Sound Quality Connect vs. Port


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I need to replace one of my Connects that is Gen 1 and therefore not Sonos II compliant. I will be picking up a Port to replace it.

My question: if you are using the digital output to go into an outboard DAC, is the digital signal presumably a pure unprocessed bitstream?  I had assumed that this would be the case with both units, but have read that if you use the Port even for volume level, you are implementing a layer of signal processing that may/will affect sound quality.  I do not know if that was the same situation with the Connect.

When I get the Port I will have the choice of using it in one of my high res systems where volume is adjusted by another unit or in a secondary system where I do use the volume adjustment of the Sonos unit.

Does use of volume control with the Port affect sound quality?

Does use of volume control with the Connect affect sound quality?

FWIW, I have found the on board DA conversion on the Connect to be adequate for background music but deficient for serious listening and assume that the situation with the Port vis a vis it’s on board DAC is the same or (according to some reviews) worse.


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I switched from a connect to a port. I’ve got it feeding a rogue sphinx integrated amp and floor standing speakers. I thought about other alternatives (blue node), but I have a lot of sonos stuff in the house and did not want to deal with screams from the family. 

 

My perception is that the port was an upgrade from the connect on its own, sq wise. I’ve also experimented a bit and found that:

  1. Having it feed a good external DAC, does make a difference. 
  2. Swapping out the power supply for an ifi power supply that reduces the noise of the switching power supply also made a difference, and is a cheap upgrade for about $50. More dynamic range. Better base. 
  3. If you are feeding an external dac (I’m using an Ares II) using an iFi Spdif purifier 2 made a noticeable difference. I was surprised. I think, however that  will be highly dependent on the DAC, and how well they filter and reclock the signal they get from the port. 
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On the streaming issue via the iPhone, it is excellent. I think Plex gave it some attention recently. It doesn’t get distracted. If you close Plexamp, then reopen later it is connected to the Sonos Amp as before. 

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Evidently it carries out an analysis and marks each item with the dB gain in the Plex library, and then applies a volume adjustment when you stream.

So it just adjusts the volume. It’s on, and it surely won’t make it sound better. It certainly doesn’t sound louder when I do an AB, volume appears to be very similar with each source. Louder is often construed as better so it can’t be that.

Looked at the settings: 

loudness levelling on.

What’s that in detail? Is it per-track gain adjustment based on data in the tags, or is it on-the-fly dynamic range compression? The latter could have a marked effect on the sound. 

I’m definitely sticking with this configuration, especially as the App sticks to the Amp like glue; no annoying casting disconnects, restarts etc.

… until your phone gets distracted, or removed. Looping a stream out to a mobile and back again always carries risks. 

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It does make me wonder if all streamers are not the same though.

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Looked at the settings: 

loudness levelling on.

EQ switched off.

Preamp at +4db

Server is on a 10th Core i7 Intel NUC

I’m definitely sticking with this configuration, especially as the App sticks to the Amp like glue; no annoying casting disconnects, restarts etc.

I suspect the Plexamp software is playing a role in the issue mentioned here, as it’s description on the iOS App Store says it has in-built loudness levelling, a configurable pre-amp and parametric EQ. 
 

I don’t have a plex server setup here to go onto try out the software, but I suspect that is perhaps what might be at the root of the difference being heard in the audio here.
 

If the plexamp software suits, then the answer has to be to stick with what you prefer.

Plexamp. Unfortunately it costs money.

Is that streaming from a Plex server? If so, is anything happening there? 

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Plexamp. Unfortunately it costs money.

I thought that. Looked at Amp EQ and it’s flat. Looked at player EQ on the iPhone and it’s off.

I thought I knew that all bit perfect streamers would sound the same, now I’m not so sure. 

Just observing this thread, I’m curious as to what App player you’re using to AirPlay your tracks, so I can perhaps try this too… thanks.👍

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Assuming Airplay bypasses the Amp EQ of course. Probably doesn’t!

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Perhaps it’s the Amp end? Sliders on EQ set to 0, but iPhone EQ is switched off. Surely that wouldnt make that much difference?

Beats me. I’m no iPerson, but if phone A sounded different from phone B -- and both were delivering a  stream losslessly -- I’d assume some processing was going on somewhere at the phone end. 

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I agree. But what? It makes no sense if it’s better components / chip etc as it sends a bit perfect digital stream - it sends the data on the NAS to the Amp’s DAC.

And there’s no EQ.

 

 

You said the Amp sounded the same, when comparing playing the NAS files directly or via AirPlay2 from the previous iPhone. With a different iPhone it sounds ‘better’. Being a simple fellow, to my mind the obvious conclusion is that the later phone is doing something different, assuming it’s the same content in all cases. 

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PS whatever enhancement it is, it works a treat.

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I thought that. Looked at Amp EQ and it’s flat. Looked at player EQ on the iPhone and it’s off.

I thought I knew that all bit perfect streamers would sound the same, now I’m not so sure. 

AirPlay2 from iPhone 6s sounded the same as the NAS files, but with a different phone it sounds “better”? To me that sounds like Apple is doing some audio ‘enhancement’ processing.

If you prefer things that way, just stick with it. 

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For the clarification I’m comparing the same files played  in both ways. Never expected it, just carries on as before and noticed immediately how much better it sounded. Does that excuse me from bias?!

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Files are flac. 
The difference goes beyond EQ - you can hear each individual instrument, soundstage is far more pronounced, lyrics are easier to interpret etc etc.

I was using an iPhone 6s Plus the same way previously and it just sounded the same as the Amp.

Bizarre. And I was thinking all you need is Shannon/Nyquist and 16/44 and you had the original analogue sound.

 

 

 

So… the NAS files are in what format? And is there any EQ being applied by the iPhone before transmission over AirPlay2 (which as far as I can make out is a lossless transport)?

By the way “way better” can be explained by all kinds of factors: such as a different mix/mastering of a piece of music, whether it’s simply louder, or whether the listener believes it’s “way better” (the technical term is confirmation bias).

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Again, just to clarify, Airplay2 is lossless and sends the digital stream from iPhone to Amp?

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Just to clarify I’m comparing Amp playing files from a NAS to iPhone streaming files via Airplay 2 to the Amp.

It doesn’t sound different, it sounds way better.

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In bit perfect, I mean the bit before the digital stream hits the DAC in the amp.

Im using Airplay 2 to stream from the phone. So why in the name of all that is holy does it sound better? Not possible surely?