Tidal vs Qobuz: Which High-Res Streaming Service Sounds Best?

Which High-Res Streaming Service Sounds Best?

  • Tidal

    Votes: 1 5.6%
  • Qobuz

    Votes: 5 27.8%
  • Both

    Votes: 4 22.2%
  • Huh? What you say?

    Votes: 8 44.4%

  • Total voters
    18
Wayde Robson

Wayde Robson

Audioholics Anchorman
I've been using Tidal for years, since way before it introduced MQA, which I really like. I love the sound quality and referencing my playlists on my "good" headphones/amp/dac over a upnp app on my phone. It lets me create playlists that mix my own music collection stored in my wifi network with selections from Tidal. They play together mostly with no problems. It's a transcendent experience for ultimate musical freedom with the best sound quality possible.

But my biggest annoyance about Tidal is exactly the same the as Mathew's in this article. It's recommendations are downright nepotistic.

Although it's easy to avoid, just search what you want, make your own favourites lists and the recos don't matter. But I like to have them, I like the idea of having a "themed" or algo-generated playlist full of music I've never heard before, but based on what it thinks I might like. I wish Tidal had that function - minus the blatant promotion of hip-hop and rap artists I clearly don't want to listen to. Any themed playlist will ALWAYS have some mumble rap mixed in, when there's no evidence that I have ever liked or wanted to listen to any of that.

But I have to admit it has gotten better in the last year.

I even wrote to Tidal complaining about it at least once. It drove me into a rage when it started giving me alerts when new rap albums would be released. After I thought I'd turned off ALL app alerts on my phone, my phone light up as if I got an Amber Alert or something... when I checked it, it was Tidal alerting me that JayZ has released a new single. That poop almost made me quit Tidal.

But I found out there were some alert settings I hadn't turned off yet, so I shut it down. But wow... who lives like that? Who is out there in the world right now, standing by their phone waiting for an alert because JayZ might release a single or an exclusive music video for Tidal?
 
RichB

RichB

Audioholic Field Marshall
yeah I’ve heard this too.

I really don’t know. I think it would take a lot of work to find out. The companies involved aren’t divulging this.

I too found a lot of music at standard red book quality, they basically matched that of the CD version. But I don’t know that it means it came from the CD so much as the master might be limited. A lot of the older digital equipment was pretty limited and goes back pretty far. I also found some where I found obvious evidence that it was true it high resolution, but the high frequency bandwidth limit was also clear.

there is clearly real HD music out there, but not a lot of it. I prefer that streaming services provide music in HD only to provide the necessary infrastructure to ensure it is the format of the future. However I don’t really care or lose sleep over current and older music being actually high resolution. It’s mostly not and it all sounds fine.

I didn’t want to make the article about 44.1khz vs 88.2khz+ and which sound better. I did compare within the service the streams from each quality level and found that the effect of the nyquist limit could be seen far lower in frequency than the actual limit. In other words, while the noise dropped precipitously above 22 or 24khz, there were significant differences in the amplitude or the high frequency music evident down to 5-8khz. I shared my results with a digital systems expert that Gene put me in touch with and he confirmed the finding. This is why I think the higher sampling rate is a good idea. It keeps the effect out of the audible range.
Here is a graphic comparison. The lines are 5dB increments and I changed it to a Log scale to make it easier to see. This is actually a different comparison than above, but the same thing is evident here. This is a 24/96 recording of the song from Tidal that has been exported as a flac file in 16/44 and 24/96. I then ran the analysis on both. That means that in this case, the source material is the same. The only difference is a difference I made and so any spectral difference is a result of that change that I made. I didn't apply any filters or EQ, I only saved the files differently.
I have compared the Oppo UDP-205 digital filters and find audible difference between the ESS Linear Phase Fast and Minimum Phase fast.
This comparison is easily done using the mobile device app.

In specific example posted, the differences seem too large and at frequencies that should not be affected by a reconstruction filter. Filters introduce phase shift but that should not be visible in your charts.

