CD transport vs.streaming

Many have stated on this forum that the SQ from their CDs is superior to the sound from streaming sources. Others have said the opposite. Weirdly, in side by side identical tracks the sound from my Cyrus CDt sounds identical to my Cambridge CXN v2 streamer. I wonder if anyone else has this experience.


If your streamer and CD Player sound the same then I would advise you to purchase the ENO ethernet filter from Network Acoustics and you will be blown away by how much better your Streamer could be.

I think this is a 3-horse race, not a 2-horse race:


locally streamed files from a hard drive or NAS

files streamed from a service

IMHO the last two aren't the same quality, and without knowing the details about the streamed masters, it's hard to even know if you're comparing apples/apples. 

IME, on locally streamed rips vs. the same CDs, the files always sounded better. Ripped SACDs vs. the same SACD, same result, the files win. YMMV.  Cheers,



You can't improve on the original source so if your ripped files sound better it's the equipment chain, not the source. 

rvpiano -- Hey, we’re bruddahs! I got a CXN v2, too, a replacement for my now recycle-binned Mytek. Not quite as 3D as the Mytek was, but the tonality is wonderful. And it seems to work, too.😂 I’m listening happy to an Idagio stream of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella at this very moment.

CD play still sounds better to me on my system, albeit less convenient.

Until the Internet goes down, all too commonplace.

Certainly not enough to perspire about.

The sound from my streamer of red book CDs sound exactly the same as streamed versions. Streaming can sound better, Qobuz frequently has higher resolution files available. Also, my analog end… no slouch… also sounds overall the same as well. See my User ID for systems. We are talking about a vast soundstage ten or more feet deep, with natural fully fleshed out instruments suspended in 3D space, microdynamics, brass sounding like brass, voices with full midrange bloom… from Qobuz.


Digital and streaming has been getting better and better over the last couple of decades. First the cost difference (between good analog and good digital) was large to get as good as analog… and the minimum investment was $100K… that dropped… then over the last ten years.. streaming has improved radically…. A lot of people resist the idea that a streamer can matter and stick to PCs. Sorry, your streamer has to be built like any piece of good audio equipment… massive design effort, massive quiet power supply, isolation and weigh over 30 pounds. At this time really carefully chosen streamer (of red book) can equal CD players at most levels of high fi investment. However, like all other aspects, you just can’t buy something, plunk it down and expect to draw any conclusions. You need compatible and synergistic components.

For most aspiring audiophiles today, they should set their sites on streaming as their objective. If they like disks, analog is an relatively easy; a bit less expensive way to get high end sound)… but very restrictive in what you can listen to because of the cost of disks.

A CD player is a physical transport, streamer, and DAC. Buying one that is better than a streamer and a DAC that are not complementary is simple. While buying a good streamer and DAC will set you up for the rest of your life. Buying a great CD player is very nostalgic… hey, I’m 69 years old… that is my excuse… if you are not retired… figure out streaming, Don’t waste your time on antiquated technology.

Retired, older so what?

A SOTA transport sounds better to me than any of 5 streamers through the same DAC. Same for local files. Not enough better to care in the least. When the Internet stops so does streaming.

Right in the middle of a track.

Anyone that thinks high res is perceptibly better never did the AIX challenge.



@ghdprentice Thank you, couldn't have said it better. Over time fewer and fewer releases will be available on cd, streaming and vinyl are the future.



Thanks. Yes… physically owning a disk… paying and storing these is on the way out. I have 2,000 vinyl albums and 2,000 CDs… takes up space and if you don’t steam, confines you to listen and re-listen repeatedly to the same thing… but for the price of one CD per month, you have access to millions of tunes.


Us old farts have a lot of history in these antiquated technologies. So, maybe changing direction isn’t worth it to some. But younger folks are wasting money that could be better spent on something that has a future… streaming.


I bought a K&E slide rule in 1974. I lusted after this bamboo, high end, incredibly good quality slide rule for years. This was the same year that the first affordable calculator came out, the Texas Instruments SR-50 that made slide rules a completely useless device. If you were going to retire from science in a few months… then just keep using your slide rule, otherwise, invest in something with a future… a calculator. I used the slide rule a few times, I loved to look at it… I still have it… I bought an SR-50… my physics labs that took 12 hours (all calculating) dropped to 1 hour of work… only doing physics… not playing with the slide rule. The world of high-end audio is moving on.

My internet has gone down exactly zero times while streaming, this over perhaps four years. I can still play vinyl if web did go down. See, I can appreciate and embrace new technology and the  old. This is about maximizing exposure to music, the tools are secondary, I love music first and foremost.

