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Sonos vs Squeeze digital audio quality

Andy8421

Active Member
I am a squeeze user, but have just recommended Sonos to a neighbour who is an audio enthusiast, and classical music fan.

I suggested Sonos to him as he is not very computer literate, and while the sound quality of the squeeze gear is very good, I have to admit that it has been a challenge to keep it all working.

I started looking into jitter performance of squeeze / Sonos on another thread, and while the squeeze numbers are very good (the Transporter is exceptional), I did come across a number of web postings questioning the performance of the Sonos products. There seems to be an after market add-on available to tidy up the digital output of the Sonos boxes, but this looks a bodge at best.

Does anyone have direct experience of comparing the sound quality of the digital output of Sonos vs. squeeze? If not, anyone know a retailer that carries both products in the Surrey / Southwest London area?

Thanks.
 

ro53ben

Well-known Member
What kit are you listening through? Is it high end enough for you to hear a significant difference?

Whereabouts in Surrey are you?
 

delback

Active Member
I started looking into jitter performance of squeeze / Sonos on another thread, and while the squeeze numbers are very good (the Transporter is exceptional), I did come across a number of web postings questioning the performance of the Sonos products.
It's easy to think that only two things can possibly affect how a digital transport can sound: the accuracy of the data, and jitter. This is not so. One also has to consider the RFI emitted by the transport and noise on the ground plane of the digital output. Both of these can affect the DAC (and other analogue components downstream).

Jitter by itself isn't the bogeyman that many audiophiles seem to think it is. Controlled tests (Benjamin & Gannon, 1998) have shown that uncorrelated jitter at quite high levels - around 10nS - is not audible on normal music signals. (Granted that jitter in the real world is likely to be correlated and therefore audible at a somewhat lower level, but typical transports these days have jitter levels orders of magnitude lower). What's more, most DACs these days use long timebase PLLs, asynchronous SRC or buffering to vastly reduce their suceptibility to incoming jitter.
 

nacmacfeegle

Distinguished Member
It's easy to think that only two things can possibly affect how a digital transport can sound: the accuracy of the data, and jitter. This is not so. One also has to consider the RFI emitted by the transport and noise on the ground plane of the digital output. Both of these can affect the DAC (and other analogue components downstream).

Cheers delback, thats interesting and correlates well with my own suspicions and experience of a very cheap digital transport (80 quid movie streamer vs an SB), and very basic listening tests. Yours is the best explanation I've seen of the difference I was puzzled by. It also ties in with reports of digital output differences on the SB Touch when using a local USB.
 

Andy8421

Active Member
What kit are you listening through? Is it high end enough for you to hear a significant difference?

Whereabouts in Surrey are you?

Krell / Martin Logan for me, my neighbour is a Naim amp / Linn speaker guy. Should be able to resolve differences if there are any.

I am south of Guildford.
 

ro53ben

Well-known Member
Krell / Martin Logan for me, my neighbour is a Naim amp / Linn speaker guy. Should be able to resolve differences if there are any.

I am south of Guildford.

Well, I don't know of any dealer that sells both but if you fancied a house guest I could potentially bring some Sonos kit down for us to try side by side?

I'm in Weybridge, so not a million miles away.
 

mr_yogi

Well-known Member

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
It's easy to think that only two things can possibly affect how a digital transport can sound: the accuracy of the data, and jitter. This is not so. One also has to consider the RFI emitted by the transport and noise on the ground plane of the digital output. Both of these can affect the DAC (and other analogue components downstream).

The RFI has to be very bad to damage the digital stream. If there was any uncorrectable corruption, it will manifest itself in drop-outs, clicks and squeaks.

Reduced RFI/EFI and would not mean you would hear the usual clichés like "wider sound stage", "tighter bass".

The DAC does not interpret RFI (which is essentially an analogue signal) as data and try and convert to an analogue, thats not how DAC's work. Even if it did, it would not amount to less "warmer vocal", it would break the audio itself.
 
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delback

Active Member
The RFI has to be very bad to damage the digital stream. If there was any uncorrectable corruption, it will manifest itself in drop-outs, clicks and squeaks.

Reduced RFI/EFI and would not mean you would hear the usual clichés like "wider sound stage", "tighter bass".

The DAC does not interpret RFI as data and try and convert to an analogue, thats not how DAC's work. Even if it did, it would not amount to less "warmer vocal", it would break the audio itself.
I think you have misinterpreted what I was saying.

The RFI that might be emitted by a digital transport can affect the *analogue* stages of a nearby DAC (and other analogue components, such as preamps) via airborne transmission.

I agree that RFI will not corrupt the digital data stream (except in extreme circumstances).
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
I think you have misinterpreted what I was saying.

The RFI that might be emitted by a digital transport can affect the *analogue* stages of a nearby DAC (and other analogue components, such as preamps) via airborne transmission.

