Sound quality issues streaming from Tidal vs CD


I am hoping someone familiar with streaming from Tidal might be able to help.

I have recently installed the Pro-Ject Streambox S2 Ultra, which is a small Raspberry Pi based network bridge. I connect this to my router via ethernet cable and to my Vitus DAC (which is part of the CD player) via USB. My CD player obviously outputs through the same DAC.

The sound quality from CD is so much better than the sound quality from Tidal (I am a Tidal Hifi subscriber).

So my questions are:

1. Is this just a feature of streaming via the internet, it simply is not as good as a good quality CD transport?
2. Or is it an issue with the Pro-Ject - would something like the Autralic Aries G2 (also a network bridge with no DAC) which costs 6 times the price of the Pro-Ject, improve the Tidal stream?
3. Or is it the fact that the USB cable I am using is an entry-level £10 cable?
4. Or is it Tidal? - would Qobuz sound better?

Any advice or knowledge would be welcome.
Aa29a0d9 0631 4703 9c2a 2301d5d3754aduckworp
I would try a different connection ... other than USB. 
You can achieve cd quality sound or better through streaming, both Tidal and Qobuz are great choices. I would say Pro-Ject Streambox S2 Ultra and cheap USB cable is the weak link.

A component like Vitus deserves a high quality all purpose built audio streaming device, try something like Aurender N100C, Lumin U1 Mini or U1. Use a decent quality USB or SPDIF cable and you will hear definite improvements over S2 Ultra.
It might be the streamer.  The quality of the streamer matters just as the quality of your CD player matters.  I'm not familiar with that streamer, so don't have any comment on how it compares to others.

Streaming music can sound as good as CD, a lot depends on the components used.  Just as a CD may sound better or worse depending on the player, the sound quality of your streaming experience will vary based on your setup. 

The quality of your internet connection, cables, your router, and whether you're using a wired or wireless connection may also affect sound quality.

Both Qobuz and Tidal sound excellent.  I use both.
@big_greg - my internet connection is wired. The Project stream box ultra is a budget network bridge (around $1000) whereas the Vitus CD player is high-end gear. Maybe that is the issue: a top cd transport vs a budget network transport.

I had had not considered the router - what qualities are required for optimal Tidal delivery?
If you own a Laptop as an experiment download the PC app for
Tidal and try the USB connection from your Laptop.
This works for me. Should work for you too.

Doug
It could be that your CD player is so good that the streamer doesn't compare favorably. 

I have a Marantz KI Pearl CD player and it sounds better (to me) than any of my other source components, including my streamers. 

I am using lower cost streamers (Bluesound Node 2 @$500 each) in two systems.  In my main system I have one connected to my Auralic Vega DAC and it sounds great.  Not quite as good as the Marantz CD player, but close.  In my bedroom, I have the Bluesound connected to a Mytek Liberty DAC.  I think it sounds as good or better than the Oppo BDP-105D that I use for CD/SACD in that system. 

In my computer system I am streaming from my computer to a MHDT Labs Orchid DAC via USB and it sounds as good or better than the CD player I have in that system (a cheapo Japanese Onkyo SACD player).  

I don't know enough about router technology to provide specifics on what to look for.  High speed and low data loss would seem to be the most obvious things. 

Having a wired connection as you do is said by most to be better than wireless. 

I haven't experimented enough to say whether cables make much difference, but you might consider trying better cables (both the USB and the ethernet).

I'm a little surprised that feeding the signal into the same DAC as your CD player uses isn't producing similar sound quality.  I need to try sending my Bluesound's signal to my Marantz player and see how it compares to the Auralic.

Hopefully someone can chime in that has experience with the gear you have and/or can speak more to the technical issues that might help you have a better streaming experience.
Streaming from Tidal and Qobuz should should sound excellent.  

Previously my Tidal Streaming service sometimes stopped playing for a few seconds and then started again.  In addition, sometimes, my Internet connection completed stopped working while listening to a Tidal album.  I re-booted my modem and router and everything worked but the Internetconnection continued to sometimes drop.  It was driving me crazy.

