Question about quality audio and the weakest link

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protagonist
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Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

Back in ancient times, when people were forced to listen to music on records and CDs, I had a really good sound system. I still do. But now I also have a second home that I need to furnish.

And 95% of the time I listen to music downloaded on or streamed to my phone, that I still play through my very good (though somewhat outdated) sound system. I'm a 21st century man.

My question...given my current 21st century listening habits, is there any point in having high end stereo equipment when you are playing downloaded music from your phone, given that a system is only as good as its weakest link?

And if not (which I suspect), what is a reasonable level of equipment, beyond which the advantages of having better stuff are pretty negligible when listening to music downloaded on a cell phone and transmitted by Bluetooth?
Dregob
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by Dregob »

protagonist wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:30 pm Back in ancient times, when people were forced to listen to music on records and CDs, I had a really good sound system. I still do. But now I also have a second home that I need to furnish.

And 95% of the time I listen to music downloaded on or streamed to my phone, that I still play through my very good (though somewhat outdated) sound system. I'm a 21st century man.

My question...given my current 21st century listening habits, is there any point in having high end stereo equipment when you are playing downloaded music from your phone, given that a system is only as good as its weakest link?

And if not (which I suspect), what is a reasonable level of equipment, beyond which the advantages of having better stuff are pretty negligible when listening to music downloaded on a cell phone and transmitted by Bluetooth?
Most likely the weakest link is your (my) hearing.
02nz
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by 02nz »

The major streaming services are capable of delivering something near high-fidelity. There are even lossless services (like Tidal Hifi) that will deliver the exact same bits as your CD player did of the same album. So streaming doesn't have to be the weakest link.

If you transmit via Bluetooth, that will diminish audio quality, but the hit is minimal if using AAC or AptX, and of course you can avoid it altogether by streaming via wifi (e.g., Airplay, Chromecast, Sonos).

The reason I wouldn't bother with a traditional stereo isn't that streaming audio would be the weakest link, it's that for all but a few, the convenience of something like Sonos or Nest Audio (or LS50 Wireless at the high end) far outweighs any sonic advantages of a traditional stereo. Right now you can get a pair of Nest Audio speakers for $120. It's very, very decent sound, that you cannot get with traditional stereo components for anywhere near that price.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by cacophony »

If you care about audio quality, the two things that make the biggest difference are:

1. Speakers
and
2. Room (dimensions, reflections, placement of speakers)

Beyond that you obviously need an amp with specs that are capable of driving your speaker selection, but that's usually straightforward.

That's what makes a big difference in terms of audio reproduction. Everything else is minor in comparison.

So yes, streaming music from your cell phone via bluetooth to a good speaker/room setup is going to sound significantly better than what most people experience.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by jabberwockOG »

Speakers are the mission critical link. Take the time to research and find the speakers that sound the most musical to your ears. Lots of variety out there to choose from and it's very user specific.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by squirm »

The weakest link will be your age, your hearing suffers the older we get.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

02nz wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:51 pm The major streaming services are capable of delivering something near high-fidelity. There are even lossless services (like Tidal Hifi) that will deliver the exact same bits as your CD player did of the same album. So streaming doesn't have to be the weakest link.

If you transmit via Bluetooth, that will diminish audio quality, but the hit is minimal if using AAC or AptX, and of course you can avoid it altogether by streaming via wifi (e.g., Airplay, Chromecast, Sonos).

The reason I wouldn't bother with a traditional stereo isn't that streaming audio would be the weakest link, it's that for all but a few, the convenience of something like Sonos or Nest Audio (or LS50 Wireless at the high end) far outweighs any sonic advantages of a traditional stereo. Right now you can get a pair of Nest Audio speakers for $120. It's very, very decent sound, that you cannot get with traditional stereo components for anywhere near that price.
Fully onboard with all of this.

Also the equipment stack is nearly all integrated now, so there is even fewer 'links' to consider.

For me the wireless modularity of Sonos is amazing for covering the entire house
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by chris319 »

Do you want the Ultimate Listening Experience which will bring the concert into your living room, or do you want a satisfying listening experience at a reasonable price?

