I would say that my collection averages around £30 per disc. Sound quality on them is superb, to my mind far better than either vinyl or CD. However playing them through a soundbar is simply a waste of money. You would really need a good set up including player, amp and stereo speakers.
 

wass1985

Active Member
So basically you need a full setup to get the most out of Hi-Res content.

How would the quality on a smartphone and some Hi-Res headphones compare with a decent Hi-fi? Is it true that smartphones are capable of reaching full bandwidth?
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
There is a half way house. The majority of Sony DVD players and Blu Ray are are SACD players also..not all but most.So 170 quid will buy a second tier Sony player..X700 There are also relatively low cost ..by now Sony Home Cinema units are readily available on the second hand market, these with alternate Speakers will be very good.Tgat is the 50 quid option
Gibbsey is being diplomatic and economical with the truth... SACD is better than CD, which in turn is better than Vinyl. Better in this context is any objective measurement
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I have two SACD players, three if you count my 4K blu ray player. I have a Marantz in my main system connected to a stereo amp and speakers. My other SACD player, a Denon which is the best of the bunch, is connected to a headphone amp and then to, usually an Oppo pair of headphones. That combination is superb and in all honesty and being less than diplomatic it will absolutely slay anything that comes through a telephone.
 

mushii

Well-known Member
You don’t necessarily need SACD to listen to HiRez music. In Fact I would argue that a 24/96 or 24/192 Studio Master recording played on similar equipment has similar fidelity to Gibbsy’s SACD’s which are equivalent to DVD-A in the physical media world. The downside is that the non physical digital media costs a similar price to physical media, be it SACD or DVD-A. The upside is Studio Master quality digital only media is more accessible than either of the physical formats.
 

wass1985

Active Member
Hold your horses lads, remember I'm a newbie. SACD is an expensive do by the sounds of it?

So it's a case of you're better off with a good CD player over than a cheap option that can play Hi-Res music? Basically you get out of it what you put in to it?

Can any streaming sites match physical media for sound quality?
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
Yes. Tidal and Qubuz both offer streaming that beats CD quality.
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
Reins holding here. There is a lot of truths here, and maybe confusing.
1. By definition of the Japanese Audio industry, Hi Rez is anything better than CD quality. Since CD means a 20 to 20.5 KHz bandwidth and 16 bit samples Cd means 44.1KS at 16 bit.
The DAT standard which is 48KS at 16 bit is therefore theoretically Hi Rez
We usually think of 96 KS and 24 bit samples as Hi Res . It is possible to use data rates of 192KS at 24 bit samples and even 384KS at 32 bit. Whether the vast majority of humans can detect a difference between standard CD and any of the Hi Rez formats is debatable. SACD is a somewhat different encoding system but might be considered around the 192KS 24 bit standard.
2. A streaming site can output files at any resolution ,and the top tiers ,which are at premium membership costs, can exceed CD standard. Although this presupposes that the files are at that resolution to begin with. Since the vast majority of recordings in the known world are at CD quality, that is the best one gets most of the time. The majority of streaming is well below CD standard and uses versions of MP3 encoding to save download bandwidth.
3. One can acquire a vast library of CD quality music,from second hand shops charity shops etc at prices of 5 to 10 cents each. New CDs are available at 10 quid an album. There is no such market for SACDs , because it was a minority interest. New SACDs will typically be slightly more expensive than new Vinyl. Outlets like Tower or HMV rarely stock SACD, so buying is usually mail order.

4. Going back to your original question, The cheapest way to listen to Hi REs music is to buy a secondhand SACD player and a few SACDs . The player will also play CDs
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
That's probably just for MP3 quality though, no? Spotify generally runs such promotions, so makes sense the others do as well.
 

chris02

Member
That's probably just for MP3 quality though, no? Spotify generally runs such promotions, so makes sense the others do as well.
Nope I have hifi and studio.
 

Hixs

Distinguished Member
Cracking deal then.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
First ... give us a hint as to how much you would like to spend?

Second ... do you need HiRes music or just really good sounding music?

Budget really frames everything.

