Playing CDs sounds better than Qobuz — dammit

I’ve built a decent HeadFi rig over the past few months and am quite happy with it streaming Qobuz as a source via my iPad/iPhone.  I recently brought my CD player into the rig as there are some reference CDs I need that aren’t available on Qobuz.  Well, I made the mistake of playing some CDs and compared them to Qobuz, and in every case the CD sounds better — specifically a quieter background and more transparency overall.  I’ve got good cables from the dongle out of my iPad to the USB cable that runs to my DAC for streaming, so let’s leave cables out of the discussion for now because I think this goes deeper than that.  Needless to say I’m pretty disappointed right now because I’ve enjoyed not spinning discs over the past year or so and certainly don’t wanna go back to buying CDs again.  Ugh.

So, what I’m thinking is that streaming over WiFi through my iDevices may be the bottleneck.  IF that’s the case and I need to up my streaming game, what would be the cheapest way to go to overcome the bottleneck?  My thought is going hardwired (which I can do) to something like an iFi Stream or maybe a ProJect Streambox, but just wondering if that’d get it done?  Something else?  I need something pre-made and won’t wrestle with doing a Raspberry Pi with hats, etc. as I have no patience for configuring/troubleshooting tech.  Thanks for any advice/thoughts. 


Qobuz HAS gotten quieter lately, just look at the interstitial.Ultimate rarely equates with convenience.

There is definitely no such thing a iUltimate.

If you want to rival the best just do the iFi Zen streamer powered by their iPower Elite.

I think that CDs best streaming from Qobuz.  Not that Qobuz is bad, but in my system there is a hair breadth of difference.  You will see claims both ways, but frequently people are not comparing comparable components, perhaps a $300 CDP vs a $10K streamer or vice versa.  In my 2 channel system, using the same DAC, I find streaming my burned CDs from my NAS and playing CDs are nearly comparable, and streaming Qobuz through the same streamers (Melco N100 and Cambridge Audio CXN 60) just that slightly audible fall off, with a higher noise floor and less sharply painted tones.  Perhaps an Uber expensive streamer would reveal Qobuz in a more favorable light. 
  In your case the first obvious issues are the sources.  You can do worse than Apple mobile devices but they were never intended to be high end music players.  Secondly I do think wired is better.  I would also invest in a dedicated streamer.  Which one depends on your budget and desired features.

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I agree! Super hi-rez formats over ordinary CD format didn't help at all. Large loss of dynamics compared to the original CD releases. Lots of artists are still releasing CDs and certainly LPs for that matter and I never refuse buying them directly from artists during performances. I compared mediocre CD-player to Tidal streamer and decided to return it and invest money on ordinary CDs and LPs. There aren't too many bands server-only. Most of them releasing media disks.


Red book CDs sound exactly the same as streamed equivalents on my system and Qobuz typically sounds better because of the higher resolution. So, it is simply a matter of equipment.

I have used iPods, iPhones, iPads, PCs, MacBooks as streamers. If you want really good sound you need to move beyond those. You need to use a dedicated streamer to get excellent streaming sound quality. The level of streamer you need depends on the level of the rest of your components. If you have a $10K system, maybe a $1.5K streamer might do it. I have a $17K CD player and a my $22K streamer sounds exactly the same with red book CDs… but is usually bested because of Qobuz’s greater resolution on many recordings. What ever your level, it depends on your equipment.


I recommend you look at Aurender streamers… I have owned Auralic as well and settled on Aurender, and own two, one for my headphone system (N100) and a W20SE for my main system.


You can click on my user ID to see my systems. 



Agreed - CD/SACD best any server or streamer. Now, spin a few shiny discs.


Happy Listening!

Ok.  Let’s cut to the chase here.  Who’s used their i devices as WiFi streamers and upgraded to something wired or otherwise that was significantly better than using their iDevices. 

Say what you will, dudes & dudettes, but right now via Qobuz I'm listening to an absolutely excellent, excellently recorded performance of Beethoven's 8th Symphony. Vienna Philharmonic on DGG, conducted by Andris Nelsons. I'm listenin' happy. Would it be better if I had a CD or download? I just don't care...

