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
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Slumlord
The 24/192 versions were the same actual versions/masters as the cds, tho? How do you know? Ever just test your abilities on file formats via one of the various abx tests out there?
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
I have found a TON of high res music on both Tidal and Amazon! Not sure what genre you listen to, but there is quite a bit. ALSO, you can often listen to the same album in regular or high res and compare the differences. If you have a good system, it's NOT a subtle difference. Play Toto's "Africa" in HR...you will be blown away! Or just about any song on Queen's "Night at the Opera" (my personal favorite is "The Prophet's Song"). Or Led Zeppelin's "Moby D-ick" (best drum solo EVER, fight me if you disagree!). And, on Amazon at least, if a song's not in "HD" it's usually in at least CD quality, which still sounds pretty damn good! Some audiophiles might split hairs over which service sounds best...but the reality is that ALL of these services that support high-resolution music sounds pretty damn good with the right equipment! If price is your objection, though, Amazon's $13/mo price tag is the most affordable (that price is for Prime members, non-Prime members pay $2/mo more). And that's only $3 more than the standard price for Spotify or any of the other lossy streaming services.

Edit: Why is it replacing "D-I-C-K" with "lord helmet"? Some kind of anti-profanity filter?
I got the Amazon HD this week. Had the regular service before but wasn't impressed. But once I tweeked my sound card to stream the full 24/192 they have on a lot of content, I've got the best sounding music coming out of my system ever. Can't say how they compare to other Hi-Res services though as I've never had any others. Well worth the 13 bucks for all their content. Probably never buy a CD again.
 
R

RichW

Enthusiast
The 24/192 versions were the same actual versions/masters as the cds, tho? How do you know? Ever just test your abilities on file formats via one of the various abx tests out there?
Actually I did. Don't think the ones I did were good for judging as they were very short clips of 10-15 seconds. But I still picked 24/192 7 times, 320 mp-3 twice, and 128 mp-3 once out of 10 samples. Did listen several times before making picks. And I'm older with reduced hearing ability but could still tell difference most of the time.
 
allegro

allegro

Enthusiast
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.
Amazon streams at the native rate of the file and then Windows mixer outputs to the DAC. Take note of the difference between shared mode and Wasapi exclusive mode. The Amazon Music HD desktop app uses the default mode in Windows audio which is shared mode.

The user sets the sampling rate and bit depth in Windows Sounds and any file processed through the mixer is up or down sampled to your setting. If you choose 24/192 every file you play from Amazon Music HD is up sampled by the Windows audio stack to 24/192 then sent to your external DAC. If you choose 24/96 a native 24/192 file is down sampled.

Wasapi exclusive mode is built into Windows and if the application is coded to use it the stream bypasses Windows audio and is sent bit perfect to your external DAC at the native sample rate and bit depth. Both Tidal and Qobuz have been doing this for years, so it is surprising given the competence of Amazon's engineers why exclusive mode was not built in from introduction.

So why should you care? On a highly resolving system it is not hard to hear the difference between shared mode and Wasapi exclusive mode with a good external DAC. Archimago for one posted about the poor quality of the built in up sampling of Windows audio.

Bottom line is audiophiles expect a streaming service to provide ASIO or Wasapi exclusive mode for best sound quality.
 
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lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Slumlord
Actually I did. Don't think the ones I did were good for judging as they were very short clips of 10-15 seconds. But I still picked 24/192 7 times, 320 mp-3 twice, and 128 mp-3 once out of 10 samples. Did listen several times before making picks. And I'm older with reduced hearing ability but could still tell difference most of the time.
You had better luck with 24/192 than 128 mp3? Pretty odd, usually it would be the other way around. What test was it particularly? How did you do it?
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Full Audioholic
@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.
I’ve started doing testing. The fact that it relies on the windows sound mixer is too bad. It makes it hard for me to get the best sound through my ASIO devices. Have to play around with windows 10 sound settings. Anyone whose used a MOTU or other pro level interface with a lot of channels on windows 10 knows it’s a nightmare. I’ve literally had outputs randomly appear and disappear on me.

I have been able to at least record the Amazon HD output to my testing software and do difference tests against Qobuz. So far small differences. I’ll report more once I’m ready to do the follow up.
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Full Audioholic
Amazon streams at the native rate of the file and then Windows mixer outputs to the DAC. Take note of the difference between shared mode and Wasapi exclusive mode. The Amazon Music HD desktop app uses the default mode in Windows audio which is shared mode.

