How To Get The Best Sound From Pandora & Rhapsody?

How do you get the best possible sound from Pandora and Rhapsody? Is a computer via USB Dac the best way? Or, will using one of these newfangled streamers and a Dac give you better sound?

The majority of my listening is from these two sources, and I'd like to go whole hog to get the best possible sound from them. I still listen to cd's and vinyl, but Pandora and Rhapsody is so doggone convenient, that they get the bulk of my listening time.
I am using a Sonos Connect with a Rega Dac and am very pleased with the results.
The first step to getting good quality is to lower the digital stream jitter. This can be accomplished with a Sonos, iPod docking station or computer with toslink output driving a Synchro-Mesh reclocker and then to the DAC.

Once you have a low jitter digital source, you can drive virtually any DAC, SS proc. or receiver with it and get good results.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
If you're fond of Pandora and Rhapsody give a try. The streaming from mog is at 320 kbps, compared to Pandora's maximum of 256 and there's an audible difference. I've almost completely abandoned Pandora and Spotify in favor of, both because of the audio quality and the ability to either play whatever I want or let mog offer options.
I agree with Sfar..... streams music at a much higher quality than Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify, iTunes radio, etc..... $4.95 a month for unlimited commercial free streaming at 320 kbps ....... almost every album and song you could ever imagine, and a very easy to navigate website.

For me, MacBook Pro (mid 2010 13") > Belkin Gold USB cable > Emotiva XDA-2 DAC > Rogue Audio Cronus integrated amp > Revel F-12 speakers. Awesome sound of music with sublime acoustic happiness ! Prior to my new Emotiva DAC, I used an HRT Music Streamer II, and MOG still sounded better than Spotify, Pandora, etc., etc.

Have fun and Happy Listening !
Adam18 & Sfar, I've had Rhapsody for nearly ten years, and they have a ton of music. Do you find that MOG has more music than Rhapsody?
A local dealer uses a Sonos system to conveniently access a vast library of music for equipment review purposes. The Sonos system is hooked up to MUCH higher quality DACs than that Sonos supplies. That Sonos server has access to the various download sites. Using this system, I like MOG for its pretty decent library of jazz and classical music, although Rhapsody is pretty good too. I haven't done much in the way of comparing the sound quality of the two services.

What is interesting is that even with the low bitrates of either MOG or Rhapsody, one can easily hear the difference between DACs used: better DACs mean better sound. It really pays to use better equipment even when the source is supposedly as limited as that of MOG and Rhapsody. At this dealership, we even shot out different DACs, including DACs that cost close to $60,000, and differences could be heard.
Here are some specs I received from Pandora regarding audio quality on Pandora:

Free Pandora is 64k AAC+ on the web.

Pandora One subscribers get the option of 192k MP3 on the Web and when using the AIR Desktop App.

Most Home-listening devices get 128k MP3 – whether the account is free or paid.

Cell phones get anywhere from 24k to 64k in mono or stereo, depending on the phone, carrier, connection type, and in some cases the user setting.

I recently switched my source to a MAC Book Pro computer connected to my Oppo 105 Blu-Ray player (DAC only) using the USB cable. The Oppo is temporary until my Ayre QB-9 DSD DAC arrives. This front end change enables me to upgrade to Pandora One ($36 per year) with 192k streaming (done today).

I also agree with Sfar above that MOG streams at 320k with excellent results. Pandora and MOG are great options to have for listening to music streaming.
Mitch4t - Sorry, I've never used Rhapsody and can't compare their catalog to's.

None of the online streaming sites have everything you might want to hear. Fortunately, you don't have to choose just one. It's exploring the music that's important to me, not the bit rate.

I use almost exclusively because it lets me control my listening experience more than the other sites but if I really want to sample something they don't have I look elsewhere. And when I find something I really like I buy the CD.
Hi Mitch .... I never compared the content of MOG vs. Rhapsody. All I know is that to my ears, with my system, in my room ..... Music streaming through MOG sounds considerably better than streaming through Rhapsody, Pandora, and Spotify.
Hgeifman. How do you know the Ayre will sound better in your system?
Ptss: That is a very good question. I will let you know in early February after I start using the Ayre QB-9 DAC.

I heard the Ayre QB-9 using the MAC Computer, my amplifier and my speakers at the Audio Store and liked it very much. I am currently using the MAC connected to the DAC in the Oppo 105 now and it does sound very good. I felt the Ayre QB-9 sounded better but the real test will be when I hook up the Ayre and compare it to the Oppo 105 in my system.
Best possible sound from Pandora, Rhapsody, etc. is to turn it off. It's junk sound.

