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

Which High-Res Streaming Service Sounds Best?

  • Tidal

    Votes: 1 4.3%
  • Qobuz

    Votes: 7 30.4%
  • Both

    Votes: 5 21.7%
  • Huh? What you say?

    Votes: 10 43.5%

  • Total voters
    23
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Senior Audioholic
Very nice article, thank you. I have been a Tidal user for sometime and was wondering if I should move on to Qobuz. I think not, now. Tidal has improved its search function and niceties since the early days, it is quite good in that regard now, as good as Spotify.

The sticky part is MQA; so many manufacturers have dug in against it now and I don’t know why. I stream from an iPad and have the software to do the first unfold, but not an MQA DAC. There are some out there, but they are still not common. Noting now there are MQA CD, so another reason to go there. There is some evidence that the last unfold may be too subtle to hear, anyways.

Your results go along with many others; the specifics of how a recording is made are more important than the 16/44 vs 24/96 question. I have many great sounding CD and many more terrible ones. Putting them into a high res format will not fix their fundamental problems.

The interesting part is that many double blind listening tests have revealed DSD to be different and “better” than 16/44. Again, a simple digital transfer isn’t going to fix a bad CD, but there are many native DSD recordings in the world now. How come no one is streaming DSD?
I would say that the main thing that changed since I wrote this article is that QoBuz got a lot cheaper. It’s now a better value than Tidal while offering as good or better sound quality. It’s also dramatically improved song selection and search ability. I would not call it on par with Tidal or Spotify, but close enough that I did eventually cancel my Tidal subscription.

mad for DSD streaming. There are some niche companies doing this and it’s been discussed a lot. The main reason it isn’t being done is that it’s not popular enough and would cause support problems. All the current popular streaming systems rely on PCM at their core, even MQA. As such, there is no need to change the workflow. DSD’s biggest resistance was that everything had to change for it to be native DSD end to end. Some made the switch but not most. As such it was mostly a pcm to DSD to pcm encoding and decoding signal path. so what would be the point?

DSD is also data intensive compared to FLAC PCM so straight DSD streaming would be nearly impossible. Data rate would be too high. Maybe FLAC can be used with DSD to get a lossless compression, I don’t know a lot about that.
 
RichB

RichB

Audioholic Field Marshall
I would say that the main thing that changed since I wrote this article is that QoBuz got a lot cheaper. It’s now a better value than Tidal while offering as good or better sound quality. It’s also dramatically improved song selection and search ability. I would not call it on par with Tidal or Spotify, but close enough that I did eventually cancel my Tidal subscription.
I subscribed to Qobuz when the price dropped.
I am using the Roon interface so am less concerned about the search interface.

There is one case when I listened to an album that I can not longer find. Weird.

- Rich
 
I

Infinitif

Audiophyte
It’s always nice to read good articles like this and well documented but... for my part, I judge with my ears and they tell me there are lot of audio quality issues with Tidal compare to Qobuz !
Just take one example: Mozart Requiem - Wiener Philarmoniker - Karl Bohm - Deutshe Grammophon
Please listen to first track and tell me if this a good sound....
You will hear (whatever your devices are) a kind of trembling sound, very noticeable and unpleasant. No issue at all with the same album on Qobuz.
It’s not only a one album issue, I had the occasion to have this same trembling sound with other albums other tracks.
 
B

Bruce53

Junior Audioholic
What is the best streaming service? This thread popped up when queried.
Do any of them stream in TrueHD?
It looks like TidaL streams with FLAC; is that the best available now?
 
Matthew J Poes

Matthew J Poes

Senior Audioholic
What is the best streaming service? This thread popped up when queried.
Do any of them stream in TrueHD?
It looks like TidaL streams with FLAC; is that the best available now?
A few things to help clarify. FLAC is a lossless CODEC, that means that what comes out is exactly what went in. There is NO loss of quality and cannot be. If there was, it wouldn't be lossless.

TrueHD is a Dolby surround CODEC, it too is lossless. It is based on MLP, a format previously used in DVD-Audio.

No current streaming service uses TrueHD but we are hopeful that Tidal, who recently introduced ATMOS, will switch the bed layer to TrueHD over the current DDplus.