I know most of the dudes here probably don’t listen to fast metal music. Try something like that streaming then try it again on a nice cd to dac. I think you might come to the same conclusion I have. Cd sounds better for sure. That’s why I want that fancy 4K pro ject transport instead of a new streamer. 



I have a CXNV2 as well

Feeding  a Rotel A14

at times it’s great-all depends on the signal

I use Qobuz and internet music

again it’s the feed!

I find it a constant PIA- one moment it’s great and another I want to sell

it all!

same for LP 

my amp has sufficient power to drive my speakers 

sometimes I just want to dump

it all




I’m using a Calif Audio Lab Ikon Mk 11

CD player circa 1995!

it’s great and has an analogue and digital output

sounds  great 18 bit


I’ve owned very very expensive audio gear and I’m totally convinced

its all in the feed and the room acoustics!

stuff made nowadays is very good at most price points!

look what Jones did with little funds and created

so great speakers!



russ69 What?

My ripped files played locally sound better than the files received from the streaming service. Original source? Ha ha ha.

Copy a CD to a gold blank and check your hypothesis.

I had the slide rule and the TI-50. Now I have 6 streamers.

This post was not about telling anyone what to do.

Then again there was no question merely an "I wonder "

I don't..



That’s why I want that fancy 4K pro ject transport instead of a new streamer.

I can assure you that you’ll be thrilled with the Pro-Ject RS2 transport. It’s simply fabulous in my audio system . And no it is not analogous to a slide rule for goodness sakes. Why can’t we simply accept the coexistence of Redbook CD playback and digital streaming. Does every audio decision have to devolve into yet another pissing contest?

A good friend is completely committed to streaming. He just recently has purchased the mighty Taiko Extreme music server. I’m ecstatic for him just as he is for me when I acquired my Pro-Ject transport. We both genuinely appreciate each other's  respective choices and paths. Finding music listening joy and fulfillment is about as individualistic as anything can be. Simply to each their own. Do we really need yet  another turf battle?


If a CD is perfect, there should be no difference in sound between it and a file ripped from it (preferably using EAC). But many CDs have minor (easily recoverable) flaws. Some have worse flaws. If you are playing a CD, there is only a limited amount it can fix in real time, When you rip a file from it, you can take a lot longer to ensure the errors are fixed.

I fail to believe the two sources really do sound the same in any system.

In my experience, the issue is a question of detail & dynamics v's emotion & engagement.These two qualities in sound always seem to be competing with each other.

Essentially, our choice of source will be decided (either actively, or passively) on these qualities. If anyone prefers a detailed and dynamic sound, then generally speaking they will prefer the higher resolution programme delivery. If anyone prefers an emotional and engaging sound, then most likely they will enjoy 44.1/16 CD better. 

Often the difference is close, but there IS always a difference.

If you are a real music fanatic CDs and ripped CDs are the best option because for some albums I have ten or more different remastered versions of the original plus loads of bootlegs which aren't available on streaming services. I know it's completely anal but that's my thing.

“Why can’t we simply accept the coexistence of Redbook CD playback and digital streaming. Does every audio decision have to devolve into yet another pissing contest?
+1000 @charles1dad 

Exactly, latik - well said. I'm not going to waste previous hours of my life ripping my CDs and I'm quite happy to listen to new music on Qubuz - along with continuing to listen to vinyl.

Can someone explain to me how even in THEORY a ripped CD file can sound better than the CD itself (digital path, same DAC)? 

I have no problem accepting physical cd playback, fine with co-existing. The problem is those who claim streaming is only for convenience, can't be high resolution solution. Also, some have strong sense of anger towards it, claiming its destroying our attachment to artists and music, like somehow the physical possession creates attachment a file can't. Seems something like religious symbolism to me.


And yes, we need to add cd rips to the equation, it too is played over a network so can be considered streaming to some degree. So, I do have over 2500 cds stored away, they hold no meaning for me, just clutter. Vinyl jackets on the other hand are wonderful, relatively large format. Cd's and their containers also bad for the environment, lots of oil to make all that plastic.

Another issue that drove me from physical cd playback is the consumable nature of transports. My last wonderful transport was Mark Lenvinson #37, this had Phillips Pro mechanism and much  proprietary mounting and logic. When it died repair was going to be well over $750. I tried other transports, none could replicate the performance, I tried diy modding on one, no dice, as a result I entered cd rips and streaming realm. I've also had a few other cheaper transports die on me over the years, recently junked an Emotiva I was using in bedroom system. I tried self repair, $13 Sanyo transport mechanism, problem was logic related instead. You'd be surprised how many pretty costly transports use $15-$20 mechanisms! Not to say there are some some good ones still being made such as the ProJect.