I completely LOST my Internet connection on my MAC Computer.  I re-booted everything (twice) and still no Internet connection.  I called my Internet Service Provider (ISP) and they said the cable signal strength coming into my modem was incorrect (out of range) and scheduled a Maintenance Tech (Senior level, outside person) Service Call.  This is not the ISP normal service call.

The ISP Maintenance Tech arrived on Sunday and adjusted the signal strength for all their switching components carrying the cable signal to my home.  He then replaced the outside cable junction box (underground) for my neighborhood (3 homes including mine) since it was old and corroded.   He then replaced all the coaxial connector plugs on the cable from my wall plug to my modem and also replaced all the coaxial connector plugs in my outside cable box.   He noticed some of the wires were not straight so he rearranged the wires in my configuration both inside and outside.  Some additional adjustments were required on the outside cable junction box (fine tuning to get the require signal strength).  He was excellent and answered my questions on my configuration.  

When all of the above was done, he tested both the outside cable junction box and the inside signal strength to ensure all cable signals were in the required range (they were).   He then ran a speed test to confirm my upload and download speeds were correct (they were).  He made some additional minor cable and tuning adjustments and now everything is working fine.  He said if the cable signal strength is too high, or low, it will cause the Internetconnection to drop its signal.  It has to be in its assigned required range.  

If you are experiencing Internetconnection problems, the FIRST step to turn the power off your router, modem (take out the battery, if present) and remove the cable connection from the wall for 3 minutes.  To re-start, plug the coaxial cable back into the wall FIRST and turn on the power for all your devices.  This should solve most problems, but, if not, repeat these steps. You should also ensure the software in your router is current.  

If you are still experiencing Internetconnectivity issues, you might need to call your ISP for assistance.  If needed, you might ask the Customer Support person to check the cable signal strength coming into your modem to help troubleshoot the issue.

I probably should have called my ISP sooner but my Internet connectivity problems happened infrequently.   I was very lucky to have a very experienced ISP Technical person who knew exactly what was needed both inside and outside.   

Previous to the above, I also had router issues.  My Linksys router was dropping packets that greatly impacted the sound.  I also had issues with 2 Apple routers since they could not handle the load.  My current Luxul router is working fine.  

As noted, streaming issues require a complete review of all components especially the router, switch box, if any, Internet signal being in the correct range, outside cable junction boxes, ISP amplifiers, wiring, etc.  I hope this helps. 

I am currently streaming Tidal and Qobuz and both services sound excellent.    


As I stated above, my Tidal signal was sometimes dropping and my ISP Technician said this was caused because the cable signal was slightly out of its required range.  This signal variance causes signal dropouts and I suggest you ask your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to check their signal to ensure it is in the required range.   The signal needs to be checked at the street (cable junction box for your house) and also the cable line coming into your modem. Signal checking at both location is required to ensure everything is working to spec.

In addition, please confirm your router is capable of handling the signal load and it is not causing the problem.  As I reported above, my Linksys router was sometimes dropping packets.  My Apple router was also not capable of handling the requested load.  

I cannot comment on your Pro-Ject S-2 Ultra streaming device since I am not familiar with it. 

Unfortunately, dealing with the above issues takes time and patience.  All of these issues can be fixed so your Tidal and Qobuz streaming services sound terrific.   

BTW, Qobuz 24-bit/96 and 24-bit/192 albums sound really good.  



IMO, it’s important too have a good quality router. I use a Nighthawk connected by an Audioquest Cinnamon ethernet cable direct to my Streamer Dac (Oppo). I’m considering getting a linear power supply for the router based on comments read on Audiogon.
I agree with tuberist above that a high quality router is required for Tidal and Qobuz streaming.   I use the Luxul WIRELESS ROUTER KIT – EPIC 3 AC3100 WIRELESS ROUTER & CONTROLLER W/ DOMOTZ, ROUTER LIMITS AND XAP-1510 AC1900 ACCESS POINT.

