A Tidal surprise

Discussion in 'Computer Audiophile: Software, Configs, Tools' started by wormcycle, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. wormcycle

    wormcycle Facebook Friend

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    I could post on the thread about buying music, streamers etc.. but hope that people will share their experience specifically about Tidal.
    After initially signing up for Tidal lossless, trying it, and then discovering Spotify premium, I completely dismissed Tidal and went with Spotify, and now.. I am firmly on Tidal. Nothing wrong with Spotify, it a very good streaming service, and that includes SQ, it is just that Tidal works better for me.

    He is why:
    When I started a critical listening to the same tracks on Spotify premium and Tidal (lossless and master) , and my own ripped CDs, it did not take me long to realize that Tidal sounded just a touch better with my desktop setup.It was not much, for mobile streaming, different type of music, maybe less picky headphones, I do not believe I would hear any difference at all. And I started from the position that I would rather be with Spotify.
    I listen mostly to classical music at my desk and to compare I picked a reasonably complex piece Rachmaninov Piano Concerto nr 1, first part. My setup was:
    Tidal or Spotify client on Win 8.1 -> Mimby or Teac UD-501, USB or Toslink, dual mono Nuforce HA-200 and HD800S.

    In a nutshell, through various combinations piano on Tidal always sounded more natural, bass had more control, and the music was better pronounced and clearer. Not much at all but enough.
    There are more reasons I decided on Tidal:
    1. Better, at least to my taste, classical library
    2. Support for DNLA: I could easily select JRiver or RPi Digi+ Runeaudio as a renderer. Spotify connect is very restrictive
    3. And last but not least, the Tidal client will let you select the audio output and has better control of the Win 8 audio. I am consistently disappointed with JRiver, less with Foobar, on Win 8.1 but the only way I can get USB to play without even occasional stuttering is through Tidal client.
    It hurts to pay twice as much but, at least for a time, I decided to stick with Tidal.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
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  2. Serious

    Serious Immature child

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    Not really a surprise that Tidal sounds better than Spotify, but did you find Tidal to sound better than your CDs? I've not seen too many reports of people actually comparing Tidal against CDs of the same master. The data is the same, but the output could still be different. There's also the WiMP client which is very similar to Tidal, but might not sound exactly the same.
     
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  3. Daveheart

    Daveheart Friend

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    I personally find Tidal to sound better than Spotify, but I still only use it to audition albums I may actually want to puchase. There are plenty of recordings where I think it's fully a match for redbook, but I've yet to find one that I actually think sounds better than any of my rips or downloads.

    Also, here's some threads that already existed that could have worked:
     
  4. landroni

    landroni Friend

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    Even for seemingly the same releases of a CD, the masters may still be different between physical CD and Tidal lossless streaming. I guess the only way to test these things, at least in the case of Qobuz, is to buy a given album and download the FLACs, then compare those with the streaming version from the client. I suspect this should ensure that the same masters are used then...
    Though even then each app may be going via different ways to the external DAC, and digital volume control / upsampling / DSP could still interfere in the process. So even if things may be sounding different, it could be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why...
     
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  5. RiflemanFirst

    RiflemanFirst Rando

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    I have been using Rhapsody (recently renamed to Napster) for years. I began using Tidal HiFi in February when I started getting into better headphones as well as DACs/amps and am now on the verge of canceling my Napster subscription. Tidal's sound quality is simply better in every way, definitely the best music streaming service I've ever heard. Another plus is that Tidal offers a military/veteran discount that I am able to take advantage of.
     
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  6. xLn

    xLn Acquaintance

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    Too bad they lack a ton of indie albums that Spotify has.
     
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  7. Serious

    Serious Immature child

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    @landroni You can record the digital output of Tidal and compare it against the CD. When I've done that it has always come out as a bit-perfect copy of the CD. I doubt that there are that many different masters for most music.
    Usually there won't be any DSP, upsampling and digital volume control, but there's stuff like buffer length, CPU usage and stuff like WASAPI vs ASIO, etc. I do think that most of the sound differences are software related and not the files, though.
     
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  8. wormcycle

    wormcycle Facebook Friend

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    I did some A/Bing thought the tracks I ripped using EZ CD Audio converter and in some cases Tidal was clearer with 24/96 streaming. Maybe their rip was better, maybe the client. I may do some more listening using the same renderer.
     
  9. wormcycle

    wormcycle Facebook Friend

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    Is MQA that bad or this is just a Tidal decoder? I do not have a MQA capable DAC so I do not want to generalize but, using a Tidal decoder, Tidal Masters MQA is a real disappointment.
    I compared selected tracks from two albums: Miles Davis Tutu (Flac and MQA), Duke Ellington Afro Bossa (FLAC, MQA and my FLAC rip with JRiver).
    1. Masters Tutu is so bad comparing to FLAC: my DAC shows 24/96 but dynamic range is flattened, sound stage reduced to one spot close to my left ear, and the sound is like from the the "jazz in your coffee shop", there is no life in it. I did not like any of it until I switched to FLAC. Exciting Miles Davis was back.
    2. Afro Bossa was not distorted in MQA but here was so much of a "soft jazz" fog I could not listen to it. Tidal FLAC was pretty close to my own rip, if not the same and it sounds pretty good.
    I am still generally happy with Tidal Hi-fi but no more Tidal Masters for me.
    I would be great to hear some comments from people with MQA DACs.
     
