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  #1  
Old Mar 15th, 2011, 10:13 PM
Clavace Clavace is offline
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Default Rhapsody vs. Napster (sound quality)

I am new to Sonos (love the system) but not new to audio. 2 weeks ago I purchased a ZP120 and a pair of B&W 685 speakers. Last week I added a Velodyne Optimum 10 sub. I am also a true believer in hi-quality audio cables and am running Audioquest bi-wired to the B&W and a Sub-1 on the Velodyne. I must say I am shocked how good the system sounds – more on that later in a different post.

With this background I am on my free month trial with both Napster and Rhapsody. I have been comparing the two services using the same song on the same album and playing them back to back.

The sound quality of Rhapsody seems to me much better. It sounds closer to a CD where you can hear more detail in the music as well as a more spacious image With Napster it sounds more closed in, compressed, etc…Anyone else hear any differences?

Last edited by Clavace; Mar 16th, 2011 at 06:20 AM.
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  #2  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 04:52 AM
jgatie jgatie is online now
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Rhapsody is at 192 kbs, Napster is 128 kbs.
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  #3  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 07:21 AM
Clavace Clavace is offline
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Default From FAQ Answer ID 1050

I just did some checking in FAQ (answer ID 1050) and found that jgatie is correct about the streaming rates- thank you!

Napster tracks are in 128 Kbps WMA format.
Rhapsody tracks are 192 Kbps MP3s.

I believe that just as important (or more) is the fact that Napster is using WMA format which is nowhere near as detailed as MP3 and cuts off high frequencies and I was able to hear the difference without knowing any of this.

I then called customer service and was told to also try rdio which is streaming up to 320 kbps MP3 and is currently their highest quality streaming service available in the US.
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  #4  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 07:41 AM
Audacity Audacity is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clavace
I believe that just as important (or more) is the fact that Napster is using WMA format which is nowhere near as detailed as MP3 and cuts off high frequencies and I was able to hear the difference without knowing any of this.
WMA files are higher quality for a given bitrate than a MP3 file, not lower. That said, I suspect a 192kbps variable-bit-rate MP3 file would sound better than a 128kbps WMA given the significant bitrate advantage (WMA, like almost all lossy audio formats newer than MP3 are VBR by default). A 192kbps WMA stream would sound better than a 192kbps MP3 stream.

The statement about how WMA "cuts off high frequencies" is completely wrong, as that is not how audio compression works. Do you have a citation for where you got this information?
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  #5  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 08:09 AM
jgatie jgatie is online now
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Mog also streams at 320 kbs MP3, and they have announced it is coming to Sonos soon.
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  #6  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 12:03 PM
Clavace Clavace is offline
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Default Missing the Point of Post

I do not remember where I read about WMA files cutting more high frequencies, but that is also what I heard. I did find this comparison, "The sound quality comparisons between MP3 and WMA are subjective and much debated by audiophiles. MP3-Tech designed and completed a number of side-by-side comparison tests to compare audio quality in playback. It is generally recognized that in lower bitrates, WMA offers better compression and sound quality. At higher bitrates, MP3 is recognized to offer better sound quality than the WMA counterparts."

With Sonos we have not only a higher MP3 streaming rate so according to this analysis better sound quality than WMA, which is what I heard.

SEE: http://www.ehow.com/about_6602459_au...3-vs_-wma.html

MISSING THE POINT: I did not intend this post to be an intellectual discussion of file formats.

My intent was to see if anyone else with a good audio system connected to Sonos has heard any differences between the quality of Napster vs. Rhapsody streaming?
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  #7  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 12:23 PM
Clavace Clavace is offline
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Default Additional Reply to Audacity

This article concurs with my previous post about WMA being sonically better at lower streaming rates than low bit rate MP3 files and MP3 being sonically being more true to the original music at higher bit rates than WMA.

SEE: http://www.scinet.cc/articles/wma-vs-mp3/wma-mp3.html

AGAIN: I was looking for anyone else that hears any difference in the streaming music from these services on their audio systems.
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  #8  
Old Mar 16th, 2011, 02:42 PM
SEG SEG is offline
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Default rdio refuses to reveal their bitrate, look into mog

Quote:
Originally Posted by Clavace View Post
I then called customer service and was told to also try rdio which is streaming up to 320 kbps MP3 and is currently their highest quality streaming service available in the US.
Bitrate is the first thing that I look for in an online streaming service. I looked into Rdio and decided to look elsewhere.

Rdio plays games by claiming 'CD quality,' but refuses to reveal their actual streaming bitrate. There has been a long line of Rdio subscribers who have tried to get a straight answer about this and they never have. Below is a link to a recent and typical user forum exchange between subscriber and Rdio staff.

http://help.rdio.com/discussions/gen...-is-cd-quality

Because I am in the US and can't get Spotify, I subscribe to mog (320kbps for most tracks, 256kbps for the rest). mog is by no means perfect, but it is damn good. If you value a high bitrate, on-demand, streaming service with an expansive library, then mog easily beats any competitor available in the US market. And, with mog you can download 320kbps 'subscription' tracks (to an iphone/ipad/ipod touch or an android device; can't download them to a regular mp3 player, unfortunately). That beats Rhapsody's 160kbps and Napster's 192kbps DRM-protected WMA 'subscription' tracks (although those can be downloaded to just about any mp3 player that has MTP mode). And, mog is coming to Sonos.
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  #9  
Old Mar 31st, 2011, 09:22 AM
mwaustin mwaustin is offline
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Default Rhapsody vs. Napster (sound quality)

I hear the same difference you are describing. I listen on relatively high-end gear (Bryston/Halo/PSB/Meridian), plus an S5 in my den.

Currently, of the services available on Sonos, I rank Rhapsody #1, Napster #2, and Rdio #3 -- for sound quality at least.

Rdio must be adding EQ or something, because it sounds awful on all of my systems (even the S5). I try to listen, and can't stand it after a short while. If they are using a high bit rate, then they are messing the sound up in some other way. They won't publish their bit rate, and I suspect it is because they are trying to reduce it to the point where they still retain most (but not all) of their customers. I don't think they are aiming for customers with discerning ears.

I have MOG as well - which sounds the best of all. I am currently using their iPod app, with the iPod plugged into a Sonos dock. Sounds great, but definitely not so great UI-wise. Once Sonos integrates MOG, I am guessing that it will be the clear winner in my book.

The other thing I will note is that Rhapsody has been very dependable for me, whereas Napster, well, we all know how much fun it was to listen to Napster on Sonos over the recent holidays

Last edited by mwaustin; Mar 31st, 2011 at 12:25 PM.
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