I have 50 years of experience as a broadcast engineer. I bought a pair of small Bose computer speakers which we used at our TV station. Unfortunately they are now discontinued. For the price they are amazing. I listen to everything from streaming classical radio stations to shortwave and AM DX broadcasts and the listening experience is perfectly satisfying.

Speakers make all the difference and there is no limit to the amount of money you can pour into that rabbit hole. There comes a point of diminishing returns where the improvement in listening experience is incremental relative to the amount of money spent. In today's world of digital compression you are at the mercy of the content creator. According to listening tests I've seen, it's just about impossible to distinguish mp3 audio at 256 Kbps from PCM (wav) audio. The higher the bit rate the better the audio quality, but that's out of your control.

Given that my Bose speakers have been discontinued, you could give these a try without breaking the bank. Put the money you don't spend on audio equipment into your favorite ETF.

https://www.amazon.com/KRK-Classic-Prof ... r=1-3&th=1
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

hunoraut wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 4:28 am

For me the wireless modularity of Sonos is amazing for covering the entire house

Are you referring to their sound bar/surround products or something simple like the Sonos One?
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

chris319 wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:40 am
Given that my Bose speakers have been discontinued, you could give these a try without breaking the bank. Put the money you don't spend on audio equipment into your favorite ETF.

https://www.amazon.com/KRK-Classic-Prof ... r=1-3&th=1
This looks like an interesting product.

They are advertised as "studio monitor speakers"..... But how well would they work for home audio, playing the 10,000 or so downloaded songs I have loaded on my cell phone? (I presume I would need a Bluetooth transmitter). I also assume because they are powered, they do not require an amp, correct? Would these compare favorably to, say, a pair of Sonos Ones?

Also, how would a pair of these combined with a subwoofer compare with a similarly priced soundbar system for home theater (TV)? I imagine the lack of a central channel might not be as good for human voice....

Thanks.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by chris319 »

The KRK's do not require an audio power amp but do require an AC power connection as well as a two-channel analog audio feed. I plug my Bose speakers directly into my motherboard's analog line output.

If they're good enough for a recording studio I'm sure they're good enough for your home unless you're building a full-blown home theater.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 7:11 am
Are you referring to their sound bar/surround products or something simple like the Sonos One?
All of it. As a single standalone unit, the Sonos One is really good.

In my living room, I have them serving as rear fill in a surround system along with the main soundbar as front soundstage + subwoofer.

In other rooms, I have them operating as a stereo pair. And in other spaces, you can just use them standalone if you dont need the stereo image or volume. They also make other speakers for outdoors, or blending in with decor, etc.

The value is that you can direct the music from room to room using your phone. The speakers are all connected directed to the internet, so they get the audio from the source, without dependency on your phone and the lower bandwidth of the bluetooth protocol.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by chris319 »

If a bluetooth channel has a bandwidth of 1 MHz and your mp3 is 320 Kbps, where is the limitation?
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

chris319 wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:24 am If a bluetooth channel has a bandwidth of 1 MHz and your mp3 is 320 Kbps, where is the limitation?
One is a frequency and the other is a data rate, so I dont know what you're trying to say with that.

Either way, BT transmission:

(1) requires the audio stream to be re-encoded
(2) limited to 48khz sampling freq and something like 300kb/s bitrate (most common SBC on BT4.x)
(3) limited to single output device
(4) reliant on quality of signal from playback device to receiving device


contrary, a device that is directly connected to web - such as google's or amazon's or sonos' - can pull higher fidelity files and doesnt need the phone for anything but selecting the song. big difference.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by 02nz »

hunoraut wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:16 am As a single standalone unit, the Sonos One is really good.
I have a pair of the non-smart (SL) version of the Ones, they are indeed very good. Essential to get a pair for stereo effect / soundstage. They're $400 for the pair - and at that price, for a second home, I'd probably just get the Nest Audio ($120/pair), which are just about as good.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

02nz wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:00 am I have a pair of the non-smart (SL) version of the Ones, they are indeed very good. Essential to get a pair for stereo effect / soundstage. They're $400 for the pair - and at that price, for a second home, I'd probably just get the Nest Audio ($120/pair), which are just about as good.
The Ikea Symfonisk is a good alternative too in a smaller room, and the rectangular form factor with multi-colored shell and cover might even look better aesthetically depending on the decor
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

hunoraut wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:16 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 7:11 am
Are you referring to their sound bar/surround products or something simple like the Sonos One?
All of it. As a single standalone unit, the Sonos One is really good.

