MQA. Apple Music. WTH

I’m an old man. I’m retired. I don’t want to study and research and compare and blah blah blah. I want to turn on the darn music. Listen to the best quality possible. I spent $5000. Really? I have to try to…can’t someone SAY…just say…I have no idea what MQA is. Some platform. What’s a platform? I don’t understand how sound comes from vinyl ok? I just want to turn it on. I don’t want to throw money away. Here’s the situation. I listen to streaming audio entirely. Lost all my CDs and albums in a hurricane. I want the best quality possible. I have Apple Music grandfathered on my Verizon contract. So as long as I have Verizon I have Apple Music. Ah. But Tidal is better by leaps and bounds? Ah…but…MQA WTF? What? So…if I pay for the Tidal $19.99 hi-fi it’s wasted? With nothing but streaming…

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You can also use Apple Music, but as far as I know it is limited to compressed audio. It is a good-quality compression, but still.

To get at least CD quality, you need another streaming service.

Tidal has two subscription tiers: “Premium” and “Hifi”. “Premium”, despite the name, is the lesser sound quality (it is compressed mp3 or AAC), i.e. this is comparable to Apple Music, so no reason to switch to this from Apple Music.

The Tidal “Hifi” subscripion tier for 19.99 includes both the CD quality and the high-resolution audio, which Tidal delivers by using the MQA technology. This MQA tech is questionable for reasons I won’t bore you with.

Naim does not support MQA in its streamers, so if you use a Naim streamer, you will not use the MQA part of Tidal “Hifi”. The “Hifi” tier is, however, nevertheless not wasted as you will get the CD quality.

Most people agree that hi-res is not a huge difference to CD quality, at the least it differs between albums. Some sound clearly better in hi-res, some not, some worse. It often depends more on the master that was used, rather than whether it is delivered as hi-res or CD quality. So, it is possible to be happy with Tidal Hifi’s CD quality.

If you do want to listen to real hi-res content with Naim streamers, get a Qobuz account instead of Tidal. Qobuz delivers hi-res without relying on MQA. In many regions, the Qobuz subscription that includes hi-res is even cheaper than Tidal Hifi with MQA.

If you have lots of Apple Music favorites and playlists that you do not want to re-enter in Qobuz or Tidal, google for “Soundiiz”. This is a web service that transfers favorites and playlists between streaming services. I am not sure if this includes Apple Music, but worth checking out. All you would need is a one-month subscription for Soundiiz for $5 or so.

Only you can decide if Qobuz or Tidal brings an improvement to you that you consider worthwhile spending for. Luckily, both Tidal an Qobuz offer free trials.


What an excellent answer, thank you. Ok, on the Tidal app, there isn’t an option “CD quality”, there is “HIFI” “Master,” “High” and “Normal” as options. So the HIFI would be the MQA I presume? Which is CD?

Ah…so “TIDAL HiFi relies on the use of FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec.” -which the Atom does process? And the “Master” is the MQA maybe?

It IS confusingly worded. See here:

Normal = higher-compression
High = less-compression (actually AAC, not mp3, so quite similar to what Apple Music has)
Hifi = CD Quality
Master = MQA hi-res

Normal & High exist because as a “Hifi” tier subscriber you still have the option to configure it like this to save bandwidth, which can be handy in some situations (as described at the above Tidal link)

The usual choice you would select for Naim streamers is Hifi.
Choosing Master (MQA) will not hurt but not have an effect, a Naim streamer will play the CD quality anyway.

Yes, the Atom processes FLAC just fine, both for CD quality and also for hi-res if it is sent as a flac stream. Qobuz uses the FLAC format for hi-res.

The problem with MQA in Tidal is that it is a very different technology that comes saddled with some restrictions, licensing fees, etc., and also debatable technical choices. You will find discussions on this forum if interested. Naim could make the Atom handle it, but there seems to be not very much customer demand.

And yes, “Master” is what Tidal uses to refer to MQA as per the info above.

