Why Streaming Service Sounds ‘Flat’ vs Tune In /Local FM /Radio Paradise

I use a Bluesound Node, first or second gen I believe.

I use the S/PDIF output feeding my Esoteric K-07X CD/DAC using it as a DAC.

I find that CD’s, most things using Tune In, and local FM listening sound better than  streaming either Tidal or Qobuz. 

For the life of me, I can’t figure why that might be, since all are using the K-07X internal DAC. I can understand the CD, as it’s internal, with no S/PDIF cable to possibly muck things up. FWIW, I’m using the Illuminati/Kimber D-60 as my digital cable.

Any thoughts appreciated.


might be the streaming interface implementstion on te BS Node for Tidal and Qobuz? does he Esoteric verify the bit rate ?

Only ever listen to RP in the truck, but it is better than any other service I stream in the truck. 

The primary issue is your streamer. Better streamers sound better up to the point your DAC or some other part of your system gets in the way.

On my systems CDs sound the same as Qobuz streaming of the same resolution. Streaming can sound better since Qobuz has over half a million high res albums, streaming can sound better on those. Also, in general, different channels, like paradise sound the same as other channels (I do not listen to other channels a lot… but when I have explored, I noticed no difference).

I recommend, as a starting point, to have best of class components at the same investment level across your system. For me, mine are like that with the streamer and amp about 20% above the component cost of the DAC, preamp, and phonostage.

Sources such as Radio Paradise and FM stations are compressed and go through signal processing to various degrees. Many listeners prefer that.

This doesn't make sense.  I had a bluesound node and used both tidal and qobuz and they sounded better than radio and in fact better than CD when the CDs were played on a tradional player.  Had to switch to a CD transport.  then I oculdn't really tell the difference between CD and streaming on that rig.


I’m wondering if @cleeds isn’t closer to the truth, especially if the OP is listening to music at low levels and/or in the background.

What the OP needs then is a loudness button.

OK- so what would be a step in the right direction as a streamer? I use a Luxman integrated L-590AXll, Spatial M3 Turbo S speakers, and an Esoteric K-07X CD player that doubles as my DAC. 

I know that’s a wide open question, but maybe to narrow it down- I need the interface to be user-friendly, since it’s the way my wife uses the system. I also have no way to run wire to it, so wireless connectivity is a must. 



Just saw Erik’s post after mine- no, I listen at various levels, and rarely very low. Average 75db, and into the 90’s at times. I’ll mention ‘The Jazz Groove’ as one of the Tune In stations that sounds quite good. 
My 900.00 Pro-Ject turntable combo with Ortofon 2M Bronze also sounds superior.


I would recommend any Aurrender streamer. If you can’t afford a new one, get a used one. I have tried them at every level and own a N100 and their flagship W20SE now. I have also tried a number in between the $3K and $22K range… each significant jump in cost results in better sound. 

As others have mentioned, the Node is a mismatch in your system and a bottleneck to your streaming performance so no wonder you’re underwhelmed.  I’d recommend looking at Innuos because they’re great streamers and their Sense app gets very high marks for both sonics and for being very user friendly, which is apparently important in your situation.  I’d also check to see which digital input on Esoteric might be preferred between SPDIF and USB as some DACs are set up to work better on certain inputs.  Hope this helps, and best of luck.

From my perspective it’s the compression. I rarely listen to RP but prefer it to Sirius which sounds worst. On the other hand some channels like Naim Jazz/Classical sound really good. There are occasions when things go in the direction of those crappy podcasts. Not sure how to fix that with a change in gear when it’s likely the channel that is at the root of the problem.

Streaming of FM stations to me sounds awful, every station I have heard.

I listen to KCRW.com on the FM airways and the DJ’s are into sound quality. They will bring in LPs because they say it sounds better.

This station on my 3 tuners blows away the same stream on internet and also the HD radio stream over the air (the worst of the 3).

My streamers are excellent fibre optic based.

