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A day with a Bluesound Node 2i.

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Curly
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Curly Posted: Wed, Jun 24 2020 10:51 PM

As discussed in a few other threads, I have a BS Core which is great but for its lack of native support for high-rez streaming services such as TIDAL or Qubuz. The best I can do is stream TIDAL Masters (i.e., MQA) to my Core using Apple Airplay, which maxes out at lossless redbook CD quality of 44.1/16.

This bothers me.

I have high quality speakers and I want to be able to play the highest quality streaming source music on them so I did much research and looked to the Bluesound Node 2i, which has native support for TIDAL at 192/24.

After a day of listening, these are my thoughts, subject to revision as I spend more time with the device:

1. Connecting the Node 2i to my BL17's via Toslink doesn't seem to be a great idea. The Node 2i does not have a button within the BluOS app to tell the device to sleep/stand by. Thus, when the music stops, the player will after a few minutes of inactivity put itself to sleep. Unfortunately, this sleep setting does not appear to play nice with my BL17s (or other external DACs, according to posts on the Bluesound support forum). When the Node 2i goes to sleep, the sleep signal is either not sent over Toslink or not readable by the BL17s. The speakers remain powered on. This is irritating and a waste of energy.

2. Tone controls for adjusting treble and bass are also not active on the Toslink output. Bummer. I like a bit more bass.

3. Swapping the Toslink for RCA L/R connections to the BL17s fixes (1) and (2) above. After one or two minutes of inactivity, the player goes to sleep and the speakers turn off. Also, I can increase the bass pleasingly. Very good but annoying that I feel I must buy expensive and thick RCA cables that won't bend around the curves of the BL17 easily.

That said... I got the player working and sounding as it should. Thus...

4. THE BIG QUESTION... Can I hear the difference between MQA and CD quality TIDAL songs? After going back and forth on two songs I know well for probably 45 minutes... the answer appears to be no, I'm sad and a bit embarrassed to say.

I was hoping listening to TIDAL MQA through my BL17s (which max out at 96/24, unlike the BL50 and BL90 which can accept full 192/24) would be a revelation compared to listening to the CD-quality version of the same song.

Honestly, I don't think I could tell the difference if I did a blind A/B test. It's POSSIBLE the higher-rez versions sounded a bit more nuanced but if I have to try that hard to hear any discernible difference, then clearly it's just not worth it to my ears.

Have any of you had similar experiences? Or very dissimilar experiences?

 

I bought the Node 2i because I was upset that because B&O does not natively support TIDAL within its software, I am forced to stream CD-quality music to the Core. I wanted better than CD quality high-rez! That's one reason we have such amazingly capable speakers, is it not?

I wanted to try a device that allows me to A/B test TIDAL MQA at 96/24 (given the BL17's limitations of 96/24, not 192/24) versus TIDAL redbook CD at 44.1/16. Poor support for the Toslink output aside, the Node 2i is a capable and very, very easy to use device. Sadly, my ears do not appear to be good enough to tell a difference between lossless CD and higher-rez.

(I am ignoring any upscaling or upsampling, whatever the term is, the BL17s do on their own. Perhaps the BL17s are so good at "upsampling" music, they're doing me a favor by bringing CD quality sound closer to higher-rez sound?)

 

5. Which device to keep? I think the integration of the Core into the B&O app is nice, even if the software is a big buggy at times.

On the other hand, the Bluesound Node 2i will play the higher quality music; maybe for peace of mind that I'm getting the absolute best out of my speakers, I keep the Node 2i? Even if it requires I purchase new cables?

I will say, the BluOS app is extremely easy to use and setup of the Node 2i could not have been simpler. If I had regular, passive speakers, I would use this thing in a heartbeat to feed them and I would recommend the product to anyone who asked.

What if B&O spontaneously adds native support for TIDAL into its app? That's best case scenario. B&O, are you listening? We love you but how can you not natively support the two most popular high-rez streaming services thereby forcing us to stream at CD-quality??

Anyway, I will do some more listening and pondering and perhaps you all will have insightful things to say that will help me determine which device to use going forward.

I recall in another thread, a fellow forum member has a pair of BL50s driven by a Core and is wondering whether to try a Node 2i. To him I would say: Try it but use RCA cables. See if you can hear a difference.

Cheers and thanks for listening!