The user sets the sampling rate and bit depth in Windows Sounds and any file processed through the mixer is up or down sampled to your setting. If you choose 24/192 every file you play from Amazon Music HD is up sampled by the Windows audio stack to 24/192 then sent to your external DAC. If you choose 24/96 a native 24/192 file is down sampled.

Wasapi exclusive mode is built into Windows and if the application is coded to use it the stream bypasses Windows audio and is sent bit perfect to your external DAC at the native sample rate and bit depth. Both Tidal and Qobuz have been doing this for years, so it is surprising given the competence of Amazon's engineers why exclusive mode was not built in from introduction.

So why should you care? On a highly resolving system it is not hard to hear the difference between shared mode and Wasapi exclusive mode with a good external DAC. Archimago for one posted about the poor quality of the built in up sampling of Windows audio.

Bottom line is audiophiles expect a streaming service to provide ASIO or Wasapi exclusive mode for best sound quality.
this is absolutely right and I’m hopeful that Amazon fixes this. If not we may have to use it with something like jriver.
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Full Audioholic
Actually I did. Don't think the ones I did were good for judging as they were very short clips of 10-15 seconds. But I still picked 24/192 7 times, 320 mp-3 twice, and 128 mp-3 once out of 10 samples. Did listen several times before making picks. And I'm older with reduced hearing ability but could still tell difference most of the time.
short clips are usually best for blind testing. The simpler and more pure the recording is the better. It’s why jingling keys were used in a test once. It’s a distinct sound we all know that contains ultrasonics.

it’s also highly artificial. Music is much more complex.

I can probably create some recordings for people that contain ultrasonics and then downsample them into different qualities. Then host them here and let people use one or the abx softwares to test. Most microphones don’t have ultrasonic recording ability but i have two mics that do and a 24/192 sound interface From a Motu. I could also analyze the recordings. This would be way off anything to do with these reviews but if it’s just something people want to try.
 
L

lhunka

Audiophyte
These discussions are very entertaining Seems there is much angst as to what audio format is most "accurate" How much does this really matter. The vast majority just want to get their music in a usable format. My kids listened to the 128 Apple Itunes files and loved them - I could not tolerate them. . Things have changed and now there are much more listenable formats available.
Just to note a few - CD redbook, FLAC, ALAC, 320, MQA to name a few. CD Redbook would seem the standard as in theory it can accurately capture all that is in the realm of human hearing. If you can hear a difference between this and other media then you are in a very small subgroup as 99% of listeners wouldn't be able to distinguish a higher standard. As to a lower standard then 320 files would again would be not discriminated by a regular user.
If you subscribe to the theory that these differences in formats are readily evident then you need to look at your palyback systems and recording conditions. There are huge differences in mastering music and I would suggest that far outways the difference in high end audio formats.
The other issues is your equipment and listening room. It would take a very high end system to differentiate between audio codecs. The errors inherent in a speaker or headphone again are magnitudes greater than a high end audio codec. Also your listening environment introduces another dimension. that introduces changes that are magnitudes greater than a high end audio source - move your speakers 2 feet and you have totally changed the playing field.
If you are of the gifted few that can appreciated these differences then more power to you. If you are of the majority then just enjoy the music.
 
allegro

allegro

Enthusiast
this is absolutely right and I’m hopeful that Amazon fixes this. If not we may have to use it with something like jriver.
Yes there has already been a workaround proposed using WDM Driver in JRiver as your primary audio device. I have not tried it yet so can not confirm it works. Kind of kludgy, not the proper solution which would be for Amazon Music HD just to enable Exclusive mode in the app. Plus you have to buy JRiver.

Someone using Roon isn't going to switch to JRiver just to stream Amazon Music HD, they will expect Amazon to open their API so Amazon Music HD will work in Roon, same with Audirvana. However Amazon may not care about Roon or Audirvana integration we will have to wait and see.
 
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S

sterling shoote

Audioholic General
I don't need to hear Amazon HD to know I am not interested in it. Here's why: I have a plethora of 24/192 music files in my iTunes Library. These are sent via usb to my OPPO-205's DAC and then to amplification powering JBL L100t3's. It sounds great; but, here's the thing, I also deliver Apple Music streams and 256k iTunes downloads to the OPPO and the results are pretty much indistinguishable from my hi-res downloads listening pleasure. My Apple Music is just $9.99 monthly and is seamlessly integrated to iTunes, which has Library, CD Ripping, CD Burning, Device Syncing, Remote Control and Music Browsing functions. The bottom line is iTunes has placed at my fingertips almost everything that's ever been recorded in the history of recorded music to enjoy anywhere on earth where there's cellular coverage. WOW! In other words iTunes offers what's important to me: high quality sound from a vast music catalog delivered in an instant.
 
