By the process of elimination I might point to the Firewall and or Internet Modem hardware as a possible culprit since they (generally speaking) are probably the only thing different in terms of physical hardware found within a Home network in the direct path of the Internet stream that is not in the direct path of the NAS stream on its way to the Music server / DAC.
I'm inclined to believe my internal home network is pretty well sorted, probably more so than most, but one thing none of us can control is what the Source (QoBuz/Tidal..etc) are doing (if anything) when they send us the stream or what happens to it along the way before it reaches our Public IP tied to our home Internet modem.
Some things I wonder are:
Is there any kind of Deep Packet Inspection occurring on the ISP end or elsewhere along the way?
Have they (ISP or other provider along the path) added additional data to the stream that wasn't there to start with (ie..Packet Tagging) which might be adding additional processing overhead to the Internet Stream?
How much does the latency involved with the Internet Stream play into any differences heard which does not (or should not) occur with a Local Stream? Is the whole Album/Track being "Cached" locally before its played back or are we drinking the Stream directly from the Internet in small chunks at a time?
Someone could grab the stream and analyze it side by side with the Local NAS version to answer some of these questions but then the Piracy lawyers will be licking their chops at just the thought of it. Short of this analysis though, no one can say for sure what the differences are, if any. Maybe there are none, can anyone say otherwise?
I get that many here have spent a fortune on their streaming chain and some claim immunity to hearing any differences between a local stream vs an Internet one. I'm not going to try and convince anyone otherwise but I will just say that if you haven't done a direct comparison yet between an Album sitting on your Local network vs an assumed same version from a Streaming Service then you may want to look/listen into it, if you think it matters.
Thanks for your well reasoned reply. First let me say that I dont have all the answers, given that I have not made any measurements beyond a lot of A vs B, With vs. Without comparisons
At the start of building my dedicated streaming system there was a significant difference between server stored rips and remote streaming. They both play from the same cache and sounded great but the local rips definitely had the edge. But then gradually over time I made many improvements to my network. Some of those improvements were minor (e.g placing routers and modem on vibration damping platforms and some were very major (e.g. powering the modem and router through a DC4 ARC6 supply). After several major network upgrades, with no attention paid to the locally ripped files you would think that the network based audio would massively outperform the local rips. Except they didn’t! Improvements to the network resulted in the entire system getting better. As of today, I really cant tell the difference between the 2 sources, as the differences between recordings are far, far, far greater than any subtle differences between the 2 sources. So here’s what I haven’t changed:
* Anything related to Qobuz and the Virgin Broadband network to my house
* Anything to do with the files themselves
What I have changed that made a difference
* ISP provided modem (from Superhub3 to 4)
* Improved 3 band router, which allows 1 5GHz band to be dedicated to streaming
* Anti vibration measures for all network components
* Quality power supplies and DC cables on all network modules
* Standardized wire loom with star earthed screens
* Network switches with improved noise filtration and better clocks
* Server power supply
* Server OS from ’pull’ (polling) to ‘push’ (exclusively audio traffic)
So if I look at the above, what’s changed that could affect both server-based rips And remote streaming?
* Reduced intrinsic noise on the system coming from both incoming stream and network components
* improved network noise filtering
* Network traffic to and from the server via the audio related network (Dedicated 5GHz Band + ‘Push’ OS
* Server power supply obviously
* Amount of EMI able to enter cabling
* Better DC cable screening
* Less latency (no conflicting network traffic)
* Less electrical noise coming from the power supplies
* Improved clocking therefore less jitter and phase noise due to less noise on all clock supplies, including the server
* improved noise isolation due to wi-fi link and switches
So in summary, what I have found is that I can make very significant positive changes to sound quality of both local files and incoming remote streams, to the point that differences between recordings become the overriding and only significant differences I hear.