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

Razlaw
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Razlaw replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 1:09 AM
Thank you for the detailed comparison! Much appreciated.

Beolab 50s Beolab 9s Beolab 12-3s Beolab 1s Beolab 6000s 2 pairs Beolab 4000s Beovision 7-55 Beovision 10-40 Beoplay V1 32 inch Beovision Avant 32 inch Beosound 1 (CD player) Beosound 3000 Beosound 5 Core Essence MKII Beoplay M5

Curly
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Curly replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 2:27 AM

My pleasure, sir. The forum has been supremely helpful to me. I’m trying to pay it forward. 

if you were the one inquiring about whether to trade in the Core for the Node 2i in your BL50 system, I would give the Node 2i a try because the Core is incapable of delivering 192/24 to your BL50s. If you can hear the difference and it’s an improvement, keep it. If not, then perhaps keep the Core and return the Bode 2i?

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

Razlaw
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Razlaw replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 4:07 AM
I am thinking about, but based on your testing I am doubtful I would notice a difference.

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CB
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CB replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 7:29 AM
Curly:
After going back and forth on two songs I know well for probably 45 minutes... the answer appears to be no

Hi

a) Could you develop that a little more?

I understand that one song is a Tidal "quality" CD and the other is a Tidal MQA, right?

Comparison is a very delicate exercise: the smallest difference in the complete chain can distort the result, but it can also be more realistic, closer to what you do in real life...

--> Have you tried to compare the playback of a “solid state” CD and a Tidal MQA stream?

b) What you can also try (it works, in my own experience with BL5): listen to MQA #only# for a certain time (several days), then switch to CD quality stream only. Stop swapping between the two, get your ears used to MQA first.

c) You wrote, "This is one of the reasons we have such incredibly capable speakers, isn't it?"

Do you really include the BL17s in this category?

Hmmm, I also have a pair, and yes they are good, but these are just small 2-way speakers, so don't expect miracles either...

d) Whatever the speakers used, the difference you’ll ear may also not please you!

More is not always a synonym of better.
Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 12:03 PM

I am not surprised - I did mention on the other thread that the Node, while seemingly better than a Sonos Connect, is not really a high end streamer.

The other difficulty is that with active speakers like BeoLabs, if you connect via RCA you are sending it an analogue signal, which the BLs' convert to digital to apply some processing, and then back to analogue for output.   Its a different chain than if you were using passive speakers. This matters to the extent that if you are experimenting with other things (DACs, streamers etc) earlier in the chain, then its a bit clearer what changes are having an effect with the passive speaker setup (in my opinion).

Also, BL17s I doubt will expose the difference between a Core and Node, and may do little with something like an Auralic.  If I had 50s/90s, I would be a bit more confident that those speakers can tease out differences.

The frustration with B&O is that their Core should natively support Tidal and Qobuzz, I completely agree.

But more than that, the B&O app offers a pretty uninspiring music UI experience, especially when using NAS stored music.  

If I had 50s/90s (I have 18s/19 for music) I would get something like an Auralic, in part because of the assumed for quality and in part because its own music browsing app is pretty good. It also allows Roon to work using its own streaming protocol, so the Roon experience would be excellent. I'd then just get on with enjoying my music, with a good app experience and be happy that I'm not short changing the 50s/90s.

As it is I only have 18s/19 for music, and understand that they have their limitations, so am just left thinking about was to improve the music listening experience with a better app etc for both streaming and my NAS music.

 

mbolo01
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mbolo01 replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 1:16 PM
Sandyb:

As it is I only have 18s/19 for music, and understand that they have their limitations, so am just left thinking about was to improve the music listening experience with a better app etc for both streaming and my NAS music.

Same here, but I’m close to the goal of my initial quest for the best music listening experience which was partially filled by the BS Moment until they stopped using Gracenote which killed the MoodWheel feature I was enjoying.

For my NAS content, PLEX server & their client apps have drastically enhanced my music listening experience over B&O app (not hard I know). The day PLEX introduces a DLNA controller in their client apps (requested years ago by the PLEX community), then I’ll be even happier. For Tidal users, PLEX it is also a good choice as from the same interface you can control both local and internet contents, like the BS Moment does with local and Deezer contents.

For internet music streaming, Deezer app does the job very well too, specially the HiFi subscription combined with the gapless (real) feature. Listening to albums is now really really really enjoyable.

