Internet Radio sounds better than ripped CDs. Why

My friend and I agree that Internet Radio sounds more alive and dimensional thru our Squeezeboxes than do our ripped Apple Lossless CD files which are streamed from external hard drives.

Why would this be? Internet Radio is usually low bitrate mp3, while our audio files are supposedly CD quality.

Anyone have the same perception?
Are you allowing the computer to process the audio? You should bypass the computer's audio processing (I think SqueezeCenter automatically does this). You should also maximize the audio settings in SqueezeCenter (turn off cross fades, set maximum volume output, etc.) Which SB outputs are you and your friend using (analog / digital) - you should be using the digital output to feed a good DAC. I’m not familiar with Apple Lossless (I use FLAC), but if properly setup, the Lossless files should sound superior (way superior) when compared to Internet Radio. Do some searching on the Squeezbox forums...
Something is amiss with your setup. Internet radio sounds decent, but your ripped CDs will sound better -- no ifs ands or buts.
Agree with all above - something is wrong, and you should be taking all conversions out of the computer and using an external DAC with no digital processing or volume control. If you are already doing all that then I'm dumbfounded at your results.
I'm with Jax2, I'm dumbfounded too.

Is the internet radio station doing equalization?
The ripping program you used might be at fault here.Have you bit corrected the files using a ripping program such as EAC or Foobar 2000.Rips that are not offset by your ripping drives default factory offsets,will sound better than the original badly pressed CD,but if you are not correcting for the bits displaced by the ripping drive your rips will sound worse.
Radio stations will process the sound - so you may like their processing...
Thanks for the replies guys. I ripped the files in Apple Lossless using iTunes. I'm wirelessly streaming the audio from my PC to a SB3 using it's coax digital out to a digital input on my Integra 8.8 AVR, so I'm using the built-in dacs on the Integra for both Internet Radio & my music files. So in essense, all things are equal.

I'm taking delivery today on a Rowland Concerto integrated. If I can borrow a friend's dac, I'll do a comparison.

Shadorne - My friend has the same theory as you do regarding the processing of IR stations. Perhaps that's the answer.

I'll post again after I listen to the Rowland. Thanks again.
Shadorne - My friend has the same theory as you do regarding the processing of IR stations. Perhaps that's the answer.

Yes - radio stations have compressors and limiters and all kinds of stuff to create their "house-sound". Depending on the target market they can enhance various aspects of the sound in a way that suites their listeners. For example, a Rock Station will typically target commuters in their automobiles and compress the music to get it to sound loud over the car and road noise. Meanwhile a late night show may enhance the bass frequencies and smooth the highs for a laid back relaxing smooth sound at lower listening levels...
My IR experience has been that the dynamics are less compressed than my ripped files. Perhaps it's a case of my listening primarily to electronic ambient music on IR, which as the genre implies, lends itself to ambience.

The volume levels between the two are also greatly different. When listening to my ripped music, I have to turn up the volume a good 10dB in order to achieve the same volume level as IR. Both inputs are set to the default level of "0" in the AVR.
I have to turn up the volume a good 10dB in order to achieve the same volume level as IR. Both inputs are set to the default level of "0" in the AVR

Then the IR radio is probably compressed - it usually is. If if it sounds better than perhaps the genre is suited to compression and added distortion (rock, punk and alternative tend to sound better to most ears when it is somewhat compressed) The dead giveaway is when it sounds louder and more agressively punchy or detailed than the original ....a lot of modern re-mastering further compresses already compressed music.

An easy way to tell is to listen at low volumes an dsee if it sounds punchy and detailed and then to turn the volume up loud. If you cannot stand it played loudly (like an assault on the ears) then it is probably compressed and highly distorted with plenty of odd harmonics from clipped waverforms. It is an odd trick but perceptively a compressed distorted track will sound louder when played at low volume levels.

(In teh discussion above, I mean physical compression & distortion of waveforms fudnamental to the music and not CODEC compresssion from mp3 to save file space)
I have to agree with the original post. I'm using Apple lossless codec and through an Airport Express I find the results to be unsatisfactory. On the other hand some internet radio stations such as TSF Jazz which are streamed at 128 kbs sound almost analog in quality. I know that TSF does play some vinyl (I can hear the surface noise) but regardless the majority of the music sounds wonderful. It must be due to the encoding. I will have to investigate other encoding methods other than Apple lossless.
Mat, Do you use the analogue or digital outs of your AE? The Analogue outs of the AE are......just OK.
I run my AE to an external DAC and it sounds better than small dish radio.
Even AFTER I went thru the defaults on the small dish receiver and turned off compression and went to PCM out and used an optical to the SAME DAC as is fed by the AE.
Apple Lossless and FLAC should be equal. BOTH can be used to reconstruct a bit-accurate copy of the original material. They should therefore sound the same, no?
No doubt Internet stations can apply a variety of processing as desired.

Loudness levels vary with IR stations but I find a significant # that normalize their material at a higher level than many or most CDs.

NAtive CDs can ahave a range of average loudness levels with older masters in general having much lower net volumes than newer recordings. Some servers like Windows Media Player provide some ability to match levels during playback to some extent.

Most IR stations match levels as well in that it is not conducive to have various material playing at significantly varying overall levels. Many match at higher levels overall.
What I'm hearing with Apple lossless is a hardness and compressed sound. Whereas a station like TSF Jazz sounds much more open. It's not that I don't hear the compression especially during complex pieces but overall its much more listenable. Since I'm using the analog out, maybe the AE isn't the best for decoding Apple lossless? Or perhaps I need to use error correction when ripping CDs. I don't have much interest in a external DAC at this time. I'm just not interested in spending big bucks on audio any more. In fact I'm really enjoying the mid-fi sound (and convenience) of internet radio and Pandora.
The analogue outs of the AE are only OK.....or worse.
A DA converter is a 'must' for this guy. I don't know how inexpensive a good DA can run, but just for example, a CA DacMagic is about 400$ online.
Preowned? quite a bit less.

Lossless files are 'decoded' at the computer end and sent as a bitstream to the AE. So, whether you are sending MP3@160 or lossless, makes no difference at the AE end. All the heavy lifting is done at the computers end.

I'm thru with 'upgrades' for quite a while, too. If I do anything, I'll sell my CA840 player, which includes 2 DA inputs and also sell my OPPO upsampler so I can buy an OPPO '83 and a DacMagic. Kind of a sideways move, but I can end up with BlueRay and make a small bit of change.

I have the same experience in that Radio Paradise (radio station) sounds better than my ripped CD collection (WAV) through my squeezebox.

Drives me nuts.

I have checked everything, I have ripped CD's with I-tunes into WAV files, tried FLAC with the program MAX and the result is still the same.....