Why does TIDAL HiFi indicate that it is streaming FLAC 44.1 kHz via NAIM app when I am HIFI customer and Tidal claim streaming at Master quality (96 kHz/24 bit)

Hi everyone,

I have a TIDAL HiFi account and therefore access to streaming of TIDAL’s MASTER quality tracks. However when I access TIDAL via the NAIM app on my ipod, which is controling my NAIM UnitiLite, these MASTER tracks when they are streaming are indicating in the APP that they re just FLAC 44.1 kHz streaming. It seems that all tracks (TIDAL MASTER and NORMAL) are indicated as FLAC 44.1 kHz. So, my question is whether this streaming bit rate indication is a default number and I am streaming HiRes or if Ithe indication is correct and I am not streaming HiRes.

Thanks for any advice here.

Best regards and hope you are all coping with the Corona Virus through your NAIM support devices.

Panini

Because the Naim integration into Tidal only accesses the ‘Redbook’ FLAC versions.

If you want to access the Tidal Masters and unfold the MQA format, you will either a Roon based integration or a native Tidal app with digital output.
I use a Roon integration into my NDS, I can either play the Tidal Masters or the local MQA files.

Dear Simon, thanks for the reply. So I am not getting the Master versions at the moment through my NAIM system as I now understand. Would Qobus HiRes work with the NAIM intergration?

Thanks

Panini

Yes the Qobus HiRes works fine. I did have Tidal HiRes for 2 + years and switched recently to Qobus after a 30 day free trial. It was also $5.00 less each month for the service. Give it a try…

IIUC Tidal hi res is MQA encoded, a proprietary high compression process that requires two stages of ‘unfold’ to get it back to nominally the full hi res, one in the renderer and the other in the DAC itself. Some people say they can hear artefacts or not as good as plain hi res, some people say it sounds better, and some people say they sound the same. Qobuz on the other hand is straight streaming of high res music and so I assume should pay exactly as it is - hi res, though of course the vagaries of streaming across the internet risks it being not necessarily as good as locally stored hi res.

Only with the new streamers. The old streamers don’t integrate Qobuz streaming.

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When Tidal sees that you are using a device that doesn’t support MQA, it automatically sends a regular 16/44 stream instead. Personally, I don’t hear anything that would persuade me to use MQA, having heard a few systems that support it, and I was happy to stick with regular Tidal 16/44. Qobuz does give you proper 24/96 or 24/192 on quite a large part of its catalogue, but your Unitilite doesn’t support Qobuz integration.

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Second that. Just got a ndx and Tidal flac sounds great. I had a first-unfold mqa Tidal streamer before with a naim dac and it was certainly not as good in presentation.
Native Tidal on ndx also feels superior to locally streamed hires Flac in my own basic testing through both Wi-Fi and wired, atleast for my setup. Maybe a basic pc with bubbleupnp and asus router isnt a fair audiophile end though.

Hi, yes Tidal uses MQA lossy compression for anything that is econded greater than 44.1/16.
MQA is like the hidef equivalent of MP3, it compresses information by discarding aspects that might not that be that noticeable by adding artefacts or ‘distortions’ that are usually not deemed that noticeable. For the avoidance of doubt however the MQA compression algorithm works very differently from MP3 compression.

MQA needs licencable software to decode as well encode, unlike MP3 which is just for encode I believe. Naim have not included MQA decoding software in their products at this time, due to as, they say limited customer demand. My personal view given the increasing availability of lossless hidef PCM from other streaming services they might be unlikely to do so.

Qobuz however uses lossless PCM, upto 192/24, and that is fully compatible with Naim and contains no encoding/decoding artefacts other than for regular baseline PCM.

My observation is that many of the PCM distribution masters that are likely used to create the lossy compressed MQA encoded variant, would appear available natively as lossless PCM on services like Qobuz.

It is worth noting that MQA requires (from reading it’s patent) eq manipulation in the DAC reconstruction low pass filter compared to PCM to compensate to some extent for frequency response encoding/decoding errors associated with the MQA orocess, and so on many DACs is likely to sound different compared to PCM irrespective of overall SQ.

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I can’t comment here.