Glad that my answer was helpful :slight_smile:

Edit: Another thing. If you use the native apps much (e.g., on the go), instead of logging into Qobuz or Tidal within the Naim app*: The Tidal app is in my opinion much better than the Qobuz app. In particular the automatic suggestions and playlists, as well as the curated content. But might also depend on the genres you listen to.

* Using the Naim app for Tidal/Qobuz has at last a theoretical sound quality advantage for now. (Might change in the future). But you might prefer the user interface and features of the Tidal app, so up to you.

And I am sorry to read about the hurricane situation. All the best, I hope at least the money got sorted, if not the actual items!

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AHHHHH!!!..So…”the master quality won’t hurt…” OK…that was my next question. I just went to download the band Wilco and nearly their entire collection is labeled “master.” So it will play CD quality on my Atom. (All this and I haven’t mentioned yesterday I got my Atom and Focal 816s!!)

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I agree, great answer @Suedkiez


You are all so cool. Thank you. I was really kinda bummed. Now, I’ve downloaded the Tidal App, signed up for the HIFI subscription, and am digging the sound. As I said I am on my second day!! with my new Atom and Focal 816s. I bought the Mu-so Qb in July, the V1 for half price (Plugs OK? Sky by Gramophone is a good honest dealer. Highly recommend them. And they have INCREDIBLE specials…ie my 2 for 1 deal on the Focals!) I may be bumbling around doing it, but I’m downloading my catalog and learning the systems. Really digging how the Naim ap is showing the Tidal library. Purchase? Loving it.


Have you tried Qobuz? You could have hires files , streamed by the Atom. Most here find Qobuz as better for sound quality.

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I haven’t. Hires files?

Both Tidal and Qobuz have regular ‘CD quality’ 16/44.1 streams. In addition, Tidal offer an increasing amount of their catalogue in MQA format, which is lossy, but unfolds into a higher res format on hardware that supports it. (Naim streamers do not.)
Qobuz, instead of MQA, offer much of their catalogue in lossless 24 bit FLAC. This is supported by Naim streamers, so you have the option of taking out a trial subscription and comparing it for yourself.

I thought that was all clear after my posts? :slight_smile:

The Tidal Hifi plan includes CD quality, plus the Master quality ( = MQA = Tidal’s version of hi-res(olution) audio, that you cannot use with Naim streamers)

The Qobuz streaming service, however, has plans that also include CD quality plus “real” hi-res delivered in FLAC format that you can use with Naim.

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If it’s non clear with uk language members, I don’t know how it can be clearer with a french chicken :laughing:


The missing (-) messed me up. hires…hi-res…

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Hm. Again, I don’t have a catalog, so everything I’ll have will be downloaded or streamed. As such, my understanding is Roon is pointless for me. Also, I thought Qobuz didn’t have the number of songs Tidal has?

Roon manages your library for you and serves it to your streamer, but you would still need Tidal or Qobuz as well.
I prefer Qobuz and haven’t found their catalogue to be lacking, but you should do the free trial and decide for yourself. Just take care when searching that you aren’t missing out on music that’s actually there, as the search facility doesn’t always work as you would expect. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that something is missing from the catalogue when in fact it’s just that the search hasn’t revealed it. This can apply to both Tidal and Qobuz.


I’ve encountered that with Tidal already. Also, the storage or the ordering/ labeling…whatever…isn’t as nifty as Apple Music. AM is really nice, as far as workable and convenient. But the difference in Tidal is quite noticeable. My new 816s are just KICKING ass I gotta say…

OMG I did not realize Naim was better with Qobuz. I now have a Qobuz account and I think it sounds better than Tidal. Thanks for the tip.


I thought Apple Music was pretty good when I tried it, although Spotify was the best. If you want decent sound quality, though, a lossless stream is the only option I would accept, and that means Tidal or Qobuz.

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I’m happy with Tidal’s HIFI quality. I suppose I should try Qobuz…