Streamer audio quality

McTrucky

Active Member
hi all,
I am confused as to whether investing a few hundred quid in a dedicated streamer will give me any better quality than I have now.

I have a Sony Android TV with Amazon Music HD that feeds my Pioneer SCLX77 amp via ARC (not eARC).
I also have a Firestick4k that plays Amazon Music HD. I may consider an alternative lossless provider if necessary, but I am happy with Amazon. (I also have Deezer which works well, but not the lossless grade - membership came with the car).

Reading a report on the Audiolab 6000N it talks about fantastic sound quallity, then it mentiones that it supports Chromecast. I thought Chromecast supported a lower resolution than lossless Amazon HD, therefore casting to the 6000N would mean a drop in quality no matter how good it was at processing the stream that arrived?

What I want to achieve is an easy to use good sounding solution - happy to use my phone or tablet (both Andriod) which I would prefer to yet another fiddly remote control, happy with no display on the device as it will be on the otherside of the room and unreadable, if there was an HDMI output, would be pleased to see album art etc on the TV, but just as happy with no video output - if control from my tablet/phone was eary. Although I would like some sort of way to identify what resolution the streamer was processing for trouble shooting purposes.

So - is there any benefit 'upgrading' to a seperate or is my Firestick as good as it gets? I presume the Firestic and TVoutput gives digital info to the amp which has twin sabre 32 DACs, and a seperate streamer would use its own internal DAC and have an RCA output to the amp?

Thanks for any input/advice.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member

What audio quality does Amazon Music HD support?

Amazon Music HD offers lossless audio in two quality ranges: HD and Ultra HD.

HD tracks have a bit depth of 16-bits, a minimum sample rate of 44.1 kHz (also referred to as CD-quality)


A Chromecast audio supports 24/96, the in-built version is likely to be at the supported resolution of the DAC in the streamer/amp. Streamers usually have the option of using their onboard DACs, so RCA out to an amp, or a digital output to external DAC or amp with DAC, so bypassing the streamer's internal DAC.
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
@larkone is correct and it's not that the Chromecast network streaming technology (aka Google Cast) itself doesn't support bog standard lossless CD-res at 16bit/44.1kHz (aka Red Book), which Amazon markets as 'HD audio quality'.

The issue with Amazon Music and Chromecast supporting devices is that Amazon have for their own reasons decided to restrict the Google Cast function on their apps to getting the Amazon Music online server to only provide their so called 'SD audio quality' streams, ie, their lower quality lossy audio streams.
 
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McTrucky

Active Member
Thanks guys, so that means casting amazon to a chromecast supporting device is a bad idea. I really need a device with amazon embedded, which takes me back to the Firestick HD, plugged into the back of the AVR as the best solution. Wish the shops were open so I could hear a comparison.
Got a money burning hole in my pocket feeling telling me I need a streamer, but do not want to be wasting my money.
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
Forgot to mention that your Pioneer SC-LX77 AVR is a UPnP/DLNA streamer in its own right, supporting the network streaming of lossless FLAC tracks up to 24bit/192kHz hi-res. So, you are fortunate in that you should be able to test listening to 'as good as it gets' without the needing to attach an external streamer to it.

All you need to do is use the SC-LX77 with a UPnP/DLNA controller app on your tablet that can provide the it access to the lossless hi-res Qobuz online music streaming service (1 month free trial), eg, BubbleUPnP (unlicensed version is free) or mconnect Player (free Lite version available for testing).
 
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larkone

Distinguished Member
+1 for BubbleUPnP
 

McTrucky

Active Member
I have Bubble already and while it has not always been the slickest interface it does work well - BUT the library it accesses does not include Amazon. I had a trial of Tidal lossless and it worked well with Bubble - but the cost of the Amazon Music HD makes it a no brainer as we already have Prime video, so it is only a couple of quid a month extra. To go lossless on Tidal or a.n.other is going to be another £20 a month.

