|Oppo BDP-105 with 7” 1080p HDMI field monitor.|
S/PDIF & TOSLINK to the Rescue
It's About the Features (read: ease-of-use)
|Google Chromecast Audio & Amazon Gen 1 Fire TV.|
|Pandora from Oppo BDP-105's native app.|
|YouTube from the couch.|
|90's hit that was noticeably louder than all the other songs I had been listening to, was not pleasant to listen to even though I knew and liked the song, and upon further investigation had its loudness automatically reduced for my playback.|
|A Post-Modern Jukebox cover which sounds great and has loudness – and thus dynamic range – to spare.|
[Ed: BTW, you can access the YouTube "stats for nerds" on the desktop browser for the videos. While the video is playing, right-click on the video and you should see the option to select... It looks like YouTube is targeting average loudness to around -13 LUFS. Worked fine on Windows Chrome and Edge.]
OK, I Must Digress
Conclusion / Brass Tacks
Hmmmm... Interesting idea Allan about measuring the quality of the audio services. As you noted with the discussion about YouTube, we know that each service has a different way of handling volume equalization along with codec and bitrate choices made. These variables can certainly affect ultimate potential audio quality.
I also appreciate your mention about privacy issues and these new "smart" connected products like the Amazon Echo, Echo Spot or the various Google Home devices. As a guy who appreciates his technology, there's nothing wrong with these devices and they certainly can improve efficiency and convenience in life. However, there's something to be said about being mindful of the risks and potential intrusions into one's privacy when we open up devices that record audio and video into our homes. This of course also includes Siri and Cortana.
On a related note, it's rather shocking how when I travel to places where privacy laws are weaker than in Western countries and the reach of governmental agencies can be very strong, how many citizens seem unperturbed by the risks of giving out all kinds of personal information to various highly connected platforms. It's all great when things are well... But probably wise to be vigilant of the risks to one's privacy, potential for fraud, and threats even to liberty if/when things go wrong.
Many thanks again, Allan! It's great to have extended discussions and sharing like this from fellow audiophiles on what works. There are clearly many options out there and no-nonsense shared practical experiences like this ultimately enrich the greater "hobby" community. :-)
Until next time, enjoy the music everyone!