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.


Actually, this is not unusual. SACD suffered a similar fate when compressed 44K files were updated for the new format. While some releases were beyond impressive (Dave Brubek's Take 5 for example) others from the Stevie Ray Vaughn catalog were not.

This shows that remasters have a great advantage as many of the rock albums on CD from the 80s and 90s were badly compressed which proved useful for radio play but not audiophile systems. 

This won't change so when I see Qobuz remasters, I almost always leap to hear them. The 24/192 releases are often so similar to the 44K versions, there's not nearly the impact of any decent remaster. 


I guess it goes to show that higher rez files are not necessarily superior sonically.

Modern day remasters suffer from high compression. The goal in the beginning was to make the recording louder for air play and for ear bud listeners. See the Loudness Wars.

When the music recording business transitioned to digital, record labels transferred analogue masters to digital formats, typically 24/96 or 24/192kHz. It was now easy to reissue a remastered album. The use of compression became overused to pump up the volume to make the album stand out against lower volume releases. This decreased dynamic range and made music sound flat and lifeless.

Check out how dynamic range decreased over the years due to compression and digital processing. These so-called remasters were touted as having improved sound. You can see how Depeche Mode's earlier albums had more dynamic range allowing the music to sound lively and less processed.




I don’t think you can generalize this across all music.  Specifically, I generally find the hi-res versions of newer music sounds better than the 16/44.1 version.  My guess is that with your subset of music recorded in the 70s - 80s you’re open to variables such as the quality of the up-conversion/up-sampling process as well as the quality of the original recording.  But it makes sense that with all the variables in play a particular hi-res version could sound worse.  Maybe that’s why God invented vinyl?

@soix makes a good point. I also find that newer music which has been natively recorded in hires, then mastered at a high sampling rate does often sound better than the "CD quality" version on Qobuz. Music from the 70s, 80s, 90s has been subjected to digital processing from analogue and upsampled. And the provenance of the source must be considered; eg, is it an original analogue master or is a later generation used, or maybe it’s a remaster that’s being used as the source and converted to hires for streaming.


This is another possibility where the album was not subject to the Loudness Wars.



Unfortunately it is rare we can make A to B comparison based on resolution alone.  They tell us very little about the mastering process and what if any changes were made from one release to another.

In a perfect world the masters are released at a high resolution and otherwise untouched as they lower the bit rates.  That is rarely the case, especially for old, remastered stuff.

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fantastic resolution and I have found the best 2 dacs under and betters anythjng at $12k that is says lots ,I have heard most everything and compared head to head in 

our multi state audio members in New England , I am upgrading soon 

it took me over $4500 k just in digital cables and still need the synergistic hub ,and dac but will be a done deal for me , then reference speakers I am almost 65 time to stop the merry go round and just enjoy.

Hi res format on no way assures best sound. A music file can start at low res and be resampled to higher resolution format. In that case the higher res format may sound lesser. It all depends. But it can be similar to starting with a low resolution video and then presenting it on a large hi quality hdtv. Say like an mtv Video from the 80s. Putting a digital version of that poor quality video to start with on a big high res tv is not necessarily going to make it look better. If it is digitally remastered well to hi res video somewhere first then maybe. So bottom line is high res format does not necessarily = better sound.

@mapman / @lowrider57 

This is why I continue to buy CD’s and only use streaming for auditioning new music. Although I love the ability to have access to hundreds of thousands of artist titles ultimately it’s the quality of the streamed music that “To Me” is still lacking when compared to the physical media.

It was prov n over a decade ago that ripped music sounded better than the cd. 
Also, analog masters are not always better. For years, many of the fantastic sounding vinyl releases used DSD in the recording process. Only when people found out that their analog recording where done using DSD, they went from saying this is the best sounding recording to lawsuits and bad mouthing mofi.

IMO, digital doesn’t have the drawbacks that analog does, and hires digital can sound better than vinyl or redbook cd.


I’ve ripped all my CDs to cd res files using dbpoweramp. Thousands in my music library now. Nothing to fear sound wise as long as the rip and playback is done right. Cd quality in and cd quality out.

