So a CD walks in bar, a Tidal or Qobuz “CD” track is playing...are they twins?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by PB Point, Sep 23, 2020.

  1. PB Point

    PB Point Forum Resident Thread Starter

    San Diego
    Can you hear a difference if all sources are going through the same DAC?

    Is your CD a mirror to the sound of a “CD” version from a streaming service?

    And if you were forced to record one version over the other on tape, which version would you choose? Any pro’s and con’s of Hitchhiking?
  2. deniall83

    deniall83 Well-Known Member

    Assuming they are the same master then there should be no difference. Both are bit perfect. I'm sure someone will disagree though and that's fine. I've never detected a difference using a CD player over Roon with the same files.
  3. samurai

    samurai "See the glory, of the royal scam."

    Beer Keeper leans over and asks the CD, why the long face?
  4. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Active Member

    Seattle, WA
    The Tidal CD track has been surgically altered enough that it's no longer related. The Qobuz CD track shouldn't sound too different.
  5. Mike-48

    Mike-48 A shadow of my former self

    Portland, Oregon
    My system is unusual in that the signal path is very much the same in both cases, because of the source component, an Auralic Aries G1. Qobuz data stream into it and get processed. CD data enter the Aries through a connected USB CD drive, and then are buffered and processed the same way as data from Qobuz or my home library. Then the PCM data go through the same cable, into the same DAC-preamp.

    When I've compared, CD and Qobuz sound pretty much the same to me -- meaning, no systematic or repeatable differences. If the recording is good, both sound really good! And if the recording is lousy, they both sound lousy, in the same way.
    olson likes this.
  6. Jaap74

    Jaap74 Forum Resident

    Sydney, Australia
    Can you please explain why the Tidal version is inferior to the Qobuz version ? I pay for Tidal Hi-Fi which is "CD quality"........
    Billy Infinity likes this.
  7. Stereosound

    Stereosound Forum Resident

    Probably talking about the master version(s) which are mqa in Tidal whereas Qobuz does not use mqa. Mqa is considered lossy high resolution so unless you happen to like the sound of it you are not getting what think you are paying for. MQA is Vaporware
    Calvin_and_Hobbes and zonto like this.
  8. zonto

    zonto Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    Yes, they do sound different, and Tidal is inferior.

    I have compared a couple sources of the same album on my chain through my Oppo BDP-103D. The rest of the chain is the same thereafter (S/PDIF output from Audiopraise Vanity board, same cables, DAC, preamp, amp, etc.). The Oppo is connected directly to my TP Link Archer C7 router in the same room with a 3m Blue Jeans Cable Cat6A ethernet cable.

    Taylor Swift -

    I recently listened to the CD version of this album all the way through with my wife. We both thought it sounded great. After the last track, we queued up track 3 (exile, feat. Bon Iver) on Tidal (via the Oppo’s native app). It sounded less dimensional and expansive, the sound coming more from the speakers. Images were less defined and clear. Bon Iver’s vocals especially sounded strained, and the track as a whole was more edgy and grating. Immediately jumping back to the CD version was a relief. My wife noticed the difference too, which, though cliche, is actually saying something because she typically thinks I’m crazy.

    There should be no difference between the two, but there is. On SBAF, another user noticed inferior quality on Tidal of the same album. Turns out there is audible watermarking on numerous tracks, including exile. See [discussion and links that follow].

    Brand New - Science Fiction

    Similar phenomenon here except I was comparing a 320 kbps MP3 download of the album (accompanied the CD purchase, which had not yet shipped), to the Tidal stream. The files were on a flashdrive plugged into the Oppo’s front USB port. The local version sounded less edgy and fatiguing and had a little more satisfying low end. This was a couple years ago and I don’t remember anything else, nor have I compared the CD version to Tidal more recently.


