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Apple Music lossless streamed from iPad vs networked files

dufferdan

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So I set up an A-B best I could.

My Squeezebox Touch, Ethernet connection to main Mac in office hooked up via Ethernet network.
Touch to Beresford Caiman via coax digital audio connection

IPad Air 2 via USB/Card reader/connector to iPad. Plugged into power via iPad charger into card reader connector. USB from connector to Caiman USB input. iPad volume was set to full output. IPad Air connected to home WiFi network.

Caiman DAC to Rotel integrated amp via RCA connectors.

With both inputs into Caiman, I just had to switch between input 1 and 4.

Teed up Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon on the home network and Apple Music, lossless

The home network is all CDs ripped to ALAC lossless, 16/44.1. Apple Music feed was 24/96 I think ( or whatever is the closest standard, not 88.2)

Listened via AKG 704 headphones. Plugged into my Cambridge amp. Neutral, not bass or treble heavy. For the most part, let’s the music do it’s thing without a ton of colouration.

Went through Money, Time and The Great Gig in the Sky

First off, the feed from the Squeezebox was definitely a snick louder, so that is a risk to accurate perception. However, first punch, the Apple Music 24/96 version did not grab out of the gate. Whereas the CD rip via Squeezebox was immediately engaging. Snap, highs ring, punchy bass, extended decay. The Apple 24/96 was definitely lighter on dynamic range, immediacy was lacking, little snap or decay of cymbals. I tried to listen to it for more extended segments before switching back, and the ears did become somewhat acclimated, but going back to the Squeezebox input made the differences stark.

Not super scientific. Both sources were synched at the start point, but the mixes obviously had some timing differences as occasionally I had to re-sync mid-song. But I was never out by more than a second or two.

I also have some ripped hi-res DVD and Blu ray audio files (Doors LAWoman, etc) that are in 24/96, so when I get a chance, I’ll try another comparison. But I am pretty sure a 2008/09 implementation of USB in a then budget, though quality DAC, is far surpassed today. It could also be a function that the Apple Music version has been remastered and possibly killed a bit by loudness eq compressing highs and lows.

I have been looking to upgrade the TV in basement and AVR in main basement viewing room, as well as considering a revamp of the upstairs audio system. Thinking of a new streamer (Cambridge CXN or other equivalent), a little more oomph from amp…possible a made in Canada Bryson unit, and for sure a DAC upgrade. The original thought was a new Schiit Bifrost 2 but am leaning to a Topping 70s MQA. Those internal fights are ongoing. (I know the Schiit Bifrost doesn’t get a lot of love here, but I have loved my original version I just failed to upgrade the DAC chips before the module was gone. So I would get the Bifrost 2/Uber USB and multibit option. Since it would be for the computer based headphone listening. That likely gets bought regardless. )

Anyways, will update when I have a chance to compare with hi-rez rips.
 
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dufferdan

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The Lightning-USB card reader I used. you can plug a lightning power charger into it.
 
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dufferdan

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OK so stage two. Topping D70S MQA arrived on the weekend. Set it up tonight, pulling the Beresford Caiman.

My 5 disk Rotel CD player has RCA out to Cambridge 640 integrated amp, and Coax digital audio out to the Topping.

Squeezebox Touch Toslink Audio out to Topping

iPad Air 2 via card reader/camera adapter out to USB. While the Camera adapter I have will take a lightning in for power, I did not hook this up.

I set up the Topping as RCA out only, Filter 3. Everything else was essentially default I think

Listening was with AKG 704 headphones via the headphone out on the Cambridge 640.

Test 1. CD player RCA out to receiver vs coax digital audio out to Topping and into amp via RCS. Zero difference whatsoever. The switching between the two inputs was virtually silent. Without the click of the switch, I thought it had been stuck on one of the inputs. Levels perfectly matched and details/punch/range identical. I can test later with more exacting CD recording, but I was frankly surprised. CD wasn’t necessarily the cleanest most technical recording, Bruce Springsteens 4 disk Songs collection. Forget the exact title.