I use mostly Plex and Plexamp app to stream. Plexamp in particular provides a greatly enriched environment for streaming including ability to suggest similar sounding artists, albums, and tracks. So many ways to find and enjoy all that music.


It’s all good but much less problematic to stream from a file than to play a cd. Cd physical media quality varies widely. Try ripping with dbpoweramp and you can directly see how it can take much much longer to accurately rip a poor quality cd than a good quality one and the poor quality ones are way more common than one might expect. Hint: you can’t tell the good quality CDs from the poor quality ones just by looking at them. However a good quality ripping software like dbpoweramp rereads the disk as many times as needed to get the data off the disk accurately which is why poor quality CDs may take 10 minutes or more to rip whereas comparable length good quality CDs can rip in less than 5 minutes.

I guess I didn’t clearly describe my setup and use. I audition music via streaming services before making the decision on what to buy. Once the disks arrive they sit in the listening queue. All disks are ripped via my Naim Uniti Core and stored for playback on SS drives. The disk is put away afterwards. I haven’t spun a disk in so long I can’t remember!

@designsfx yup me too. I buy CDs, rip them to disk then store them away. Have not played a cd in years. I use a small desktop pc to rip and store and use Plex and Plexamp to stream. Good stuff! I also do same with vinyl ie play once, convert to digital and store on pc, then use audacity to do some basic processing and separate tracks, then Picard to auto tag the files. Also dbpoweramp tag editor if manual tagging needed.


I might agree with you on Hi Rez sounding better but until this day I’ve only been able to playback within the limits of my Dac. I’ve used Native DSD’s site and have heard some really interesting music there but ultimately had to downsample to DSD 128 to avoid DOP playback.

I had considered purchasing a T+A Dac earlier this year to experience more of the DSD stuff but even that was limited for me because of the Mac OS. I don’t see going into a windows machine or some other device grouping as a value spend. I hope that changes in the near future as it would be interesting to experience artists using that format of recording/mastering. Honestly the only difference I’ve heard (with true mastered hi res- not just up conversion) is a little more air in the presentation- but it wasn’t life changing.


So how has the vinyl conversion been working out in whole with the process you described? Do you find yourself still acquiring new titles or purely archiving your previously purchases albums?

There are a few high res internet radio stations I can stream via my Cambridge evo 150.  The intent of these stations is to provide good sound quality via higher than cd resolution and in general these sound very good,  maybe better than cd res in general.  Have not compared enough yet to say for sure or how much it matters. 

@designsfx I still buy records but usually only when I find good quality interesting releases on the cheap. I already have way more albums than I will ever be able to listen to. The conversion process to digital is time consuming to do right compared to ripping but I do it occasionally when I have some spare time. But my large digital music library alone can keep me busy for years. I’m very spoiled and blessed with so much to listen to. Then there is Spotify which I use mainly to audition new things and maybe buy. Music lovers should thank the heavens. It’s all at your disposal and most of it can sound really good. Best time ever to be a music lover/hifi kook.


When I convert vinyl to cd res digital the results are hard if even possible to distinguish from the original. If anything is lost it is of no real consequence. I do apply a noise and click filter in audacity so that is a difference.  Also I often apply dynamic range normalization which helps make best use of the bits available.  


I totally agree- having access to so much is truly an amazing thing. I wish it had been that way when I was growing up!
I remember having dinner with a friend years ago (an audio engineer I worked with) and he was describing the process he was using at home to digitize/archive an old collection of 78’s left to him by his father. The process was very detailed and I remember telling him that his story made me glad I had decided to sell all of my LP’s years before that! (But I didn’t really have much of a collection anyway)

Ha yeah well I do happen to have a handful of old 78s I also digitized and those sound better than ever streamed.  I’d be happy to share a few files if interested. 


I assume you're using your Axis/Denon MC to transfer vinyl. What sampling rate are you digitizing to?