    Who knows why these differences exist, especially with the Taylor Swift example where the two should be identical. Perhaps it’s watermarking. Perhaps whoever from the label is uploading the files to Tidal doesn’t send them the actual lossless tracks. Perhaps Tidal is performing some processing to the files on their end without disclosing it. Perhaps it’s because there really is something to better quality networking cables and electronics. I have not tried Qobuz on my system yet, and would prefer to use Tidal given the built-in Oppo app.

    I think a big part of the problem is Tidal’s ridiculous all-in on lossy MQA technology. I recently noticed that Senses Fail - From the Depths of Dreams was listed as “Master”. This album was released in 2003 on Drive Thru Records, a label long since defunct. There is no way MQA was utilized in any way during the recording process, nor that this one random release in the catalog would have been given the MQA treatment recently. This album apparently was re-recorded in 2019, but the version in Tidal is listed as the original 2003 release and sounds awful, so I can’t imagine it’s the re-recorded version. I have seen elsewhere online anecdotal posts about audio engineers who noticed that certain albums they worked on were listed as “Master”, which was news to them as they had not utilized MQA technology in the studio.

    Who knows? All I know is that Tidal sounds different and I’m purchasing backup physical copies of albums I love because I don’t trust the different players in the streaming industry, labels especially, to stop screwing around with things and simply deliver what they promised.
  9. dennem

    dennem Forum Resident

    Bangkok, Thailand
    My CD transport sounds much better than the streamer using the same DAC. I’m sure that this difference can be eliminated by upgrading the streamer.
  10. chervokas

    chervokas Forum Resident

    MQA isn't part of the recording process. It's an audio codec for compressing and fingerprinting an audio file. Nothing's done differently in the recording process, and "giving something the MQA treatment" just means encoding the audio with piece of software. Giving something the MQA treatment involves the click of a computer icon done after the fact of recording.
  11. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Active Member

    Seattle, WA
    Stereosound likes this.
  12. audiomixer

    audiomixer As Bald As The Beatles

  13. Calvin_and_Hobbes

    Calvin_and_Hobbes Active Member

    Seattle, WA
    My listening notes of Tidal vs Spotify vs Qobuz for more details of my perceptions:

    Round 1, Spotify Premium vs Qobuz: I have Spotify Premium with a Family subscription. From a value standpoint, Spotify was my default choice that has the best search as well as working well for my family. From a critical listening perspective in my auditioning sessions, Spotify actually is not bad at conveying detail, pace and presence from music. It sounds musical. Any shortcomings that it has are errors of omission rather than errors of commission. I can listen to Spotify especially in mobile settings and be engaged and immersed in the music. After listening for a longer period of time, Qobuz is clearly better at conveying detail, transparency/clarity, pace and presence, but Spotify doesn't do anything noticeably wrong.

    Round 2, Qobuz vs Tidal: So far Qobuz is clearly better than Tidal even listening through pretty cheap desktop passive speakers. Tidal sounds very two dimensional and flat in its sound quality but with some harshness in the high frequencies. I'll listen a bit more to Tidal, but so far I'm not impressed at all. Spotify Premium even seems to sound better than Tidal.

    Some additional thoughts about Tidal after listening on higher quality equipment. I think they have applied some equalization to boost the bass and treble. In the process, I think side effects of doing this is to take out some of the presence of voices and instruments and add an artificial quality to voices and instruments.. Qobuz sounds a LOT better. Spotify Premium also sounds better. To my ears at least. (Disclaimer: Your results may vary). I'm currently listening to a track that is a MQA file on Tidal vs a CD quality file on Qobuz. The CD quality file on Qobuz sounds a LOT fuller and more natural.

    Not a big fan of hip hop, but decided to listen to something that is squarely in Tidal's area of focus. I listened to 'The Box' by Roddy Ricch which is a MQA file on Tidal and CD quality on Qobuz. Same results. The Qobuz file sounds fuller and has more presence. Almost sounds like two different recordings when listening on Qobuz vs Tidal.

    My subjective impressions of the musicality of the major HD streaming services:
    1. Qobuz
    2. Primephonic
    3. Spotify Premium (320 kbps Ogg Vorbis which is not lossless)
    4. IDAGIO
    5. Amazon HD
    6 Tidal
    George P and zonto like this.
  14. Stereosound

    Stereosound Forum Resident

    Same to you...
  15. c-eling

    c-eling I never dreamed another way.