But for all these apps I need to use AirPlay or Chromecast which I was reluctant initially ....

Fortunately I had an iPad not doing much that I have now dedicated to run PLEX & Deezer apps as they both offer many different enjoyable way of listening to my music contents, equal or superior to what Moodwheel was offering. If PLEX could integrate Deezer like they have done with Tidal, this would be the graal for me.

From a sound quality perspective, to be honest, my old ears hardly make the difference between the DLNA stream of a 96 kHz / 24 bits track and its streaming over AP2 after down sampling to CD rate, there is no « waw » effect I could measure and the sound is very good in both cases. Only Vinyle listening put my hairs up!

BS Moment, BS Core, BG 4002, BC 4500, BS1, BL18, BL19, BL8000 + RCV1, A6, M5, M3, A1, P6 (tks Botty), H5, TR1

Jaffrey2230
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Great detailed comparison. In my case, I used to have a BluSound Node 2i and then got the Core. Both connected to BL 2 and BL 8002. To me for equivalent content on AirPlay 2 the Core sounded better and was also the case for my wife (who fancies herself as bit of an audiophile ). So I kept the Core. The DAC quality and implementation of the Core seems really good to me.

Just for reference, I also pitted the Core against a Topping D70 DAC and the Core came out on top. 

My 2 cents worth.

B&O products I use by zones in my home: 

Platform: Apple Home  (iOS/Mac, with Google Wi-fi (mesh), 100% streaming audio (Sirius XM, Apple Music, YouTube Music); TV/Office: Beolab 8002 (Red) + Beolab 2 [Sony 65A1E OLED TV, Apple TV 4K]; Living: Beoplay A9 (MK2), Bedroom: Beolab 6000 (Red) + Beolab 11 + Beosound Core [LG UST Projector directly to wall (appox. 75 inches), Apple TV 4K]; Beoplay, Guest Rooms: Apple HomePods Dining: Beoplay M5 [previously BS Stage] ; Portable in-house: Beosound 1 with dock; Travel/bluetooth: Beoplay P6, BeoPlay H9 (3rd Gen), AirPod Pro

 

Curly
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Curly replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 2:48 PM

Greetings!

a) I have gone completely digital streaming at this point. I ripped all my CDs to my computer and recycled them so I no longer own physical discs. Frankly, I thought I was doing myself a favor by reducing clutter and ushering myself into the better-than-CD-quality high-rez journey.

b) Indeed, I can try that. In fact, perhaps I will! But on the other hand, if I have to "listen critically" (i.e., sit in a room alone, with the door closed and concentrate on discerning differences between the same song or album played in two formats), then I believe I have my answer. That is not how I, personally, tend to listen to music. I wanted it to be very clearly a better sound in a more casual listening environment, which it has not yet proven to be.

c) Yes and perhaps this is foolish. I expected the BL17 (and my BL18) to be sufficiently high-quality so as to allow the difference between the high-rez streams and redbook CD quality streams to be immediately and obviously apparent. I was wrong--either because the BL17s are simply not fancy enough, as you suggest, or because the difference in the music isn't as large as I hoped/expected. Or because the digital voodoo the BL17s are doing on the CD quality music is so magical, I can't really tell the difference between that and the higher-rez version when they both hit my ears.

d) Indeed! "Different" does not always mean "improvement". It could merely mean "dissimilar". It could also mean "worse".

 

If I had BL50, perhaps the differences between CD quality and higher-rez would be more apparent. Evidently it costs at least USD$40,000 to be able to appreciate higher than CD quality music streams on B&O equipment? :)

But seriously, if I had the 50s or 90s, I would try the Node 2i or an Auralic, if I felt like spending the money. From the reviews I've seen online, I would be surprised if the Auralic sounded very obviously miles better than the Node 2i. As noted below, the hardware within our speakers is likely performing a bit of magic with the input signal and I think the output from both devices likely isn't too dissimilar AND I think our hardware would treat those signals similarly such that the apparent differences would be subtle at best.