In my living room, I have them serving as rear fill in a surround system along with the main soundbar as front soundstage + subwoofer.

In other rooms, I have them operating as a stereo pair. And in other spaces, you can just use them standalone if you dont need the stereo image or volume. They also make other speakers for outdoors, or blending in with decor, etc.

The value is that you can direct the music from room to room using your phone. The speakers are all connected directed to the internet, so they get the audio from the source, without dependency on your phone and the lower bandwidth of the bluetooth protocol.
That said, if you have music downloaded on your phone can you transmit it over your home wifi network to the speakers?
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by onourway »

protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:19 am
hunoraut wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:16 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 7:11 am
Are you referring to their sound bar/surround products or something simple like the Sonos One?
All of it. As a single standalone unit, the Sonos One is really good.

In my living room, I have them serving as rear fill in a surround system along with the main soundbar as front soundstage + subwoofer.

In other rooms, I have them operating as a stereo pair. And in other spaces, you can just use them standalone if you dont need the stereo image or volume. They also make other speakers for outdoors, or blending in with decor, etc.

The value is that you can direct the music from room to room using your phone. The speakers are all connected directed to the internet, so they get the audio from the source, without dependency on your phone and the lower bandwidth of the bluetooth protocol.
That said, if you have music downloaded on your phone can you transmit it over your home wifi network to the speakers?
Yes.

The advantage of modern smart speakers like Sonos (and sadly, the discontinued HomePod) is not only the convenience, but that they are designed to adapt to a wide variety of placements, and provide room filling sound. Studio monitors, high end two channel systems, etc. are undoubtedly better in their intended application - being seated in the sweet spot directly in front of them. They often sound markedly worse than a modern 'lifestyle' speaker of high quality when placement and/or listening position is less than ideal.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by chris319 »

(2) limited to 48khz sampling freq and something like 300kb/s bitrate (most common SBC on BT4.x)
You just proved my point.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by 02nz »

onourway wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:25 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:19 am
hunoraut wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:16 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 7:11 am
Are you referring to their sound bar/surround products or something simple like the Sonos One?
All of it. As a single standalone unit, the Sonos One is really good.

In my living room, I have them serving as rear fill in a surround system along with the main soundbar as front soundstage + subwoofer.

In other rooms, I have them operating as a stereo pair. And in other spaces, you can just use them standalone if you dont need the stereo image or volume. They also make other speakers for outdoors, or blending in with decor, etc.

The value is that you can direct the music from room to room using your phone. The speakers are all connected directed to the internet, so they get the audio from the source, without dependency on your phone and the lower bandwidth of the bluetooth protocol.
That said, if you have music downloaded on your phone can you transmit it over your home wifi network to the speakers?
Yes.

The advantage of modern smart speakers like Sonos (and sadly, the discontinued HomePod) is not only the convenience, but that they are designed to adapt to a wide variety of placements, and provide room filling sound. Studio monitors, high end two channel systems, etc. are undoubtedly better in their intended application - being seated in the sweet spot directly in front of them. They often sound markedly worse than a modern 'lifestyle' speaker of high quality when placement and/or listening position is less than ideal.
I'd add that speakers like the Nest Audio have a level of engineering and DSP sophistication that no traditional speakers (powered or not) can begin to match for anywhere near the cost. That's why you get sound for $120 that would probably otherwise require at least $500, possibly more, to match. Here's an article with some nitty-gritty on the Nest Audio: https://thenextweb.com/news/review-goog ... o-prove-it
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

chris319 wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:41 am
(2) limited to 48khz sampling freq and something like 300kb/s bitrate (most common SBC on BT4.x)
You just proved my point.
Your point was technically wrong, and practically incompletely - there are other limitations imposed by BT
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by quantAndHold »

If you want true audiophile quality, you probably want audiophile quality speakers and a receiver, then connect your phone, using a wire, to the receiver, and play the more high quality streams.