Neal, maybe it's not the highest possible resolution in hifi...but it's not junk. Audio SnobS kill me.
MOG and google play both use 320kbps

Google play also has free tracks all the time. Even if you don't subscribe to google play it's nice to go there just to get the free tracks every now and then.
i agree it doesn't make sense to buy a lot of money on expensive gear to listen to pandora or rhapsody--their audio quality just isn't good, esp. as compared to mog or spotify. what surprises me is that pandora, despite its poor sound and very limited library, is still the big player in the streaming space--i expected itunes radio to blow them away, but it hasn't seem to catch on. i'd guess that pandora has done a good job of marketing/branding and esp. with getting into cars. what is still can't understand is how they'll ever make money
You buy a high end system to play back a high resolution source. I seriously doubt anyone would buy a high-end system just to listen to Pandora, Rhapsody, MOG or Spotify. A lot of people with high-end systems already in place do listen to them though. For those that do, I'm sure that they'd like to get the best sound they could when they do listen .... which is how this thread started.
Great responses, Mitch4t.

If all of us had waited until we could afford a system that would pass
muster with some of the people on this forum we would never have
listened to music at all.

In 1957 my "reference" system was a Sylvania transistor
radio tuned to late-night AM stations from the Texas/Mexico border.
I've been happy to hear new music from any possible source ever since.

Sure, I want to hear the music I love at the highest possible resolution
but, just as in romance, the process of discovery is sometimes the best
I guess my ears are $hit. I am very happy w the SQ from Pandora 1, streamed to my MW Transporter. Also sounds great on my desktop using HRT II+ and NHT M00/S00 active speakers. My bad! Will have to try Mog and Spotify also, but
Sfar, amen.
Mitch 4T,

I said it was "junk sound," not junk. I cannot see how anyone accustomed to high quality CD - level sound (forget HiRes) can find extended listening to Pandora or Spotify, etc. comfortable. It's not snobbery; simply a higher standard created by long term listening to high quality sound. If you drive a Mercedes S Class and then are given a Toyota Tercel to drive, you would feel the same way.

Neal, you're a snob.

I'm a music lover. You're an equipment lover.

I love the journey. You're enamored with the vehicle.

The first three words of your second sentence above define you ("I can't see").
Mitch, I liked your OP. To answer original question, I don't think it would matter between computer/DAC or streamer/DAC with internet streaming.

I use Pandora as a replacement for FM radio. Great way to discover new music, and serves well for background music. Have not tried the other networks. this thread encourages me to do so.

There is a difference between providing an opinion in a somewhat snobish fashion (something we probably all have done at some time), and being a snob. I believe it is always in one's best interest to take the high road when responding. Too many threads are turned south via the deployment of name calling.

In this hobby, opinions vary greatly, passion is intense, sometimes sensitivities are ignited.
Mesch, you are correct. This is a great forum, no need for name calling.

Neal, I apologize. Please accept my apology.
So, from the responses so far, it appears that the summary answer is quite simple... buy as good of a DAC as possible. The only other issue is that you might also reclock your digital signal pre-DAC with one of Steve's devices (or alternatives). And Neal is a snob.

There are albums on Rhapsody that sound better than many of my CDs. The Rhapsody version never sounds better than the redbook version, but that doesn't mean it's bad.
Cal3713 - I think that's a pretty fair summary.

But there's no getting around the reality that the law of diminishing returns applies to DACs. I own three, a $100 Audioengine D1 in my garage/workshop, a $300 Musical Fidelity VDAC in my office and a $1,600 Simaudio 300D in my living room.

They all sound great but there's no way the VDAC is three times as good as the D1, nor is the 300D five times as good as the VDAC. You buy what you can afford and what makes sense with the rest of your gear. Just depends on how much money you're willing to throw at those smaller and smaller improvements.

I don't know a lot about the reclocking issues, other than that every brand claims they have solved the jitter problem in the DAC, itself. Truth, hype, marketing? Beats me.

And, after hyping so heavily earlier in this thread I got a message yesterday from the company saying the service will change dramatically on April 15. The company was bought by the same folks who market the Beats headphones and the new service will be called Beats.

The cost will go from $5 a month to $10 and will add a complex algorithm interface for playing music you might like, in addition to the same self-directed system that has made so valuable.

It's unclear what that means for a home user, the early information focuses on iOS and Android apps. It's hard to imagine they won't have at least a browser interface but that remains to be seen.
Cal3713 - As Sfar said, I think you nailed it.