It is hard to say which is the best. For basic 16/44 redbook quality, I have found (and argued) that Tidal, Qobuz, and Amazon HD are the equal of each other. Choose your poison, they all have pluses and minuses, none of which are in the area of sound quality.

Moving to 24/96, I have found that the music is the dominating factor, not the encoding format. Tidal uses MQA, which has been quite controversial, but my testing has found no major differences between tracks. I've tried doing ABX testing and failed, often even against the CD version. My opinion is that the majority of music lacks enough "differences" in the higher resolution format for any possible differences in the CODEC to matter. Many have taken issue with MQA because of the cost and proprietary nature, however, when it comes to Tidal, the decoder is built into the app, so you don't pay for that as long as you are ok with just the first unfold (which I think is all that is necessary anyway). You pay for it in the cost of Tidal.

Avoiding the contrversy completely, both Amazon HD and Qobuz use Flac for the HD quality as well, and as such, there is no possible issue with quality. It is what it is.

I had written off Tidal because both Qobuz and Amazon were offering all the same music selection (in terms of what I listened to anyway) at a much lower price (12-14 a month vs 20 a month). However, Tidal has recently introduced Sony 360 and ATMOS for headphones on a large selection of sounds and ATMOS streaming for MCH systems for a smaller selection of songs. At the end of the day, there is no denying that surround music has the potential to be a far bigger game changer than anything else we are arguing about here. How we perceive the musical presentation is a product of the collective set of sounds we hear coming from all around us. 2 speakers simply cannot accurately reproduce what we would ever hear in a live event (be it music or movies or even a single person talking). Multi-channel is and should be the future.

However, likely to make streaming plausible and to maintain compatibility with streaming sticks, Tidal has chosen to first introduce their surround music in ATMOS based on Dolby Digital Plus. This is a lossy codec similar to good MP3. As such, in theory, the sound won't be as good as even basic redbook CD. In practice, music encoded with DDplus often is indistinguishable from CD. Again, that has more to do with the music itself than it does the CODEC. My experience has been that with the right content, even the best lossy compression can be distinguished from lossless. The problem is, in practice, real music is compressed and bandwidth limited such that the losses in a lossy format really are negligible.

All that to say, I don't think there is a single best service. If you are a purist audiophile looking for the absolute best 2-channel, then I think Qobuz is your friend. The drawbacks will be a lower selection of music (which may or may not matter, I'm yet to really struggle to find what I want). Qobuz is also not currently "all in" on surround, largely only supporting it on a limited basis with downloads. Qobuz does not currently stream MCH (that was the word directly from Qobuz within the last month of communication I had with them). I have talked with leadership at Qobuz and asked that they consider multichannel FLAC when they do adopt a CODEC for streaming surround music. They have indicated interest in exploring the idea, but also indicated a belief there remains no market.

Amazon Music is the most integrated into devices. While not always supported in HD format, it is available on the widest number of devices I own. My BMW, my SONOS, Yamaha, Streaming Devices, UHD Player, etc. Qobuz is the least integrated, with Tidal somewhere in the middle. I also find Amazon to have the least bugs and best interface. They previously had a problem with their computer app that lowered sound quality, but that has since been resolved. Amazon also has introduced Dolby Atmos, but in a much stranger way. I can only assume this is quickly changing. As of right now, Amazon only allows you to listen to ATMOS via their dolby speaker device. I believe they are offering surround music via headphones on a limited number of mobile devices, but I haven't kept up. Last I looked into it, it wasn't available on anything I owned, so I have been unable to test. Given that Tidal has allowed FAR wider adoption, I have to assume that Amazon will follow suit quickly.

Tidal, I have a real love hate relationship with them. They are pushing the most boundaries and I love that. They are implementing surround music on the widest scale and it has the potential to bring surround music to the largest audience. I really think the general public needs to wake up to surround music. There is such rejection of a format that has never had it's day, but that we know scientifically is the only way to accurately reproduce a musical event. Tidal's embrace of the format for both headphones and surround systems is unique in the industry right now. However, their price remains stubbornly high. For now, you pay a premium for access to the widest selection of surround music across reproduction methods.

Outside of these three, I would argue everything else is inferior. Deezer is another interesting potential option, but at the moment they aren't really competing in all of the right areas. I tried a free trial of their app and didn't even consider keeping it, which should say something.
 

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