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Gok's picture
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Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

Hi Guys,

After a considerable disappointment with the sound of my HTIB system (LG HB965TZ), which 4 years ago was a 5-star product at WHF and many other magazines, I want to bring back my 2 decades old hifi, complete with the big floorstanders.

The amp have only analog inputs, and I am planning to buy Arcam miniBlink bluetooth DAC in order to stream from my smartphone and Windows 7 PC.

My current smartphone does not support aptX (next one surely will).

Now, my question is does anyone on this forum ever checked if there is improvement in sound quality when streaming flac instead of 320 kbps mp3 files via bluetooth?

Bluetooth encodes everything to SBC codec with limited bandwidth of 328 kbps. My theory is that if you stream mp3 it is transcoding one lossy format (mp3) to another lossy format (SBC) with amplified compression artifacts. If you stream flac it should sound much better AND identical as if you stream wav.  

Now, am I right on this and does anyone who has the equipment checked if there is any noticeable improvement?

 

P.S. According to this crowdtesting service-

http://soundexpert.org/encoders-320-kbps

http://soundexpert.org/news/-/blogs/bluetooth-audio-quality-a2dp,

-SBC is transparent IF you you stream wav files, which should be identical to streaming lossless flac. 

 

Any experience-based input from forum members is welcome.

tino's picture
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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

This link may be useful: http://bringsound.com/articles/bluetooth-audio-for-beginners-part-2/

 

FWIW I stream FLAC over Bluetooth with aptX and think the quality is pretty good, although I haven't done a comparison with MP3 streams.

SBT • Wadia 151 • Aliante PF

Gok's picture
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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

Hi tino,

Thanks for the eye-opening link.

Can YOU tell the diference in audio quality between sbc and aptx when streaming flac files to your Wadia/Aliante combo?

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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

My Wadia only has digital inputs, but I used a Chordette Gem with analogue RCA connections on another amp and the difference was noticeable between SBC and aptx

 

I only use aptx now .. my phone, PC and tablet all support it, so might as well make use of it.

SBT • Wadia 151 • Aliante PF

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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

My impression with Apt-X through my Roksan K2 BT is that the sound quality is better than mp3 at 320 and almost as good as CD at 44.1/16, just noticeably not as loud. 

Apt-X is a lossless compression 4:1 with data resolution at 352kbps. It should be lossless, meaning bit perfect when it goes from the bluetooth to the DAC chip. However, they do state in higher congestion material it may switch to lossy so best to keep it at 44, not 48kHz which is the upper sampling frequency limit. 

 

B&W CM1 + FS-700/CM + Roksan Kandy K2 BT + Native Instruments TA2 + Commodore 64 LPSU + Audioquest Type 4

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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

thanks for the useful info, tino!

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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

Thanks for your post, Vladimir;

OK, flac vs 320 mp3 bluetooth streaming sorted - anyhow I have my music collection in flac on my laptop (but in 320 mp3 on my smartphone, and this can be easilly changed with bigger SD card).

I will order Arcam miniBlink (with aptX support) any day now, but both my current phone and laptop doesnt support aptX, so in the next several months I will actually stream SBC until I buy my next smartphone (in september) and aptX USB dongle for the laptop. 

Now, the same question again: I will appreciate your opinion about whether there is perceptable difference in sound quality when streaming flac files through bluetooth with the aptX vs SBC on your Roksan/B&W?

brgds,

Goran

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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

Goran, I hear a significan't improvement when I stream with Apt-X vs SBC. There is a bigger audible difference in sound quality in Apt-X vs SBC than I hear with 320 mp3 vs 16/44.1 FLAC. 

I use a bluetooth 4.0 dongle for my PC as transport since my Nokia N9 hasn't got Apt-X support (but it still sounds good).

These are my subjective impressions of course. I haven't tested it double blind and level matched. 

B&W CM1 + FS-700/CM + Roksan Kandy K2 BT + Native Instruments TA2 + Commodore 64 LPSU + Audioquest Type 4

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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

Hi Vladimir,

Thank you for being very helpful!

MiniBlink is already ordered from Amazon and expected delivery is first week of July.

I can renew my mobile contract 3 months earlier (which is now), and will buy HTC Desire 610 as probably the only mid-range smartphone with aptx support (Xperia M2, LG L70 / L90, midrange Samsungs and Alcatel Idol don't have it).

Then, if anyone is still interested, I can report my findings about mp3 320 vs flac streaming with aptx vs SBC codec.

*What aptx bluetooth dongle do you use? I think brand name and quality are meaningless for dongles, as soon as you can stream bit perfect from PC to USB port.

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RE: Streaming flac via bluetooth - does it makes sense?

Well, I have just received Arcam miniBlink a few hours ago, and streamed  my favourite music (both mp3 and flac).

 

To say that I am dissapointed with the sound will be a huge understatement. Even flac files played through my phone sound worse than mp3 128 kbps played with through wire. Muddy bass, no timing, recessed mids, and highs which are brittle and probably tops at 10 khz.

There is hope still: I am buying HTC one M7 with aptx codec next week.

But I am bitter at revewers at this and many other sites for not being honest and telling the truth: bluetooth isn not tolerable if you hunt for at least mid-fi quality.

 

Of course, miniBlink is not to blame: it jas 24/192 dac and it is only playing what it is served.

 

I will report next week ith my experience with aptx streaming.

 

 

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Finally, the results are more

Finally, the results are more than worth the effort!

I am streaming from my HTC One (M7) to Arcam miniBlink with aptx, and the sound quality is much more than acceptible - it is great!

I have made comparisons between streaming my 'regular' 320kbps MP3's and FLAC files, and the diference is really not significant enough to warrant downloading all of my music in FLAC (although I need to admit that listening tests were not blind). 

Moreover, I am now using Deezer streaming service (premium quality, 320 kbps MP3's) and will probably never go back to downloading music again - every band and artist, including local music is accessible within seconds.

Any caveats? Well, the real-life range is 5-6 meters with no walls in between, so streaming from the bedroom results in occasional dropouts. Also, after 2-3 hours of streamed playback (using wifi and bluetooth at the same time), the phone battery drains out almost completely.

My next step: buying aptx USB dongle for my laptop (Azio, Creative or Sennheiser)!

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