"This wireless router kit combines high output power and simple deployment. The Luxul WS-250 offers the Epic 3 dual-band wireless AC3100 gigabit router, and the high-power AC1900 XAP-1510 access point. Including 802.11ac wireless coverage, Domotz remote management, family scheduling with Router Limits and roaming is solved with the built-in wireless controller with Roam Assist™".

https://www.luxul.com/kits/ws-250.aspx
Even though you are paying for hifi through Tidal, double check your settings to ensure you have selected the best sound quality.
I have a PC to DAC over USB and using the DAC’s Window’s driver to drive the USB makes a huge difference, so whatever is driving your source-end USB could be the bottleneck. 
Try looking at the QoS setting in the router. If on turn off.  Otherwise use QoS to prioritize Tidal traffic over other traffic.

To be honest I have no idea how to do it. :)
Please simplify your life - get a LUMIN ASAP. I bought the LUMIN D1 four years ago - connect it to your Router via an Ethernet cable. My house is hard wired with Ethernet in all major rooms. Hard wire from the LUMIN into your Stereo input on your Preamp. LUMIN has two outputs - balanced and unbalanced. I feed both of my systems from one LUMIN - the TIDAL feed (especially MQA ) is amazingly good!! I do not use my turntable or CD player any more. The LUMIN interface via my I Pad Mini works great - the sound is the best I have ever heard out of my system!!

your usb feed is your weak link

Please simplify and just go buy the best Streamer/DAC on the market, and get back to enjoying the music!
I had issues when trying to stream Tidal wirelessly.  The signal kept breaking up.  I fixed the problem by hard wiring my modem to my Apple TV using CAD5 cable and ran CAD6 to my receiver.  I can’t tell the difference in sound quality compared to CD.  I would imagine using a PS Audio streamer would sound nicer.  However, how much better after dropping $6,000x
The Tidal issues I have experienced was not using the digital input on my preamp. Later when I upgraded to the hifi subscription Tidal told me the master quality had to be done from pc. Now I use my pc for Tidal and Qobuz. Huge difference and that is using a USB cable.
Thanks for all your very informative replies. I will certainly try some of the ideas you put forward. Fortunately I don’t get drop out problems with Tidal, the issues are just in sound quality: compared to the CD the music has grit, the top end is not clean, the bass less defined, the music is flatter with no depth. Hopefully with some of your suggestions I can improve this. If not I may have to invest in a better quality network bridge streamer. The DAC I have in the Vitus is very very good, so I will continue to use that, but perhaps I will need to investigate what alternatives there are in the streamers that have no DAC.
I stream Tidal and CD’s using the same Oppo 105 player and there is no question that CD’s
sound much better. I would love to be able to stream with the same results as playing CD’s and would have no problem paying for that service if that was the case but still debating whether to continue paying. I like the ability to explore new music and listen to music I probably would not buy otherwise. When it's time for serious listening, it’s playing the disc, whether SA or standard disc, which by the way I think the quality from your standard CD on the Oppo is overlooked
Hi,

As an audio distributor I learn a ton of knowledge by listening to my clients. The best piece of digital advice that was given to us by one of our clients is to look at digital like a piece of pie. If you have an average USB cable, you are missing 1/8 of the pie and there are a ton of average USB cables. If you are using average blue Cat 5 router cable, you are picking up noise thru that cable and missing another 1/8 of the pie. If you are NOT hardwired to your router, you are missing another 1/8 of the pie. If you are using an average server you are missing 1/4 of the pie. When you start to add the whole amount of digital signal missing, it becomes oblivious why the streaming service is not as good as your CD player but if you solve the weak links than Tidal can sound very good. We have directly A/B tested 76 different digital front ends as of May 2019 and we have found that the server was the most important part of setting up a digital system properly, followed by the dac but most people focus on the dac first. The proper cables are also super important and hardwired, in our opinion, solves a lot of problems.

