Apple Music SQ vs Roon/ Qobuz

I’d be interested in learning whether others have come to a similar conclusion.

Here’s what I’ve compared sound wise.

  1. streaming Roon/ Qobuz through MacBook Air (M1 chip) via ethernet
  2. streaming Roon/ Qobuz through older MacBook Pro (2015) via ethernet
  3. streaming Apple Music through older MacBook Pro (2015) via USB
  4. streaming Apple Music through iPad Pro (2020) via USB
    5) streaming Apple Music though MacBook Air (M1 chip) via USB

What I’ve found is this: 1) 2) 4) are very similar re SQ. 3) is not as good (never mind the specifics.) But to my great surprise, 5) came out on top and this by a large margin!

Based on my findings, I can only speculate that the MacBook Air with the new M1 chip is a superior transport and probably optimised for Apple Music.

Here are the two recordings that have made the superior sound of AM (through the specified laptop) very clear to me. Listen to the bass line (in Gardiner’s recording, first track, especially the organ; for Brahms listen to the cellos and the wonderful bite they have, third track). It’s not just the bass – but it’s perhaps most obvious there.

You don’t have to be into classical music to appreciate the difference.

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Did you also tried streaming Roon/ Qobuz through MacBook Air (M1 chip) via USB?

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Hmmm… Without knowing the rest of the path, that does not say much, I’m afraid.

Let’s put the big one out first: how do you account for Apple Music not being able to take control of bitrate/depth switching?


Yes, same result.

That’s not my concern here. I guess they’ll fix that one day (or not).

Here’s how I’ve set up the path (if that’s what you want to know):
MacBook Air (M1 chip) – Apple Music – Audio MIDI settings: 2 ch 24-bit Integer 192 kHz (I leave it at that, as I can’t be hassled to keep changing the settings) – USB cable (AudioQuest Forest 3 m) – dCs Bartok.

As I’ve mentioned before, the difference in SQ is huge. On an equal level with what I’ve achieved with high-quality room treatment (GIK Acoustics panels and bass traps).

I don’t know why. I’d like to hear whether anyone can reproduce the result and thereby confirm my findings.

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That’s perfectly fine, but you’re comparing apples (bitperfect output) and oranges (resampled content) here.

I wouldn’t have my signal integrity compromised by an os-level resampler before shipping it out to my system – but you may just have a preference for whatever way Apple is messing with your output. That’s also fine – but not great to start a discussion on sound quality with.


What good is signal integrity if the sound is actually worse?
I’ve adjusted the MIDI settings to 96 kHz (the Hi-Res file of the Bach recording). Same result: so much better than Roon/ Qobuz.
Again: I don’t know why. Just thought to let people know so they can compare and hear for themselves. I’m not making an objective claim, and I’m not really interested in signal paths – this is my subjective impression. But the difference isn’t subtle – it’s right there in the middle of the room. Too large to ignore. Do others hear it?

Have you actually tried AM with a Mac running the M1 chip? That’s what interests me – with the other devices, there was no difference.


My daily driver is an M1 MBP, so yes. Bit-rate matched, it’s fine. OS-resampled (to/from whatever), it is a bit flat. All in all, once bit-perfect it shares a ballpark with Qobuz/Tidal, whether standalone or through Roon/Audirvana. In any case – no epiphanies here.

Interesting. I wonder why the SQ is so clearly better in my case.
I’ve been switching back and forth between AM (and the M1 chip laptop via USB) and Roon/ Qobuz (via ethernet) for almost a week now, and in each and every case I hear the difference. Which I shouldn’t, really. In some cases, AM may use a different master, but that would account only for the odd difference here and there.
The sound is more detailed, has more bite, and is thus more emotionally gripping. So I’m not talking about subtle changes. It’s very much in my face. :thinking:
(I’ve also tried Audirvana – no difference, really. And there is none either when I play AM through the iPad.)

Not quite sure if that sentence makes any sense technically. M1 is for sure a modern technical marvel in many ways, but when it comes to music playback it’s doing exactly same things as any CPU – handling ones and zeros according to the logic defined in the program code.

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Don’t know if it makes sense technically. All I can point out is the improved SQ. As to why … I only have that effect through the MacBook with the M1 chip.

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Well I’m pretty damn sure there are a bunch of other explanations that are closer to being somewhat realistic in explaining what you’re hearing than a certain CPU being optimized for a specific music software.


You sure you volume matched ? Is one setup louder than the other ?

This doesn’t really make any sense to compare since you’ve not described what’s “ethernet”.

When using ethernet what’s in the network? What streamer is being used? What interface to the DAC? Is it the same DAC? Need more details here.

Please draw each path and it will help me understand why things might be different.


What’s your Roon signal path? That tells us if anything is being adjusted within Roon. Also make sure selecting the 24/96 version in Qobuz as there are two versions.

Unless you have something set wrong which, based upon how different the two paths sound, I suspect you do. Signal path screen grab will help.

I’ve just done the same as I look at streaming options.
M1 Mac mini via USB into a Topping D70 leaving it set at 192.

I’ve not done any comparisons but it does sound really good.
I didn’t think I’d go back to a headless Mac Mini as a media server using VNC on a Macbook Air to control it, but it seems to work well.

I’ve never found the sound of Roon to be that great but the features kind of made up for it.

Best I’ve tried so far is

  1. Not using roon >> Innuos Zen Mk3 >> USB >> DAC
  2. roon core >> ethernet >> Logitech Touch >> spdif >> DAC
  3. roon core >> ethernet >> ropiee on Pi >> USB >> Audiphilleo >> spdif >> DAC
  4. roon core >> USB >> Audiphilleo >> spdif >> DAC
  5. roon core >> USB >> DAC
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To everybody who took the time to respond to this thread.
It’s deeply embarrassing, and I am deeply embarrassed. Squirming, really. I had actually the Equaliser function turned on in Apple Music, set to classical. I don’t know why or how this happened, as I always took care to have that turned off. (That’s why I didn’t even check that.) But on it was, hence no surprise that through my new MacBook Air AM should indeed sound different. My sincere apologies to everyone whose time I’ve wasted.
There’s some good that has come out of this, for me anyway. Which is that I have found out that I actually prefer the sound with the Equaliser turned on. Which in turn has led me down the path of digital processing, and now I’m very happy with running Dirac Live. To me a clear improvement in SQ.


It’s just probably louder

A great update !

This is why it can be important to not immediately dismiss some of the earlier questions about the signal path.

While nobody brought up the EQ thing, the gist of the earlier questions was to make sure it was an :green_apple: to :green_apple: comparison (bit perfect comparison).

And if macOS was resampling (like it was initially for you) you could actually have some clipping if Apple Music app volume is not reduced. Which could make it sound different to iOS source.

Ive listened to both combos and they are both fabulous. With each combo I am listening to my old cd rips all over again and the sound is just sublime. I can feel the treble air circling around my nostrils and the bass low frequencies are pounding and tight.

Let me get back to more listening.