Any way to listen to wav or high bit files with anything approaching audiophile sound?
Forgive the question, but this is my first time posting on Audiogon in a few years and I'm not up on some of the latest technology. I'm doing a project where I'm going through as much music as possible for a blog I'll be creating where I find my 1,000 favorite albums of all time and ranking them. I'm most of the way through my thousands of CD's (don't do LP's), and I have decent audiophile equipment, though nothing top of the line.
For other music, I'm going to have to listen to it online or purchase a digital version of the music, as there's no way I can afford to buy thousands more cd's, or they're out of print on cd's (as much of the music I love that I don't have is somewhat obscure), or they never existed on cd. Some albums I know I won't be able to find.
First off, is there a way to legally find more obscure albums online other than illegal downloading?
Secondly, is there ANY way to listen to said music in anything remotely approaching audiophile sound quality? Does it have to be a certain file type or bit rate? I've always stayed away from digital files in the past, but now I kind of need them. Is there some kind of audiophile digital storage device where I can download music to and play it on my stereo system? I'm pretty ignorant about these things, so again forgive me, and any help would be appreciated. I don't expect the music to sound quite as high fidelity as using cd's on audiophile equipment, but what are my options to get as close as possible?
In my view, subscription streaming services such as Tidal or Qobuz that stream at CD or better resolution would be part of your solution set. Once subscribed, a PC, tablet or phone would provide access to a whole world of music, not everything, but most of what is out there. A good entry point in my opinion in terms of hardware would be to invest in something like a Bluesound Node 2i (retails for $550) and plug it into your system, much like you would a CD player, and then use your PC, phone or tablet to select what you want to listen to on your system via the Bluesound kit or some such.
Thank you, open to as many responses as I can get. It looks like Bluesound Node 2i seems to be bottom of the audiophile chain according to some here. Any in a similar or slightly higher range that are any better? Any giant killers?
Also, my intention is to use this just to listen to music for my project, and when I find music I love to then eventually buy it on cd, but it'd be nice for this phase of the project, which will last a LONG time, to listen in as decent sound quality as I reasonably can.
soulgoober, can you tell us anything about your current system and budget. The Bluesound piece in my opinion is very good entry level kit, very good value for the money, and comes with an excellent and easy to use operating system (i.e. your user interface). And if you want to up your game and are willing to spend more, it can easily be paired with a quality outboard DAC. There are other options out there, but in your position would not ignore Bluesound kit. (full disclosure, I currently have 4 pieces of Bluesound kit in the house, been Blu OS user since 2014, and have used them with and without external DACS, and used to have Node 2i in my main rig in combination with Chord Qutest. You can check out a couple of my rigs here https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/8156 and here https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/9168)
I'm confused -- you mention your own music is on CD (not LP) and you apparently consider this appropriately "audiophile" for your needs. Then you ask if "digital" files are just as good.
The thing to understand is that CDs are digital files. They are digitized at a 16 bit rate at 44.1 KHz. These digital files are simply stored on CD, just as if you bought a copy of Microsoft Excel on CD to install on your computer.
Downloaded and streamed files are also digital files, but just delivered over the internet and either played "live" (streaming) or stored on your computer's hard drive (downloaded.)
Streamed or downloaded files can come in a variety of formats from low bit rate MP3s, or CD quality (identical to what is on a CD), up to high-resolution files that are 24 bits, and up to 192 KHz, a much higher quality format than CD.
There are several streaming services that offer large music collections (tens of millions of songs) at CD quality and higher. I use Qobuz and have been very pleased with it. Tidal is another streaming service that is very popular with millions of songs.
I'm getting great sound from a Pro-ject Stream Box Ultra S2. If you put your WAV files on a USB flash drive, external hard drive, or external solid state drive, it will plug right into the back of the Pro-ject streamer and be output to an external DAC. The streamer has a user interface that allows you to see/play/control the files on the external drive
The Stream Box also connects to streaming services (Spotify, Qobuz, Tidal), Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, and any USB input from a PC/Mac, phone or tablet.
I got the Stream Box because it is supposed to sound better than the Bluesound Node, but is still easy to use. I will say that digital files played back from local storage seem to sound slightly better to me than streaming music. One explanation that I have heard is that electrical noise can be introduced into the signal path & playback from a local file has a shorter signal path.
Also, if you connect an external CD drive to the Stream Box, you can also burn CDs directly to your attached external drive.
Let me know if you have any other questions I can answer including other music streamers that I considered in that price range and how to get the Pro-ject streamer to sound even better than out-of-the-box.
It is a matter of some dispute whether there is any audible difference between a CD’s red book and “hi res” files. In blind tests, very few people indeed can tell any difference. So for the purpose of a project, I wouldn’t fret. Question - if some of your top 1000 albums are so obscure they can’t be found in Amazon’s 50 million+ track library, what’s the value in blogging about them? Whose going to get to listen to them?
