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Digital Audio: Streaming services have improved sound quality dramatically

You come here because you want to get the best out of digital sound and avoid spending your money wrong.

Here is the blog post number two in a series of five. This time it's all about the source. The place we get the music from.

The quality of the data we collect is of great importance to the experience we get in the end.

There has been a sensational development and streaming services today deliver the music in a higher quality than we have ever been able to buy on a physical medium. But there is also a lot of poor quality out there.

That's why there's a good reason to keep track of what to do when you love music and want to get the best sound.

But let us first get this in place.

Music recorded digitally


Since the 80s, music has been recorded digitally in all-world studios and concert halls.

The music that the artist and producer creates for all of us music lovers are created and processed in a digital format.

This is true regardless of whether the music is published on an analog LP, a digital CD or a streaming service.

The vinyl plate is reputed to be an alternative to digital sound, but it is other factors than just the sound that make people hold of vinyl records. This is, for example, a The social and cozy in putting a plate on and not least, that (so far) more music has been released on vinyl than on any other medium.

Vinyl records have its full entitlement for all of us music lovers, but come to cards when it comes to sound quality.

The thing is, all music is recorded digitally. Even the sound on a vinyl plate comes from a digital recording.

There is a treasure trove of unrivalled sound in the digital formats. Many have unfortunately not discovered it yet, but phantom music experiences are only a few clicks away.

If we are to be a little technical, it can be said that the music contains up to 96,000 data information per second in the best formats.

We'll get back to that.

We will hear the music as it sounded in the studio


It's the music lover's ultimate dream. To experience the music that the artist wanted us to hear it.

We want to feel the music. Atmosphere. The talent of the artisans. We will enjoy the energy and the fine shades.

Unfortunately, few of us have experienced the music of the quality.

There are various reasons for this and today we are talking about the first one: the source.

The technologies have never been able to transport all the massive data information all the way from the studio and home in our living rooms.

Not until now – and we're going to talk about that shortly.

Most of us listen to scaled down sound


Since the 80s, music has been recorded in a digital quality that has subsequently been scaled down so that our players at home can better follow along.

For example, the dynamic range of the studio sound of 144 dB becomes Limited to 50-60 dB when the music is placed on a vinyl record. The pickups would jump out of the groove if it were to reproduce the dynamics of the studio. Therefore, you limit the sound by removing some of it.

The LPE is also not good at storing data in the innermost grooves. That's why you change the sound when you make an LP, so the inner grooves get a slightly darker sound than the outer ones.

The instruments thus sound a little bit different at the beginning of a vinyl record than at the end, and the audio quality of the LP is overall not near the original sound from the studio.

Here, Compact Disc is an improvement compared to LP. For example, the dynamic range is of 96 dB and the instruments have the same sound throughout the CDen.

The technologies of the appliances at home in the living room have (in other words) not been able to convey the entire music experience from the studio because one has had to transform the original digital format into another.

But how good is digital sound so?


You can use different concepts to describe sound quality, and here I will use kilobits per second ( Kbps ), which is an expression of where, many data information flows through the format per second. It is also called bitrate.

It is true for bitrate that the higher the number, the better the sound quality. It is similar to the resolution of an image where low resolution makes the image grained and unclear, while high resolution makes it clear with clear colors. Within digital images, we talk about pixels, where we talk about bits in sound.

Let's get started.

In a recording studio, the best quality is called 24 bit/192 kHz (or 24/192). This corresponds to 9,216 kbps.

Another and widely used quality is called 24 bit/96 kHz (24/96), which is equivalent to 4,608 kbps.

These figures are not particularly informative if you do not compare them with anything.

Therefore, a CD has a bitrate of 1,411 kbpsin comparison.

This is similar to streaming services such as
Tidal HiFi
Apple Lossless
Deezer HiFi
, which all deliver 1,411 kbps.

Spotify Premium
Google Play Music
are located at 320 Kbps, while
Apple music
Youtube music
both settle for 256 kbps.

You can therefore safely say that digital sound quality is incredibly many things.

There is a big difference in the quality of the sound of the 9,216 Kbps in the studio and 256 kbps on Youtube Music.

Youtube Music is shockingly 36 times worse than the original sound.

Now, how are we going to deal with this?


We have wondered about this very much with System Audio.

And the first news is really good.

Now we can experience the music at home, just as it was created in the studio. It's a real sensation.

Subscribe to, for example, Tidal Hifi and set your phone, tablet, etc. to stream in Master quality. This way you'll experience music at 4,608 Kbps and a resolution of 24/96.