I don't have a bad ear. I don't have Geoff's ear. So I suppose I have fairly average ears. But given the quality of my equipment I hoped there would be very obvious benefits to the higher-than-CD high-rez formats but apparently--at least on first blush--it's all the same to me. I will keep auditioning and remain open minded but I am leaning towards returning the Node 2i and living with the Core. The BluOS interface is FAR superior but if I can't hear the difference anyway, then I am leaning towards not spending any more money (on the Node 2i or fancy RCA cables I would require) and just living with streaming redbook CD quality via Airplay to my Core, using my existing (i.e., sunk cost) Toslink cables and hoping B&O incorporates native support for TIDAL and Qobuz into their app. If I had BL50/90, I would try again, however, as I know they can process full 192/24, which BL/17/18/20 cannot.

This has been very fun, exciting for me and really a great learning opportunity. I am grateful to all of you for your participation in the discussion.

 

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

Curly
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Curly replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 3:35 PM

PS a review by John Darko on Auralic vs Node 2. He says the Auralic is indeed much better sounding than the Node 2 (note, this is not a comment on the current gen Node 2i). As it should be for ~4x the price.

I’m not going to spend $2k+ on a streamer but when I eventually get some BL50s, maybe I would!

https://youtu.be/7bO1RHX3LuQ

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

lawrencejmcook
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Hi Curly,

I don’t know if you have the appetite for it, but I wonder if a difference would be noticeable if you kept the signal in the digital domain all the way to the BL17s. You would need optical cables and a volume-controlled optical out from both the Core (which I think it has) and the Node 2i (I don’t know what it has).

From what you wrote, you are sending the digital sound to the Core and Node 2i where it is being converted to analog by their DACs, then sending that analog signal to the BL17s before being re-sampled into a digital signal for processing within the BL17s before eventual conversion to analog again.

So if you remove the extra D-A and A-D conversion steps, you might get closer to hearing the difference between the source files.

Just a thought.

Lawrence
Curly
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Curly replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 4:55 PM

Lawrence, your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

I run my Core directly to BL17 via optical Toslink. That is also how I began with my Node 2i but learned that the Node 2i and BL17 cannot communicate with each other in terms of sending a sleep/stand-by signal through Toslink. When the Node 2i sleeps, the BL17s never turn off. Apparently they continue receiving some type of clock signal from the Node 2i vía Toslink, even when asleep, and thus never power down. (It is also possible the speakers do not correctly interpret whatever sleep signal the Node is sending. It’s impossible to know which is it is. Each manufacturer’s support teams claims it is the other manufacturers’ issue.)

Bottom line is that over Toslink, the BL17s never power down.

The only way to rectify this is to use RCA cables from the Node 2i to BL17. Everything behaves as it should using the RCA connections so my listening has been done thusly.

Cheers!

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

Millemissen
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@Curly

What if we could cook it all down to the fact that there is no difference in real life between a redbook spec’ed and a ‘highrez’ file?

There are very, very few recordings that have ‘highrez’ specs from the origin....and have not been manipulated untill you can buy them.

My take on this - stick with your redbook-files, enjoy the music and stop chasing rabbits.

What you could look for instead, is how well produced and mastered your music is - that is what will make the difference.

MM

There is a tv - and there is a BV.

Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 5:15 PM

Well indeed - similarly I have concluded that the biggest thing I can do to improve sound quality is move from my 18s/19 setup to 50s (or perhaps Lab 5s).

I'd only get an external streamer for my current setup because the B&O app experience is so bad, and I dont like AP'ing everything ( i do it a lot for podcasts, but no alternative really). For music I like sources to be native, and while Deezer is, the B&O app is unfulfilling to me.

And I do have some faith in Jon Darko - he's not an audiophile in the worst obsessive sense of the word, and steers away from (outside of big step ups in equipment capability) saying one things is better than another.

Back to my vinyl for the moment.

 

Curly:

Greetings!

a) I have gone completely digital streaming at this point. I ripped all my CDs to my computer and recycled them so I no longer own physical discs. Frankly, I thought I was doing myself a favor by reducing clutter and ushering myself into the better-than-CD-quality high-rez journey.

b) Indeed, I can try that. In fact, perhaps I will! But on the other hand, if I have to "listen critically" (i.e., sit in a room alone, with the door closed and concentrate on discerning differences between the same song or album played in two formats), then I believe I have my answer. That is not how I, personally, tend to listen to music. I wanted it to be very clearly a better sound in a more casual listening environment, which it has not yet proven to be.

c) Yes and perhaps this is foolish. I expected the BL17 (and my BL18) to be sufficiently high-quality so as to allow the difference between the high-rez streams and redbook CD quality streams to be immediately and obviously apparent. I was wrong--either because the BL17s are simply not fancy enough, as you suggest, or because the difference in the music isn't as large as I hoped/expected. Or because the digital voodoo the BL17s are doing on the CD quality music is so magical, I can't really tell the difference between that and the higher-rez version when they both hit my ears.

d) Indeed! "Different" does not always mean "improvement". It could merely mean "dissimilar". It could also mean "worse".