Make sure you are comparing apples/apples ie the same cd release. Many popular CDs have various remastered releases over the years and streaming services tend to lean towards newer releases which also tend to be mastered louder. Also possible the streaming service does other processing that changes the sound But I cannot cite specific known examples. I would not assume it’s something on your end making the difference necessarily. Do you rip and stream your own CDs? Try that and compare for something more controlled to compare. 

Not long ago someone reported his ratings as follows:


10= LP 

9.0= Downloaded files

8.5= CD rebook

7.0=Streamed Hi-res.

Streamed music is getting better every year.

The insane advantages of streaming make it an 

unavoidable destination. 

Go Stream Go!!

PS: Roon is said to actually degrade the SQ as compared to

some proprietary software provided by individual manufacturers.

This makes sense to me as a homogenization must result in a step 

down in SQ. Not to say I don't use Roon as i do.

Depends totally on the equipment. When I streamed from my Mac, I thought CD sounded better, at least on red book. When I replaced the computer, streaming sounded better, using the same DAC.

Quobuz is way better than CD in my system, but that only came about with correct implementation and filtering of the wired Ethernet network.

Of course a cd sounds better! Your music is being derived straight from a physical media rather than over some internet connection. Plus the cd is more pure and direct, as the cd player or transport is hard wired right to your preamp. Hi res is over rated, at some point no one can tell the difference between it and a hi quality well recorded cd.

There's an additional factor accounting for (most if not all of) the SQ difference that's not be considered, which is the RFI and EMI noise traveling with the bits that 

     1) alter the timing of the bits arriving at the streamer/DAC (i.e. jitter)

     2) enter the DAC (along with the bits) and contaminates the DAC's analog


Introducing an audiophile switch (like the Uptone EtherREGEN or better), and upgrading the ethernet cables (Supra Cat8 or better) from the cable modem to the streamer/DAC will yield DRAMATIC improvements in all SQ aspects. 

These upgrades effectively eliminated the delta in SQ in my system.


I’d start with going hardwired with a CAT8. Careful when spending $$$ on a switch, I experimented with it and it did absolutely nothing. 

CD has jitter built in. The music data is combined with the clock signal on the CD, it’s basically flawed from the start. With streaming the data is separate to the clock. More precise.


I have about 2000 CD/SACD’s, with about 1/2 of the ripped on a NAS. I listen to 2 - 3 a day. At that rate, I won’t repeat any for about 3 - 4 years! 😀

All the best.


In my system sits a fairly high end streamer which connects to my router via wifi. Also connected to my router, this time via a Cat5e cable (I’ve tried several and a Cat6a) is a CD ripper with an SSD in it. Comparing ripped CDs to Qobuz I mostly enjoy the ripped CDs more but Qobuz is still very acceptable.

I used to use a dongle and when I switched to a hard wired streamer the sound quality drastically improved. 


I have used Qubuz,  tidal,  radio paradise,  Spotify. TuneIn and they all sound very good. Just as good as the CD. 


Tidal and Qubuz are probably tops.


There is also variation depending on the song.

That's probably the biggest difference. 

@soix Everything is going to sound different, better or worse. Different CD players are going to sound different but one thing I can honestly say is that a computer, NUC or Raspberry POS is never going to sound as good as a quality dedicated storage/streamer.

From experience I really tried to get the computer thing to work but it just doesn't.

If you want real sound you have to get a dedicated streamer with everything that goes with it, but first rip your CDs and see what sound you're getting from a quality storage device not a NAS or USB/HDD.

I used to use a dongle and when I switched to a hard wired streamer the sound quality drastically improved. 

So, @vanson1 you seem to have a similar experience to mine.  What streamer did you find was a big improvement over streaming through iDevices?

Get your network and streamer optimized, you won't go back to playing cd's. I'm at point where I cannot tell between cd rips and streams.


For the sake of not getting into a brand discussion as everyone on this forum likes what they own better than anything else, I will only say that you should buy one that has the features you need. The software that is used to operate it is also really important. 

Many will operate using your phone which is really convenient.  Some have built in DACS and some do MQA if that is important to you.  

I have found that just the streamer itself,  they all pretty much sound alike. 

It's the DAC that makes a difference. 


