Bluetooth lossless audio for audiophiles (not my experience)

I wanted to share my experience with music quality as it relates to Bluetooth file formats vs traditional music playing via CD’s etc, especially when the term “Audiophile” is included.

The purpose of this post is to try and clarify discernible differences in the quality of music listening, especially as there are so many reviews and devices that claim to be Audiophile quality. This term for me really is relative to your own experiences, and can be hard to define. It can be a bit like love, you are not quite sure what it is, but you are very confident what it isn’t!!

This is my experience in buying a high end Bluetooth receiver that plays “lossless audio” files such as FLAC. My vague understanding of lossless is that in the compression of the recorded file there is no music quality lost at all, so the theory is you can download your CD or purchase this file type from the Web and it will be the same quality as the original recording. On the other hand an MP3 file is compressed to a certain size, so theoretically will always have compromises in the quality of the recording. Of course, the Bluetooth receiver, with a high end coaxial cable will transmit this through your stereo not losing any quality (theory).

I tried this with a middle range CD (Tripple J, Like a Version). I downloaded the CD onto a recommended FLAC program. I played the original CD vs the FLAC download side by side, many songs testing the quality difference to my ear.

This is where I really have the problem of the “Audiophile” claims. People who enjoy music buy equipment that gives true sound, full sound, musicality, precision etc. You can pay quite a bit to achieve this. The FLAC versions of all these songs were far less quality to my ear. They were flat, less musical, restricted, not as full and rich in sound and no where near the dynamism of the CD recording. In short it was like my $20K system was suddenly a $600 system.

I am not trying to discourage people who enjoy MP3 music from using any of these other formats for their music listening, and they may well see improvements if they do. I am also not singling out FLAC as a particular issue. I think you just need to understand that any of these formats will compromise quality to some degree. I have deliberately not named the Bluetooth receiver I purchased, and duly sent back, because I don’t think it would matter what receiver I used.

This is just an experience to keep in mind if you are reading reviews on Blutooth music, lossless audio, and the reference anywhere to “Audiophile”!!


I’m hearing you. :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing your experience.


@184did I’m hearing you on this point .Music has been recorded at 192 khz 24 bit for along time now . Most CD’s are 44.1 or 48.1 Khz 12 Bit . So the music we buy is always "down sampled " . I remember when I played in the studio some guitar and bass tracks . How rich they sounded played back in 192 Khz 24 Bit . When the CD was pressed at 44.1 Khz 12 bit a lot of detail , ambience and dynamic range was gone .

The only hope we have is the streaming company Qobuz . Not available in Australia yet but has just been made available to the USA . They are streaming at 192 khz 24 bit but at a price . If you are in Britain and you subscribe to the 192 Khz package which is called their " Sublime + " package it is 399 pound a year . Roughly $900 Au .

I have heard it and it blows Tidal MQA , Qobuz’s main competitor , away but with reservations . I was expecting more dynamic range but maybe it was the source material I was listening to at the time .

Happy listening in the future .


I have reservations too about our beloved NBN having the band width to stream at such high bit rates . Here’s hoping .


Great commentary

I think you are reinforcing my existing view to stick with a CD player or even a vinyl record player if I want really lossless output. My old 25 CD player is treasured greatly


“Audiophile” is perhaps intended to attract ‘audiophools’?

While live music is hard to beat I too cherish my vinyl and CD’s, and being an EE, have built my own stereo speakers and amplifier chain and for fun refurbish dead Marantz CD players. However the biggest challenge of DIY is reaching a winning ‘wife acceptance factor’, but that is probably a new thread.

With respect to download formats - compressed to absurdity and brick wall bandwidth controlled to suit the intended program material and/or handheld, earphoned playback device. Pointless IMO.


I’ve found those two things to be congruent - probably the style of music I listen to :wink:


Can anyone ( including the OP) explain why the lossless audio would seem to have failed the OP? (I may have missed something) Is it possible for the lossless audio to have ommitted some added audio enhancement that the original CD contained such as ‘reverb or tonal coloring’ , thereby getting closer to live sound quality but sounding drier and/or tonally less colourful ?