Cheers,

"Tidal told me the master quality had to be done from pc."

Not true. I stream Masters MQA content from my mobile device all the time.
@worldwidewholesales 

thanks for your considered reply. One thing I don’t understand: in my chain (router to Pro-Ject Streambox to DAC) which is the server?
Hi,

It looks like your Pro-Ject Streambox acts as the streamer but I have zero personal experience with this device. If you are looking at music servers at the $1000 price point than I would recommend you contact Andrew at Small Green Computers and chat with him about an Ultra Rendu with an upgraded power supply. Excellent product and to get better you need to spend a lot more.

Most of the servers we A/B tested were $3000 and up. The exception was the Sonore products, which are very good sounding.

Cheers,

@worldwidewholesales
Is a streamer the same as a server?

i was thinking of demoing an AURALiC Aries G2 - are there others you can recommend to replace the Pro-ject?
I do not need a hard drive nor a DAC. 
get a TEAC NT-505
your ears will never be so happy
@duckworp:

Streamer is not the same as server.  
Hi,

Streamers and servers are different and again I can highly recommend Andrew at Little Green Computers. The Auralic is another option but we prefer Sonore, sound wise. The very best server/streamer we have tested is the Rockna WD Net and this is our current reference.

Cheers,

@worldwidewholesales 
Please could you explain the difference between a streamer and a server?  

I do think the terminology in streaming is wanting.  Sometimes a streamer contains a dac, sometimes it doesn’t (when it sometimes is referred to as a network bridge) sometimes it is a pre-amp too, often it isn’t.  Sometimes it has a hard drive (is that when it becomes a server?).
Hi,
A server run's Roon core and serves music to a player (or players). A player attaches to a USB DAC and streams music to the DAC from the server. Does that answer your question?

Cheers,
Qobuz has the best SQ, followed by Tidal HiFi MQA. You will need good bandwidth ISP plus good DAC to enjoy the music. they will sound better than Redbook CD in most case though sometimes I can't tall them apart. if you stream from PC, USB port can be noisy depend what PC your are using. If you have an Oppo 105 player. It has a build in app that allows you to stream Tidal internally (skipping the USB post and cable). 
1. no
2. yes and a G1 is also a good option.
3. a better USB would help and also consider AES/EBU.
4. no

The issue you have is electronic noise getting into audio signal via the streamer. 

Good luck! 
I found in my setup that tidal sounds washed out compared to ripped CDs. And that digital music sounded better stored on a solid state drive as opposed to my USB3 Drobo disk array. My setup includes an ultrarendu / LPS1.2 power supply with Auoquest USB and network cables with a direct connect to network switch in my equipment rack. On the advice of Alex Crespi at uptone audio I spent $20 on a used enterprise Cisco 2960 SI 10/100 switch (replacing a new netgear gigabit switch with an audio grade external power supply). The change in sound quality for all of my stored and streamed (Tidal) music was dramatic. Music from Tidal now sounds like CD quality recordings, but still not the quality of locally stored music. I am a retired embedded systems engineer with a fair amount of knowledge about network hardware and the only reasons I can figure for this upgrade in sound quality is generally better build quality reducing noise transfer between switch ports and a better power supply.
hope this is not too long winded and is helpful 
@sfine0, please could you explain where a switch sits in the system and it’s function? At present my line of wired connections is modem to router to streamer to dac.  My streamer user interface system communicates to the router via WiFi and hence to the streamer via the wired connection.  
I have the same Pro-Ject Ultra S2 Streambox and run Tidal Hi-Fi through it.  It sounds lovely.  I’m sure a streamer at 5x the price would sound better, but I’m very pleased with it. 
Duckworp 

i have a single wired drop into my audio room (Cat 5e soon to be Cat 7 - a euro standard) connected to a network switch sitting with my Mac mini and drobo disk array. The network patch cables are Cat7 from wall outlet to switch, Audioquest Vodka from switch to an Ultrarendu and An Audioquest Cinnamon cable from a 2012 Mac Mini. The Utrarendu / LPS2.1 is plugged into a dedicated 20 amp outlet, the Mac min another 20amp outlet and the Cisco switch is plugged into a shunyata Hydra 4. My Fios modem is in my basement 2 floors down from my listing room.  It is my experience a hardline connect gives better results than WiFi and that well made network cables are an important component to good sound. 