  10. Torq

    Torq Prob should liquidate and live on a sailboat

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    It's largely impossible to say, based on TIDAL alone, whether MQA itself, or the choice of masters being offered as MQA encoded is responsible for the difference in sound. There's no provenance to the files, so you don't know which master you're listening to in the first place. In other words, regardless of which sounds better/worse you simply don't have the data available to accurately say why.

    Running an equivalent audio path, Audirvana+ and TIDAL sound the same using software MQA unfolding. I imagine they're using the same core MQA decoding library, so this is not surprising.

    In general what I've found listening to MQA-encoded content is that is exhibits a signature of increased brightness, a sense of increased detail, an apparent increase in the audibility of low-level sounds and the perception of faster transient response. On top of this, I am finding a generally faster onset of listening fatigue than I'm used to with the music in question. The more I've listened, the more I believe this is down to a combination of dynamic range compression (making low-level sounds more audible) and an artificial increase in brightness ... but whether that's because of MQA or because the mater it was encoded from exhibited those traits, it's impossible to say!

    These effects remain when using either pure software unfolding on a normal DAC, pure hardware decoding on an MQA DAC or hybrid decoding on an MQA DAC.

    While I've not written it up yet, and may never bother at this point, I did a bunch of listening with some supposedly common-master encodings across multiple formats, including MQA using both MQA and non-MQA DACs. The results there didn't really change anything - although the increased sense of brightness was lessened with those particular test files - the low-level detail and sense of compression was still present.

    Other than being audibly different I've not found any situation in which I ultimately preferred the MQA-encoded version. This was the case even when I didn't know whether it was the MQA or non-MQA versions of the files being played.
     
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  11. wormcycle

    wormcycle Facebook Friend

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    Thank you for your as always insightful post. After reading it I continued experimenting for a while with MQA on Tidal and finally gave up on it.
    I get the best sound quality streaming Tidal through JRiver renderer, I really cannot tell any difference between for the few CD rips I compared with Tidal.
    It looks like, at least for a while, I found home in terms of streaming services.
    And after initial disappointment with the Tidal search engine I learnt how to get around some of the limitations and found a lot more lovely music there.
     
  12. TheIceman93

    TheIceman93 Friend

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    My CD player does sound better into my Mimby compared to Tidal. Not night and day but definitely noticeable. However this could be a result of using the Mimbys inferior USB input compared to my CD transports coax. I doubt I would hear a difference using Tidal from a coax source.
     
  13. TheIceman93

    TheIceman93 Friend

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    Can I ask which stream recording program you are using with Tidal? I played with Audio Hijack but I didn't think I was bit perfect. There are a handful of tracks I can't find on CD that I'd love to pull from Tidal.
     
  14. Grahad2

    Grahad2 Friend

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    Audacity is the one I typically use, although it's not user friendly in comparison to more purpose built software.
     
  15. Degru

    Degru Rando

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    Just to chime in on the MQA discussion since I have a Dragonfly Red

    MQA has no audible benefit for me. Only way I know it's playing is that the light on my DAC turns purple. I can't tell when an MQA track pops up on a playlist, and neither can I tell the difference when comparing MQA and non-MQA versions. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
     
  16. Luckbad

    Luckbad Basshead - Friend

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    I'm on trial #3 of TIDAL.

    Can they effing hire a UI designer already? This desktop app hasn't changed since I first used it years ago. Back then, it was horrible. Now it has graduated to unforgivable.
     
  17. Melvillian

    Melvillian Almost "Made"

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    It is a pretty terrible interface that makes it difficult to find anything new and searching for stuff isn't reliable either. I usually just use Audirvana on Mac and search for whatever I want to hear in Tidal. I do have Tidal playlists also that I can access through Audirvana.
     
  18. Degru

    Degru Rando

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    Don't even get me started on the volume adjustment in exclusive mode. I have my Dragonfly Red turned down to around 8% when I use IEMs, but if I put Tidal in exclusive mode, there is a 50/50 chance it will arbitrarily raise the volume to 30% or so when a song changes or you click play. I've had unpleasant surprises so many times that I've just given up and switched back to non-exclusive mode. I'd rather have all MQA content go through Windows' sub-par resampler than have my ears or earphones blown out.
     
  19. ipm

    ipm Rando

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    Can Tidal be used with a software like foobar2000 in some way?
     
  20. wormcycle

    wormcycle Facebook Friend

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    You can stream Tidal to any UPnP render using the app like BubbleUPnP. I use it with jRiver but you can use it with Foobar if yoou enable the UPnP renderer function in Foobar
     

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