7 ways to improve sound quality of streaming services

Many music lovers and audiophiles tend to stream their favorite albums nowadays instead of playing downloads offline. It’s convenient. I get that. Even though we now have access to lossless music services not only in 16/44, but in hi-rez too (Qobuz Sublime up to 24/192), the reality is that streaming will never sound as good as local playback. There are just too many variables in the path. However, with some tweaks, we can get very close to a local playback performance.

1. Never use WIFI for streaming music content to your network player.

Wireless connection while very convenient is not desired in a hi-end audio system. It adds latency, often leads to dropouts or stuttering, but most importantly it never sounds as good as a wired Ethernet connection. The use of WIFI in a computer audio system should be limited to controlling playback from a remote device (smartphone or tablet) – never for transferring audio.

2. Limit network traffic when playing an online stream.

Whenever you listen to music online, try avoiding excessive network activity. Browsing web might be ok, but heavy downloads will definitely downgrade playback quality. Ideally, our network should not transfer anything apart from the music stream for best sound quality.

3. Use software optimized for sound quality.

Native Tidal & Qobuz client apps are OK, but you can get much better results with software players that were developed specifically to improve sound quality of both offline and online content. JPLAY on Windows with Bubble UPNP on Android (as a remote) is one example.

JPLAY improves sound quality of Tidal and Qobuz

4. Use high-end network adapter & switch.

These are the most effective hardware tweaks that will bring the sound quality of network audio to a completely new dimension. Our NET Card FEMTO, the first ever audiophile network adapter & the M12 SWITCH GOLD will guarantee absolute best sound possible with network audio streaming. The level of improvement can be compared without exaggeration to getting a new DAC that costs at least twice as much.

M12 SWITCH GOLD connected to high-end network audio players

5. Upgrade your router.

How good your router is, it will affect the overall performance of your streaming setup. My personal recommendation based on years of experience and trying out different brands and models: get a wired only router and an external independent WIFI access point. I’m using the two from Ubiquiti and they’ve upgraded both the speed & responsiveness of my home network as well as improved the sound quality of streamed content. Highly recommended.

ubiquiti advanced gigabit wired router and wifi access point

6. Replace generic ethernet patch cords with audio grade LAN cables.

You can read comments on forums that LAN or USB cables have absolutely no impact on sound quality. You can also read that all PC based music servers or transports sound the same because they output digital signal that is bit-perfect. It’s all wrong and these statements are often repeated by people who never even tried a good LAN cable. The truth is that Ethernet cables are today’s digital audio interconnects that can transform the sound of your computer audio system dramatically (in a good way) or kill it, if you stick with generic cables.

best audiophile ethernet cable

7. Use linear PSU for network devices

Connect a linear power supply to a router, a network hub, a NAS or to a network interface adapter such as NET Card FEMTO and you will be shocked how much better your system sounds. Network related components are extremely sensitive to the quality of power supplies.

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2 thoughts on “7 ways to improve sound quality of streaming services

  1. Eric says:

    Hi Marcin,

    number 5 Upgrade your Router: Please tell me, what exactly do you do with these two products and in which way do they optimise SOUND quality. I am using a Fritzbox 7490 and streaming from a computer via Devialet Air to a Devialet Expert Pro CI. Best regards, Eric

    1. Marcin Ostapowicz says:

      Hi Eric,

      Since this particular router model provides only wired connectivity (no wifi), the white device in the picture is an access point which takes care of WIFI signal. The access point is connected to the router via ethernet cable and PoE (power over ethernet) adapter included in the set. The advantage is that one can place the access point in a different location than the router. Based on my experience, having wifi and wired ethernet separated into 2 devices provides not only better performance, but sound quality too.


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