The lowest cost option, assuming a Internet Streaming Source would be to add a modest system to your computer. I would expect very good sound quality for about £350. And there are at least a couple of ways to accomplish this.

Next would be a Network Receiver that has Network Streaming built in, though Amazon Music is pretty new so I'm not sure if that is supported, but other streaming services are. I would speculate that this would be closer to about £500 to £650 depending on how far you want to take it with the speakers.

Next is the matter of available space to accommodate the system. The second system above included a full-sized Stereo Network Receiver. Do you have some place to put that? And it includes bookshelf speakers, that are on the slightly large side; do you have space to place those?

The first system above is a USB Audio Interface combined with some 5" Active speakers with Remote Control. Of course there is room to contract this system and get it for a lower price, or expand it and get better components.

Also in the roughly £500 to £700 range would be the Yamaha WXC-50 Network Streamer+Pre-Amp combined with some active speakers. The WXC-50 is about £250, and active speaker of a good quality will range in the area of £250/pr to £400/pr, with some very good choices in the roughly £300pr range. Again relative to the speakers, you can take it as far as you can afford.

Another alternative is the SMSL AD-18 Amp with 40w/ch to 8 ohms, with Bluetooth and Optical and USB inputs, as well as an Aux in. Connect this to your computer via USB (or optical if you have it), and combine that with the Passive Speakers of your choice, and the total comes in at about £450.

Of course if you intend to add SACD (which are expensive) or a Turntable (and NEW Vinyl can get expensive), those additional elements are up to your taste and your budget.

If any of these sound interesting, we can expand on them with links to specific equipment.

But... we need some sense of the budget ...cheapest doesn't tell us much. To a billionaire, cheapest is a very healthy 6-Figures. To someone whose job includes - "Do you want fries with that?" - under £500 is more likely. But we can't know what to recommend until we have some sense of how much you might be willing to spend.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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wass1985

Active Member
I'm in the lower bracket of your price guide atm.

So really it's a case of normal CD's or streams will sound better on a good sound system than Hi-Res material on an average system?
 

mushii

Well-known Member
CD is still has the ability to sound amazing on a good system, which if you buy carefully and consider second hand will potentially get you a great sounding system. Add something like a Teufel Connector and you can add streaming HiRez audio for £125.
 

musicphil

Active Member
I also reckon you should get yourself a S/H CD based system.
Listening to Hi res and SACD against CD- you might find it hard to hear the difference.
 

mushii

Well-known Member
It all depends on where you are prepared to start. Have a look at some of the older High end AVRs. Their AV side maybe outdated but the amplifier and DAC components will still give many a budget to mid-range integrated amp a run for their money. I have an old Anthem MRX 500 on my office that I use as an amp. Original cost in 2011 was £1,500, can now be bought for around £200 used. You will be hard pushed to find an amp at that price or nearly double that price that outperforms it and has the added value of a good quality on-board DAC. Add to that a good quality Blue Ray player that is 4 or 5 years old I have an Onkyo BD-SP807 which was a THX certified player and is very good for CD (can be had for £100 S/h) and now you have the basis of a very good sounding HiFi. Just add speakers of choice.
There are lovely pair of Linn Keilidh's for sale on here

For Sale - Linn Keilidh Speakers in Cherry colour - Legendary Speakers
Asking £200 but open to offers.

For under £500 you could build a CD based system that would blow your mind. Not the prettiest in the world but you would find it hard to buy new under £2k that would come close to sounding as good (in my opinion). - This was only an example of what you could get on a budget, it is not saying you must but these components. There is plethora of brilliant second hand HiFi that can be purchased for 1/10th of the price of its original cost and although it may not have all of the modern bells and whistles is still better than anything that you can buy from Currys.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
I'm in the lower bracket of your price guide atm.

So really it's a case of normal CD's or streams will sound better on a good sound system than Hi-Res material on an average system?
That is still not helpful, as I said, one man's cheap is another man's expensive. WE NEED A NUMBER. It doesn't have to be absolute, but get us in the general range.

I suggested several systems though I didn't get into specifics, did any of those systems sound workable to you? Not just the price but the goal and the need drive the direction of recommendations.