    Same identical mastering?
    That's the tough question. For older titles many default to the (mostly awful) run of the mill remaster's provided by the labels.
    And if it's Dan Fogelberg-Phoenix, it's a rip of the old pre-emphasis cd, not properly eq'd- *******'s
    Eric_Generic likes this.
  16. displayname

    displayname Forum Resident

    I think this is the right thought process.
    Even if it's the exact same master, the transport and delivery method can matter. How the device can reduce jitter and electrical noise are going to impact the final playback coming out of the DAC. I think it should also be considered that people aren't usually using the same cable between their transport method to the DAC. Some people aren't even using the same cable format. (EX: coax vs USB) It's so hard to create a true apples to apples comparison for these.

    But the real question is does it matter to YOU. If you have both transport methods, try both. In your system, if you don't feel they have a strong difference, than you can enjoy your preferred playback method. If a dealer can set up a demo for you, that can also help you decide with your own ears. To some people, it's going to sound exactly the same. To others, it might sound noticeably different. I think it's system and person dependent.
    ClassicalCD, Tim 2 and Mike-48 like this.
  17. bhazen

    bhazen Magical Mystery Tourist

    Newcastle, WA
    I was hoping to read the punchline to the titular joke! Durn
    George P and c-eling like this.
  18. Bryan T

    Bryan T Forum Resident

    Surely, someone can record audio from Tidal and audio from a CD into a DAW and see if they’re the same?
  19. samurai

    samurai "See the glory, of the royal scam."

    So a CD walks into a bar and notices a priest, a rabbi and a minister sitting together at a table...................
    Please discuss among yourselves and continue the saga.
    McLover and displayname like this.
  20. zonto

    zonto Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    Perhaps, but potentially faulty test as the Tidal stream may be watermarked. See link in my post above.
    McLover likes this.
  21. audiomixer

    audiomixer As Bald As The Beatles

    Don’t use Tidal through the Oppo app.
    Not a fair comparison.
  22. WhatDoIKnow

    WhatDoIKnow I never got over it, I got used to it

    Sorry for the OT but aren't we all in the same boat! :laugh:
  23. russk

    russk Forum Resident

    Syracuse NY
    Interesting that you put Amazon above Tidal. I’m looking at leaving Amazon, mostly for a better user experience but was hoping for more transparency on masterings and better sound as well.

    What are your thought on the differences between Amazon vs Qobuz for sound and interface?

    Personal for ultimate sound quality I stick with CDs, SACDs, and vinyl. Mostly because I know the provenance, for lack of a better, of what I am listening to. Streaming is just so damn convenient. Every time I move away from it I find myself going back. Currently it accounts for just over half of all my listening despite the fact that most of the physical media I own sounds superior.
  24. WhatDoIKnow

    WhatDoIKnow I never got over it, I got used to it

    Sorry everyone, I don't mean to derail this interesting discussion but... shouldn't we factor in the cost of the relevant subscription? I mean, I don't use these kind of services (but I do use Qobuz to buy hires files and I love the fact that there is no DRM attached and that, once paid, I can download the files as many times as I want/need) but Spotify in Italy is, unless I am mistaken, €9,99/month (no mention of the quality of the streaming), while Qobuz starts with €19,99 (FLAC 16-Bit / 44.1 KHz). I sometimes think about Qobuz but I'd much rather spend those 20 euros on a CD or two per month.
  25. zonto

    zonto Forum Resident

    Boston, MA
    Why is that? Using another app or device just introduces more variables into the equation (new source, power supply, cable, input, etc.). My test methodology is about as apples-to-apples as one can get. It’s pretty clear that within the Media Control app there is an API that connects to a version of Tidal’s app and lets you login and then browse / select what to stream. That’s all Tidal’s own iOS app does.
    Blank Frank likes this.

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