That said, the last time we moved, I replaced all of my big stuff with a pair of Polk bookshelf speakers and a $400 Marantz receiver. I spent some time placing the speakers in the room, but once I did that, I don’t miss the old stuff at all. I’m sure I could do the same thing with something like a Sonos Amp instead of the receiver, but I still get CD’s from the library, and I wanted to be able to play them.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:19 am That said, if you have music downloaded on your phone can you transmit it over your home wifi network to the speakers?
Yes, it operates over the network. If the files are on your phone (or on another storage/computing device on the network), itll use the stable network to grab the files bit for bit.

And if the music is streamed, itll stream directly from source, without taking it from your phone and re-compressing it to transmit over bluetooth
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by nisiprius »

(Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by Doctor Rhythm »

The acoustic / biological realm is a much more variable and therefore “weaker” link than the electric /digital world. So speakers, room acoustics, and your aging ears will have an easily perceived influence on sound quality unlike sample rates, digital-to-analog converters, amplifiers, and interconnects.

Personally, I gave up on high fidelity for that reason. What’s the point of buying expensive speakers with a flat frequency response when my middle-aged, rock-n’-roll damaged ears roll off everything above 4 kHz? A speaker with a marked presence peak or weak bass/mids would give me a more “accurate” presentation. Also, did you know that “normal” hearing is different for men and women at a given age? That sex difference alone is several dB greater than what different steaming bit-rates produce. And what about room acoustics, including dimensions, carpeting vs. wood floors, and the glass coffee table in front of my couch? Examples here and here. And how about the Fletcher-Munson effect, which makes your perception of low and high frequency vary drastically with how loud you play your music? In the end, these factors swamp the minor effects between electronic components. Buy high-end if it makes you feel better (I’m told that hanging a price tag over the tweeter dramatically improves sound quality), but don’t fool yourself that you’re hearing the music more accurately.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by inbox788 »

protagonist wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:30 pmMy question...given my current 21st century listening habits, is there any point in having high end stereo equipment when you are playing downloaded music from your phone, given that a system is only as good as its weakest link?
Surround sound has been mainly for movies, but I'm now a fan of Atmos (3D spacial audio) for music. So for most, entire systems are the weakest link. So far, I've only listened to a few Atmos enabled streams on Apple Music and headphones/earbuds, but looked into what it takes to bring it to the open and it's not easy. Every link starting from the source can be improved, depends on what you want to prioritize and your budget.

https://support.tidal.com/hc/en-us/arti ... tmos-Music

How are you connecting your phone to your speakers? Bluetooth? WiFi? Are you using a DAC?
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by bloom2708 »

For a 2.1 system, start with Digital Analog Converter. One with treble and bass controls.

A speaker pair (floor or bookshelf) and subwoofer complete the system.

There are many price ranges.

Apple Music has high quality options now over Wi-Fi. Other services do as well.

I have a Denon PMA-600NE amp. Tone controls allow you to get the sound you prefer. I would call this a good entry point.

ELAC floor speakers and an ELAC sub.

Not high end. ~$1,000 for the three components.

With more budget you can get better components. It is a fun hobby.

Some day I will have a pair of Tannoy Legacy Cheviot or Arden. A person has to dream a little.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by eddot98 »

Other folks have commented on the quality of streaming audio vs mp3 vs cd, etc. I have nothing to add to that.
Although I have heard the Sonos 1, usually in a restaurant or bar, and I have been impressed with their sound, IMHO they are hardly a substitute for a medium quality receiver, a decent turntable, an Echo Dot connected to one set of the receiver’s inputs, and reasonable quality speakers. The Sonos might be easier to use, but I have no experience with them. Our current home stereo has a mid power Sony receiver, an AR turntable, a Sony CD player, an Echo Dot connected by a wire to a set of high inputs on the receiver, and a set of Bose AM-5 2.1 speakers. While some folks deride the sound of Bose speakers, I doubt that any Sonos setup could come close to the sound of our “old school” system. At any time, I could switch the Echo Dot out and connect my old iPhone 6 to the receiver and stream from any service that I wished to subscribe to: Apple Music, Tidal, LixeXLive, etc.
I am aware that there are now Internet connected receivers available, but I haven’t researched them as I am happy with the system that we have now. Maybe it’s something to think about……
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by eddot98 »

nisiprius wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:28 pm (Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
I tend to agree, but headphone listening becomes tiresome for me after an hour or so. I don’t even need to spend $150 as my $35 Koss PortaPro’s sound pretty darn good. So do my old Sennheiser HD424’s, if I could only keep the sponge ear cushions from degenerating.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

nisiprius wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:28 pm (Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
$150 in '69 would be about $1000 today.