It can be as simply as adding good Active Speakers to your Computer, though you haven't specifically said that you have a computer, but one can reasonably surmise you have something.

If you have a computer, we would need to know what OUTPUT options it has. For example, does it have an Optical Output. If so, that makes things easy; if not, that add another £50 to £100 to the budget.





If your computer does not have Optical Out, then you will have to use USB, and that means a USB DAC -

On the Low End -


On the Higher End -


A little more versatile -


Also be aware that you can use the Analog Line Out/Headphone Out from your computer to drive and amp, not the best, but certainly workable, and perhaps enough to get you started, and you can explore better options later.

Here is a full sized Receiver that you can connect to Passive Speakers -



£350 from Richers, but I think you might find the Amp for as low as £299.

Here is a Package with the Yamaha RN602 Network Receiver Plus the Monitor Audio Bronze 2 speakers -


PeterTyson.com might have the Yamaha Cheaper, and they have many Receiver/Speaker bundles to choose from.

Another low cost option, as mentioned in the SMSL AD-18 Amp/DAC/Blutetooth, many good reviews on YouTube -



This is the lowest price I've seen on this amp, they are usually closer to £130. The amp has a sold 40w/ch to 8 ohms which would have no trouble driving most common speakers.

As to specific speakers ... give us a price and we will give you some speakers.

The more you help us, the more we can help you.

Steve/bluewizard
 

wass1985

Active Member
That is still not helpful, as I said, one man's cheap is another man's expensive. WE NEED A NUMBER. It doesn't have to be absolute, but get us in the general range.

I suggested several systems though I didn't get into specifics, did any of those systems sound workable to you? Not just the price but the goal and the need drive the direction of recommendations.

It can be as simply as adding good Active Speakers to your Computer, though you haven't specifically said that you have a computer, but one can reasonably surmise you have something.

If you have a computer, we would need to know what OUTPUT options it has. For example, does it have an Optical Output. If so, that makes things easy; if not, that add another £50 to £100 to the budget.





If your computer does not have Optical Out, then you will have to use USB, and that means a USB DAC -

On the Low End -


On the Higher End -


A little more versatile -


Also be aware that you can use the Analog Line Out/Headphone Out from your computer to drive and amp, not the best, but certainly workable, and perhaps enough to get you started, and you can explore better options later.

Here is a full sized Receiver that you can connect to Passive Speakers -



£350 from Richers, but I think you might find the Amp for as low as £299.

Here is a Package with the Yamaha RN602 Network Receiver Plus the Monitor Audio Bronze 2 speakers -


PeterTyson.com might have the Yamaha Cheaper, and they have many Receiver/Speaker bundles to choose from.

Another low cost option, as mentioned in the SMSL AD-18 Amp/DAC/Blutetooth, many good reviews on YouTube -



This is the lowest price I've seen on this amp, they are usually closer to £130. The amp has a sold 40w/ch to 8 ohms which would have no trouble driving most common speakers.

As to specific speakers ... give us a price and we will give you some speakers.

The more you help us, the more we can help you.

Steve/bluewizard
I liked the recent thread with a £1000 budget.

Is a turntable really necessary though and will a good CD player rival Vinyl for sound quality?

I reckon £1000 pound all in is about right, what are the essentials?
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
I liked the recent thread with a £1000 budget.

Is a turntable really necessary though and will a good CD player rival Vinyl for sound quality?

I reckon £1000 pound all in is about right, what are the essentials?
"Is a turntable really necessary though and will a good CD player rival Vinyl for sound quality?" No. Because the CD player is already superior to Vinyl for sound quality..and neither of them is Hi Rez. There are multiple Sony SACD players available, and any of these are Hi Rez . The lowest cost is the Sony X700 at about 150 quid new. There are plenty of Sony SACD players on the second hand market, intended to drive AVRs and that combination linked to good speakers is possibly the best readily accessible sources at the lowest price.
So 500 quid speakers, 250 quid AVR or streamer, and a SacD player gets a system for under 1000 and still have a few Bob for a few shiny discs. And if you use the second hand market , ..well your performance goes ballastic.
 

