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  • Maximizing Spotify Sound Quality

    I admit it, I LOVE Spotify. I share a family premium account with my two grown sons and, while I can still ‘stump’ it from time to time, it basically gives me the keys to the candy store, in a way that is convenient, allows me to share music easily with my friends and family, and sounds pretty good. BUT, being mostly an old school audiophile, I can’t help wondering if there isn’t something I can do to get it to sound better than just pretty good, especially as I find myself using it more and more. I’m transmitting from my iPhone to an audioengine B1 AptX Bluetooth receiver/dac and, of course, I’ve set everything in the app to maximum sound quality, but I can’t help wondering if there isn’t some kind of hardware that will help me squeeze even more out of it.

    So, my question is: What’s the limiting factor - is it the Spotify app, the phone or the Bluetooth receiver? Obviously, if it’s the app, then that’s it, but if it’s the phone or the Bluetooth receiver, what can I do to make it even better than it already is?

    Please forgive me for the “old man don’t know how to use his iPhone” type question. I know I’m way behind the curve, but please cut me some slack - when I first got into this hobby, the only way you could hear a live Dead show was to be there or get a (usually awful sounding) cassette bootleg. I did poke around here first, but couldn’t find anything directly on point.

    Thanks.
    SME 10/IV, Lyra Kleos, Cotter Mk. 2L sut, BAT VK-D5 (diy ‘six-pak’ upgrade), Audioengine B1 bluetooth receiver/dac (for Spotify), Plinius Hautonga, Totem Forest Signatures, MIT Shotgun S1 phono, Shotgun S1 Proline (cd player), Shotgun S1 speaker cable, RGPC Substation and1200S, Marigo Ultra and Reference power cords, Burson Soloist SL, Sennheiser HD-600 with Dekoni hybrid pads and Cardas wire, VPI 16.5 and other miscellaneous and sundry widgets, thingamabobs and doodads.

  • #2
    If you use a network streaming player like the Lumin, all internet sourced music goes directly to the Lumin. Although an iPad is required to control the Lumin, internet music does not go through the iPad and then to the Lumin. So the Lumin is a directly connected device.

    Currently the Lumin supports Tidal, Qobuz and Spotify in the free Lumin App. When you play back Spotify, it shows 16/44.1 resolution and sounds pretty good. Much of the overall sound of music streamed from the internet depends on the quality of your network.

    Not all internet streaming is supported by the Lumin AFAIK. For example, I can't play Deezer, maybe I have not figured it out yet. What's interesting about devices like the Lumin is that they are software upgradable and the ability to incorporate streaming capability has adapted or expanded over time. As internet streaming becomes more significant and streaming quality increases, this is the way of the future of music in my opinion.

    Comment


    • Nscohen17
      Nscohen17 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thank you. Does the lumin connect directly to a line input, or do I need a dac too?

    • Joe Pittman
      Joe Pittman commented
      Editing a comment
      The Lumin is essentially an all-in-one box combining a specialized computer and DAC. It has a line output with single ended or balanced connectors. It also has variable volume (digital domain) so you can directly drive an amp if desired. There are a number of streamers on the market like the Lumin.

    • Nscohen17
      Nscohen17 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. I did some more poking around - the lumin might be more than I’m looking to spend, but the Bluesound node 2i looks like it will give me what I’m looking for for $500.

  • #3
    I thought spotify claimed better sound quality on their premium account vs their free service. If the free service is 16bit/44.1K, then what is the bitrate of premium service?
    Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Shelter 501 Mark II Cart (St) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (St) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (St) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (M) , Luxman Tonearm (M) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (M) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, DIY Silver Interconnects

    Comment


    • Nscohen17
      Nscohen17 commented
      Editing a comment
      What I’ve learned in the few days since I originally posted this is that the highest quality available through the premium iPhone app is 320kbps, which is not quite cd level (more like a ‘good’ mp3). I think that higher quality is available if you use Spotify Connect, through a streaming component like the lumin or the Bluesound, which, I think, also requires a premium Spotify account.

  • #4
    IMO, You will notice a greater improvement in sound quality by investing in a better digital system than a better service. Once you have a Lumin, you will be better able to discern the difference bettern Tidal and Spotify. With your current setup, either will sound just fine.