But for sure,  a wired dedicated streamer Will pass more and cleaner data.

Would it be better if I had a CD or download? I just don't care...

I'm glad you're satisfied.

If one is clearly superior to the other then maybe you should unless you are easily pleased.

I must admit to occasionally listening to AAC 192 kbps at lower levels and being satisfied.

@pedroeb --

The only format that has ever shown itself to be consistently, truly above the others on my system is Qobuz top-shelf hi-rez streaming. Below that is vinyl, but that doesn't mean Red Book or SACD doesn't ooch above vinyl a reasonable amount of the time. The trouble is, for one reason or another I just can't reliably stream hi-rez files. I'll often just get silence when I try, especially during peak hours. What's/who's to blame? My phone/cable provider?  Luckily, though, I never fail to get music when I switch to Qobuz' more modest CD level stream. Every once in a while, Idagio's CD level streams fail to make it to my stereo, as well.

I would recommend an Aurender N100… used if too expensive new. It took my headphone system out of the restrictions posed by iPods, iPads… etc. while there is no question that streaming can equal or best CD players it will always depend on the player / streamer comparison.

Well, weeding through all this good info — and thank you so much for sharing your experience — I’ve gotta get a hard-wired streamer and also upgrade my switch.  How would something like an Optical Rendu factor into this equation?   As a long-time audiophile I know that EVERYTHING matters to some degree, but I don’t have an unlimited budget so just looking to where to best draw the line.  Let’s call it a budget of $1500 give or take to up my streaming game.  Thanks again and much appreciated for those who’ve already fought this battle!

So, let’s drill down a bit here.  I realize I need to go hard-wired to a good streamer, and it also makes sense I should upgrade my switch.  Can’t do both right now, so I’m guessing I should go with hardwired streamer first and then upgrade switch?  Or Optical Rendu?  Thoughts?

It doesnot have to be  there are a lot of factors  your cables have a very lot to do

wth this wifi no way vs and wire from modem to router Is important ,I use a AQ Diamond , use Wireworld for a 10 m run, ,the key is the beginning  and much more so End point .to the computer 

uptone audio Ether regen Ethernet hub  truly cleans and regen s digital signal , the most important Ethernet cable without question is from the hub to the I computer server 

which I use a AQ Diamond  the usb a AQ Diamond it sounds very good ,using a Terminator 2dac ,I plan on  buying a DCS Bartok when deal gets through with my brother.

the new Synergistc research new  Ethernet  hub is a game changer for streaming ,my brothers bought one And even compared  To my very good Uptone audio hub this makes streaming much more real ,but is $2200 with ice power cord . I will have to save a couple months . In audio it never ends, always short on $$ funds !!

You do not need to hardwire a streamer. Just get a wall wart wifi extender and put next to your streamer… plug into that. Put as much into the streamer as you can…. It makes a difference. As I may have said, I have owned $3K, $5K, $10K, and $22K streamers and each brought a huge increase in sound quality. You can add little tweaks like a Ethernet regenerator… etc. The important thing is to get a great streamer. 

Not sure this will help… but I recently tried to improve my streaming SQ because I was disappointed that my iPad via camera adapter (usb) sounded better than coax from my node 2i to my “new” Gustard x26 pro DAC. I thought at the time that the reason why was because the usb implementation was superior to coax (And that may well be at least partially true….. I don’t know) on the Gustard. So I ordered the Ifi stream and updated the cat cables when hooKing up my new Ifi directly to Gustard via usb. Long story short the iFi wasn’t for me, but I now believe that the adaptor sounded better (again, at least partially) because my wifi sounded better then Ethernet connection. I came to that conclusion because I changing my Ethernet cables to Cat 8’s made the node2i sounds better via coax then the iPad via adaptor. Total cost was $30 bucks for two 6 foot linkup cat 8’s.



Yes CD's beat any streamers I've heard regardless of the DAC used. Convenience is not there yet. Best wishes.

My Marantz SACD7S3 has crushed every streamer I have tried so far. And that makes me happy.

soix - if your budget is $1500, that will buy a nice stack of used (or new) CDs.