It is a sound quality that is more than 3 times better than CD.

Digital Audio has moved much more than most people realise.

To experience the high quality, it requires the many data to arrive at your speakers. It is not enough just to download the good sound down from the Internet.

The sound must be sent all the time and we will return to it in the later sections.

Should the sound really have studio quality before it is worth listening to?


Yes, it must! The music becomes so much more gripping, magnificent and entertaining when you experience it as it really sounds.

It is great to experience.

But there are also times in everyday life where the entertainment just runs in the background.

How good should the sound be?

The short answer: as good as possible.

The slightly longer answer: we have experimored part with System Audio. We have tested many sound qualities in everyday situations, such as: work, family life, on the go, etc.

In short, situations where music is not in the center, but still important to have in the background. How good sound do we need?

Here we recommend Spotify Premium or a similar quality (320 kbps).

Spotify wins in particular on the functionality of the free Spotify Connect app, which is easy to use.

The audio quality of Spotify Premium is OK if you just don't combine it with bad speakers or a bad music system. Not to say: Bluetooth or cable connection from the phone to the music system.

Because then it goes wrong and the sound gets flat.

However, streaming Spotify over Wi-fi to a good sound system with good speakers is both good and easy in everyday life.

That's why you'll find Spotify Connect built in for example.
Stereo Hub

Spotify, on the other hand, does not offer what we call light quality. So the quality where you really hear the music.

Here is Tidal Hifi, Deezer Hifi and CD equal competitors, which you should clearly prefer when listening actively and enjoying the music.

And here you must be awake


For Tidal Master, HDTracks, Pro Studio Masters and others offer you to stream in studio quality 4,608 Kbps (24/96, Hi-Res, High Definition etc) and this is the first time ever we can experience music in such a high quality.

At System Audio We have therefore worked with the new opportunities and created SA legend Silverback: A family of active speakers that leads digital audio all the way from the studio to the speaker units without the sound being converted or machined at any stage of the process.

The clean sound from the studio comes untouched to the speaker units.

The solution constitutes in every way the music lover's desire dream since the start of digitised the music.

It's a very overwhelming way to experience the music. A lot of people are amazed at how much it means for the music experience that the sound is not going through long copper wires, conversions and analog electronics, but is disseminated digitally and completely without loss from the audio studio and into the speaker.

It is a technological breakthrough that cannot be ignored when you love good sound, and it even entails a great simplification of the music system.

Here are our recommendations:

  • Experience 24/96 quality music (4,608 Kbps) If you haven't already done so. It's great. The sources can be
    Tidal Master
    , Pro Studio Masters etc.
  • Use as
    Tidal HiFi
    Deezer HIFI
    and CD as you listen actively to the music
  • Use
    Spotify Premium
    When you're on the go and in everyday life
  • Listen to vinyl records if you are a dedicated music fan. A lot of good music (some hundreds of millions of songs) has been released only on vinyl
  • Be aware that only a good network connection, a good music system and good speakers give you great music experiences. All of that we will come back to in the next sections

Brief summary of today's blog post

  • Music has been recorded digitally and in a high quality since the 80s (this includes music for vinyl records)
  • The high quality has not reached our living rooms, due to technological constraints in the physical media, i.e. CD and vinyl
  • Vinyl is fully justified as a source because a lot of music (some hundreds of millions of songs) has not been released anywhere else
  • The internet and streaming have now made it possible to experience the music as it was created in the studio
  • But be aware! The largest streaming services do not offer the best sound, but an up to 36 times worse alternative
  • Spotify Premium 320 kbps is OK in everyday life, but it is not light quality

  • SA legend Silverback
    speakers, Along with
    Stereo Hub
    (or equivalent), can convey the music as it was created in the studio

You follow This blog about digital audioBecause you want to know more and want to avoid mistakes.

I opted to divide digital audio into 4 areas.

Through four blog posts, we need to follow the music path from the studio and all the way via the Internet and out of your speakers.

We must identify the places where the quality of the digital sound can stumble and how we solve it.

This section was about the source. Follow the next time we talk about transmission.

Ole Witthøft
Ole ist der Gründer von System Audio. Seine drei großen Leidenschaften sind Musik, Technik und Design. Ole steckt immer tief in neuen Projekten und ist sowohl in der Modellwerkstatt, im Lager, am Computer und weltweit an wichtigen Schauplätzen aktiv.
System Audio A/S
Langebjerg 35A
4000 Roskilde. Denmark
CVR no. 13862788
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