The best speakers mentioned in this thread still prob. cost less than $1000. *giggle*
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protagonist
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

OP here.
I decided on a Sonos Beam, gen.2, $450.

I will try adding some of these Symphonisk things from (gasp) Ikea: https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/25/2072 ... view-sound
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by 02nz »

bloom2708 wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:10 pm For a 2.1 system, start with Digital Analog Converter. One with treble and bass controls.

A speaker pair (floor or bookshelf) and subwoofer complete the system.

There are many price ranges.

Apple Music has high quality options now over Wi-Fi. Other services do as well.

I have a Denon PMA-600NE amp. Tone controls allow you to get the sound you prefer. I would call this a good entry point.

ELAC floor speakers and an ELAC sub.

Not high end. ~$1,000 for the three components.

With more budget you can get better components. It is a fun hobby.

Some day I will have a pair of Tannoy Legacy Cheviot or Arden. A person has to dream a little.
A standalone digital-analog converter is very, very niche audio hardware. And I'm pretty sure I haven't come across one with bass and treble controls, so perhaps you're confusing it with something else.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by 02nz »

protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:12 pm OP here.
I decided on a Sonos Beam, gen.2, $450.

I will try adding some of these Symphonisk things from (gasp) Ikea: https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/25/2072 ... view-sound
Keep an eye out for Black Friday specials. Sonos tends to put their stuff on sale around Black Friday / Cyber Monday, but only very briefly. You may be able to get a price adjustment. I have the Beam and am not the biggest fan - ok for TV sound but not for music. I would keep my eyes out for the Arc.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by Bungo »

02nz wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:51 pm The major streaming services are capable of delivering something near high-fidelity. There are even lossless services (like Tidal Hifi) that will deliver the exact same bits as your CD player did of the same album. So streaming doesn't have to be the weakest link.
In fact, some of the streaming services offer high-res streams, up to 192kHz/24 bits, so significantly more bits than traditional CDs which are 44.1kHz/16 bits. Whether this translates to an audible difference is a subject of debate even among audiophiles.

My current setup, Qobuz lossless streaming service -> Bluesound Node 2i streamer -> Focal Arche DAC/headphone amp -> Focal Stellia headphones, is giving me the best audio quality of any system I've owned in 30+ years as an audio enthusiast. I don't even own a CD player anymore, except the one in my computer, as I've ripped all of my CDs to lossless FLAC files.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by Bungo »

protagonist wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:30 pm My question...given my current 21st century listening habits, is there any point in having high end stereo equipment when you are playing downloaded music from your phone, given that a system is only as good as its weakest link?

And if not (which I suspect), what is a reasonable level of equipment, beyond which the advantages of having better stuff are pretty negligible when listening to music downloaded on a cell phone and transmitted by Bluetooth?
What's the bitrate of the downloaded music on your phone? If they are ancient 128kbps MP3s (e.g. something you bought from iTunes 15 years ago), then they are going to be by far the weakest link. If they're reasonably modern, say 256kbps AAC or 320kbps MP3, then you should be able to achieve good results even with a Bluetooth link if you're using a decent Bluetooth codec. With an external DAC connected directly to your phone and to your audio system you'll achieve even better results.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by carguyny »

Bungo wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:50 pm
02nz wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:51 pm The major streaming services are capable of delivering something near high-fidelity. There are even lossless services (like Tidal Hifi) that will deliver the exact same bits as your CD player did of the same album. So streaming doesn't have to be the weakest link.
In fact, some of the streaming services offer high-res streams, up to 192kHz/24 bits, so significantly more bits than traditional CDs which are 44.1kHz/16 bits. Whether this translates to an audible difference is a subject of debate even among audiophiles.