Spotify, library (hoopla), YouTube. Spotify has the biggest library. Most comments here are about listening to music, not finding it. Any list you make is personal. No one else has your autonomous taste. Good luck with your project.
jazzman7 - my system is very modest just due to budgetary constraints - Outlaw RR2150 integrated amp, tube research labs modified Sony 595 multi-CD player, some decent paradigm speakers and subwoofer, audio art cables
someone said "
if some of your top 1000 albums are so obscure they can’t be found in Amazon’s 50 million+ track library, what’s the value in blogging about them? Whose going to get to listen to them?"
it's a personal project where i'm trying to listen to as much of the music in existence as possible from the genres I love (late 60's psych, 70's prog, 70's electronic, krautrock, free jazz, folk, acid folk, ambient, etc.), to figure out what my 1,000 favorite albums of all time are and then rank them. i don't plan on reviewing each album in a blog. so, it's not about how obscure an album is or not, but if I'm going to listen to all the albums form the genres I love, it's going to include more obscure ones - it's really all for my benefit, just thought i'd write about it publicly. if people want to hunt down some of those albums and listen to them, great, but that's up to them.
You didn’t mention your system, you simply said it was “decent audiophile equipment” that’s pretty broad around here. If you could be more specific, it might be easier to know if a Bluesound Node is a good bet, or something else. I do agree however, that streaming is a good bet for music collecting. It doesn’t sound as though you will be critically listening, however enjoying what you hear to establish your favorites. Something like the Bluesound Node 2i is an easy add that gets you there.
What a funny thread. Being tech heads, we're debating the quality of the streamer/DAC when we all know the source quality is most likely the limiting factor. For context, I'm listening to Bria Skonberg's COVID concert from Louis Armstrong's garden on Cal Performances' concerts at home series. I have no idea what the bitrate is or even what transport Cal Performances is using, but boy am I enjoying this concert.
For the OP, here's a possible decision tree:
Where are you finding the majority of your music? I'm a Qobuz guy and it's very good, but a lot of obscure stuff is not on Qobuz (or Tidal or Amazon HD). If you find what you want here, then by all means, spend some money on a decent streamer.
But, if you find most of it:
On YouTube (highly likely), then the quality is going to be all right. Turn on your computer and get a $99 DAC like the EarStudio and plug it in to your preamp or get some nice headphones. Enjoy the music!
On Spotify or Hoopla, same thing.
These sources are all going to give you compressed music. It's adequate to stir old memories and warm feelings. But if you're looking for more obscure than YouTube (Good luck!)
On CD's you find on eBay or at the Salvation Army, use your CD player. An upgraded DAC will make you happier with all your CDs if you can hear the difference, but I wouldn't spend $500 on the DAC unless you have a system that magnifies the bad stuff. A lot of (not all - check audiosciencereview.com if you want graphs) the $100-$300 DACs are quite good.
On HDTracks for sale, you can buy some really nice recordings, but the selection is limited. Most of the older stuff is in CD quality. There are other places where I've found really beautiful recordings, but you're not likely to find an obscure album from 1977. Same hardware rule applies, because you're limited by source quality. A better DAC than your CD transport (we don't know what it is) is probably going to help.
There will be a lot more music for sale on Amazon than will be available for streaming. The quality will probably be CD.
I think your project sounds like great fun and I have a friend who is doing the same thing during Covid. He's posting alphabetically so we can follow him. He really,really enjoyed "B" and all his old Bob Dylan and Beatles records. Most of the things we're blowing the dust off of won't be pristine and that's part of the joy of rediscovering it. PS: it's very tempting to plug a Chromecast Audio into your new DAC and sit in your chair with your laptop and cast the music to your stereo. Unfortunately, Google's implementation of Chrome browser -> Chromecast Audio is remarkably bad. Same thing's somewhat true of Apple's airplay and bluetooth. I use my Android phone or my iPad and Chromecast audio and I've been much happier. But most of all, enjoy the journey!
Unfortunately this project is flawed and doomed to failure.
Having searched quite a few sources, the consensus seems to be that around 50,000 albums and singles were released each year until the streaming era when the figure has risen to at least 100,000, some say millions - it must be a lot more than 100,000.
So, going back to say 1945, and allowing streaming at only 100,000 for ten years, that's a bottom estimated total of 3,600,000, probably many more.
Listening 12 hours a day he might cover 100,000 in a year, assuming a substantial proportion of singles. So let's hope soulgoober is young, although I will be 107 when he finishes. Happy listening!