When you use dynamic range normalization, can you hear a difference between your digital playback and spinning the album live?


I’m up for hearing your work- not sure how to go about getting the files you have but send me a note sometime and we’ll figure it out.

On another related experience I have sat comparing Qobuz and Tidal highest res editions, and there are easily audible differences especially in the bass and mid range. Qobuz IME sounds like a forward mid section with muddied bass. Tidal has more transparency across the range and consequently sounds better balanced to me. Of course many will disagree and have their own views and preferences. Many seem to prefer Qobuz over Tidal. I don’t, I remain with Tidal as my preferred streaming sound source. SACD then CD compete with Tidal based on individual album recording and mastering versions etc. Music and Hi-Fi are room equipment and personal experiences… with all of the variables that this brings.

My experience is that in general high res Quboz sounds better than anything else on my stereo. Tidal MQA are more variable, usually sounding smoother and warmer, more like vinyl (I interpret as MQA adding pleasing distortions). Sometimes, as with the Chicago Transit Authority first album (before they just became Chicago), the remastered high-res versions on both Quboz and Tidal are unlistenable because of added brightness. Earlier remastering at 44khz done in the 1990’s was much better, closely approximating the album version. 

Provenance is far more important than bit rate IME. Having Tidal, Qobuz and thousands of cd rips there is far more variability than consistency between services and bit rates. I've often compared hi rez rips and streams to 16/44 streams and rips and preference all over the place. Far more important is quality of original master and/or remasters, generally something I can only determine by listening. In the end I pay very little attention to bit rates, sound quality is what it is, if not to my liking I search for another stream version of same album, sometimes I find superior sound quality, other times not.

CD is far better than what Qobuz or other streaming stuff offers by FAR. 

It's an audiophile masturbation to compare at least 20...30 versions of the same album, but no matter whatcha do, streaming is inferior to the hard media formats.

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.

Thanks @mapman . I asked because by using dynamic normalization you can tweak the bass. Many classic LPs are bass-shy or lack low-end definition. It's a good tool to increase dynamics in a subtle way.

The resolution has little to no merit in and of itself, its all about provenance / what masters were used "generally speaking" and really nothing to do with Qobuz or a streaming service per se.

I dropped Tidal as soon as I heard Qobuz even though I preferred the Tidal Playlists.

I have found NOS the only way to go and Hi Rez is generally better.

I recently added a Computer Audio Design GC1 and GC3, it made everything better but brought the sound of streaming Qubuz to I can listen to it all day long.

The sound of digital files has more to do with the gear than the files.

But beginning a couple/few months ago, even the lowest end recordings appear to be playing at 44.1 x 4 (176.4 kHz).

@hankeson, Does your DAC have upsampling capabilities?  If yes, see if it was set to upsample to 176.4 somehow.  I stream Qobuz too and my DAC shows 44.1 files playing at 44.1.

You know, @tomcy6 , I believe it does. Believe it or not, a friend (obviously, a very good one) gifted me the unit because he'd bought a Bryston, and I recall him telling me that he'd set it to sample at the highest possible rate. That would help explain things, yes. Though again, it wasn't doing that say, 3-4 months ago or thereabouts, so I'm still convinced that Qobuz did do something to enable the capability ...and (to my ears, anyway) the music definitely sounds better: less fraying at the edges, clearer note delineation, less noise/distortion at higher volume. I'll check the manual on the Weiss. More research shall be done -- and more listening. :-) 

@hankeson Qobuz isn't upsampling, dac is doing this.


If one wants to try intensive dsp, try HQPlayer, up and over sampling makes more difference with this software vs. Qobuz or Tidal recording. Streamer must have capability, in other words powerful processor, not many streamers have this.

Yes, that makes sense, @sns . Thank you. 'Come to think of it, there have been a few firmware updates to the Auralic Aries. That's got to be it. TY, again! 


I agree with you regarding provenance and being true to the source but feel the streaming services do play into this when pushing out upsampled versions that are a separate process from the original (provenance) combined with a lesser file format (compression) I order to aid in the streaming process. I might take a bite if there was a service that offered uncompressed WAV as an option for listening.