Look at a used Grimm MU1 streamer. I moved up from a dCS Vivaldi Upsampler to a Grimm MU1 streamer and have had it about 2 years and still love it. There are used ones showing up now that they are building the MU1 streamer with a DAC-in-the-box. As it is software based, new releases of the firmware keep us up to date. 

It’s because you don’t have it setup right for starters your modem- router combo should have a good Linear power supply and quality power cord linear tube audio $750 fantastic LPS and you can hear the difference 

the sw8 Ethernet hub I bought for $600 has a over controlled clock,telema  linear power supply and other things 2 high quality Ethernet cables mine are $1k each 

all these things add up 

Wait a minute. The OP says some streams do sound good. I can personally attest that the Jazz Groove is one of the better online stations, and if you subscribe you can get a FLAC stream from them. I agree that the Node is not the finest streamer and should be replaced, but it does not explain why Tidal and Qobuz sound flat. Any chance that the higher resolution streams from Tidal/Qobuz are being modified  by the DAC? Might be worth double-checking the Esoteric manual and configuration. 


#1 I have an Innuos Zenith mk3.  It sounds wonder, have Tidal and Qobuz built in, and the Sense App is great.


I also have the Innuos zenith mk3 streamer and concurr the sense app is terrific. However, my Innuos does not support wifi, it is strictly ethernet connection, so no good for the OP's situation.

I also have the Innuos zenith mk3 streamer and concurr the sense app is terrific. However, my Innuos does not support wifi, it is strictly ethernet connection, so no good for the OP’s situation.

There’s an easy workaround by using either a Wi-Fi extender or Mesh system and run an Ethernet cable from that to the Innuos. This has the significant added benefit of sounding much better than using Wi-Fi over the air. Actually the OP should try this with his Node as it’d likely provide a nice performance boost. 

That's how my Innuos is connected, hard wired to a wifi extender. OP should definitely consider innuos since the sense app is at least as good as bluos which is a major factor to him. Many other brands listed here are sadly lacking in app performance as reviews attest.

My lack of funds, at the moment, is keeping me from buying a new streamer. I decided to try using my computer for streaming, via a USB B connection to the native DAC in my amp. I am also running my internet via ethernet cables to the PC. I found this arrangement to sound flat even compared to streaming Bluetooth into the same DAC. I then purchased an inexpensive, direct from the PRC, jitter filter. Significant improvement in sound. Playing Amazon Ultra HD tracks now compares well to my okay CD transport and at times exceeds it when 24/96 Flack files are available.

I found the main reason for what your experiencing boils down to mastering quality. Many, if not all, recent "remasters" are inferior to the older versions. It's quite apparent if you dig in to the various versions on tidal that many times the newer "remastered " version doesn't sound as good as the older version and in some cases the new one is just bad sounding i.e. flat, no dynamics etc. Even some of the master quality tracks sound worse than the originals. Its just the mastering now is not mastered for our systems but for headphones. Seems compression, lifeless sound sells. 

I just got a Bluesound Node 130 today from Crutchfield and just finished hooking it up.  Using it wirelessly in my garage system.  Just a straight setup with their cables (horrors!).  It only been playing about 90 minutes (WBGO Jazz out of Newark) .  Well I'm very pleasantly surprised how nice and clean it sounds.  Not compressed, Ella sounds like Ella.  Bass has more weight than I thought it would.  Just gonna let it play for a day then add it as an end-point to Roon.  

It sounds better than it has right to at $600.



@jacobsdad2000 So your truck does not have a streamer. You stream from an iPhone and then use a lossy method like Bluetooth or Apple Car Play to get it into your truck's audio system.


@jacobsdad2000 So your truck does not have a streamer. You stream from an iPhone and then use a lossy method like Bluetooth or Apple Car Play to get it into your truck's audio system.


@mwinkc yep, not that complicated, RP Icon is on the screen in my truck through Apple Connect. I press the Icon and music plays. 