 

If I had BL50, perhaps the differences between CD quality and higher-rez would be more apparent. Evidently it costs at least USD$40,000 to be able to appreciate higher than CD quality music streams on B&O equipment? :)

But seriously, if I had the 50s or 90s, I would try the Node 2i or an Auralic, if I felt like spending the money. From the reviews I've seen online, I would be surprised if the Auralic sounded very obviously miles better than the Node 2i. As noted below, the hardware within our speakers is likely performing a bit of magic with the input signal and I think the output from both devices likely isn't too dissimilar AND I think our hardware would treat those signals similarly such that the apparent differences would be subtle at best.

I don't have a bad ear. I don't have Geoff's ear. So I suppose I have fairly average ears. But given the quality of my equipment I hoped there would be very obvious benefits to the higher-than-CD high-rez formats but apparently--at least on first blush--it's all the same to me. I will keep auditioning and remain open minded but I am leaning towards returning the Node 2i and living with the Core. The BluOS interface is FAR superior but if I can't hear the difference anyway, then I am leaning towards not spending any more money (on the Node 2i or fancy RCA cables I would require) and just living with streaming redbook CD quality via Airplay to my Core, using my existing (i.e., sunk cost) Toslink cables and hoping B&O incorporates native support for TIDAL and Qobuz into their app. If I had BL50/90, I would try again, however, as I know they can process full 192/24, which BL/17/18/20 cannot.

This has been very fun, exciting for me and really a great learning opportunity. I am grateful to all of you for your participation in the discussion.

 

 

Curly
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Curly replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 5:31 PM

You guys are the best.

 

Millemissen, for now—that is, until I get some BL50s—no more chasing rabbits. Lossless Redbook CD quality is sufficient for me.

Sandy, agreed. One day I dream to own BL50s. Then I can revisit this pursuit of even finer sound from better quality streaming sources to match those speakers. 

But it seems we are all in agreement on one thing: the B&O app needs to include native support for the streaming high-rez services such as TIDAL and while they’re at it, if the software folks care to make it easier to use and less buggy, then that would be superb too. 

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

Razlaw
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Razlaw replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 5:38 PM
Curly:

PS a review by John Darko on Auralic vs Node 2. He says the Auralic is indeed much better sounding than the Node 2 (note, this is not a comment on the current gen Node 2i). As it should be for ~4x the price.

I’m not going to spend $2k+ on a streamer but when I eventually get some BL50s, maybe I would!

https://youtu.be/7bO1RHX3LuQ

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

Thanks for the link!

Beolab 50s Beolab 9s Beolab 12-3s Beolab 1s Beolab 6000s 2 pairs Beolab 4000s Beovision 7-55 Beovision 10-40 Beoplay V1 32 inch Beovision Avant 32 inch Beosound 1 (CD player) Beosound 3000 Beosound 5 Core Essence MKII Beoplay M5

Jeff
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Jeff replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 5:39 PM

Millemissen:

@Curly

What if we could cook it all down to the fact that there is no difference in real life between a redbook spec’ed and a ‘highrez’ file?

There are very, very few recordings that have ‘highrez’ specs from the origin....and have not been manipulated untill you can buy them.

My take on this - stick with your redbook-files, enjoy the music and stop chasing rabbits.

What you could look for instead, is how well produced and mastered your music is - that is what will make the difference.

MM

Agree completely MM, especially the bolded part. B&O has traditionally NOT been the chase ever decreasing returns type of approach favored by the "high end." Rather it's been provide a very good sound without the hassle, letting you focus instead on listening to music. When I finally abandoned the high end game and went with a B&O setup, I found it liberating, as I stopped obsessing over things.

As for ability to tell the difference, such tests are extremely hard to do properly, getting two files at different bit rates that are truly identical prior to encoding is about impossible, and there are the usual listening test issues of level matching and blinding on top of the same source material issue.

Jeff

I'm afraid I'm recovering from the BeoVirus. Sad

Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 6:24 PM

The app wont be developed further now.