I really like CDs, and I still have not upgraded to streaming.  My CD collection includes material from MFSL, DCC, JVC XRCD, Telarc, FIM, etc.  And of course you can visit the Steve Hoffman forums, and really go down the rabbit hole of comparing various pressings/re-issues of CDs.

I streamed for years. Tidal Qobuz Amazon HD. One morning I got up and and hooked my old nad CD player up on a lark. Using its spdif out to my DAC. I haven’t streamed a song since. I upgraded to a Cambridge cxc transport and it’s even better. I play cds that are scratched up where the nad would skip. I’ll one have missed a beat on the Cambridge. Personally I’m done. Probably if I went with one of the 5k streamers and treated the internet noise with all those gadgets it might be equal or better? Now finding used music stores and finding cool cds is a new hobby of mine. As good as the cxc sounds I will probably upgrade my transport at some point. 


So, let’s drill down a bit here.  I realize I need to go hard-wired to a good streamer, and it also makes sense I should upgrade my switch.  Can’t do both right now, so I’m guessing I should go with hardwired streamer first and then upgrade switch?  Or Optical Rendu?  Thoughts?

That's what I do now. Ripped all my discs to NAS and use wired ethernet to opticalRendu. That beats the microRendu I had previously by eliminating a lot of noise as described in many posts below. Even the microRendu crushed my MacMini w/Audirvana+ or Amarra because a low power specialized device with a good LPS is SO much quieter than a PC/Mac running many processes unrelated to audio playback. 

You don't have to go nuts ripping all disks at once...just start with your most frequently played and do a few each week while you're watching movies, etc. 

The mastering of what you've got on disc vs. what services stream is a mystery and huge rabbit hole. Your findings are no shocker. With rips to a NAS or SSD, clean wired ethernet and a decent streamer you should well be on your way. FWIW, Andrew at SGC recommended a $20 TP-Link switch that sounds very good at nominal cost. Just don't skimp on the power supply for your streamer/renderer; they make a huge difference in SQ. Cheers,


Optimizing streaming is not easily achieved. I'm discovering the most experienced streamers are going to completely discreet solutions. This entails something like Roon library on stock or modded pc, server running proprietary OS, endpoint/streamer able to run that server OS. This system will also need to have high quality ethernet cable, LPS for all components, fiber conversion.


Of course we have streaming at all levels from beginner to the above optimal setup. With almost unlimited streaming solutions and a number of different cd transports available each situation could bring about differing favored digital solution.


I can only speak for myself, cd rips long ago defeated my Mark Levinson #37 transport, used Phillips Pro mechanism, long considered one of the best. It took a couple years more of network upgrades for streams to challenge rips as best. These days I couldn't reliably tell the difference. While I still have room for improvement in cd rip playback, much more room for streaming improvement. Streaming will soon become de facto means for optimal digital playback, if not already there.

Try listening to SACDs and Blu-ray Audio discs with a GeerFab Audio D.BOB extracting DSD64 and up to 24/192 PCM, then out over coax/Toslink (DoP for DSD) to an external DAC, and then compare that to streaming.

About four years ago, I ripped my 1000 CDs to a Zenith MK2 streamer and haven’t looked back.  I use Roon on a Mac mini for whole house stereo to powered speakers.  In my listening room, I use Innuos Sense, which sounds a LOT better than Roon.  

In my system, Tidal MQA and Qobuz HiRes sound about the same, with a slight edge to Qobuz on most tracks.  MP3s sound pretty good in my main system.  I think vinyl sounds better than CDs and anything streamed. 

I’ll be 74 in a few weeks.  For me it’s time to settle down and just enjoy the music.   Towards that end, I sold my McIntosh CD player (and my Mac preamp, power amp, and tuner) and plan to sell my Technics 1200G TT and the rest of my analog stuff.  With the proceeds, I plan to buy a better streamer and DAC, or a streamer/DAC combo - something in the 10-15K range.

When it comes to SQ, vinyl will always be my first love, but, for convenience and simplicity, I plan to spend the rest of my years streaming. My son has always wanted my 1500 albums; it’s time he gets them.