Boosted base and treble for with MQA engaged could also be intentional MQA to make it sound better. That's where I would put my money.
I wont subscribe to Tidal because I avoid MQA wherever possible.

Here is the latest final word on MQA from Archimago:

On Audiophile Forums. Disagreements on MQA. (And Redscape preview...)

On MQA... Yet again...
Coming back to MQA and how divisive this has been on forums (including apparently Amir's stance on MQA and "hi-res audio" in general),first, let's not forget the facts about MQA (laid out in my article more than a year ago) - to recap:

- MQA is not "lossless" high-resolution.
- The "deblur" claim appears to be without merit and the company seems to be distancing itself from using that terminology these days.
- The idea of needing to compress hi-res streams down to a 24/44.1 or 24/48 container is moot in the wake of Qobuz and Amazon HD capable of up to 24/192 FLAC.
- There is no rationale for why MQA-CD would sound "better" than regular CD as claimed by MQA. In fact, MQA-CD is anything but hi-res (worse than standard CD resolution) since the system robs bits and hence resolution from 16/44.1.
- When the MQA blue/green light/indicator goes on and the DAC says it's playing 176.4 / 192 / 352.8 / 384kHz, realize that this is not true 4X or 8X resolution. This is all upsampling from lossy reconstructed 88.2/96kHz.
- If we shave off lower bits of audio data, the DAC blue light would still turn on! "Authentication" is at best partial and hence compromised. If they can't guarantee that something is "authentic", then clearly the name "Master Quality Authenticated" is a terrible misnomer.
- The digital filters used are questionable yet mandated for "full" MQA decoding.
MQA trades off bits of dynamic range to lossy encode ultra-sonic (inaudible).
If the MQA container is 44.1 kHz that is sampling rage. The decoding does not create new samples in extends the frequency response.
It cannot and never will be 88.2 kHz or 96 kHz.

- Rich
 
RichB

RichB

Audioholic Field Marshall
There was some discussion of the apps. Both Tidal and QOBUZ are seamlessly supported by Roon.
Roon is expensive $500 lifetime but it is an outstanding product.

Essentially, all music is organized and available by album, artist, and genre.

- Rich
 
S

sterling shoote

Audioholic General
Here's what I know: I have 24/192 downloads in my iTunes Library. I've attempted to compare and contrast these downloads to Apple Music streams and downloads. So far, with all playback via my OPPO-205's DAC, I am not at all certain I can hear any divergence between the AAC 256k downloads and the high res downloads of same music performance from HDtracks. This finding has caused me to: 1. not have any interest at all in streamers delivering hi-res, or 2. have any further interest in downloading hi-res. In other words Apple Music satisfies, for streaming, as well as downloading of stereo music. Now, what I would like is a streaming service delivering multi-channel music. I am not aware of one doing that. Perhaps, someone could enlighten me. It would be an excuse for me to buy a modern HDMI AVR or Prepro to connect to my computer.
 
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BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
I've been using Tidal for years, since way before it introduced MQA, which I really like. I love the sound quality and referencing my playlists on my "good" headphones/amp/dac over a upnp app on my phone. It lets me create playlists that mix my own music collection stored in my wifi network with selections from Tidal. They play together mostly with no problems. It's a transcendent experience for ultimate musical freedom with the best sound quality possible.

But my biggest annoyance about Tidal is exactly the same the as Mathew's in this article. It's recommendations are downright nepotistic.

Although it's easy to avoid, just search what you want, make your own favourites lists and the recos don't matter. But I like to have them, I like the idea of having a "themed" or algo-generated playlist full of music I've never heard before, but based on what it thinks I might like. I wish Tidal had that function - minus the blatant promotion of hip-hop and rap artists I clearly don't want to listen to. Any themed playlist will ALWAYS have some mumble rap mixed in, when there's no evidence that I have ever liked or wanted to listen to any of that.

But I have to admit it has gotten better in the last year.

