I’ve started with the whole streaming revolution over 13 years ago, first with Spotify and then moving over to Tidal for lossless quality. But I was not happy with the suggestions and new music discovery with Tidal.
So when Qobuz become available in the UK I tried it out, and kept with it (even thought my SuperUniti is not compatible with Qobuz)
I had to use some workarounds, Software based at first and then hardware based - with the addition of a Innuos ZenMini3) It was good, but I also started to realise Qobuz was not introducing me to new music I wanted to listen to and some of the music I had in my favourites lists started to disappear.
When Apple introduced their HiFi option, I tried Apple Music for a while, and although its library is much bigger than Qobuz, it’s closed ecosystem means that I can’t stream it on my SuperUniti or the Innuos natively. Also as my two children became teenagers and started asking for their own music streaming accounts, it was clear not all streaming sites have all music that both them and myself want to listen to.
So I again went on a search to find something we could all agree on. (and not pay for multiple streaming platforms) This year I went back to Spotify to try their family sub, see how well the music discovery works, and was hoping that maybe they would finally release their HiFi tier. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this will happen any time soon or at all now. Plus I don’t like how little Spotify pay the artists. So not something I want to use long term anyway.
In my research, I also discovered that (presumably) a lot of tracks on Tidal that are only being supplied in the MQA format, would only give you a lossy file as an alternative, if you don’t have a way to unfold the format. Which is just wrong. However, this has now been updated with the HiFi subscription using FLAC instead. - So, if I am happy with Up to 1411 kbps lossless quality, Tidal might now be a good option. I think
Would be interested in what other think. Is anyone tempted to use Tidal, now that they stream in FLAC?
Your information isn’t 100% correct. As far as I know, even if a track on Tidal is listed as “Master” (i.e. MQA), it is only played in that format if you are on the top tier of HiFi-Plus. If you are on their HiFi tier, it is almost always FLAC (From Tidal’s web site → “* HiFi. Lossless Quality 1411 Kbps. Allows you to stream audio using the lossless format FLAC, creating a crisp and robust music streaming experience.”). That’s certainly what it always shows as playing on my streamer :-). It is only their top tier that is changing to add HiRes FLAC along with MQA.
I haven’t seen any signs of Hi-Res flac on Tidal yet, or any idea of what their pricing will be. But I’m assuming at the moment it will stay at the same “high” price of circa £19 per month. Also, at a guess, I’m going to assuming that if people have 1st generation Naim streamers, it won’t be an option and they would have to still use a 3rd party app like bubbleupnp to use it.
thanks wdoyle for the correction. Right so Tidal does give you, up to CD quality, lossless in FLAC already on their HiFi tier.
This is mostly what I am interested in. To me Hi-Res quality is a nice to have but not essential. I have a lot of DSD albums on a server at home, which I can listen to. But honestly the difference is marginal to me.
I have an old gen NDX, but I have just purchased a Primare NP5 as a new streaming front end to link into the NDX’s DAC section. At the moment it doesn’t offer Tidal or Qobuz natively, but there is an update from Primare coming early May which will enable the NP5 to natively play both.
As you say the buffer size of the NDX would struggle with Hi Res FLAC, this is a neat solution which doesn’t cost the earth. At the end of the day the DAC in the NDX is plenty good enough. This would also give me the option of acquiring a pre loved NDAC which will certainly offer an improvement in SQ at some point in the future.
I have to say 100% that Tidal hi-fi sound (CD quality) sounds really good through my system (NAC 272) and was one of the things that made me swipe my credit card at the demo I had. You can try give it a go on trial. I can’t remember if it is a week or monthly trial that they offer :-).
I use Tidal HiFi and for only £9.99 a month think it’s rather good. Not quite up to local streaming standard but still very good in terms of its catalogue, reliability, sound quality and user interface. I don’t yearn for Hi-Res at all.
I too am using Tidal in the HiFi tier at 1411 - can’t make any discernible difference between that or ripped CDs, so must be fine. This HiRes and MQA stuff really does my head in. If cd quality at 16/44 1411 is 99% of what you can hear, why are people going mad for anything above that?
I still have Tidal (Hifi) and Qobuz side by side. I started out with Tidal and added Qobuz later for their HiRes non-MQA catalogue and the general preference for QB here.
For SQ it’s still not a clear cut comparison for me. On average I’d say Qobuz HiRes wins 6 maybe 7 out of 10 times. With non HiRes is a draw imo. But I do tend to prefer the somewhat ‘snappier’ sound from Tidal.
That said, I find the user interface from Tidal on iOS or computer clearly better than Qobuz. Plus Tidal’s recommendations and Daily Discovery is miles ahead on anything from Qobuz. And there is still no Connect feature in Qobuz either…
Tidal announced/confirmed that they will offer non-MQA HiRes FLAC in the near future. If that happens, my Qobuz subscription ends the same day.
There is/has been a lot of debate about benefit of higher resolutions, with people making claims about audible benefits, and about no benefit. One difficulty in comparing is that hi res and CD quality are not always from the same master, in which case either could sound better and nothing to do with resolution!
The 2L.no website used to have a “test bench” page from which you could download a couple of dozen or so of their excellent sound quality recordings each at a variety of different resolutions all derived simply by downsampling from the same highest res master. From those it was possible to compare for yourself, with a range of music, including blind given a willing volunteer or by setting a random play function. Sadly they seem to have stopped doing that.
My impression from reading multiple comments over several years is that with the same mastering differences are not dramatic, but possibly best thought of as a fine refinement. The most consistent description, which is consistent with my own feeling, is that higher resolution give a little extra “air” or atmosphere to the sound. To me it is worth a slight price premium, but not a great one. But my own experience in comparing is only streaming from my own store, not online, for which the possibly greater limitation of the online process might negate the benefit.
The earlier streamers are updatable to stream 24 bit data. I don’t think I’ve experienced any problems with my Uniti 1, and that’s been upgraded with the new DAC at Naim’s factory. Whether the buffer’s big enough is something we’ll have to wait and see.
Totally agree - people pick up differences in sound with different masters. CD quality vs hires quality just seems so so small. So much that Tidal makes complete sense - it works on the old streamers like the NDX and the UI/UX is really good for navigation / discovery. I’d completely recommend it for someone that wants simplicity and great sound. Full disclosure, I’m also a Qobuz/Spotify/Apple Music/Roon subscriber. They all have their individual qualities depending on the use case, but Tidal seems to be the best all rounder
But hey, everybody’s looking for different things…
Any thoughts on how the legacy streamers as NDS, 272 etc will handle native Tidal if they would offer hi-res audio files without MQA later this year? Would naim need to update their software or would it just work?