Remember, what we are dealing with are digital signals being transmitted in an analog format. All of the devices in the digital transmission chain should be seen the same way normal analog device/interfaces  are.
steve
In my experience the streamer impacts the sound. I added a Meridian Sooloos Ms600 to my system to allow streaming through my Simaudio Moon 650D CD.  I was running Roon off my laptop in another room by my router.  Network connections were Cat6 Ethernet cable and Ethernet over powerline adapters.  I had music files on a USB hard drive hooked up to my laptop. Tidal aside for the moment, I could never get songs streamed from my hard drive via the MS600 to my Moon 650d to sound as good as CD played directly on the 650D. As an experiment, I tried using Simaudio’s own streamer instead of the Meridian MS600 and, what do you know, streaming files from my computer now sounded the same as CDs!  Turns out, the Meridian MS600 imposes it’s own sonic signature on the sound and it was not as much to my liking. The Moon streamer has the same Simaudio house sound that I liked and was pretty much indistinguishable from the transport in the 650D. So, streamers impact the sound.

i also found that the digital coax cable I used between the streamer and the DAC influenced the sound, though not as much as the streamer itself. In this way it was like switching out any other cable in my system. 

I have now dropped CD entirely and just use. Simaudio Moon 780D V2 streamer/DAC. Yet even with this expensive component, WAV files streamed locally from my hard drive sound a bit better than the same 16/44.1 FLAC file off of Tidal. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe Tidal FLAC files are compressed and suffer slightly in the uncompressing process?  Maybe streaming inserts a little noise into the system?  I’d love others’ opinions!
You need a better Router I think..
Try it from a MacBook.
I use an Explorer2 and it sounds fantastic..
In my Mid-Fi system , I have the following . Oppo 105, Musical Fidelity’s transport, and Windows based laptop ( wireless ) running Tidal with partial MQA unfolding . All three feed my Schiit Yiggy DAC . They are all very close in SQ . However , I had a significant SQ improvement as I moved from a cheap USB cable , to an Audio Quest Cinnamon, and then to a Cardas Clear . I have a router dedicated just for the laptop . I also run a power supply with the laptop as well as a good condition battery . So first get a better cable . Then tune your router . Also sub in a nice laptop for comparison. After that , get a better streamer . Cheers , Mike B. 
I have been listening to Radio Paradise for the last week and I have concluded it sounds better than Tidal, and I am a big fan of Tidal. RP is free, allows 5 levels of streaming, I am using FLAC. Have learned of new artists I really like and it has a couple of channels to choose from. It really sounds great through my new Yggie. 
I would like some feedback regarding my present setup please. I have Verizon FIOS with their Quantum Gateway G1100 that feeds Ethernet signal over the coax in the house. I then receive the signal via their Network extender (Actiontec WCB6200Q) that has 2 Ethernet ports to my Lumin d1. I use cat 6 to my Lumin and HT receiver. I also have an SBooster power supply on the Lumin d1. Lumin products have galvanic isolation but a thought was to buy ifi ipower supplies for the Verizon products? Thoughts?
its the same for me Duck boy    But for me Tidal HiFi
 is just easier i can skip around and not have CD,s
all over the floor   CD,s
blow away that  mid fi audio equipment.   i have
the Yeggy DAC with same price Streamer and USB
wire with great P. Cond.
I stream Qobuz with my IPad into a Marantz integrated amp xx17 and into my Sonus Faber Grand Piano speakers. Excellent to the point that it is equal listening a good sacd. Way superior to Apple Music. Good selection of classical music.