Qobuz Hi-Rez Not Necessarily the Best Sound


I stream Qobuz using Roon into a Bricasti M1SE DAC/Streamer into a Benchmark HPA4 headphone amp and then into various Kennerton or RAAL headphones.

Lately I have been comparing different versions of recordings on Qobuz.  For instance, lately it has been Depeche Mode but also Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, and Supertramp.  Oftentimes there are several versions of titles, usually Hi-rez files of 24/192 or similar, versus the standard 16/44.1 resolution versions.  Sometimes there are remastered versions in various resolutions.  

Quite by accident I have found that the highest resolution versions are not necessarily the best-sounding versions, often preferring the remastered and/or standard resolution recordings.  Today, for instance, I was listening to DM's A Broken Frame.  The 24/192 sounded a little sharper with perhaps a little more detail and spaciousness but was amazingly dynamically compressed.  The difference was not subtle.  Going from the 24/192 to the 16/44.1 remastered version was going from a bland recording to one that came alive.  I guess it goes to show that higher rez files are not necessarily superior sonically.

Anyone else found this to be the case in their streaming?  Thanks.


While I’m not on Qobuz, I have found that a lot of times there is little or no difference between CD and high Res. It’s as if they re-recorded it without making any other changes. Having said that, I’m listening to Tommy in 24/96 and it sounds great!

Great thread, all!... and timely, for me. First, I concur with so many here: the ability to have so much music available in Hi-Res these days is just wonderful. I'm a Qobuz subscriber myself, and generally find that the 192 kHz stuff (especially the more recent re-releases, e.g., The Beatles albums, Steely Dan's "Can't Buy a Thrill") sound way better, though, as with most things, there can be exceptions. Also as with most things, if you start with quality in the raw ingredients, the odds will be better that you'll get a great product out the other side. Cooking, wine-making and music are great examples (and for music, I'm thinking picky recording artists like Genesis, Talking Heads, Dire Straits et al). The converse, naturally, being "garbage in, ..."

I stream through an Aries Mini into a Weiss DAC2. The amplifier is a Jolida 302b tube. Speakers are a brand new pair of Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature monitors, PS Audio and AudioQuest cables. Not super high-end by any stretch, but the system is balanced and the sound really works in my space. (Tube amps are incredible. The warm-up time isn't, but... tradeoffs.)

And with all that, I have a question: when I first signed up for Qobuz back in 2020, the 16/44.1 versions would read as just that on the Weiss DAC. But beginning a couple/few months ago, even the lowest end recordings appear to be playing at 44.1 x 4 (176.4 kHz). And I'll add that just about everything sounds better playing at that higher resolution than it did prior to. I can hear it. I'm thinking that Qobuz must have done something programmatically, but no idea what it was. (I even asked their support folks, got an initial reply saying they'd ask, then... crickets.) Anyone here know? ...and thanks for the great discussions, always.

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments so far.  I look forward to seeing additional great insights.

It seems as thought, although I do not have much experience in this area as I listen to little new music other than later relases of jazz, prog rock, and classic rock/pop artists, that not all remasterings are equal in sound quality.  Again, after hearing various Qobuz versions of DM's Construction Time Again, how much difference there is sound-wise between a high-resolution file and a later standard resolution remastering of the same title.  The difference in sound was staggering in favor of the late remastering, period.

I personally have not compared versions of Tidal and Qobuz as I did not feel it necessary to pay the difference in monthly subscriptions.  However, I did have Amazon HD and its sound quality was vastly inferior compared to Qobuz to the point I cancelled my AHD subscription.

At one point I had thousands of LPs but my desire to avoid the difficulties and complexities of vinyl playback led me to the ease and convenience of streaming digital files.  While I have little personal experience in ripping CDs to a HDD I have little doubt in the reported experiences in others who follow this endeavor.  Maybe at a future date I might try this path.

Thank you again for your responses.

@lowrider57 yes source is still Linn axis with Denon dl103r and Electrcompaniet step up x former to phono stage then out to a2d converter. I use the Rega mini phono for that now with Cambridge evo 150.

I know the sound of the dynamically normalized output is different because you can see it in the waveform in audacity. There is surely an audible difference but nothing. I could clearly identify just listening. If I bothered to do a good quality A/b test I probably would hear the difference. The dynamic normalization is essentially a custom digital mastering that I choose to apply in order to get better dynamics compared to otherwise in many cases. Hope that helps.

@designsfx the easiest way is create a basic Plex account which is free and I can share my library. Sharing libraries is another neat Plex feature.