If original recordings, studio or live, are so much better than distributed reproductions why can’t we get 'low’cost access to better recordings, for eg. DVDs are superior to CDs and presumably bluerays greater still. Laser discs also had some availability. I mean if DVDs can fit greater sound why aren’t higher quality music DVDs and players marketed and distributed ? Wouldn’t cost increases be minimal?


DVD Audio was available sometime back . I have a Pioneer SACD and DVD Audio player . I also have some DVD Audio Discs . Not many were released . I have a couple of copies of Fleetwood Macs Rumours . Collectors pay big for this DVD audio disc ???

What killed it ? Audiophiles . They claimed it and the SACD ( Super Audio Compact Disc ) format sounded no different to a normal CD unless you turned the volume up . I have Journeys Greatest hits in both formats . The SACD sounds far superior to the CD regardless of volume . IMO

The DVD Audio had licencing issues as did the SACD which killed them both off . Sony would not grant record labels access to it’s SACD technology through liscensing so it died . Firms like Paul McGowan’s PS Audio are working with Sony to revive interest in the SACD but I fear it will be in vain . Too little too late . If you are into SACDS there are some excellent sites which offer a good range of titles, mainly Jazz and Classical though . They are all overseas and often the price is premium . I use a Jap site that has served me well .

@paulcg3 The simple answer to your question is licencing . The different music producers and labels just ca’t seem to get together for the good of the consumer . Sony is the club house leader in this regard . The music industry seems to cover their ears and shake their heads when you even suggest that Blu Ray could be used as a music format . Here’s hoping things will eventually change . They will but not for awhile I fear .


Hi Paulcg3.

I can’t offer a technical answer. I suspect “lossless audio” is a clever marketing name rather than an absolute fact. It may be something to do with the bluetooth receiver that transmits to your receiver/ amp vs the quality of the CD player transferring the sound.

Certainly there are higher information formats than standard CD’s. SACD and Blu Ray Audio. I do have an SACD player and a number of these CD’s. There is no doubt the quality is better than standard CD’s. But unfortunately it’s all about the mighty dollar, and there has not been enough take up, so they are becoming less common. Basically unavailable in Australia.
Classical music listeners have been enjoying SACD for a long time. For what its worth I have a couple of Blu Ray Audio cd’s and these don’t have the quality of SACD in my opinion.


Perhaps Bluetooth Lossless should be renamed Blue Toothless?


Name doesn’t have any bite - I think you need to chew on that some more … :wink:

I wonder sometimes whether, in the pursuit of perfection, it is possible to lose the enjoyment of some really loud Bowie or Floyd through a pi-3, kodi and an old Sony TV connected to a couple of Bose lifestyles … am I missing the point? possibly, though I respect the pursuit of perfection, but more importantly I’m probably also missing some frequency response due to a misspent youth !! :slight_smile:


“ lossless”

Blue tooth v1.0 etc has a data rate of 768kHz single bit rate.

v2.x is specified at 3.0Mb

with v3.0+HS being capable of 24Mb.

Compare this with CD quality audio 1.4112Mb in stereo format.

It might be reasonable to expect v3.0 to transmit without loss a CD digital stream. No need to transcode to FLAC or any other format. In theory so should v2.0 other than drop out if you are too far away.

This suggests that any perceived difference in reproduction qualities may have little to do with the Bluetooth transmission component of a system. Although that is the only portion that is marketed as “ lossless”. The marketing may be more concise than the precision of the ear hearing the message.



There are a couple of concepts you’ve mixed up:

  • FLAC: “The encoding of audio (PCM) data incurs no loss of information, and the decoded audio is bit-for-bit identical to what went into the encoder.”
  • Bluetooth: a lossy wireless trasmission method
    There is no such thing as:
  • a “Bluetooth file format”
  • lossless Bluetooth

You also don’t seem to understand the role of an amplifier in music reproduction.
Consumer amplifiers have digital inputs usually HDMI or SPDIF - the only analogue input is for phono (records).

