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.

Shop the full JCAT collection here

6 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.


  2. Jerzy Sendorek says:

    I have an APL streamer and instead of using its “native’ Lightning DS player, I would like to try JPlay for superior sound quality. I play only local files from Apacer CF memory card via a reader connected to USB input in APL. I am not aware of any published instructions how to switch from DS Lightning to JPlay. Are you?
    Thank you in advance for any relevant link.

    Best regards,
    Jerzy from Toronto

    1. Marcin Ostapowicz says:

      Hi Jerzy,

      JPLAY works only on Windows OS. Therefore it can’t be used on your streamer.

      Best regards,
      Marcin Ostapowicz
      JPLAY & JCAT Founder

  3. Alan Dopp says:

    Support – I am using a 10i7fnh NUC as a ROCK Roon Server. I plan to place an ether-regen device coming off the router. The ER device output going through audiophile cabling. Your femto usb pciex card output to fiber spdif or toslink inputs on a high end DAC. A high end linear PSU will power all the components. I am new at audiophile streaming.

    What are the max resolution output of your femto card?
    Do you make for your Femto card fiber optic output cables to SPDIF DAC inputs?

    Any advice about a better arrangement?

    Thanks, Alan

    1. Marcin Ostapowicz says:

      Hi Alan,

      Thank you for your email and interest in JCAT.

      There is no fiber option unfortunately.

      The card does not have any limitations when it comes to format or resolution. It passes all formats/resolutions DAC can handle.

      NET Card XE (Xtreme Edition) is the ultimate version of the NET Card FEMTO.

      I hope this helps

      Best regards,
      Marcin Ostapowicz
      JPLAY & JCAT Founder

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.