    I use Spotify quite a bit. Abd Qobuz. If I'm not thinking about it, i dont hear a difference. I enjoy them both. If I concentrate I can be dis-satisfied with anything.
    PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
    Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
    Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

    Comment


    • Nscohen17
      Nscohen17 commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. That seems to be the prevailing opinion. I have a big birthday coming up, so a new piece of gear might be in order, although, as a streaming noob, I’ll probably start out with a Bluesound Node 2 and work my way up to something more sophisticated, like the lumin or a mytek, as ‘needed’...

  • #5
    Am I dreaming, or did I get an improvement simply by using Spotify Connect through my iMac desktop (still bluetoothed to the stereo via the audioengine Bluetooth receiver/dac) instead of through the phone? That is, does the computer put out a better signal than the phone. That certainly seems logical/reasonable, but I really don’t know. Feeling very noobish - all this interwebs stuff can be very intimidating to an old fart like me, so I apologize if my questions lack a certain sophistication.

    I am listening to Bill Evans at the village vanguard on Spotify, and I swear the difference is not subtle - with the computer as the source instead of the phone, the whole sound stage opens up and there is a greatly increased sense of immediacy. The old lifting of veils warhorse would be apropos.
    SME 10/IV, Lyra Kleos, Cotter Mk. 2L sut, BAT VK-D5 (diy ‘six-pak’ upgrade), Audioengine B1 bluetooth receiver/dac (for Spotify), Plinius Hautonga, Totem Forest Signatures, MIT Shotgun S1 phono, Shotgun S1 Proline (cd player), Shotgun S1 speaker cable, RGPC Substation and1200S, Marigo Ultra and Reference power cords, Burson Soloist SL, Sennheiser HD-600 with Dekoni hybrid pads and Cardas wire, VPI 16.5 and other miscellaneous and sundry widgets, thingamabobs and doodads.

    Comment


    • #6
      Originally posted by Nscohen17 View Post
      Am I dreaming, or did I get an improvement simply by using Spotify Connect through my iMac desktop (still bluetoothed to the stereo via the audioengine Bluetooth receiver/dac) instead of through the phone? That is, does the computer put out a better signal than the phone. That certainly seems logical/reasonable, but I really don’t know. Feeling very noobish - all this interwebs stuff can be very intimidating to an old fart like me, so I apologize if my questions lack a certain sophistication.

      I am listening to Bill Evans at the village vanguard on Spotify, and I swear the difference is not subtle - with the computer as the source instead of the phone, the whole sound stage opens up and there is a greatly increased sense of immediacy. The old lifting of veils warhorse would be apropos.
      Everything matters in a high end system. And I have found that every part in my network can have a profound impact on my Lumin network player when streaming music from the internet. Modem, router, switches, cables, ethernet cables, lengths, power supplies, power cables, power conditioners, proximity to magnetic fields, EMI/RFI, resonance control, and on and on. Following is a diagram of what I am doing to upgrade my network this year....

      Click image for larger version

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      Comment


      • #7
        I would dump the sbooster and stick with Keces or HDPkex. I would also use a linear on my modem and router. They impacted my performance. If you go with LPS on modem and router with a Linear Solution or Aqvox switch, the gigafoil becomes less impactful.
        PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
        Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
        Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

        Comment


        • #8
          If you set up like Joe has, or with the minor adjustments I made, and hardwire your system with Cat6 ethernet, you will find it to become more of your primary source for playback. Unless you really want to handle records or tape, the liquidity and musicality will encourage you to seek out and use digital files.
          PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
          Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
          Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