My current setup, Qobuz lossless streaming service -> Bluesound Node 2i streamer -> Focal Arche DAC/headphone amp -> Focal Stellia headphones, is giving me the best audio quality of any system I've owned in 30+ years as an audio enthusiast. I don't even own a CD player anymore, except the one in my computer, as I've ripped all of my CDs to lossless FLAC files.
+1 - I use a Bluesound Node on one of my rooms replacing my source where I used to have a CD player and Vinyl. I also picked up a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless IIs last year for the living room. Plan on getting some Beolabs 28 soon too for which room I don't know yet, hahaha.

Once you start hi res streaming it's hard to go back.
hunoraut
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

eddot98 wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:15 pm Although I have heard the Sonos 1, usually in a restaurant or bar, and I have been impressed with their sound, IMHO they are hardly a substitute for a medium quality receiver, a decent turntable, an Echo Dot connected to one set of the receiver’s inputs, and reasonable quality speakers.
The One is their compact modular piece. In use-case it's the rough equivalent of a bookshelf speaker. For using as primary speaker filling a large room, where one might have bought standing loudspeaker, it's closer to the job of the Five.
02nz wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:34 pm A standalone digital-analog converter is very, very niche audio hardware. And I'm pretty sure I haven't come across one with bass and treble controls, so perhaps you're confusing it with something else.
Agreed. Extremely rare in a headphone combo DAC. And never seen it home DAC, where it would be paired with amplifier which provides the freq controls.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by lazydavid »

protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:06 pm
nisiprius wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:28 pm (Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
$150 in '69 would be about $1000 today.

The best speakers mentioned in this thread still prob. cost less than $1000. *giggle*
And speakers that sound as good as a $1000 pair of headphones will run you about $3-5k, not including a separate amp. Still giggling? :P

My critical listening is done on a pair of Focal Clears that I love. $1000 for the cans, $500 for the DAC/Amp to run them (A sub-$200 DAC/Amp would be fine here, I just like this one), so $1500 all-in. If I wanted to fill a room with similar quality, it'd probably be Klipsch Heresy IV speakers ($3200) hooked up to a Naim Atom streaming amplifier ($3300), so $6500 all-in.
28fe6
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by 28fe6 »

cacophony wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:54 pm If you care about audio quality, the two things that make the biggest difference are:

1. Speakers
and
2. Room (dimensions, reflections, placement of speakers)

Beyond that you obviously need an amp with specs that are capable of driving your speaker selection, but that's usually straightforward.

That's what makes a big difference in terms of audio reproduction. Everything else is minor in comparison.

So yes, streaming music from your cell phone via bluetooth to a good speaker/room setup is going to sound significantly better than what most people experience.
I agree with this, except I would put room first, and speakers/amp in close second.

A phone playing streamed music is not even close to being the weak link unless you literally have a recording studio quality environment.
eddot98
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by eddot98 »

hunoraut wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 8:05 am
eddot98 wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:15 pm Although I have heard the Sonos 1, usually in a restaurant or bar, and I have been impressed with their sound, IMHO they are hardly a substitute for a medium quality receiver, a decent turntable, an Echo Dot connected to one set of the receiver’s inputs, and reasonable quality speakers.
The One is their compact modular piece. In use-case it's the rough equivalent of a bookshelf speaker. For using as primary speaker filling a large room, where one might have bought standing loudspeaker, it's closer to the job of the Five.
I have not heard the Five, but I did look up it’s price and it’s $550. I realize that it’s a stereo speaker, but with separation of less than 2 feet, aren’t you just listening to mono? Or stereo with a very narrow sound stage? For stereo with a reasonably wide sound stage, you would have to spend another $550. Or am I incorrect?
Audioarc
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by Audioarc »

The source is the weakest link. MP3, Pandora and AM radio for example, will sound inferior no matter what the system is.
WiFi streaming is better sounding than Bluetooth streaming. High quality files and high quality streaming services are capable of sounding very good on a qualty budget or high end system. After the source it’s up to the speakers and electronics. Sonos is quite good. You have the option of self contained powered speakers, an amp that powers separate speakers or a port that connected to an amp and speakers. Also it’s a multi room system.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by Audioarc »

Duplicate. Sorry
Topic Author
protagonist
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

02nz wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:35 pm
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:12 pm OP here.
I decided on a Sonos Beam, gen.2, $450.

