Is it in my head only?


For the last few months, most of my listening is done via streaming with Tidal. I have not bought a CD since last year. One problem I had was that the sound was never as good as a rebook CD, it came close but no cigar. I was sure that Tidal's HiFi subscription was overkill and I was better off switching to a cheaper alternative like Spotify.

Besides the quality of sound (or the lack thereof), there was too much buffering and drops ruining the whole experience. I was quite ready to ditch Tidal, or even streaming altogether and go back to buying CDs.

So last Friday, I decided to replace my ISP-provided router with Apple Airport Extreme. It immediately took care of range extension, buffering and persistent drops. But what shocked me was the increase in the quality of sound. Immediately I could notice that there was a certain fullness (warmth?) to sound, base was more pronounced (in a good way) and the music was much more engaging than before. In other words, Tidal finally rocked!

I'm just wondering if it's all in my head or what. I mean can a router improvement make such a not-so-subtle improvement in streaming quality? Regardless, I'm loving it. Next on my to-do list is to replace my Apple TV with Bluesound Node. I've heard that this will take the sound quality to the next level.

arafiq
arafiq the answer is NO! It's not in your head and the improvement in sound quality is real. And more to the point what does sound quality matter if you’re dealing with dropouts right? I was happy with my Sonos Connect running Tidal out to my dac but was becoming increasingly frustrated with outages. I just replaced it with an Auralic Aries Mini, which runs on the much less congested 5ghz band and voila zero dropouts, even better sound and a more feature laden interface. I’ve not heard the Bluesound but I’m guessing it will be a solid improvement over your current setup. Happy listening!
improvement on sound quality is probably in your head, but going to a non-ISP provided router you get better quality and definitely decrease in drop outs, better wi-fi coverage, etc.
Hi Arafiq, The answer is yes since I had the exact same experience.  I also switched to the Apple AirPort Extreme Router and my Tidal Streaming audio sound quality was much improved.   In addition, I also changed from using an Ethernet over Power connection (uses electrical power lines) to using a direct Ethernet connection and the sound quality was much improved.   I am streaming Tidal from my Aurender N10 Music Server and it sounds terrific.       

Correction, NO, it is not in your head.  Sorry.

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I would not know how a router alone could change sound quality unless streaming software would be designed to drop to lower resolution to maintain a stream with a weaker connection rather than stop and rebuffer.  

I suppose it's possible but have not experienced that.   I know the plex software I use for streaming is designed to do that over a lower bandwidth Internet wan connection but not a lan.   

In weak/low bandwidth scenarios streaming software has two choices though essentially: either rebuffer and drop the sound or deliver a lower resolution stream that can be maintained without dropout.    So results might vary depending on specific software used. 
I recently replaced my aging Mac mini with a Bluesound Node 2. It's networked with the latest iteration of Apple's Airport Extreme and I'm very happy with the result. The sound quality is every bit as good, if not better, than my Mac (2012, i7, 16GB memory, 256BG SSD, headless) and FWIW, I have licenses for Audirvana+, Amarra Symphony, Fidelia, HQPlayer, JRMC, and Pure Music. The DAC in the Node 2 is perfectly acceptable but you can bring your own DAC to the equation as well. So arafiq, yes, I would encourage you to go down the Bluesound path. It will be a very nice upgrade to your ATV. Good listening.


My current setup with Tidal is a Windows 10 laptop, "hard wire" connected with an ethernet cable instead of using the wireless network for streaming, as my Comcast router is as far away from the audio system as it could be, and on another floor of our home.

Previously, I had my system a few feet from the Comcast router and I must say, the "hard wired" sound quality IS better!