Let’s start with the basics.
SOURCES: a CD is already digital and the player eg. a CD player (most computers have them ) produces a digital stream which is sent to the amplifier which converts the digital stream into analog signals to drive the speakers.
Music files can have a number of formats (actually codecs) - it’s usually a trade-off between size and fidelity
WAV (and others): big / lossless
MP3: vary in size but all are lossy (due to the compression algorithms used), depends on how compressed
Then came more advanced technologies and algorithms
When decoded, FLAC (and others) are LOSSLESS - there is no loss of audio information
Thus, the player eg. a computer, decodes the FLAC data and passes the digital information to the amp which sends it to the speakers. Some amplifiers have this capability - these amps can process a FLAC input, it’s no big deal, your smartphone can do it.

Now let’s look at a “Bluetooth” receiver - it doesn’t mean what you think it means.
In the most common case a “Bluetooth receiver” is a receiver i.e an amplfier, with a Bluetooth transmitter - it will SEND a Bluetooth signal to Bluetooth receivers eg. Bluetooth speakers or headphones.
It may have a Bluetooth receiver which can receive a Bluetooth signal - there is little point in putting Bluetooth input into an amplifier, “garbage in, garbage out”.

Bluetooth is not a particularly high wireless bandwidth signal and uses signal compression - it is the Bluetooth step where the signal (originally CD / FLAC , etc loses fidelity).

The closest Bluetooth gets to high fidelity is the APTX codec which requires a different Bluetooth transmitter (computer dongles are available for about $10) AND an APTX receiver - usually APTX headphones. It’s pretty good.

“it was like my $20K system was suddenly a $600 system”
With your level of undertanding, if you paid $20K for a system you have my deepest sympathy.


Thanks for the clarification. It seems all your details confirm what my ears are telling me. Good to learn.

Re the cost of a sound system, does that mean I have to be a mechanic do drive a nice car!! You have a good day.

It is critical as has pointed out for higher quality audio over Bluetooth both the sending device and receiving devices need to support the relevant technology EG aptX in this example.

It is equally important that any software or drivers used with the sending end of the Bluetooth signal or receiving end also provide for aptX and are using this mode of transmission.

Choice readers may find this article from CNET useful if they are still wondering what this topic is trying to unravel. Bluetooth does not loose data, however the pre and post conversion process of audio streams (analogue or digital does)?

A short note:
The advice from is also pointing out how Bluetooth handles audio information and that everyday Bluetooth has limitations.

As the CNET article points out everyday Bluetooth does not directly transfer FLAC or MP3 files. Instead Bluetooth converts audio to be sent (trans-codes the audio) into it’s own digital format sent using SBC. This compresses the data in an efficient and lossey format.

The Bluetooth receiving device performs several functions - receiver, digital packet checking, decoding of the packets, and for audio D-A conversion and filtering prior to amplification to provide the output to headphones or for input to a higher powered amp/speaker system. The stick in your ear mobile phone accessories do all this on effectively a single silicon chip! An expensive “lossless audio” version might choose to use expensive audiophile components, or it may cheat a little?

Technically a Bluetooth connection is always lossless except for when the connection is actually lost, :rofl::ok_hand::ok_hanotherwise it would be useless for data transmission. As has reminded us standard audio over Bluetooth is handled differently in that it is re-encoded for transmission.:ok_hand:

Does lossless audio Bluetooth really exist? More background follows.

Hi Mark.M,

Thanks for the reply. I should say that I did research a little when purchasing the receiver that it did have aptX. I also made sure to send from my Mac which is compatible with aptX (where Iphone will not). So my listening experience was based on this.

I guess, this being a consumer forum, I was really only expressing my listening experience more than anything else, because at the end of the day what you hear, feel and experience from music is what gives the enjoyment. Especially in the context of marketing, advertising and reviews associated.

I have learned more technically along the way. Thanks to you and other responders.