In fact its had barely any new functionality for well over a year now.

And what with the flip flopping about NL vs forcing users to just AP everything, I suspect designing a moe fully featured app is not on the priority list.

I'd reiterate again that if I had 50s, I'd likely use something more high end than the Core....again, some of that would be to gain a better UI, some of the would be to put my mind at rest that I''d not be short changing an incredibly capable speaker with the Core. But I wouldn't go chasing incremental improvements in ever decreasing circles - just find a better all round product than the Core and settle down with it.

And to be fair, I think most B&O customers cant be bothered with the audiophile obsessions. 

 

 

Curly:

You guys are the best.

 

Millemissen, for now—that is, until I get some BL50s—no more chasing rabbits. Lossless Redbook CD quality is sufficient for me.

Sandy, agreed. One day I dream to own BL50s. Then I can revisit this pursuit of even finer sound from better quality streaming sources to match those speakers. 

But it seems we are all in agreement on one thing: the B&O app needs to include native support for the streaming high-rez services such as TIDAL and while they’re at it, if the software folks care to make it easier to use and less buggy, then that would be superb too. 

 

Stan
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Stan replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 6:36 PM

Let me get this straight...  Tidal is required so people can stream native "better than CD" that sounds identical to CD quality to the vast majority of the population.  The different formats sound so similar that people have been fighting over this for years.  It seems to me that if "hi-rez" were so obviously better, there would be a consensus established by now (like CD is better than AM radio).

I'm not here to fight about whether there is a difference, but when most of your customer base cannot hear the difference, why bother?  I'd much rather see B&O spend their limited development resources on improving the app's usability vs. chasing rabbits (as MM says).

Granted, I agree it "doesn't look good" that they sell $90K speakers with no real "hi-end" source, but, again, limited development money should be spent on things that are actually useful vs. "looking good" to the weird audiophile community.  Not going to win over many of them regardless.

Finally, thanks for sharing Curly.

Jeff
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Jeff replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 8:07 PM

You get an amen from me Stan.

Jeff

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Curly
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Curly replied on Thu, Jun 25 2020 8:15 PM

Stan and friends, many continued thanks.

Stan, given how high-rez has been spoken about in the media and online for years now, I (and I believe reasonably) assumed higher than redbook rez to indeed be better/more enjoyable. Much like redbook CD>AM radio, as you say.

I was irritated at having expensive B&O products that did not let me make this determination myself, finally. So I tried the Node 2i and my determination is, for whatever reason—and it could be many (e.g., my speakers aren’t good enough to allow discernible differences to be heard, or my speakers are “too good” in that they process lower rez music so well, it ends up sounding essentially identical to higher rez music, or my ears aren’t good enough to hear the difference, or the Node 2i isn’t a “good enough” DAC, etc.)—that in this system and in this room, I cannot hear a difference between TIDAL Masters at 96/24 and lossless redbook CD quality streamed via Airplay at 44/16. The experiment is over and these are my results. I’m happy to know now, either way!

I would have guessed B&O’s values to be “music quality over ease of use/simplicity” but perhaps my interpretation of the firm’s values are incorrect and indeed, the firm would rather see its clients listening to good music fairly simply than be concerned with being at the cutting edge and squeezing every last bit-perfect bit out of its products.

In all, this has been an exciting and educational experience for me and I hope others have benefitted, and will benefit, from our discussion. Cheers!

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

MaxH
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MaxH replied on Fri, Jun 26 2020 11:59 AM

Apologies for coming a little late to this thread but my own experiments - whilst not the same as yours - do seem to add to the debate.

1) Using top quality headphones (LCD-X) and similar dac and amp (JDS Labs) my ears can -  in an A-B comparison - generally determine the difference between Tidal Masters and Tidal standard. Actually, you can hear the difference between Masters and Tidal Hi-Res and, personally, I don't like the 'uplifted' effect that Masters seems to bring.

2) Assuming that the LCDs sound as the producer would have wanted the music to sound (I know that's not true but it means that when judging speakers I can compare to one known sound). This means that I can compare each speaker to a trusted reference point rather than trying to compare speakers directly. 

3) The biggest difference to the sound when not using headphones is the choice of speaker and this could be for many reasons but at least my ears have a comparison with a reasonably neutral source in the LCDs.