          Comment


          • #9
            Thank you gentlemen, that is all excellent advice and very enlightening. There is no doubt that I could raise the level even further by adding the hardware you describe and I am certain that a dedicated streamer will be my next step. That being said, I was able to get a little closer by making my iMac the source (as mentioned above) AND by forcing it to use the AptX codec which, I did not realize all this time, is NOT the default. This latter step took a lot (for me), but it was worth the effort, because I now believe that I have maxed out the performance of what I already have. For reasons known only to them, Apple makes you jump through hoops to get AptX. First, I went to the ‘developer’ site and downloaded ‘Bluetooth Explorer’. Unfortunately, however, my computer would not run Bluetooth Explorer ‘due to an error’ (very informative), so I installed not just one, but two new operating systems (Sierra and then High Sierra - I know, I should have done that long ago, but I’m lazy). Neither of them helped, Bluetooth explorer refused to run. So, back to the drawing board, I found a you tube video which explained how to force your Mac to run AptX. It required me to go to the Terminal Utility and actually enter code, but it finally worked! The difference between AptX and SBC (the most basic, default Bluetooth) is not subtle - the presentation is now smoother, more liquid, more dynamic - all the good stuff (not to mention that the indicator light on my Bluetooth receiver/dac turned from white orange, indicating AptX is engaged; another thing I learned last night for the first time). I’m very proud of myself - it was a big deal for me to peek behind the curtain and actually enter code into my computer, dipping my toe into the metaverse for the first time without breaking the entire interwebs. Not bad for an old man! Hopefully, this will keep me happy until I’m ready for the next step. Thanks again for all of your help!
            SME 10/IV, Lyra Kleos, Cotter Mk. 2L sut, BAT VK-D5 (diy ‘six-pak’ upgrade), Audioengine B1 bluetooth receiver/dac (for Spotify), Plinius Hautonga, Totem Forest Signatures, MIT Shotgun S1 phono, Shotgun S1 Proline (cd player), Shotgun S1 speaker cable, RGPC Substation and1200S, Marigo Ultra and Reference power cords, Burson Soloist SL, Sennheiser HD-600 with Dekoni hybrid pads and Cardas wire, VPI 16.5 and other miscellaneous and sundry widgets, thingamabobs and doodads.

            Comment


            • #10
              Good job Nschon. Software is huge. Sounds like you found the right stuff to run on an apple. I know nothing about apples but they're good computers. Glad you're enjoying what you're improving upon.
              PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
              Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
              Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

              Comment


              • #11
                A friend and I auditioned Spotify vs. CD vs. CD quality from server (in my case, Sonos).

                We found Spotify to be inferior.

                We found my dac to be a tad better than the on board Sonos.

                We went different ways - I had a library of c. 4000 CDs so painstakingly ripped them all to my server and use that as my digital source. He decided to go for Tidal Hifi because he enjoys trying out alternate material that is not from commercial releases.

                He had thought that Spotify was 'pretty good' until we listened on my system where it showed as clearly lower fidelity than the other sources.
                Main:VPI TNT V, SME V, Koetsu Urushi, Vendetta SCP2-D, Conrad Johnson Premier 14, Conrad Johnson Premier 11a, Wilson Maxx 2, Inouye power conditioner

                #2 Sota Cosmos, SME V, Lyra Clavis, Bryston BP17, Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono, Classe DR3 VHC, Martin Logan CLS

                #3 Classe DR-7, Classe DR3 VHC bridged monos + PSE V monos (bass), Classe DAC1 DA converter, Vandersteen 4A

                Comment


                • wspohn
                  wspohn commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Easy - the answer to how to improve Spotify is to replace it with something better. Certainly not bashing you for trying Spotify, just wanted to point out that a switch might get you more improvement than anything else. I am not aware of anything else you could do to improve Spotify - maybe someone else has something up their sleeve. Sorry you felt 'bashed'.

                • Nscohen17
                  Nscohen17 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Apparently you did not read and just posted. Several people who understood the question had very helpful ideas. Your post is totally inapposite to the question. You don’t even say how you set up Spotify to do your comparison - Bluetooth? Computer? iPhone? Android? Dedicated network server?

                • Kingrex
                  Kingrex commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Spotify is a large catalog of decent music. If you want to sit and critically evaluate the quality of the sound you can Pick-A-Part anything. I recently quit Tidal because they have lost much of the content that I enjoyed listening to. Spotify actually has a massive library of music that I enjoy. If I really like it I will go and seek it out on Qobuz.

                  I have done a lot to maximize the sound quality I get through my digital source. If you set your digital system up properly, even Spotify can sound very relaxing, pleasant and enjoyable. Digital need not sound hard or artificial anymore. It has really turned a corner.
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