Tidal vs CD

With apologies in advance for such a basic question, but is there a qualitative difference between a Tidal streamed track that states “FLAC 44.1kHz 16bit” played on a Uniti Star, and a CD played locally on a Uniti Star?

The same Tidal track also states “(192kHz / Remastered)”, but I can’t work out what the relationship is with the 192kHz and the 44.1kHz above. :confused:


I think they are broadly equivalent.

If the Tidal version is tagged as 192kHz/Remastered, then two things are likely to be the case.

  1. The album (or track) may well be a completely different master from your locally ripped equivalent, and may sound very different indeed. You may prefer the different mix or dislike it, but they will potentially sound very ‘different’.
  2. Anything flagged as higher resolution than 16bit, 44.1kHz on Tidal will be a Tidal MQA Master. This may mean that it doesn’t sound as good on any device (such as the Uniti Star) which doesn’t support the MQA ‘format’. Experiment and try for yourself. Note - MQA is pretty controversial and I don’t want to get into this side of things.

In the event that there is a 2nd version of the album on Tidal (tagged as 16bit, 44.1) then I would expect this to sound more or less the same as your locally stored and streamed version. Some Naim users are of the opinion that Tidal albums do not sound as good as local rips when played on Naim devices. Some say that if you were to use Roon as your front end then any differences might disappear. I do not use Naim DACs and streamers so I cannot advise you on this, but on my own systems, differences between identical versions of albums on my local NAS and streamed from Tidal are minimal.


There has been a lot of discussion here about the difference between Tidal and (mainly ripped) CD quality. First you have to be sure they are from the same master, otherwise you are not comparing like with like.
Most have said that Tidal played on a Naim streamer doesn’t sound as good as a ripped CD from local storage. How this compares with any particular CD player is another matter.

I think that might hold true when streaming Tidal natively by the Naim streamer… since the streamer may have to work harder at the network level and certainly transcode FLAC to PCM its understandable.
When using an external proxy such as Roon or BubbleUPnPServer that transcodes to stream Tidal on a Naim streamer, then most say there is no qualitative difference with all things being equal … and indeed underneath the covers local and cloud streaming they look the same as far as the Naim streamer is concerned.
In fact Roon seamlessly blends local and cloud storage… you soon find you can loose track of the physical media location… there is no SQ cue to tell you… you have to look it up on the Roon app… I found this removed my initial expectation bias. However when listening to Tidal natively on my streamer, I can hear a difference, though less marked with the second generation streamers compared to the legacy streamers.

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Thanks all, very interesting. But one thing I still don’t understand is how a single track on Tidal can be labelled as both 44.1kHz and 192kHz at the same time. Is the 192kHz the recording, and the 44.1kHz the streaming? And if so, is there any benefit of the higher recording rate to me, the end user?

["FLAC 44.1kHz 16bit” / “(192kHz / Remastered)”]

Its because the file is MQA encoded. Think of MQA encoded file as a lossy hi definition addition to a core lossless standard definition file - where the additional information is merged or dithered into the base standard definition file. Consequently MQA files support interoperability with regular lossless PCM decoders (albeit FLAC encoded here) and so the MQA encoded file can be played back by a regular lossless PCM DAC albeit with a slight loss of quality (effective reduced bit depth/dynamic range - in practice around 14 bits or less and reduced SNR) compared to a true PCM file without MQA encoding.

Indeed, but I thought perhaps it was a bit early to introduce this idea into the conversation. No harm in the OP going for a free trial of Roon though.
Out of curiosity, if one of the issues with Tidal is watermarking, is a proxy server able to remove this where streaming it using the native Naim or Tidal app can’t?

I have found no evidence of watermarking - and I know it was discussed a few years ago being applied to purchased downloads, some CDs and streaming - but I did try a few tools and I couldn’t see anything.

Perhaps it was looked at some time back or was used on certain masters prior to distribution… I know a different method is usually used now with streaming services - that if the stream is to be stored as a file for later playback it is encrypted and validated by the player. However downloads and CDs can’t be protected that way - so might be more applicable for watermarking. But as I say I could find no evidence in any of the recordings I have

Thanks Simon, I can’t remember where I read about the watermarking issue, but I understood it to be on Tidal streams. Maybe that’s not what was meant - or perhaps it applies to Tidal downloads for offline listening on mobile devices?

Yes when Tidal first started there was much talk about watermarking with certain distributors of all their content … but you don’t see much mention of it now … but if used by a distributor almost certainly it will be applied to the distribution masters and I would expect to appear on all media versions - from CD, download and streaming, online etc.
Certainly a few tools out there to play with, and watermarking seems to be good business for those in recorded music production

Thanks for this information Simon. I do try to select non MQA versions but sometimes there isn’t one!

I decided to revisit Qobuz again after reporting on the old forum that I found it not to be as good as Tidal ( I have no explantion for it). I’m now paying for Qobuz and Tidal and I’m now really happy with the quality of Qobuz - there are some things on Tidal that aren’t on Qobuz so I’ll run both concurrently for a short while - although if it gets to be so little then I may as well have a Spotify sub with a better selection of obscure material.

Hi Guinnless,

If you play an MQA file at standard resolution on Tidal and compare it to the none MQA file on Qobuz, assuming there are some, do you hear any difference?


Guinnless, what I did find is that the default Tidal application seems not that good at finding obscure and less mainstream material or searching against certain criteria or even back catalogue of certain artists - when i used Roon as an effective frontend to Tidal (and Roon can front end Qobuz as well) I found the depth of material seemed to increase significantly - including some very obscure and interesting material indeed.
So perhaps Tidal could benefit at improving the library function on their app - and in the mean time you have the option of using Roon for fetching those more obscure and harder to find titles.

Some of the very niche titles are only on AAC though

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I may be missing something, but I do find it frustrating that I can’t see what the encoding is on the Tidal bit within the Naim app until after the track starts.

I haven’t done any back to back comparisons of MQA vs Qobuz although I was actually thinking of trying MQA vs non MQA on Tidal. Thats seems to be a comparison with fewer variables…possibly.

Thanks to Bubble I’m not stuck to Tidal as I probably won’t want to run both Qobuz and Tidal subs concurrently forever. I could drop Tidal to MP3 but that is the same price as Spotify and for obscure and/or low volume artists (like I saw on Friday night - Becky Langan) it would be a better option, I think.
Google music is another option and a free trial is avavilable.

It’s Tidal’s choice to use MQA instead of native 24bit streams of course but I think they could be missing out as time goes on.

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Simon, I wouln’t consider Roon as I’m on a 1st gen streamer (ND5XS>nDAC>XPS). When searching on Tidal I do try various search criteria to find what I want as sometimes as you imply it’s not always obvious.

I’ve come across a couple of AAC albums for obscure stuff which I don’t mind too much really, and I’ll buy it if possible if I enjoy it.

If as rumoured Naim adopts Qobuz native I think Tidal will lose a lot of Naim customers as MQA is not a viable option, even if it were desirable.

Could be interesting :grinning:

I kind of doubt that - as the Naim design team - admittedly some months ago - told us why they wouldn’t do that - it is not commercially effective and Qobuz was not available in many of the Naim target markets and customer base.
The strategy is (was) to support Chromecast, Roon and Airplay as service aggregators for support of new services globally… and out of those three Roon has the potential to be equivalent to local UPnP in terms of SQ - no doubt the reason why Naim chose it for their new streamer products