4) My conclusion is that the 50s are superior in virtually all aspects to the 18s and whist I would not like to try to judge Masters V Tidal standard on the 18s I would have a good go at it on the 50s. 

5) The actual physical presence of the 90s produces a different depth to the 50s; however, in detail, sound stage, sheer virtuosity and range I cannot really imagine speakers that would give more listening pleasure when compared to a top quality set of headphones configured to be accurate - even if that sometimes risks detracting from the music pleasure! 

My view is that it's still early days in the streaming world. Faster internet, less compression, bigger files are on the horizon and whilst you can add to the quality of source and other links in the chain - to my ears, the speakers change the experience the most if you feed them high quality input.

BeoMatthew
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I try not to even think of the debate between high-res/CD quality/etc. because ultimately I just listen to the music I'm in the mood for and don't let quality dictate the playlist. 

I own a few Cores, but since leaving B&O I've considered moving to another "ecosystem" that's more affordable to grow with. I can get both Sonos & BlueSound at cost or below so I've auditioned both at home for an extensive period of time. 

It should come as no surprise the Sonos isn't a contender in terms of sound quality. They have a lot of things to recommend them, but my ears won't allow the step down. 

BlueSound is better, but I was surprised to find that with a balanced diet of music from a few apps and a variety of qualities, the BlueSound was much closer to the Sonos than to the Core. 

At the end of the day the Core truly impressed me, but unfortunately has chained me to B&O's expensive and possibly vanishing multi-room format. 

Curly
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Curly replied on Tue, Jun 30 2020 5:34 PM

A relevent video I came across that you all may find interesting to watch.

https://youtu.be/mgAEuCCOykw

Currently: BeoSound Core, BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18

Previously: BeoSound 1 non-GVA

CB
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CB replied on Wed, Jul 1 2020 6:29 AM
What surprised me most in all these debates on "is the difference audible?" is that I have never heard anyone say "I am not competent enough"...

Being a Tonemeister is a job, a daily job.

Being a cooking Chef, a Master Perfumer, a painting Critic (I don't know the current names) is also a daily job.

All of these jobs require experience, knowledge and skills.

But for digital music (or digital image), everyone seems to think they are competent!

And when we don't hear / see improvements, “it's my bad hearing / bad vision / cables / player / loudspeakers... or there are no differences”

Yes, of course, it may be the reason, may be.

Am I able to get the subtleties between the vintages of a great wine? Certainly not. Would I be, after several years of training? May be.
Sandyb
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Sandyb replied on Wed, Jul 1 2020 7:47 AM

Yes yes yes.

Couldn't agree more, nor put it better myself.

Sure, there is a lot of snake oil in the audio game, and audiophile obsessives are easily mocked (and quite rightly) when we sense they spend more time chasing than listening.

But, that doesnt mean that all the people who are sensitive to the nuances of music listening are sad obsessives. 

Of course music means different things to different people, and not everyone listens in the same way.

But for me there are times when I've got music on whilst doing other things, so I care less and a stream is fine. And times when I am sat still and wanting to be subsumed by some music, and here my ears kick in and I can tell some differences.

I play a few music instruments, can (for example) play many of the parts of many Radiohead songs, and the streamed, CD and vinyl versions sound different if I'm sitting down and listening.  At times that will mean the guitar lines are more prominent on the vinyl, at times that will mean the more complex multi layered guitar parts get all muddy on the steamed version.

Will this matter to many / most? Probably not.

But that doesnt mean that all digital is the same, nor that everyone is equally sensitive to small differences.

Whether its a capability / competence thing, or a question of how much people care is hard to answer.

And yes, using your examples, I just don't care enough about wine to think about and appreciate the differences between wines of different quality. 

But I dont deride or dismiss those who do, its just a question of what people are sensitive to and what they are willing to pay for incremental differences.

 

 

CB:
What surprised me most in all these debates on "is the difference audible?" is that I have never heard anyone say "I am not competent enough"...

 

Being a Tonemeister is a job, a daily job.

 

Being a cooking Chef, a Master Perfumer, a painting Critic (I don't know the current names) is also a daily job.

 

All of these jobs require experience, knowledge and skills.

 

But for digital music (or digital image), everyone seems to think they are competent!

 

And when we don't hear / see improvements, “it's my bad hearing / bad vision / cables / player / loudspeakers... or there are no differences”

 

Yes, of course, it may be the reason, may be.

