Help! I Have Legacy Gear & Want to Stream in Hi-Res

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Q I have used computers for 30-plus years but am not a tech-oriented person. My partner and I want to get set up for high-resolution audio, however, and are hoping to use the Tidal service for better-than-CD-quality streaming. (We mainly listen to vinyl because, to us, CDs sound flat.) We have a Sherwood stereo integrated amplifier from the 1980s, along with big, beautiful, fantastic-sounding speakers and we don’t want to give those up. I’ve tried researching the huge range of available tech options — as well as the need to avoid Bluetooth to get the highest resolution — but just don’t know how to make it work. Can you give us any help? We use Android devices and also own a Fosi Audio DAC-Q4 [digital-to-analog converter/headphone amp], along with various cable configurations. We also have a spare computer that can be used to run Tidal. —Victoria Baker, via email

A Taking a leap into high-res audio streaming can be a daunting prospect, especially if you’re looking to make it work using legacy gear. But the good news here is that you already have everything needed to make it happen, so let’s run through the options.

The first thing you’ll want to do is download the Tidal desktop app to your computer and sign up for a Tidal HiFi account (free for a 30-day trial, and then $20/month after). A HiFi subscription tier is required to access music in lossless CD-quality, along with the high-res albums and tracks available on the service (the latter will be clearly tagged with a “Master” label).

Connect your computer to the Fosi Audio DAC-Q4 with a USB type-A-to-USB type-B cable, and then visit the sound settings in the computer’s system preferences menu to select the DAC as the output device. The next step is to connect the DAC-Q4’s stereo audio output to an analog stereo input on your integrated amplifier using a set of RCA cables. Select a Tidal Master track for playback and you’ll hear it with up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution — the maximum limit of both the Tidal desktop app and your Fosi Audio DAC’s USB input.

If you instead want to use your Android devices as a source for high-res music using the Tidal Android app, I’d recommend buying a portable DAC such an AudioQuest Dragonfly or Helm Audio Bolt (both available for $99). These compact DACs connect to the phone’s USB-C port and provide an analog stereo minijack output for connecting to headphones or audio components like your Sherwood integrated amp. (You’ll need to use a 3.5mm-to-stereo RCA cable to make the hookup.)

Good luck with the setup, and here’s hoping high-res music streamed via Tidal delivers the same level of satisfaction you get when listening to your vinyl record collection.

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SuicideSquid's picture

One important step in setting up a PC for high-resolution audio playback was missed.

Windows defaults to outputting audio at 16bit/48kHz, unless you specifically pick a different format. This setting is pretty buried in Windows 10. If you don't change this, you won't actually be hearing 24/96.

Open start and type "Sound Settings" to bring up the very barebones Windows 10 sound panel. Then click "Device Properties", and then "Advanced Device Properties". Select the "Advanced" tab, and under "Default Format", select "24 bit, 96000 Hz (Studio Quality)".

Now you're ready to roll.

trynberg's picture

Just as an important step is pointing out that Tidal is not high resolution. MQA is a outright scam. Stick with Qobuz or even Amazon HD music.

HD_Dude's picture

Tidal does sound great. The problem is, though, that if you create a playlist, and a certain artist is not in their database, they substitute a version they do have in their database. So, instead of the original artist, you might get a Muzak version of a song. That happened often enough I canceled Tidal. Sorry, I want the original song by the original artist...not elevator music.