I will try adding some of these Symphonisk things from (gasp) Ikea: https://www.theverge.com/2019/7/25/2072 ... view-sound
Keep an eye out for Black Friday specials. Sonos tends to put their stuff on sale around Black Friday / Cyber Monday, but only very briefly. You may be able to get a price adjustment. I have the Beam and am not the biggest fan - ok for TV sound but not for music. I would keep my eyes out for the Arc.
Thanks. I have been doing so. Nothing yet.

Sorry to hear about your experience with the Beam. Gives me second thoughts. I ordered it based on reviews.
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protagonist
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

Bungo wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:57 pm
protagonist wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:30 pm My question...given my current 21st century listening habits, is there any point in having high end stereo equipment when you are playing downloaded music from your phone, given that a system is only as good as its weakest link?

And if not (which I suspect), what is a reasonable level of equipment, beyond which the advantages of having better stuff are pretty negligible when listening to music downloaded on a cell phone and transmitted by Bluetooth?
What's the bitrate of the downloaded music on your phone? If they are ancient 128kbps MP3s (e.g. something you bought from iTunes 15 years ago), then they are going to be by far the weakest link. If they're reasonably modern, say 256kbps AAC or 320kbps MP3, then you should be able to achieve good results even with a Bluetooth link if you're using a decent Bluetooth codec. With an external DAC connected directly to your phone and to your audio system you'll achieve even better results.
Good point. Most of them are pretty old, likely lower bitrate. Many go back to Napster days. Remember Napster?
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protagonist
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

lazydavid wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 8:16 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:06 pm
nisiprius wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:28 pm (Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
$150 in '69 would be about $1000 today.

The best speakers mentioned in this thread still prob. cost less than $1000. *giggle*
And speakers that sound as good as a $1000 pair of headphones will run you about $3-5k, not including a separate amp. Still giggling? :P

Yes, I know...I was just playing with Nisi.
In my primary home I have a pair of Vandersteen speakers that I bought in the 80s and are still great, with a very good sound amp/preamp combo that only takes stereo jacks. I even got sold on high end speaker cable back in the 80s, that probably cost more in 2021 dollars than a Sonos arc would today . I had to buy a bluetooth transmitter so that I could listen to the music on my phone through my system.
But these days I am more about convenience, despite the fact that I am a musician. It's just so easy. When records (or reel-to-reel) were the only options, the acoustics were worth paying for high end stereo. But when you can stream, or (as in my case) have 10,000+ songs on your phone, the game has changed for most of us. The 21st century is all about convenience.
hunoraut
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by hunoraut »

eddot98 wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 9:38 am I have not heard the Five, but I did look up it’s price and it’s $550. I realize that it’s a stereo speaker, but with separation of less than 2 feet, aren’t you just listening to mono? Or stereo with a very narrow sound stage? For stereo with a reasonably wide sound stage, you would have to spend another $550. Or am I incorrect?
Correct - it's a narrow soundstage stereo in a single unit , but can be paired up as a double unit. The versatility allows you to build your system incrementally as you please.

The Arc soundbar has its drivers physically spaced out, and the impression in my room is a much wider soundstage than the actual unit.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by IMO »

protagonist wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 10:17 am
lazydavid wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 8:16 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:06 pm
nisiprius wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:28 pm (Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
$150 in '69 would be about $1000 today.

The best speakers mentioned in this thread still prob. cost less than $1000. *giggle*
And speakers that sound as good as a $1000 pair of headphones will run you about $3-5k, not including a separate amp. Still giggling? :P

Yes, I know...I was just playing with Nisi.
In my primary home I have a pair of Vandersteen speakers that I bought in the 80s and are still great, with a very good sound amp/preamp combo that only takes stereo jacks. I even got sold on high end speaker cable back in the 80s, that probably cost more in 2021 dollars than a Sonos arc would today . I had to buy a bluetooth transmitter so that I could listen to the music on my phone through my system.
But these days I am more about convenience, despite the fact that I am a musician. It's just so easy. When records (or reel-to-reel) were the only options, the acoustics were worth paying for high end stereo. But when you can stream, or (as in my case) have 10,000+ songs on your phone, the game has changed for most of us. The 21st century is all about convenience.
Well if your old enough to remember reel-to-real (and 8 tracks), then honestly one needs to be concerned about age-related hearing loss. For kicks, go get your hearing tested and you may have already lost more hearing than you are aware.

