Question DAC -improving sound quality advice -

Discussion in 'Music Streamers' started by haltny, Oct 7, 2017.

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  1. haltny

    haltny
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    I just bought a Google Chromecast music, I bought it so that I can stream Tidal to my Cambridge Audio 851D.

    Having set it up I realised that Tidal doesn't stream in MQA/Lossless unless you have a laptop connected. I changed all the settings on the Tidal app on my phone to maximum streaming quality and did some listening comparisons to Spotify premium with various types of music I like, mostly soft rock/folk/easy listening. Through the CA 851D there was, in my opinion, zero difference in quality between Spotify Premium and Tidal. Since I like the convenience of using the app on my phone to control my music streaming and have no desire to buy a new laptop in order to connect it to my DAC, to get the full MQA/Lossless experience, I will stay with Spotify Premium.

    I then did some comparisons playing Spotify Premium via the Chromecast, which was also set to maximum High Quality Output, to my usual network streamer, a Pioneer N-50 AK. Again, there was IMO no difference in quality that I could hear.

    I am not an expert on DAC's, so perhaps I am not quite understanding how they work, but if I had realised that the sound would be the same streaming from a £30 Chromecast connected to my DAC, and an expensive network streamer I would have saved myself some money and bought a Chromecast from the off!

    Has anyone experience of direct side by side comparisons of the 851D/N alongside more expensive DAC's/Streamers. I'd like to know what people thought?

    What would be the best way of improving the sound from my current set up without having to change my power amp (851W) or speakers (MA Platinum 200's)?


    Thoughts?
     
  2. drdocmatt

    drdocmatt
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    Assuming it's streaming the same source, one digital streamer cannot sound different from another, so yeah buy the Chromecast.. ;) (actually no don't it's a poor streamer for controllability and flexibility and reliability. But you don't have to spend a fortune just get the thing with the features you want (and an Ethernet port)).

    The DAC, on the other hand, is where it gets more interesting.

    Note that with Tidal premium you only get full MQA decode with specific supported streamer device and an mqa certified DAC. Whether you'll hear a difference is open to debate.
     
  3. haltny

    haltny
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    I've had only a day with the Chrome cast so early to give opinion but so far it's been reliable. I'd love to try a high(er) end DAC to see if there is a noticeable improvement, but it'd have to be a very noticeable improvement to warrant big spending
     
  4. drdocmatt

    drdocmatt
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    The Chromecast is ok delivering digital, but it's poor as an analogue source. Fundamentally it doesn't do gapless playback however so unless the method you use to drive it can work around that it's always going to be a bit annoying.
     
  5. larkone

    larkone
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    Chromecast Audio does gapless if you use the HiFiCast app or are streaming - such as Spotify. You can improve the quality of the sound with an external DAC as the CCA DAC is basic. CCAs reliability is entirely dependent on the quality and stability of your wireless signal, they are not inherently unreliable as a device.
     
  6. drdocmatt

    drdocmatt
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    Indeed, some streamer apps can work around it. But they download a new firmware on a random basis on reboot when Google decides, and features and capabilities can change. They will be orphaned by Google at some point. Like all cheap internet connected devices I very much feel like they are just a moment away from obsolescence.. for that money that's ok for most people, however.
     
  7. xmb

    xmb
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    Why not add a Yamaha WXAD-10 to your current amplifier? This includes a very high quality DAC and supports lots of streaming services all for under £150.
     
  8. haltny

    haltny
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    I'm not sure I understand how adding this to my current set up would improve upon sound quality? The more I look into it, the more I believe a better DAC is the answer. I have been reading very good things about the Benchmark DAC3 HGC.
     
  9. xmb

    xmb
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    Well, if streaming is your main interest then this simplifies the process while maintaining sound quality. Adding lots of different kit in your audio chain can end up reducing sound quality rather than improving it. So for example, Internet > Laptop > USB DAC > Amp > Speakers as opposed to Internet > WXAD-10 > Amp > Speakers. I am all for minimising paths rather than adding to them!

    Also using a WXAD-10 removes the direct physical connection from an electrically noisy laptop to your amplifier, which will also improve the sonic performance. (WXAD-10 is wireless but even if you use the Ethernet connection these are electrically isolated from all other connections.)
     
  10. haltny

    haltny
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    I see what you mean however I do not use my laptop for streaming. I just use the Spotify app on my phone to connect via Wifi to my Network Streamer, or as I will be trialing it for the next few days, my Chromecast.
     
