Best solution for high quality bluetooth streaming


New Member
Sep 9, 2022
I used to be an audiophile many (35!) years ago and am exploring if I want to head back down that rabbit hole - so much has changed in the world since then! I've been doing a lot of reading, but there is so much information I've ended up just confused!

I'm initially focusing on streaming digital content from a service like Qobus with the endpoint being wireless (bluetooth) earbuds. I know bluetooth will be a limiting factor but it's not clear to me yet that I have anywhere in my home to set up speakers and I tend to listen in multiple locations at home anyway. I'm a bit unclear about what I need to give me the best possible sound without breaking the bank. Let's say I have a budget of around $1000 to spend, though I've already spent about $200 of this on some new earbuds. I just bought the Sony WF-1000XM4 earbuds, haven't even listened to them yet (though I can return them if that was a serious mistake!). I'm assuming they will be an upgrade over the Tozo-6 earbuds I've been using. I also own the Audio-Technica ATHM50XBT wireless/wired headphones, though I find them (and all over ear headphones) painful to wear for very long, hence my interest in earbuds. Wireless is important as I need to move around as I listen. I'm a Mac user with an iPhone 10X, a newish iPad Air and an iMac. I've been using my iPhone or iPad as the streaming source. I listen almost exclusively to jazz, particularly from the 50s/60s era and am looking for as much clarity and atmosphere, pretty neutral overall, as I can get given the limitations.

I'm confused about a few things:
- what bluetooth codec should I be trying to standardize on? Is there a noticeable difference between AAC and aptX? Is there an easy way to force both Apple devices to use AAC and not default to SBC?
- do I need a dedicated streamer vs iphone and/or ipad? (If a streamer is needed, I might need 2 of them as I split my time 50/50 between two locations - which affects my budget)
- in the "system" I'm asking about, I'm confused about where a DAC is involved and how important it is? Do I need an external DAC?
- would a newer iPhone result in an improvement in audio quality?

So any specific suggestions what I should do end to end would be much appreciated! Where is the money best spent?

Hopefully these questions are semi-coherent and to the point. Forgive my ignorance, I suspect any and all answers will clarify a lot of my confusion!




Well-Known Member
Dec 12, 2013
Ok if you think your avoiding a Rabbit hole ur not
first off stop reading and start playing music on ur ear buds
be it apple or Droid
droid has better fearures less apple control
for one no matter what Bluetooth device you pic
it MUST and I mean MUST have a built in EQ
if anyone says no you don’t need one well they are being to pure

sony and own I a few pairs has a great app and works great
I think around the neck are better to not fall out
but the main thing you need is to be able to find the right tips that fits your ears
all tips effect the sound hence one point of EQ

blue tooth is pretty good as is
if this sets in a separate amp is even better but this means new types of buds more rabbit hole stuff.


Mar 20, 2021
I just read this post and realized there is a lot more to unpack

First, all headphones require an amplifier to drive and a DAC to convert the digital signal into analog signal for the amp to drive the headphone drivers.

When you use a wireless bluetooth headphone, the digital signal is sent to the headphones via Bluetooth lossy compressed and then the signal is decompressed into normal digital audio signal and then the DAC inside the headphone converts it to analog waveform and the amp inside the headphone drives the headphone driver to create sound.

So a Bluetooth headphone is really a Bluetooth receiver and a DAC and an amp and a headphone combined (with a battery to power everything). This is why a wired headphone for the same price as a wireless headphone would always sound better because more money is still put into the headphone designs and driver instead of into the Bluetooth receiver, the miniature DAC and amp.

I don’t know if your iPad Air has a headphone jack but I presume your MacBook does. Well, the headphone jack in your Apple devices actually are essentially a DAC and a headphone amp which is why you can plug a wired headphone to get sound.

To me, these are the key factors in choosing a portable headphone setup:
  1. Budget (duh)
  2. User interface/usage pattern (wired vs wireless, Android vs iOS vs DAP vs laptop, Qobuz vs Spotify vs Apple Music)
  3. Comfort (IEM vs full-sized headphone)
  4. Sound quality
Even though most people love talking about sound quality, be it the sound quality of the headphones (or DAC/amp) or the compression CODEC, to me, I can’t enjoy the music if it’s hard for me to even access the music I want to listen to or the headphones are not comfortable or I have to be wired when I want to be wireless.

Moreover, sound quality is dependent on so many things (headphone drivers, DAC, amp, lossy compression CODEC and source) that unless you’re going all in and budget is not an issue (and it always is an issue for everyone), inevitably, you’re having compromises.

So first back to your other post, if you really want to know how much you care about AAC vs lossless sound (or a less lossy CODEC), you can actually try listening to your Qobuz music using your Audio-Technica via AAC Bluetooth vs plugging in the Audio Technica into your MacBook/iPad headphone jack and see if you hear a significant difference in sound quality. When you’re using a wire for your ATHM50XBT, you’re no longer using the DAC and amp built into the Audio-Technica but you’re using the DAC and amp of your MacBook/iPad to drive the Audio-Technica. You may like the sound more, you may not. I doubt the difference would be so dramatic that it’ll drive your towards LDAC/AptX HD. I also doubt that the difference is so dramatic that you’ll say, you only care about sound quality and you would want to go wired.

Because if sound quality is the only thing that matters, within your budget, you’re best off getting a decent comfortable headphone from say Dan Clark Audio and plugging it wired into your iPad Air/MacBook as both are reasonably portable devices. You get lossless sound from Qobuz. And in the future, if your budget allows, you can add a DAC/amp to your iPad Air/MacBook, e.g. Chord Mojo 2 to drive your wired Dan Clark Audio headphones.

But based on everything I’ve read from you so far, it sounds like being wireless is much more important. And yes, your Sony WF-1000XM4 is going to sound vastly superior to your Tozo-6. So if you have more money to spend, you should buy a wireless headphone that is superior to the Audio-Technica in sound quality and comfort that supports AAC. And this maybe the Sony WH-1000XM4 or XM5. It could be the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless. The selection is slightly limited in the wireless bluetooth headphone space for higher quality headphones. In fact, since you’re sticking with AAC anyway, you can also save some money by switching from Qobuz to Apple Music.

Anyway, in answer to your question, if you’re playing wireless, new Apple devices or streamers won’t improve sound quality. Because the sound quality is almost entirely determined by your bluetooth headphones (CODEC, DAC, amp and headphone drivers).
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