My father spent significant amounts of money on high end audiophile equipment in the day. I'm not sure when the line between losing hearing crossed over the line regarding listening value of higher end audiophile equipment. I do know it's now all stored in the garage now with no functional use/value. I think the point being, keep things in perspective on cost/benefit.
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protagonist
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by protagonist »

IMO wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 2:29 pm
protagonist wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 10:17 am
lazydavid wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 8:16 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:06 pm
nisiprius wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:28 pm (Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
$150 in '69 would be about $1000 today.

The best speakers mentioned in this thread still prob. cost less than $1000. *giggle*
And speakers that sound as good as a $1000 pair of headphones will run you about $3-5k, not including a separate amp. Still giggling? :P

Yes, I know...I was just playing with Nisi.
In my primary home I have a pair of Vandersteen speakers that I bought in the 80s and are still great, with a very good sound amp/preamp combo that only takes stereo jacks. I even got sold on high end speaker cable back in the 80s, that probably cost more in 2021 dollars than a Sonos arc would today . I had to buy a bluetooth transmitter so that I could listen to the music on my phone through my system.
But these days I am more about convenience, despite the fact that I am a musician. It's just so easy. When records (or reel-to-reel) were the only options, the acoustics were worth paying for high end stereo. But when you can stream, or (as in my case) have 10,000+ songs on your phone, the game has changed for most of us. The 21st century is all about convenience.
Well if your old enough to remember reel-to-real (and 8 tracks), then honestly one needs to be concerned about age-related hearing loss. For kicks, go get your hearing tested and you may have already lost more hearing than you are aware.

My father spent significant amounts of money on high end audiophile equipment in the day. I'm not sure when the line between losing hearing crossed over the line regarding listening value of higher end audiophile equipment. I do know it's now all stored in the garage now with no functional use/value. I think the point being, keep things in perspective on cost/benefit.
I know that I have had significant hearing loss. That said, I can still definitely distinguish between various sound systems and appreciate quality when I hear it.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by nisiprius »

protagonist wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 10:17 am
lazydavid wrote: Fri Nov 26, 2021 8:16 am
protagonist wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:06 pm
nisiprius wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:28 pm (Shrug) I decided in about 1969 that $150 headphones sounded far better than the best speaker system I ever heard.
$150 in '69 would be about $1000 today.

The best speakers mentioned in this thread still prob. cost less than $1000. *giggle*
And speakers that sound as good as a $1000 pair of headphones will run you about $3-5k, not including a separate amp. Still giggling? :P
Yes, I know...I was just playing with Nisi.
I didn't want to derail the thread, but as long as it's been pre-derailed for me... another obvious point was that in 1969 a pair of decent mid-fi speakers, say AR-3's, cost about $600 a pair. And they were not the equivalent of those Koss electrostatic headphones.

The price of quality audio has gone down a lot in real dollars.

In 1969 the weakest link was the cartridge. One whole transducer has been cut out of the chain.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
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Re: Question about quality audio and the weakest link

Post by MrBeaver »

cacophony wrote: Wed Nov 24, 2021 11:54 pm If you care about audio quality, the two things that make the biggest difference are:

1. Speakers
and
2. Room (dimensions, reflections, placement of speakers)
:sharebeer
This is the right answer.

Really good powered speakers have been available for the last 25 years for less than $1000 per pair. The good ones have better crossover designs and/or DSPs. The current ‘omnidirectional connected speakers with DSP magic’ are great for parties, but lousy for serious listening.

But the room is likely more important (and certainly under-appreciated) than most everything else.

I can still personally hear the difference between a lossless CD-quality file and a 320kbps MP3 or 256kbps AAC (with VBR) file at over 40 years old. But it has to be in a quiet environment in a decent sounding room.
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