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Audio Files: Field of Streams

How good is the sound of streaming audio?

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Cambridge Audio Mini Xi
Olive One music streamer
NuForce BTR-100

There’s no denying the appeal of Internet streaming. Ten years ago, you were lucky to be able to tune in one jazz station on FM radio. Now with Internet streaming, you have hundreds of choices. You can pick the genre you want, the instrument you like best, and the country where the station originates. You can almost instantly access far more recordings than even the best record store ever carried.

To audiophiles, though, the sound quality of streaming leaves much to be desired. Streaming services-from behemoths such as Pandora and Spotify to the online wing of your local college radio station-have to balance the desire for higher sound quality with the cost of the added Internet bandwidth required to attain that quality. “Streaming is convenience-based. The people who buy our high-end receivers are listening to high-quality downloaded or ripped content, not streaming,” said Chris Walker, director of A/V marketing and product planning for Pioneer Electronics.

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Originally Published