I think iphone is the bottleneck. If you had an external DAC, buy a lighting to USB (e.g. type B) adapter and hook up the iphone to the DAC. Or you could invest a portable DAC such as Audioquest Dragonfly Cobalt connected with an lighting to USB type A adapter. That will allow you play hi-res music through iphone. If you want to charge your iphone while playing music for a longer time period, buy a aforementioned lighting to USB adapter that also has a splitter from lighting to charger (also USB). 

I think the number one problem with satellite streaming is not really the gear (although that can be undeniably a big part of it as well) but it’s the process. The only potential fatal flaw I see there is hoping for the best when you’re trying to bounce the signal up to a satellite nearly 200 miles up and then back down again and expecting it to sound as good as a disc. Somehow, something tells me that process is just gonna be murder on the signal. We’ve more or less seen similar troubles crop up before when trying to run digital signals along lengths of wire. And yes, I know that in that case the signal is actually analog at that point, not digital, and I don’t really even know whether the beam to and from the satellite is in analog or digital form, but my point is simply that if transmitting the signal a short distance here on earth can give us fits, just try to imagine what the hurdles to overcome must be like for the 400 mi round trip...! In the end we may wind up with the technological service we desire, e.g. the one we thought we were getting, but I suspect it may take them a few attempts to get it right...and we’re still basically in the middle of our first commercial attempt. We may have to put this idea back in the oven to bake a little longer, but I’m guessing we’ll get there.

Maybe another way to look at that is, IMO, sending a hifi signal across the room via wifi OTOH, is a right good improvement over satellite streaming sq - maybe not q-u-i-t-e as good as disc - but rilly rilly close! Using better gear in that scenario, you’d think it would pay the dividends with sq that you might ordinarily expect to see. But, with satellite streaming I think the better gear might only go so far and then effectively no farther, really. At least for now. Hopefully they will get around to perfecting the satellite part of it.

@richtruss, I happen to agree with you that a good streamer running Qobuz, in a dedicated system that is properly filtered, sounds far superior to one that is using a CD transport as its music source. I would never have come to this conclusion without the help from both you and Rob. Thank you

After wading through all this it occurs to me that we don't know anything about the OPs system apart from iStuff.  Maybe I missed it?  Anyway, it's completely unsurprising that a reasonable CD player/transport on a reasonable system would sound better than the iStuff. I've got a kind of mid-fi setup with KEF LS50s, PS Audio Sprout 100 and Bluesound node 2i.  My android phone can stream through the Sprout via Bluetooth.  The Node 2i sounds far better (yeah, I know, Bluetooth yada yada).  I've also got a seriously high end "reference" system also using a Node 2i.  The differences are even more pronounced.  That said, the differences between the Node 2i and CDs and ripped CDs onto flac files is minimal.  And how much of that is imperfect level matching?  Anyway, what you've done (I think) is really just take Bluetooth out of the chain.  But what's the rest of the system?  Getting all kinds of specific advice on streamers, routers etc is, IMHO, pointless without knowing the rest of the chain.


My gut reaction is just get a Node 2i.  Use ethernet if you can.  Listen and compare.  I'd be amazed if it wasn't an improvement.  THEN contemplate how much better it needs to be, if at all.  If you upgrade just sell the Node 2i.  And forget the special audio router stuff unless the rest of your system is very very special (flame on!).

With fast music and music with a lot of cymbals my cd transport into the same DAC easily trumps the node 2 either streamed of played off of ss drive through the node. Better flow and more natural sounding.  Also music that has large dynamic shifts sounds more dynamic and natural via the transport.
With slower music or vocal only not much difference. Ymmv. 

Getting all kinds of specific advice on streamers, routers etc is, IMHO, pointless without knowing the rest of the chain.

@kletter1mann Yeah, good point. My bad. Audience AR1p, Musician Pegasus, Singxer SA1, Hifiman Arya Stealth, LavriCable balanced silver cables for headphones and balanced between DAC and amp as well as Lightening cable and dual USB cable, Cullen power cables.

So, what I’m thinking is Optical Rendu, iFi Zen Stream, ProJect Streambox, or a used Innuos Zen. Thoughts?

Whatever you choose, the attention paid to the network delivering the data, plus the PSU for the streamer are critical and will hugely improve the sound quality. I’ve found the iFi iPower Elite exceptionally good. Try one with a used Auralic Aries and you’ll be very surprised.