Those judging streaming as poor sounding simply haven't heard a proper setup. Getting high quality sound out of streaming is not cheap or easy, expecting it to is a fools errand.


With my Experience CD or DSD Physical media usually sounds better than its equivalent of the same song being streamed


Great point!  

Honestly, equipment sounds better than many live events I've been, and with workable price-points!!  As far as the OP is concerned ... I can't discern a difference between SACD, CD or streaming ... all good!

In these streaming versus physical media discussions I think we should also consider that the reimbursement rates (pennies) to the artists for their creativity and work are such in most streaming options that the artists can not make a decent living. It is especially hard when ability to offer live concerts is being thwarted by Covid restrictions. Besides fairness issues it may well result in much less  new artistic material being made over time.

Play Hard Copy SACD’s and CD’s? (I’ve got a whole hellofa lot of them).

Beyond the digital source, after content and recording: it’s a recipe of various: Processor(s); Over clocking, Over sampling; Anti-Jitter, .... that you hear.

I think of ’Preferred’ and ’BETTER’.

1. BETTER: Get thee a Sony xa5400ES (SACD and CD).

Improves the sound of Every CD and processes SACD DSD without PCM conversion.

me: "FUNDAMENTALS. I think there is a tighter, firmer, more solid, ... start to the fundamental of Each and Every Note. Improved overtones, volume and time decay all follow that BETTER start. I have never heard a CD sound so good anywhere.

before I found the Sony:

Preferred: CD

2. Onkyo Integra CDC-3.4 Mark II Changer

I highly recommend the sound of this with it’s dual Wolfson processors and all of Onkyo/Integra’s tricks applied.

How to describe the difference: Like my AT33PTG/II cartridge, compared to any cartridge with less tight channel balance, EVERYTHING is a speck more distinct. Not bright, not sharp, a very thin veil removed allowing refined clarity. Imaging is the same width, but within that, main vocal, backup singers, specific musicians, simultaneously more precise.

A small improvement to EVERYTHING, is a LOT!!!

3. Preferred SACD and CD, I chose Yamaha DVD-C961 DVD Changer

me: "The DVD-C961 has four two-channel Burr Brown 192kHz/24-bit DACs for the stereo and 5.1-channel output sections to provide absolute sonic transparency."

It sounds terrific, as good as the former winner, Integra CDC-3.4 mark II which I will now sell. Different Processors, Different OEM Bag-O-Tricks whatever they are."


the quest

Sony xa5400ES


DSD converted to PCM???


Better CD Sound




Thanks for your post but I think you completely miss the point of this discussion. This isn’t a discussion about CD vs SACD or DSD vs PCM:-) 

Missed points, a common occurrence around here.

charles1dad on the money 

Enjoy the music.




I think the reason the streaming and the CDT sound the same is they are going through the same DAC. I have heard that you can run a $27 DVD player through a good DAC and it sounds really good if not great. So many of us have a BlueSound Node variety and the DAC is pretty good I have to admit. I have done tests in the past and it was keeping up with $500-$600 DACs. When I ran it through the Oppo or even better a $14k DAC I was blown away. Borrow a really nice DAC. Like $2k or more. The Denifrips Pontus 2 might be close but is a great test. You will get why a lot of people drop crazy money on DACs. I still say the Preamp is still the most important. Especially since I have heard the $30k Ayre KX-R in my home. That being said the DAC is the second most important to me. Third would be speakers. I might be alone on this but times have changed. Still have my BS2i. Too good to let go plus I love the app. I think they should take a cue from Schiit and make a killer linear balanced version or maybe just start with a killer streamer transport to run into a nice DAC. I’m not alone in this thinking. Honda and Toyota stared out as inexpensive cars but now have Acura and Lexus which can cost into the six figures. I would still like to get a Node and do the LPS upgrade to run into a killer DAC some day. 

I always imagine others following a discussion, and what relates to the subject that might be relevant to someone, that's why I shared my recent quest here, and this and that elsewhere.






If its the same source material and resolution and things are done right it doesn’t matter. Streaming has all the +’s though on overall utility so work on that if needed. The right DAC is a must. Most any good quality streamer will do. THat’s to do it right. What sounds good is largely subjective, so you may have to tweak anywhere to get the sound to your liking once the digital is good, especially if you are a 20th century tube/phono kind of guy historically. I recommend a good quality Class D amp in lieu of tubes these days.