Yep, agreed. Really the only way is to buy physical copy (which I do for the bands/tunes I like) based on ones research.

The streaming services can and do (on a whim) change the "source" and we’ll never be the wiser so to speak (unless you pay attention to the metadata like a hawk), even at that, the metadata is so crappy as it is...urghh it’s really one of my biggest annoyances. One day it could be "cat # 0011", and tomorrow it could be "cat # 0022" - maybe better, maybe worse etc..

Very nice rig BTW!

I am curious if those trashing MQA’s sound quality have a streamer/DAC that performs the full three step MQA unfold? Reason I ask is I have such a combo that is also able to play maximum resolution HiRez Qobuz files (up to 24/352) and I find that my preference for one over the other on a given track or album is about 50/50. Both have their turds but also many outstanding sounding remasters and I find the ratio to be about equal between the two formats.

I suspect that MQA (Tidal) is at a distinct disadvantage when one’s streamer/DAC does not fully unfold MQA files. Choosing not to invest in full MQA unfold capability is understandable, but to continually trash it without hearing it at its full potential is a bit misleading IMO.

Though again, it wasn’t doing that say, 3-4 months ago or thereabouts, so I’m still convinced that Qobuz did do something to enable the capability

@hankeson, You know computers have a mind of their own at times. It’s hard to explain why they do things sometimes, but they do them, and then they stop. Let us know if your DAC is set up to upsample x4.


Thanks for the comment! I too just finished auditioning catalog titles making notes of which to buy a physical copy of (CD). Ironically on Spotify no less!


Thanks for jumping in. It seems this conversation has melded down to “hi-res” streaming service offerings vs the real thing, whether that source be a physical copy or a file of the original.

I’ve never been a believer in MQA- read a lot about it and decided not to participate but since you’ve brought it up what are your thoughts on how it compares (in ideal conditions) to that of the real deal? 

@designsfx I am agnostic to the debate about the virtue of MQA other than I think it is getting an undeserved bad rap on Audiogon regarding sound quality. IME relative sound quality is always determined by the quality of implementation regardless of format.

Assuming the “real thing” is live music, my thoughts are that MQA can provide a listening experience as close to that of live music as can reproduced music on any playback format. They all fall short of providing a perfect suspension-of-disbelief listening experience, yet the best implementation of each can get in the “spooky real” zone. How close each comes to being a convincing replication of the source event has much more to do with the recording and mastering quality of the media than the format and, of course, the quality of the reproduction chain is important. As the latter becomes increasing more accurate and revealing, the limitations of the former become the obvious ceiling for achieving truly convincing and satisfying reproduction of recorded music.

Have you tried listening to the same tracks with and without Roon? Roon has a 'sound' which knocks the edge off the sound quality due to its processing power requirements in some cases imho.

@rogerstaton  Since I use a network streamer I need to use a network player like Roon to play Qobuz on my network.  Originally I used a USB cable from my laptop into my DAC but found that playing music onto my wifi network sounded a whole lot better than using a USB cable with all the noise in my laptop.  I also use a small amount of EQ using the Roon parametric equalizer to account for the open baffles of my RAAL SR-1b headphones.  My original concern centered around the fact that Qobuz hi-rez files are often compromised soundwise and that the late remastered versions and standard resolution files sound significantly better.  Thanks.

When the red book 16/43 standard came out, the only means of delivering it was a laser reading a spinning disk.  Now that data can be inexpensive my stored and accessed with no moving parts, why would their be any benefit to the disc?  Is the image better watching tv live than stored on your Dvr?  I was excited to hi reZ improvements in sq with higher sampling rates approximating the analog curve.  Used to check each song on roon for sample rate and bit after a great sounding sample, and frequently it was 44//16.  Was surprised how many of my favorite live performance are 44/16.  Digital audio hardware has caught up to its potential in the last ten years.  Enjoy it rather than trying to flush out difference in sound from activities occurring at the speed of light.