wass1985

Active Member
"Is a turntable really necessary though and will a good CD player rival Vinyl for sound quality?" No. Because the CD player is already superior to Vinyl for sound quality..and neither of them is Hi Rez. There are multiple Sony SACD players available, and any of these are Hi Rez . The lowest cost is the Sony X700 at about 150 quid new. There are plenty of Sony SACD players on the second hand market, intended to drive AVRs and that combination linked to good speakers is possibly the best readily accessible sources at the lowest price.
So 500 quid speakers, 250 quid AVR or streamer, and a SacD player gets a system for under 1000 and still have a few Bob for a few shiny discs. And if you use the second hand market , ..well your performance goes ballastic.
How come you still have diehards claiming vinyl is still king for sound quality?

So you're saying SACD and even high-res streaming sites are better sound quality than vinyl?

If that's the case then I might get a SACD player instead of a turntable.
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
How come you still have diehards claiming vinyl is still king for sound quality?

So you're saying SACD and even high-res streaming sites are better sound quality than vinyl?

If that's the case then I might get a SACD player instead of a turntable.
The more honest of the diehards will describe the experience as different, and talk about the ritual and that a conscious effort must be made,and these are part of the enjoyment.. There are plenty of such postings on this website.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
If that's the case then I might get a SACD player instead of a turntable.


Worth giving HiFi Corner a telephone call asking for a deal. A few members, including myself, have bought the Denons of late and all have been very impressed. Their performance with redbooks is pretty amazing.
 

Jampot90

Active Member
How come you still have diehards claiming vinyl is still king for sound quality?

So you're saying SACD and even high-res streaming sites are better sound quality than vinyl?
I'm a' vinyl diehard' and try to offer sound advice on the matter when requested in this forum, however I don't think I have ever claimed it was 'king for sound quality'. I like it and have many hundreds of records, but I also have many hundreds of CDs and small quantities of sacd, dvd-a and blueray audio discs, so (IMHO) can comment accordingly and without bias and (hopefully) without going over ground already covered in detail by others.

So, going back to your first post; the thread title contains the term hi res but your initial post only refers to high quality, and for sure, you aren't getting that from a soundbar and sub! I'm not sure how you get Amazon Music from the ether to the sound bar but it would seem you don't have any physical media at present.

Just about any 'hifi' amp and speakers listed in the classified here will improve reproduction of what you have now, budget, space and waf permitting. Buy some together with a gadget to get your Amazon stream into them and live with it for a while before you spend big bucks. Upgrade to Amazon Music HD and enjoy CD quality at least.

Forget vinyl if you don't already have a cupboard full of records. The sales guy at my go-to hifi shop was explaining streaming to a newbie (who has a collection of 3000 7"singles and 2000 LPs at the last count) when I was in a couple of weeks ago. He described streaming as the ultimate conveniece and playing a record as 'an event'.

How much are new SACD's then, and is there a massive difference between CD?
Check out sacd prices here - they are all over the place!
I would take vinyl over MP3 quality any day despite the faff but a decent stream in CD quality (or cd discs) is hard to differentiate from hi res unless the rest of the system cost a great deal of money.

It's too soon to worry about the price of sacd discs or players.

Jim
 

mushii

Well-known Member
Leave SACD alone, it will kill you on media prices as @gibbsy has attested to. I would stick to a good CD Setup with a streamer like a Raumfeld for HD streaming. CD is cheap enough and good enough quality. Then do what I do and when you find an album that you really love, go and buy the 24/96 or 24/192 Flac or MQA version. Combine this with a HiRez streaming service and you will be more than set. Then if in a year or two you still haven’t scratched that itch, look at SACD.
 
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k-spin

Active Member
SACD prices are fine (generally) if you’re interested in classical music.

Otherwise they can be very spendy.
 

wass1985

Active Member
Just to confirm I do have hundreds of CD's at hand but streaming dominates my playing method as it's so much more convenient.

I guess if I want to listen to Hi-Res music I'm better off getting a good streamer and subscribing to Tidal. I can also get a CD player as they will still sound great using a good amp and set of speakers.
 

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