I agree with Charles1dad.  We don't need another fight over which is better--there are great examples of both CD players/transports and servers.  I have all of my CDs burned to a NAS, because of the extremely convenient access this affords to the nearly 5,000 CDs I have (I still keep the CDs).  My server sounds as good as the terrific CD player I use to own (Naim 555).  

What is surprising to me is that the sound can be quite different between two servers feeding the same DAC.  I heard a shootout between a Sonos server and a slightly more expensive Italian model (I cannot remember the name) and I peferred the sound of the Italian model with both Qobuz and Spotify.  

@larryi Your experience between the two servers not surprising. Hearing a single or multiple streaming setups doesn't give one much insight into how another streaming setup may sound.


Streaming setups are at least as unique as vinyl setups, probably more. There are so many options available, optimizing any particular setup requires much effort.

I think hshifi has it right. 
Both sources are going through my Benchmark DAC. 

This may be the determining factor.


I have never heard of IMHO and IME?

I purchased a power cord for my BlueSound Node 2i and I think it sounds better.  I also purchased a high end digital cable to connect to my ARCAM AVR550.  The cable company told me using a digital cable would improve sound quality. Still not sure.  I really didn't want to give up MQA.  However, I was told the digital cable would still transfer hi-res files.  Many think MQA is a marketing tool TIDAL uses to lock people into MQA.  The Harmon ret came to my house and demonstrated Qobuz and It was very noticeable the sound quality of Qobuz was better.  However, their library is smaller.   I still wonder if these additions really make a sound difference.  However, looking at the $5 power cords that come with electronics just the gage and shielding must make some noise difference.  I added a $700 power cable to my ARCAM AVR550 and the first thing I noticed was I had to turn down the volume to obtain the same volume as previously using their $5 to $8 power cord that is provided by the factory.  I would think not needing as much volume must possibly reduce distortion.


IMHO the last two aren't the same quality, and without knowing the details about the streamed masters, it's hard to even know if you're comparing apples/apples. 

IME, on locally streamed rips vs. the same CDs, the files always sounded better. Ripped SACDs vs. the same SACD, same result, the files win. YMMV.  Cheers,


The best set up is a stand alone dac, cd transport and streamer. It will all sound great and I agree with @ghdprentice in that you’re “set for life” and I’m 61. 


 Streaming setups are at least as unique as vinyl setups, probably more. There are so many options available, optimizing any particular setup requires much effort

This is a good analogy. Multiple set- up options, ethernet, fiber optic, wireless/Spdif,AES,USB connections. Switches, networks, optional LPS etc.

Then consider the music server itself,  Windows or Linux based OS. Number or type of processing cores. On and on it goes. Every bit as many decisions and options as constructing an analogue turntable system (Plinth/Tonearm/cartridge/phono stage/phono cable etc.). 

Even amongst the excellent tier music servers there are clear sonic distinctions,

Antipodes K-50 vs GrimmMU1 vs 432 EVO Master vs Innuos Statement and so on. No doubt that assembling a streaming music server chain is explicitly unique and specific. 


@charles1dad  Charles, the complexity of streaming has renewed my interest in audio experimentation. I'm at end game components for much of my system, this is one of the two areas left to me for that experimentation, the other being vinyl setup.


Different components can make for substantial changes in streaming quality. Lots of innovation in this realm at the moment, I'm having a lot of fun and enjoying very high sound quality.


I'm having a lot of fun and enjoying very high sound quality.

I believe you. 😊


Being blissfully unaware of the complications I just set up my streamer to my DAC and have great sound that rivals my CDs.

Post removed 

I would go out on a limb and assert, DACs aside, there is huge variation in performance with various CD players whereas it can be hard to discern any clear differences between most any streamer. Even a <$100 Roku stick does a pretty good job with CD quality sound these days. Old error prone technology versus newer with much better error handling and prevention built in.   Modern Jitter resistant DACS help close the gap.

Having owned Aurlic Aries G2, Aurender N100, auditioned an Aurender N10, and now  Aurender W20SE, as well as using PCs, Macs… and other devices, the differences in sound quality among these is huge. Maybe, it doesn’t sound logical, but they are just like other parts of the audio chain.

Allow an observation pleze.

At least one professional seems to think that CD’s and lossless streaming sound similar enough, as do I.

The co-founder of an audiophile record label and an online Redbook plus file sales site pulled all of his stuff from Tidal and Qobuz while leaving the mp3’s on Spotify because he doesn’t want to hurt sales:

David Chesky.

Yes the CD blows Spotify away.

On $135 worth of RC Chinese amplification.


That's the beauty of streaming, you can make it simple or complex, both can work. I just happen to like complexity, I'm one to change out capacitors, resistors, etc., this may sound like work to some, for me this is fun.