I agree that RFI will not corrupt the digital data stream (except in extreme circumstances).

Ok, fair enough.

But unless you had the SB/Sonos sitting on top of the DAC i doubt you would have enough interference to effect the audio in any meaningful way. RFI is easy to measure, it a test that's performed on most electric equipment when prototyping.

Even then, it would not mean that the instruments sounded better on a track, it would be something like a hum/buzz/crackling.
 

Andy8421

Active Member
Well, I don't know of any dealer that sells both but if you fancied a house guest I could potentially bring some Sonos kit down for us to try side by side?

I'm in Weybridge, so not a million miles away.

Roseben,

Thanks for the offer. I will send you a PM to see if we can arrange something.

Andy.
 

delback

Active Member
Ok, fair enough.

But unless you had the SB/Sonos sitting on top of the DAC i doubt you would have enough interference to effect the audio in any meaningful way. RFI is easy to measure, it a test that's performed on most electric equipment when prototyping.

Even then, it would not mean that the instruments sounded better on a track, it would be something like a hum/buzz/crackling.
I'm not talking about the type of gross interference you are referring to.

Small amounts of RFI can cause subtle modulations of the analogue signals on the PCB tracks. It's at a very low level, and corrupts the fine detail of the signal. Basically it's another source of noise, and effectively limits the resolution in the analogue domain. Noise on the ground plane transmitted through a non-galvanically-isolated SPDIF connection can do the same.
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
...which causes jitter due to some DAC's being able to recover the clock accurately from the bit stream. Decent DACs should recover just fine.

Basically unless the transport is extremely poorly designed, all digital out should sound equal with the right DAC. I accept opinions vary, maybe mine will with compelling evidence.

But until then, I strongly believe these issues are massively milked by the highend hifi industry struggling to prove their products really make a meaningful difference in the digital age. I realise many disagree.
 
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delback

Active Member
...which causes jitter due to some DAC's being able to recover the clock accurately from the bit stream. Decent DACs should recover just fine.
Huh? For (hopefully) the last time, I'm only talking about how RFI and ground plane noise can affect the *ANALOGUE* stages.

Yes, these factors can also affect the jitter in the digital domain, but as I said way back in this thread, jitter is not really an issue these days - modern DACs have ways of significantly reducing it, and tests have shown quite high levels to be undetectable in any case.

There is no doubt that people do hear differences between digital transports. The reasons for this are probably:

  1. Most likely: The listener's expectation that it will sound different makes them genuinely perceive a difference where none actually exists.
  2. A possibility: RFI and ground plane noise affecting analogue stages.
  3. Almost certainly not: Jitter.
But until then, I strongly believe these issues are massively milked by the highend hifi industry struggling to prove their products really make a meaningful difference in the digital age.
We agree on this point. The high-end audio industry is way out of touch with reality. (But then, it always was, wasn't it?)
 

Normal Bias

Active Member
I think the comments about ground plane noise and RFI are rather misleading when talking about comparing the 'output' from different digital sources aka transports.

Firstly you can use optical spdif (as you said) to eliminate the ground based interference.

With regard to radio frequency interference, this is not really comparing the outputs from the sources cables is it? Would you agree that if they were both encased in lead they would sound the same? Unless next door is using a hairdryer, or a truck with unsuppressed HT leads drives past. I can't see the relevance, these devices don't emit enough EMR to affect the outcome and even if they did then the choice of shelf you put the device on would affect the outcome. :)
 

delback

Active Member
With regard to radio frequency interference, this is not really comparing the outputs from the sources cables is it?
That's right - RFI from transports is not passed down the cables. But that doesn't alter the fact that the RFI still exists and is an intrinsic feature of the device.

Would you agree that if they were both encased in lead they would sound the same?
Provided it is grounded, then yes. Probably.

I can't see the relevance, these devices don't emit enough EMR to affect the outcome and even if they did then the choice of shelf you put the device on would affect the outcome. :)
The way that RFI may or may not impinge on the analogue circuitry in the system depends of lots of things: the racks/shelves on which the devices sit (as you say); the relative orientation and separation of the devices; the nature of the RFI emitted by the devices; the vulnerability to interference in the devices' analogue circuitry; etc, etc. The complexity of all the possible interactions mean that in practice it is impossible to analyse. Perhaps people who are obsessed about minimising it should place each of their devices into individual Faraday cages. (Now there's a thought: is there money to be made selling equipment racks that have grounded Faraday cages built in? :D)
 

Autopilot

Distinguished Member
Now there's a thought: is there money to be made selling equipment racks that have grounded Faraday cages built in? :D)

After some of the threads i have read in the HiFi and Separates sub forum, i would expect you would do a roaring trade, providing they are hideously expensive.
 

amcluesent

Distinguished Member
>providing they are hideously expensive.<

And TEMPEST assured!
 

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