I even wrote to Tidal complaining about it at least once. It drove me into a rage when it started giving me alerts when new rap albums would be released. After I thought I'd turned off ALL app alerts on my phone, my phone light up as if I got an Amber Alert or something... when I checked it, it was Tidal alerting me that JayZ has released a new single. That poop almost made me quit Tidal.

But I found out there were some alert settings I hadn't turned off yet, so I shut it down. But wow... who lives like that? Who is out there in the world right now, standing by their phone waiting for an alert because JayZ might release a single or an exclusive music video for Tidal?
With 66% of TIDAL currently owned by Jay-Z, I am wondering could possibly be there any correlation between that and shameless down-your-throat promotions of his music releases. Nah, probably their recommendations engine poorly done.
 
T

trl

Enthusiast
Hello,

A very good and interesting article, I'm happy I found this (actually the link came from the ASR forum).

However, regarding "Editorial Note: Hearing vs Age by Gene DellaSala", I'm 43 and I hear 19KHz on speakers and about 16.5KHz on headphones. I can't even sleep if there's a SMPS inside my bedroom, especially my 8-years old SONY TV (the high-pitch noise kills me). That formula is wrong for sure, I know several >40-years people that have no issues hearing 16KHz or even higher.

Best regards,
Raul.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Hello,

A very good and interesting article, I'm happy I found this (actually the link came from the ASR forum).

However, regarding "Editorial Note: Hearing vs Age by Gene DellaSala", I'm 43 and I hear 19KHz on speakers and about 16.5KHz on headphones. I can't even sleep if there's a SMPS inside my bedroom, especially my 8-years old SONY TV (the high-pitch noise kills me). That formula is wrong for sure, I know several >40-years people that have no issues hearing 16KHz or even higher.

Best regards,
Raul.
Its a generalization, not an absolute rule. If you take care of your hearing, you will have good high-frequency sensitivity well into older ages. Age alone does not degrade hearing.
 
Mikehark

Mikehark

Audiophyte
OK Matt. The review was great and I think the goodness of Tidal and Qobuz was adequately explained except you left out one thing that I thought was pretty important. Isn't MQA supposed to guarantee that the music was sourced from the original master? If so, then it would seem likely that MQA would be the superior format if other sources of hi-res, such as FLAC files were not sourced from the master. This would be true no matter what the sampling rate or word length of the audio data, would it not? Of course, there is no way to tell if a FLAC file was sourced from the original master, but MQA files would not have the problem of not knowing this. Right?

- Mike Harkins
 
T

Techman55

Audiophyte
I have recently dropped my Tidal premium due to poor customer service (billing issues on their end that they couldn't resolve) and switched to Amazon HD streaming service at a lower cost.
I have a decent system (McIntosh amp, preamp, Bluesound Node 2i, Revel F208 speakers, and all Nordost Frey2 cabling ) and couldn't tell any perceivable difference between the Amazon HD and Tidal's MQA or regular hi-res. Perhaps my hearing is going, but if I can't hear the difference, why pay more? Nor will I tolerate the sort of customer service I experienced with Tidal.
 
