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Tutorials

A Converter or a network player: a subscriber asks us some questions.

By Philippe Daussin |

Our readers and subscribers trust us, and it makes us happy. Thus, this column, which is devoted to you, also happens to be a place of dialogue between you and us, and also between you in a spirit of mutual aid and cooperation.

Today, we answer the email of a subscriber, and we wish to apologize for the time it took us to do so.

Hello,

My current setup is as follows:

- Sonos Connect

- British audio tube amplifier, “classic” model

- French Linear Speakers from the 80s.

- Qobuz FLAC

On Qobuz, the difference between MP3 and FLAC is noticeable, but not outstanding. Therefore, I wonder about my equipment. What is the weak points here?

If it’s the Connect, would it be enough to just replace it with another converter? Your article (https://www.qobuz.com/fr-fr/info/hi-res-guide/les-cingles-de-la-hi-fi/lecteurs-reseau-et-autres178300) suggests different converters, at different prices. Between good sound and marketing pointlessness, what should I choose?

Converters or network players? What about the Bluesound that you recommended among others, or about Marantz and Pioneer (it brings us back to the 70s) compared to the €2500 Lumïn?

If it’s the amplifier, I have no preconceptions, except to say that the “warm” classic tube model (I’ve read they were somewhat discredited) suits me, and the one called the British sound also does.

If it’s my speakers, I haven’t looked into it for quite some time…

I come back to Qobuz as much for the sound as for the writing. But then, you need the added value in quality. Thank you for your help.

Another additional question: it’s no problem for me to command the Sonos from the Spotify application. However, the Qobuz application doesn’t automatically find it. Which step did I miss?

Best regards.


Our answer

Hello and thank you for your email,

Let’s start with the beginning, i.e. the difference between MP3 and FLAC, which you find “noticeable, but not outstanding”. It makes you question your equipment.

Remote diagnoses are not easy, especially when we are talking about sound reproduction.

As for the Sonos Connect, it is a pioneer device, so to speak, but it remains limited to CD quality in its streaming capabilities, i.e. 16-Bit/44.1 kHz. However, we think that its digital-to-analog converter section is of good quality, and it is quite unlikely that it would be the part reducing the difference between MP3 and FLAC.

It is obvious that more recent network players, such as the Bluesound Node 2, or even the Lumïn, that you cited, are better suited to current streaming conditions, especially for the playback of Hi-Res digital audio files, either from a network server (NAS) or when you possess a Qobuz Sublime+ subscription.

Regarding the cost of the devices, they do not represent, according to us, sound quality, but are rather related to manufacturing conditions and quality, quantity produced, or even distribution type, and also more subjective parameters such as brand notoriety or even target audience. Furthermore, sound quality is itself a subjective matter, everyone obviously having their own tastes. For us, it is neutrality—i.e. the respect of timbers, and more generally an authentic sounding reproduction—that we like to hear the most.

It is obviously not your case since you like the warm sound of tubes (and it is your most absolute right), but it might not be the most suited to highlight the difference between an album encoded in MP3 and one encoded in FLAC, because the warm sound of tubes is actually, as you maybe knew, due to the addition of distortion by the tubes, even harmonics that sound pleasing but enrich the sound restitution, thus erasing the finesse and spacing of a FLAC album compared to its MP3 version.

To write this article, we just listened to the second movement from Dvorak’s Symphony No.8 in FLAC and in MP3, and just like you, we wouldn’t talk about outstanding differences, but unlike you, we would say that it is more than noticeable, the difference is clear and part of the work’s musical richness clearly disappeared with the MP3 encoding, psycho-acoustics being limited, and MP3 not having taken as reference music for its development as a work for great orchestra.

As for the detection of Sonos by the Qobuz application, we must admit we do not really understand, as it is the Sonos Controller application which integrates Qobuz.

Best regards.

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