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D

David2.1

Audiophyte
I ran the calculation on my hearing. At my age, I am lucky to hear anything. I too, have my CD's which i ripped to FLAC audio. I enjoy making my own playlists and reading the liner notes.
I also used the Audioholic recommends to build my big room stereo that I play rarely as the family complains regarding my choice of music.
 
D

dcrandon

Audiophyte
Have there been any comparisons with Amazon's new HD and ULTRAHD streaming service? I'd be interested to know as I believe they have a far larger catalog than TIDAL, and less expensive as well if you are a Prime member.

EDIT...I see it's been discussed. Any objective comparisons? Also, I know this is a simple question, but I'll ask anyway...if I buy a new Denon AVR, such as the 3600, can I somehow stream Amazon Music to it through my home internet connection, such that my technology disabled wife could easily use it?
 
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Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Full Audioholic
Yes there has already been a workaround proposed using WDM Driver in JRiver as your primary audio device. I have not tried it yet so can not confirm it works. Kind of kludgy, not the proper solution which would be for Amazon Music HD just to enable Exclusive mode in the app. Plus you have to buy JRiver.

Someone using Roon isn't going to switch to JRiver just to stream Amazon Music HD, they will expect Amazon to open their API so Amazon Music HD will work in Roon, same with Audirvana. However Amazon may not care about Roon or Audirvana integration we will have to wait and see.
Yeah I don't disagree with any of this. I think I'll probably go forward with a review of this fairly soon. Nothing majorly wrong with the app in terms of its appearance, functionality, musical content, and integration with various devices (actually seems far more deeply integrated than any other streaming services other than Spotify),but I am really bothered by the lack of support for WASAPI and ASIO. They will likely argue it is a problem that affects a small number of users, but it is still a problem and one that is easily fixed.
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Slumlord
Yeah I don't disagree with any of this. I think I'll probably go forward with a review of this fairly soon. Nothing majorly wrong with the app in terms of its appearance, functionality, musical content, and integration with various devices (actually seems far more deeply integrated than any other streaming services other than Spotify),but I am really bothered by the lack of support for WASAPI and ASIO. They will likely argue it is a problem that affects a small number of users, but it is still a problem and one that is easily fixed.
But does the lack of workarounds for wasapio/asio really make that emotional difference to you?
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Full Audioholic
But does the lack of workarounds for wasapio/asio really make that emotional difference to you?
It bothers me that they didn't adopt the feature. As noted, it means I'm stuck either manually changing the sampling rate or letting Window's poorly up-sample. The true sampling rates of HD music is pretty all over the place, so yes I think its a problem.

I'm spending time with the software and will reveal my ultimate feelings and decisions about Amazon Music when we do the review. Don''t worry, I try to always be fair and impartial. If I think it's no big deal, I usually say that. If I think it matters, then I say that too. I'm just expressing my initial frustrations right now.
 
allegro

allegro

Enthusiast
It bothers me that they didn't adopt the feature. As noted, it means I'm stuck either manually changing the sampling rate or letting Window's poorly up-sample. The true sampling rates of HD music is pretty all over the place, so yes I think its a problem.

I'm spending time with the software and will reveal my ultimate feelings and decisions about Amazon Music when we do the review. Don''t worry, I try to always be fair and impartial. If I think it's no big deal, I usually say that. If I think it matters, then I say that too. I'm just expressing my initial frustrations right now.
Looking forward to your subjective impressions of Amazon Music HD. On my desktop rig I just compared some tracks in Amazon Music HD to Qobuz, same provenance best as I could tell.

It was not hard to tell the difference. Amazon Music HD has less sound stage width and depth, imaging is not as precise. There is not as much air around instruments and vocals and I can't hear small details like room echoes. Switching to Qobuz it sounds like a veil is lifted and the sound stage opens up. Vocals sound more natural and I can more easily hear small details. Imaging is much better.

Mike Moffat coined a term for music or equipment that he feels does not engage him emotionally. He says it "sounds like ass". To my ears that is a good description of Amazon Music HD as is. i enjoy listening to Qobuz, can't say the same for Amazon Music HD.