I have the Node 130 (the one after the 2i), and find the SQ superb with Qobuz and Tidal, with hi-res, well-recorded music (equivalent to LP quality).  But the 130 may have significant improvements over the 1st and 2nd generation Nodes, which I haven't auditioned.  I have three ideas for you:

1) use the Diagnostics function in the BluOS system Settings to check your Wi-fi signal strength, if you're not using a hardwired internet connection to the Node.  It needs to rate "Excellent" to successfully stream hi-res, although I think a weak signal would be more likely to cause dropouts or buffering than impair fidelity.

2) Try using a USB cable from the Node to the DAC, if possible.

3) Be sure to compare apples with apples--e.g., the same album on the Node as the CD you're using, and try a few different albums, preferably ones that are well-recorded in the first place.

I second soix's sentiment about the source being the mismatch. As concerns Innuos, I'd recommend the Pulse as a viable streamer-only to the Esoteric CD/DAC.  I've only performed a trial listening session with the Pulse Mini and Innuos' Sense APP and was quite impressed with both.

You also won't need a linear power supply and expensive cabling connecting power to the streamer as the Innuos Pulse incorporates a toroidal transformer built-in along with appropriate damping and separation. The Pulse integrates medical grade IEC along with it's newly upgraded linear power supply found in more expensive models. It was the inclusion of this intensely designed and integrated linear PSU at this price point that has drawn many to the Pulse. This is true for those who believe that clean power plays a big part in a server/streamer’s playback capability.

The Node might be a limiting factor.  It certainly is more downmarket than the rest of the OP system.  However I can’t figure out why Internet Radio would sound better than the 2 high resolution streaming services.  I had the Node for a while and while the Internet Radio quality was good it was clearly bested by Qobuz.

  OP I would recommend trying a better streamer but make sure you do a home trial first



An iPhone connecting with a car Bluetooth or is a streamer.  Streamers are networking computers that can play music obtained from the internet (and other sources) and play them through an audio system.

Use my 'droid to stream in the car, the SUV, even the dually.....local FM is 'meh.  Since time behind wheel varies 5 min. > 5 hr., don't need distracts....

I know for a fact that for every $1000 you spend over what you previously spent on a particular component, the sound quality increases 10K based on the unquantifiable fact that your system must assuredly sound better if you keep spending more and more money on it. In fact, I change out my cables every six months as once the newness factor wears out on the cables, the "clarity and accuracy" isn’t there anymore. I am 1000% convinced of this because otherwise, I would have to admit I’m wasting money.

As for my DAC and Streamer, I update those once a year because I can’t trust the hardware to accurately reproduce the song that is being sent over 1000s of miles via various hardware and network switches. Plus, Quboz, Tidal, and Spotify wouldn’t tell us something different than what they can actually deliver.


Joking aside...

I have a Cambridge Audio CXN V2 and streaming Radio Paradise, local radio stations, and use the onboard DAC when playing CDs, I find the quality is better (cleaner and a tad brighter) than what I get through my Marantz stereo receiver which has a decent DAC for the $. But the cost difference between the two is not 1000s of dollars. And yet...Spotify sounds better through the Marantz than the CA...go figure.

My local stations SQ varies depending on the music being played. Rare vinyl cuts of cajun swamp pop will sound very different than the Classical station using DDD CD sources. No streamer can fix the source. 

SiriusXM signals have very limited frequency response - at best, 7.5 kHz. If you want to try a station with practically no processing, try discoverclassical.org. They only limit the loudest output so it doesn't go into digital distortion. Another good stream is that of AllClassical.org from Portland, OR. KCSM.org has a good sounding Jazz signal.

Short answer:  #1 Get a better streamer   #2 Buy tweaks that clean up streaming signal  #3 Further enhanced power conditioning in your room.    

I listen while cooking in my kitchen to both analog FM broadcasts and Qobuz with bluetooth from my Ipad through a Marantz N1200 and streaming always sounds substantially better.