allegro

allegro

Enthusiast
@Matthew J Poes I am looking forward to your evaluation of Amazon Music HD. Like many others I jumped on the free trial only to find there was no exclusive mode, no sample rate switching, and sound quality inferior to my preferred Qobuz.
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
You didn't include the fact that Amazon now has Hi-Resolution service also. 12.99 for Prime members, 2 bucks more if not. Called Amazon HD. Music varies from 16/44.1 all the way to 24/192. It notifies you what quality your getting streamed and what your device is capable of playing whenever you click on the symbol displayed for the song playing. After upping my sound card to play the 24/192 streams, the sound is the best my system has ever sounded. I've compared some music I have on CD to the same songs playing at 24/192 and the 24/192 FAR exceeds the CD's in quality & detail. And they have a ton of 24/48 to 24/192 music, as well as everything else being 16/44.1 No going back for me. I'm running 7.2 in multi channel stereo mode using Marantz SR7010 for pre-amp, power for rears, passing sub signal, room correction duties, and bi-amping power for front 3 channels. And also outputting front 3 plus wide channels to a Yamaha RX-V1 for some good old fashion muscle. Streaming done on older Dell 780 SFF with Creative X-Fi Fatality Extreme Pro audio card. 7 channels of Polk LSiM's for speakers and dual Polk subs. In Creative's 3D mode, the sound is incredible. Better than multi channel SACD in my opinion. And with a newer card or USB DAC it's probably even better.
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
@Matthew J Poes I am looking forward to your evaluation of Amazon Music HD. Like many others I jumped on the free trial only to find there was no exclusive mode, no sample rate switching, and sound quality inferior to my preferred Qobuz.
Hi. I too got the new Amazon HD. Amazon automatically gives you the best your equipment is capable of playing. When you click the HD or Ultra HD symbol next to song playing, it will tell you what quality that song is, what your capable of playing, and what its currently playing at. After upping my sound card, and some tweeks, I'm able to play their 24/192 content, as well as lower levels, and sounds great on my setup. And I can change the sample rate on my sound card from 16/44.1 all the way through to 24/192 and Amazon will conform to that. Can't really compare it to Qobuz though as I've never had it. But comparing a 24/192 stream to the same song on my CD's, the 24/194 just totally outplays the CD's.
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
I have recently dropped my Tidal premium due to poor customer service (billing issues on their end that they couldn't resolve) and switched to Amazon HD streaming service at a lower cost.
I have a decent system (McIntosh amp, preamp, Bluesound Node 2i, Revel F208 speakers, and all Nordost Frey2 cabling ) and couldn't tell any perceivable difference between the Amazon HD and Tidal's MQA or regular hi-res. Perhaps my hearing is going, but if I can't hear the difference, why pay more? Nor will I tolerate the sort of customer service I experienced with Tidal.
I couldn't tell a lot at first. But after discovering my setting weren't allowing above CD quality, I tweeked everything to now get full 24/192, and it's way better than standard service. Don't know how it compares to the others HD service, but it blows away my regular Tidal and Amazon service now that I'm set up right. My hearing isn't what it used to be either, but Amazons Ultra HD songs have brought back a lot of detail I haven't heard in a long time.
 
allegro

allegro

Enthusiast
On Windows using the Amazon Music HD desktop app there is no way you can stream bit perfect since the app can not take advantage of Wasapi exclusive mode built in to Windows and auto switch sample rates/bit depth.

If you can't hear the difference great, you can save some money. I can't listen to Amazon Music HD as is and am back to Qobuz. Waiting to see if Amazon improves the app over the free trial period. I would not pay them $10 for the half baked service they are providing at present.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Slumlord
OK Matt. The review was great and I think the goodness of Tidal and Qobuz was adequately explained except you left out one thing that I thought was pretty important. Isn't MQA supposed to guarantee that the music was sourced from the original master? If so, then it would seem likely that MQA would be the superior format if other sources of hi-res, such as FLAC files were not sourced from the master. This would be true no matter what the sampling rate or word length of the audio data, would it not? Of course, there is no way to tell if a FLAC file was sourced from the original master, but MQA files would not have the problem of not knowing this. Right?

- Mike Harkins
Just what are these MQA-negotiated releases of what masters particularly? The claim is the same files are released by the labels to all the streaming services depending what level of access they're paying for. MQA is a lossy drm-driven format in any case, why would you use Tidal if given the choice of the file without the MQA nonsense?
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have been beating my head against the wall for months... I have been checking the waveform/files created from VB-cable and audacity (I wasn't aware of MusicScope and just brought the different files into a multi-track editor to compare them) similar to your approach. No matter what service/hi-res sound quality (CD or better from Tidal, Deezer, or Qobuz) the waveforms are visually identical. Since I haven't done an exhaustive search of albums to test, I thought I might just have been unlucky, but I highly doubt I just happened to test 5 albums that represent a tiny fraction of the issue. My theory is that many of the studios are upsampling from CD masters to get the higher quality files (up to the 24bit/192kHZ) and there isn't any real difference in the quality of the underlying music. Unfortunately, creating all of the higher quality files can be easily accomplished with upsampling, while re-mastering from source to create the files may be much more time/resource-consuming. Would love to hear other peoples experience/takes.