I think Amazon may be playing a long game here. They just introduced the Echo Sudio speakers at $199 with 3D Audio tracks available on Amazon Music HD. They are calling Amazon Music HD high end sound but in reality I believe they are selling mid-fi sound that is just good enough. Probably would be delighted if they sold a ton of Echo Studios with a recurring monthly charge for the music service.

It looks like they are targeting home theater on the low end, people who would buy two Echo Studios to use with their TV. Maybe they will throw audiophiles a bone with Wasapi exclusive mode next year, we'll see.
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Full Audioholic
Looking forward to your subjective impressions of Amazon Music HD. On my desktop rig I just compared some tracks in Amazon Music HD to Qobuz, same provenance best as I could tell.

It was not hard to tell the difference. Amazon Music HD has less sound stage width and depth, imaging is not as precise. There is not as much air around instruments and vocals and I can't hear small details like room echoes. Switching to Qobuz it sounds like a veil is lifted and the sound stage opens up. Vocals sound more natural and I can more easily hear small details. Imaging is much better.

Mike Moffat coined a term for music or equipment that he feels does not engage him emotionally. He says it "sounds like ass". To my ears that is a good description of Amazon Music HD as is. i enjoy listening to Qobuz, can't say the same for Amazon Music HD.

I think Amazon may be playing a long game here. They just introduced the Echo Sudio speakers at $199 with 3D Audio tracks available on Amazon Music HD. They are calling Amazon Music HD high end sound but in reality I believe they are selling mid-fi sound that is just good enough. Probably would be delighted if they sold a ton of Echo Studios with a recurring monthly charge for the music service.

It looks like they are targeting home theater on the low end, people who would buy two Echo Studios to use with their TV. Maybe they will throw audiophiles a bone with Wasapi exclusive mode next year, we'll see.
Out of curiosity, how did you listen to Amazon HD? Did you use it through a computer or something else?

I did do some comparisons of music of a knoem provenance that was native 16/44 or native 24/96 and then did the analysis and difference tests. I repeated this allowing windows direct sound to upsample (as it would) for Amazon HD (Tidal and Qobuz was always in a direct mode). I actually did not measure much of any difference when I was confident no upsampling was happening. The diference test would actually fail when I let windows upsample because the tracks were too different.

Archimego has shown the dramatic increase in distortion that this process causes and I am sure the noise and severe aliasing is what caused the failure in the difference test.
 
allegro

allegro

Enthusiast
Out of curiosity, how did you listen to Amazon HD? Did you use it through a computer or something else?

I did do some comparisons of music of a knoem provenance that was native 16/44 or native 24/96 and then did the analysis and difference tests. I repeated this allowing windows direct sound to upsample (as it would) for Amazon HD (Tidal and Qobuz was always in a direct mode). I actually did not measure much of any difference when I was confident no upsampling was happening. The diference test would actually fail when I let windows upsample because the tracks were too different.

Archimego has shown the dramatic increase in distortion that this process causes and I am sure the noise and severe aliasing is what caused the failure in the difference test.
At my workstation I use Windows 10 Pro streaming Amazon Music HD through their desktop app, and Qobuz using Wasapi exclusive mode in Audirvana 3.5.1. USB out to external Yggdrasil DAC then single ended to Kenzie tube amp and Sennheiser HD800S phones. Hope this helps.
 
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Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Full Audioholic
At my workstation I use Windows 10 Pro streaming Amazon Music HD through their desktop app, and Qobuz using Wasapi exclusive mode in Audirvana 3.5.1. USB out to external Yggdrasil DAC then single ended to Kenzie tube amp and Sennheiser HD800S phones. Hope this helps.
Do you think the problems you heard were inherent in the streaming itself, or could it have been Direct Sound? Like I said, direct sound, when it is upsampling, is audibly changing the sound. But when I was able to stream things correctly, I couldn't measure a big difference (I did measure a difference though, so I want to be fair about this).

I haven't had enough time to really dig in myself, I've only listened a little bit. Some on speakers (The Revel's that James reviewed) and some on headphones (various good headphones) through either the MOTU interface or my Cherry setup. Sometimes the sound was good and sometimes not so much, and that was what lead me to realize just how serious this directsound issue is.

I'll work with Gene to see if we can get anywhere, but companies like Google, Amazon, and Apple have not been easy to work with. They usually ignore me.

Matt
 

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