Test 2. Squeezebox Touch, Ethernet connection to iMac storing files on external USB 2.0 12TB drive. IPad Air 2 via the lightning to USB connector to USB in. The Touch was pulling Doors LA WOman I had ripped from DVD Audio, 24/88.2. The iPad, Apple Music, hi res copy of same record. That source was 24/96. After listening, I was positive they were the same masters. I teed up LA WOman, synched the start and started to flip between USB and Opt inputs. Virtually indistinguishable To my ear. The USB feed may have been ever ever so very slightly less loud, but the dynamics, detail, punch, everything sounded the same. Riders on the storm, the rain in the intro, no difference. Snap of the thunderclaps, and then the organ starting to come in and crescendo. Spectacular. And the Topping showed the bitrates on all sources, which was nice. Never had that before.

Once the Aussi open is done I’ll have more time to keep testing. Try different headphones. My speakers are little Royd Minstrels c. 1997. A nice little speaker, but I may see if I can sneak some PMC Fact 2.somethings in the door. That will take some time. In the meantime, the DROP 789 THX balanced headphone amp arrived. Will likely order a Bifrost 2 and Magnius Balanced headphone amp for the computer system with my Valhalla 2 tube amp….compare tube with sterile. The 789 may end up in the main system for headphones.

So far, zero post purchase cognitive dissonance. This could be way fun.
 
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dufferdan

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I guess I own this thread.

More rathole. More Beatles.

Comparing Apple 24/96 2019 remastering of Abbey Road vs my 16/44.1 2009 remastered CD lossless rip to ALAC. The iPad is input into the USB of the DAC. The newer remastering is a snuck quieter so I had to level match with my Squeezebox, set it at 92%, which was close. The 2009 remasters definitely more snap. First song. Come together. There are cymbals near the end of Come Together that are quiet but present on the CD but completely absent on the 2019 hi-res. I was astonished.

Not sure who did the 2019 remastering, but now listening straight through to I Want You, IMO, the 2009 16/44.1 remaster is totally superior to the Apple 24/96 2019 remaster to my tinnitus infected ears. Would love hear impressions from others.

So now comparing basically the same masters: Let It Be Naked. From 2003. The Apple Music version is 16/44.1. As is the CD ALAC lossless rip. Level matched they are virtually identical.

Now I have a concern with my brand new Tooping DAC to post in that review thread. The Topping USB input fails after 5-8 minutes. Has happened five times tonight. Annoying as heck. And inexcusable for a brand new item.
 
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dufferdan

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It seems very subjective do you have any data?
LOL, it is ALL subjective! It is fully presented as what I am hearing and perceiving. In no way would I say that what I am hearing is applicable to anyone else. I think I am totally up front with that. ALso, in my third installment, I mention (thought I had done so in the first post) that my hearing suffers from Tinnitis, I will add I just had my 60th birthday, so the ears have suffered the usual mileage. I would certainly not classify myself as having “golden ears” by any standard.
 

NiagaraPete

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Now I have a concern with my brand new Tooping DAC to post in that review thread. The Topping USB input fails after 5-8 minutes. Has happened five times tonight. Annoying as heck. And inexcusable for a brand new item
I had the same problem. Throw out that cable and get one that fits.
 

Tom C

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Is there a chance the dropouts/fails are not due to the Topping, but rather the Apple? That would be my first thought.
 

NiagaraPete

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Is there a chance the dropouts/fails are not due to the Topping, but rather the Apple? That would be my first thought.
Not likely the Topping. Sounds to me like Wi Fi
 
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dufferdan

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The dropouts seem to have stopped. I may need to revisit a test, but currently listening to Joss Stone Essentials from Apple Music in lossless and some hi res. I haven't noted a drop in months....
 
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