To the comparison of services, I have been using Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz for at least 4 months to compare the differences before deciding on which to keep long-term. The easiest decision is that Deezer is the first to go as I don't see any advantages compared to Tidal and Qobuz. I haven't had any technical issues with Qobuz and both Apps (Tidal/Qobuz) work on my DAP (android based) equally well. While they both have large collections, I find that Qobuz has a greater offering of music in my listening genres (Outside of the Beastie boys I am not a Rap listener and some would argue that isn't Rap :) ) and will likely be staying with Qobuz. I am also testing the new Amazon HD service and have noticed a significant improvement in sound quality compared to Amazon SD (standard streaming). I investigated the waveforms and find the same issue with Amazon - they look identical to the other streaming services no matter what stated quality. I can understand why some say they hear no difference between Tidal or Qobuz as in my hands the waveforms are identical. I think those that do detect a quality difference are likely experiencing an ascertainment bias due to knowing which service a specific track is from... Excellent article!
I recently got the Amazon HD service. Wasn't getting a big improvement at first. Discovered I wasn't equipped for max quality. Upgraded sound card in PC, tweaked setting, now able to stream up to their max 24/192. Compared same songs playing from a CD to the 24/192 stream, and CD couldn't come close in detail. Everything they have is 16/44.1 to 24/192 quality and I'll probably never load a CD ever again. And that's with an older mid level sound card. With a high end card or USB DAC it's probably even better.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Slumlord
I recently got the Amazon HD service. Wasn't getting a big improvement at first. Discovered I wasn't equipped for max quality. Upgraded sound card in PC, tweaked setting, now able to stream up to their max 24/192. Compared same songs playing from a CD to the 24/192 stream, and CD couldn't come close in detail. Everything they have is 16/44.1 to 24/192 quality and I'll probably never load a CD ever again. And that's with an older mid level sound card. With a high end card or USB DAC it's probably even better.
How do you know? Just a sighted listening test based on sonic memory?
 
winnoch

winnoch

Audiophyte
It is of course worth remembering that Qobuz has been around in Europe for a number of years. This is fortunate for the US, because despite the fact that Qobuz has always sounded excellent, it was as buggy as hell in its youth. So you guys will be having a better user experience 'out of the box' as it were.
Nowaday i enjoy near eternal playback cast via chromecast audio to various dacs/amps around the house. Time was the android app would freeze and stop after a track or two. PC playback wasn't much better and the USB audio player (for bit-perfect playback from phone to dac) would skip merrily across tracks after a few minutes of use.
All these defects seem to be a thing of the past now and I love using Qobuz. Recommend it highly now it has somewhat matured.
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
On Windows using the Amazon Music HD desktop app there is no way you can stream bit perfect since the app can not take advantage of Wasapi exclusive mode built in to Windows and auto switch sample rates/bit depth.

If you can't hear the difference great, you can save some money. I can't listen to Amazon Music HD as is and am back to Qobuz. Waiting to see if Amazon improves the app over the free trial period. I would not pay them $10 for the half baked service they are providing at present.
I use their desktop app also. Amazon streams you the best your DAC can handle and will show you what your getting and what your device is capable of. I didn't have my setting in my sound card right at first and couldn't get better than 16/44.1 CD quality. After tweaking sound card to accept 24/192, I'm now getting that and it's better sounding than my CD's ever were when the stream is 24/48 to 24/192. Sample rates are adjustable through sound card.
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
How do you know? Just a sighted listening test based on sonic memory?
I was skeptical at first also. But after multiple repeated direct comparison of CD's I own vs 24/192 streams of same songs theirs a definite difference in clarity & detail to my ears. At the lower 16/44.1 to 24/48 streams not as much, but still at least just as good or better than CD to me. Did have to spend about a day tweaking my sound card and receiver's to maximize it, but the adjustments made large difference.
 

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