And just to clarify another point - are we saying that streaming direct to the Amp and using the Amp's DAC will give better (or as good as) sound quality than having an external streaming device with an inbuilt DAC (something in the £400 - £500 range) that outputs analogue into RCA audio inputs on the back of the Amp?
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
My point was more to easily test out streaming with your AVR using a readily available service (ie, Qobuz via UPnP/DLNA) that currently provides lossless audio from CD-res 16bit/44.1kHz up to hi-res 24bit/192kHz, to see if it's actually worth listening to on your kit with your ears in the first place. If you do notice a difference with any of those lossless resolutions, then you could then use that as your base reference.

Given that you are keeping the AVR, no external streamer is going to make it sound any better connecting through its digital inputs and the external streamer's DAC & associated hardware would have to be vastly superior to AVR's own to make any difference in sound quality connecting via analogue input (v. unlikely in the £400 - £500 streamer range). Plus, the analogue input would be a waste of time anyway if you are using any of the AVR's DSP functions as any analogue is converted to digital.

Unfortunately, Amazon Music is not available via any third party UPnP/DLNA controllers since Amazon's policy is to only provide access to streamers of manufacturers they have struck a deal with.

BTW, if you tested TIDAL in the last few months you'd have been hard pushed to find any lossless tracks to stream. TIDAL have been actively replacing their 16bit/44.1kHz lossless original CD audio sourced tracks with lossy MQA-CD tracks also at 16bit/44.1kHz.
 

McTrucky

Active Member
Thanks Cebolla, so that gives me a good action plan. I will listen to Amazon via TV and ARC, Firestick plugged into AVR and take a trial of Qobuz via BubbleUPnP (and just for comparison some home burned flac files from cd on usb).

Current stereo speakers are ProAc and pretty nice, but just about to move home and inheriting a pair of Usher Beryllium 10s, which should be in a different league. So will leave the testing until then.
 

McTrucky

Active Member
Just an early comment on a trial of Qobuz.
Big big big improvement in usability over Amazon HD. Happy so far. Streaming to chromecast gets decent quality. DLNA direct to the amp is a breeze, quality seems fine, but need a proper assessment on that. Same prices too, about £14 a month, but we will still be paying for amazon prime non HD as that is wrapped up in the other package. Looks like Qobuz will be worth the extra in usability though. Here is hoping it works well with Android auto in the car.
Thanks for your advice.
 

McTrucky

Active Member
Loving Qobuz... Easy to use, no fuss. With the app on the Android TV, casting from the tablet is seemless. So much better than Amazon Music.

Sound wise, Bubble direct to the amp sounds clearer/sharper/courser than the same track coming over ARC. Over ARC it sounds slightly softer, some would say more musical, smoother, more refined. Others would say muffled.

The real high res stuff, 192/24, giving a stream of 8mb to the amp via dlna swamps the amp and the music pauses while the buffer refills, then empties two seconds later. But to me streaming at that resolution is pointless. Notching it down to a 4mb bitstream and it works fine through. Probably a limitation of the network port on the amp, probably a 10mb port. I remember supporting a dozen plus PC users on a 10 Meg shared office lan. How things have changed.
 

mickbirch2000

Well-known Member
I went for Qobuz & cancelled Amazon music HD despite being a Prime member precisely because the Lyngdorf has Chromecast for streaming & the Amazon app just doesnt work properly with Chromecast, I found that Amazon would stop streaming if my mobile was switched off or taken away & the streams were only CD quality max, whereas Qobuz just works as it should with 24/96 streams sounding wonderful & the search engine is superb.
I gladly paid a years subs after the 1 mth trial & love it.
 

lokyc

Well-known Member
Yea, quite disappointed with Amazon HD. Had it on trial. The library for the music I listen to is not substantially bigger than Qobuz which I am currently subscribed to. And worse, I use an Audiolab 6000N and some tracks are lower res than Qobuz (eg, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories are 24/48 vs 24/96). the interface is worse than Qobuz. I couldn't find a reason to keep it.
 

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