For the past seven years, I have used a Meridian 501 preamplifier in my main system. I mostly used it in combination with a Chromecast Audio, listening to Spotify Premium.
However, since I’m building new speakers with SPDIF inputs, I wanted to upgrade to a streaming preamplifier that could output a digital signal. I decided to buy a Yamaha WXC-50. Until my speakers are finished, I’m using the analog outputs on the Yamaha. Upon hooking it up this way, I got the impression that it sounded somewhat leaner than the Meridian. Being well aware that sighted listening tests are a pretty poor way to identify small differences, I decided to put together a blind test to compare the Chromecast Audio + Meridian preamplifier to the Yamaha.
I ran the outputs of both devices to my Behringer UMC202HD USB sound card, equalized the levels as well as I could using a 1 kHz sine, and recorded several samples of about a minute in length on each setup. For comparison, I also recorded the same samples directly from Spotify. That way, it’s possible to test if the sound card causes a noticeable deterioration of the sound. However, based on my experience with Ethan Winer’s loopback test, I did not expect this to be the case.
I trimmed the samples to make sure I could not identify them by their length. I then used an old version of WinABX to see if I could hear the difference. I was surprised to find that I did actually hear a difference in low frequency content between the two. Next up is figuring out where it comes from.
I’ve posted the samples below, so you can try for yourself.