 

 

Am I able to get the subtleties between a wine/coffee/perfume of exception compared to a “just” excellent wine/coffee/perfume? Certainly not. Would I be, after several years of training? May be.

 

CB
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CB replied on Wed, Jul 1 2020 7:00 PM
Very well put too Yes - thumbs up
Stan
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Stan replied on Wed, Jul 1 2020 9:20 PM

Another way to phrase this is, if only those who have achieved an uncommon competence can hear something, then one must conclude that it is also imperceptible to the common. 

Regardless, people are always free to listen to whatever they want.  IMHO, any criticism in this thread is directed at the audio industry that promotes "hi rez" music formats as "amazingly wonderful", yet maybe, as admitted here, only uncommonly competent people can actually hear a difference. 

CB
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CB replied on Thu, Jul 2 2020 7:55 AM
This is also a valid point of view, obviously.

We observe a similar phenomenon with 8k TV, xxMpixels cameraphones...

But the sole serious question is : does HD music in the beer barrel make a better beer in the end? Big Smile
Stan
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Stan replied on Thu, Jul 2 2020 3:26 PM

Not a question, it's a given. Beer makes everything better. Big Smile

Jeff
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Jeff replied on Thu, Jul 2 2020 6:19 PM

Stan:

Another way to phrase this is, if only those who have achieved an uncommon competence can hear something, then one must conclude that it is also imperceptible to the common. 

Regardless, people are always free to listen to whatever they want.  IMHO, any criticism in this thread is directed at the audio industry that promotes "hi rez" music formats as "amazingly wonderful", yet maybe, as admitted here, only uncommonly competent people can actually hear a difference. 

Regardless of the audibility of such "hi rez" files, what really gets to me is the dishonesty. There are a lot of "hi rez" music files out there marketed as uber audiophile which are either sourced from analog tape or just a CD quality digital file that's been upconverted and then sold as a hi rez file. Not to mention the remastering that often goes on so that no kidding, the hi rez sample will sound different, but that's not due to the resolution of the transport medium. I know if I were hawking online hi rez and CD quality music I'd make sure the hi rez one was about a third to a half a db hotter than the CD quality one so it would sound better in one on one comparisons with no level matching. It's not dishonesty, it's marketing!

Jeff

I'm afraid I'm recovering from the BeoVirus. Sad

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DMacri replied on Wed, Jul 8 2020 12:21 PM

I tried to discern the difference between different sample rates from a link on another thread on the forum somewhere, but the main point is that as mentioned above - it depends on how you listen to music. Are you trying to dissect the arrangement to hear each musician's contribution? Are you trying to find the sweet spot in order to obtain the best aural image of the recording intent? Are you just jammin' to the tunes you love? These are all valid listening modes, so if you, like I could really only hear the difference from very low bit rate (sub 128kbps) and everything else, consider yourself freed from the near to "chase rabbits" - freedom, I say! Now just find the music you like in a format you can enjoy.

p.s. - not to start up another controversy, but I wonder how the "Yanny" / "Laurel" effect comes into play with people's perception and music enjoyment?   

Dom

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Sandyb replied on Wed, Jul 8 2020 1:10 PM

Agreed, its pretty easy to hear the improvement from low bit rates to higher ones.

Where people draw the line, that depends on many things, including how sensitive ones ears are.

My comments above are less to do with HiRez - I have little to no experience - but more to defend (a bit) that while chasing rabbits is a silly distraction, there are those who probably quiet rightly prefer (for example) Deezer Hifi to Deezer regular. Of course, the average Joe probably wont care, but t wouldn't deride those who do.

 

 

DMacri:

I tried to discern the difference between different sample rates from a link on another thread on the forum somewhere, but the main point is that as mentioned above - it depends on how you listen to music. Are you trying to dissect the arrangement to hear each musician's contribution? Are you trying to find the sweet spot in order to obtain the best aural image of the recording intent? Are you just jammin' to the tunes you love? These are all valid listening modes, so if you, like I could really only hear the difference from very low bit rate (sub 128kbps) and everything else, consider yourself freed from the near to "chase rabbits" - freedom, I say! Now just find the music you like in a format you can enjoy.

p.s. - not to start up another controversy, but I wonder how the "Yanny" / "Laurel" effect comes into play with people's perception and music enjoyment?   

 

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