  11. larkone

    larkone
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    You are basing those assumptions on what? You obviously do not use Google that much - you can control when things update, why would Google 'orphan' something that people are downloading and using. You 'feel' they are a moment away from obsolescence, most tech products hit obsolescence simply when they do not gain market share.

    You seem to have the view of 'I ate a steak once and it was tough so now I don't eat meat because it will be tough'
     
  12. drdocmatt

    drdocmatt
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    Do you work for Google or something? Hehe.

    Google orphaned my suite of Nexus devices, they have a new set of Chromecasts than mine. They get about two/three years updates then they're frozen in aspic. Google likes to move on fast, yet people want home audio devices to last in the region of ten years.

    Full disclosure, I have three Chromecasts, two video and an audio. They are completely adequate for the money but they are not what I would describe as a long term solution; they are fine for digital delivery on an ad hoc basis but I wouldn't choose to rely on it for full time use myself.

    Fwiw I have squeezeboxes for everyday audio. Rock solid stable and able to offer a touch user interface, app control, and no restrictions on file type or gapless and tons and tons of plugins for other types of content. Digital outputs and pretty decent analogue outputs.
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
  13. larkone

    larkone
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    Remind me, didn't Logitech drop Squeezebox and cut off all Squeezebox support without warning or have I got that wrong? :thumbsup:
     
  14. drdocmatt

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    Yep, they did, well, there was warning but not a lot of it. It wasn't a good fit to their business really. Quite short sighted of them though, looking at the money Sonos have made (and lost) since then.

    Fortunately there is a very active community supporting the *open sourced* code for these systems and it is not tied to a vendor at all. Probably the best thing that ever happened to the platform tbh, because now I can run it on any old x86/ARM box anywhere I like. (Or indeed anywhere with a perl interpreter).

    The hardware was rock solid, however, and the firmware stable and feature loaded. My squeezeboxes will run for months on end without interruption, and I've never been able to say the same thing of the Chromecasts.
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2017
  15. haltny

    haltny
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    An update. Today i went to listen to some music via Spotify on my phone, went to connect to the Google Chromecast and it wouldn't detect it. Unplugged, rebooted, closed apps on phone. After few attempts gave up and went back to using my Pioneer N50.

    I know it was cheap, £30 plus £12 for a cable, but meh! I haven't got time for electronics that mess me about.

    Google Chromecast going cheap, minimal use, unstable connection issues. ........anyone haha
     
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  16. westleyj

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    Had a chromecast audio for pretty much as long as they came out. I personaly have found it very reliable. I can count on my hand the amount of times it has played up. I think external sources(phone or network) often are to blame. The quality of yhe device connected digital is fine for me, ( connected on a arcam avr) Not as good as a dedicated high end cd player. But still good, compareable to a budget player perhaps.
     
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  17. Tomas200484

    Tomas200484
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    I am using Chromecast audio and video on daily basis without any major issues for over year now.
     
  18. larkone

    larkone
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    If a Chromecast becomes unstable or unresponsive in 99% of cases it because there is an issue with the wireless. Either poor wireless signal or interference from microwaves, DECT phones etc. Also as they are small they tend to get tucked behind equipment so they are shielded by the amp's metal case. Sort those problems out and they are very stable. Nothing to do with the actual Chromecast. Mine have all been perfectly stable since I moved them from my 5Ghz wireless back to the 2.4Ghz as that has better range.
     
  19. westleyj

    westleyj
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    Can you not get a ethernet adapter for the chromecast?
    Though i agree with the last statement. I bought a router and installed that in the hard to reach wifi spots in my house, hardwired as much appliances as possible leaving the wifi predomitatly for just phones. And my chromecast literaly never cuts out.
     
  20. larkone

    larkone
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  21. dannnielll

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    Don't your older generation Chromecast devices still work as well as they ever did? . I think the audio Chromecast in particular was a master stroke. .. it gave a new lease of life to millions of dollars or euro worth of pretty good hi fi separates, produces an audio signal, obviously dependent on source material, but better than 99.9% of vinyl, at a princely sum of 40 euro.. and all for the price of a new vinyl record or two cds
     
  22. dannnielll

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    nothing beats hardwired Ethernet for reliability, not WiFi , not power line. So I would fully agree with wiring up all the devices which will use wired connections, and leaving WiFi for the few that won't. .. the Chromecast may well need to be elevated beyond the boxes it's hiding behind, so an extension HDMI cable is a good investment.
     

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