I produce a weekly radio program of World Music and YouTube has become an invaluable tool to discover music! Even from obscure composers like Gurdjieff. Do not laugh, the quality of sound depends on how it was recorded and filmed. For pleasure, I have connected my Roku to a DAC connected to my preamp the results are surprising! Another great resource are the web instances of British magazines dedicated to music! In my case I subscribe to Songlines, a magazine dedicated to World music. Every issues has a compilation CD or two that you can download. The same publisher produces Gramophone, if you are into Classical music it’s a most! Where else you will find “Top 10 Berlioz Recordings”
if you use DuckDuckGo as a search engine you will find 40 plus uS magazines and blogs dedicated to Rock, Independent music and much more
The world is full of music and an incredible effort to digitize it and Make it available on line is fantastic Just visit the Library of Congress and even your local public library you will be surprise what gems you will find! And of course you could listen to my weekly radio program 🙄😊
I hope this was helpful
PS I do have a Node 2i and I am very happy with it
Just get a topping bc3 bluetooth module, a v90 dac by musical fidelity, and a samsung galaxy tab a 10.5 and be happy. Streaming on the cheap and it all works flawlessly. No need to buy expensive streamers etc..the tablet has Qualcomm’s aptx and Sony’s ldac. Get amazon hd music free for 90 days to try out. You would be amazed how nice this bluetooth topping bc3 sounds. Yea, it can be bettered, but at what cost? I’m a casual streamer, so this set up works great for my purposes. The only accessory I needed to buy to make it all work was a toslink cable, mini to full toslink. Unbelievably simple. The only issue is that samsung pulled aptx hd from the bluetooth codec menu, however Ldac is still usable. Even at the lower resolution codec settings, it still sounds wonderful to me.
Hello Soulgoober. Someone has prejudiced you against digital sound. How sad. Do you have access to a computer? You will need one. "Youtube" has recordings of an enormous number of albums recorded by fans on their own equipment. Most of them are between decent and quite nice. Just type in the name of the album you'd like to find and you'll get a list of the available recordings. You could go to Amazon and see if the album is available used (it'll cost you $5 or so with shipping, maybe
more). Do you have decent headphones? A very small DAC that came to the market too late (Dragonfly got all the business) from Bitstream, the BTS 300, is available from Parts Connexion in Canada for only $10! You read it right. Is it super duper, no. Is it C+ to B, yes. If you want an obviously better one, look for a used Drangonfly Black, Meridian Explorer, or Music Streamer 2. If you can spend $400 or so new, the SMSL400 performs very nicely, probably best buy for the money spent. Enjoy your project.
@ OP Many ways. Get - good Internet service (> 50 Mbps) - good modem (eg Arris Surfboard) - good WiFi (Google or Linksys or similar mesh system) - any components with switching power supplies plugged in a conditioner with HF/digital filters - minimize galvanic connection (ie, use WiFi, TosLink over Ethernet/USB cable)
I run Tidal via Roon, using a MacBook to run the Roon core. Tidal hi Rez via Roon/WiFi to an OPPO 205 (again via WiFi) is on par with the same recording on SACD - same OPPO. Not noisy, superb spatial information and micro detail. Many ‘blind’ listening sessions with audiophile friends. The evidence is clear - superb set up.
@soulgoober If you’re after "audiophile" sound, seems like the weakest link in your audio chain is the "Sony 595 multi-CD player". While Sony makes good/great sounding equipment in the consumer/mass market sector, they are not well known or spoken as "audiophile" level. You need to upgrade the DAC (Digital to Analog Converter). The last few years, digital audio has grown by leaps and bounds, current models easily outperforming as recent as the previous year’s offerings. Technological advancements and high market demand has made audiophile products at all price points, even affordable (not discount cheap, but you can come up with the cash without sacrificing bodily parts) products.
Get a audiophile DAC for audio streaming, attach a transport (not sure if your Sony 595 multi-CD player can act like a transport only - I’m too lazy to research for manual) if you want to spin CDs. You will be amazed...lost in the music.
Also, there’s been high technological growth in audiophile earphones and headphones resulting in these products at all price levels. Affordable audiophile sound. Checkout what others suggested to look at (I only peeked at earphones/headphones, not into them...yet) https://www.head-fi.org/
BTW I don't consider anything less than a Yggdrasil an "audiophile grade" DAC. Certainly not the Chinese toy junk (Topping, SMSL, etc). Source quality improves noise / digital hash reduction. Get a CD transport like the Audiolabs which is very well-received. Possibly a high-end transport clone from AliExpress (I have one such). For streaming, get something focused on clean power / low-noise like those Soundaware units, or go the route of DIY building an audiophile streaming PC (linear PSU, externally powered USB card, SSD isolation, etc). For network streaming you'll want an audiophile network switch (ie, Paul Pang) or network conditioner of some kind (ie, UpTone). Wireless is inferior.
Hello soulgoober, I began my audiophile search just over a year ago, and I’ve found that the thing which lifts sound quality almost more than anything else is the quality of power that is coming into your system from the grid itself, regardless of what kind of power controls or conditioning you have in your system. I have discovered the best most amazing moments of music happen for my after 9pm, when most people are finally off the grid, or are not using power hungry equipment on it. I had, like many other audiophiles, believed it had strictly to do with system warm-up, but have discovered otherwise - truly ephemeral audiophile moments happen for me in the dead of the night; the difference is almost shocking.