  1. My NDS doesn’t have the Qobuz integration,
  2. I use Roon exclusively to manage playback to my NDS
  3. Roon comes with Qobuz integration, so I wouldn’t use a Naim integration anyway
  4. I am happy with Tidal, and the support for Tidal Masters
  5. Until recently Qobuz was a upfront Annual cost, more than Tidal

A question is, with our streamers, to know if Hires files gives a really, 100% of times, superior discernable quality over the “Redbook” 44.1/16 FLAC files.

Because of COVID-19, I spend a lot of time to listen and compare… and I am not sure it is the case… sometimes it seems, sometimes not… and it is not reproductible day to day for the same test.

One thing sure : the Qobuz catalog is much more appropriate for me than Tidal one (but in France, the monthly fees are 5 EUR more than Tidal for Hires, same at 20 EUR for 44.1/16 FLAC).

Sorry to be pedantic, but there is no such thing as ‘Redbook’ files… Redbook is an audio CD format standard and physical specification that consists of one ‘file’ and TOC,

I think you mean 44.1/16 PCM audio files. You can create such files, or any other file for that matter, from audio (Redbook) CDs by using ripping software. But the Redbook CD itself does not consist of 44.1/16 files, these can only be created by the ripping software.

I very much doubt streaming services use ripped files from Redbook CDs… it does conjure up some amusing images however, they will use the media content as provided by the distributors/labels

Yes Simon, you are right : I mean 44.1/16 PCM (Qobuz HiFi offer). I made some adjustments in my precedent post to be more precise. Thanks :wink:

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Dear all,

Thanks you fro all the feedback, this really is the best forum and such a wealth of knowledge and experience. In summary from all the comments, I think i gleaned the foolwoing about my situation:

  1. Qobus looks to be a better way forward than Tidal. Reasons are a) their use of lossless PCM which Simon-in-Suffock explained so well, b) it works fine with NAIM integration (seaKayaker).

  2. My Unililite is probably one of the “older” models and is not able to integrate Qobuz HiRes streaming (ChrisSU) and I know that Tidal also does not stream HiRes for a number of reasons

  3. My only simple option for HiRes streaming is to go with Roon integration into my Unitilite and Roon comes with Qobuz integration. Is this coorect?

Thanks

Panini

Please the MQA format, as used by Tidal Masters, once unfolded works perfectly well with a Naim network player, as HiRes audio.
Once you are setup with a Roon environment you can play the same track via Tidal Masters, Qobuz, local PCM and local MQA files and LISTEN to see if there is a difference.
From what I have listened too - local stored is better than internet streamed, and then there is nothing to differenticate between Tidal Master and Qobuz.
BTW the Naim integration with Tidal, playing a ‘standard’ Tidal 16/44 is bottom.

Correct

Incorrect - it does with Tidal Master, but to extract the HiRes (upto 24/96) an element of software based processing is required, either in a Tidal app on the PC/Mac/Phone or in a Roon Core.

Correct

Would seem like a reasonable deduction.
So then you will get the better UI, enhanced metadata, ability to support different hardware in additional endpoints, hetergenous multi-room, Tidal Master playback and Qobuz integration. Plus support for formats outside a Naim network player, plus future proofing on streaming integrations, formats etc., desktop support etc.

Hi, your Unitilite doesn’t support Roon either. You could add it by spending about £200 on a Sonore UPnP Bridge, or possibly by running Roon through LMS if you can be bothered to set it up.

Aaaah. this is bad news.

Here is a crazy idea. I have a Chord Mojo that I use with headphones. How about I just stream HiRes via Qobuz app from my ipad, then through the Mojo and connect the output from the Mojo to the Unitilite. Would that work and still put HiRes through the system?

Thanks for any help here, the simple seems to be getting more illusive with more information.

Panini

Yes, Mojo to analogue in on the Unitilite would work fine. You’ll need a 3.5mm jack to 2 x RCA lead.

Simon there are plenty of people who do not care to unfold MQA and if you are going to use MQA you might as well move to a system that supports MQA completely. Spending several hundred dollars on Roon software plus hardware just to support Tidal does make any sense. If you are buying Roon for other reasons fine, but to support TIDAL, just not worth the money or effort.

JMHO - YMMV

Just for awareness, not everyone prefers the Roon UI, or what it does or doesn’t do with metadata, or considers that what it gives is value for money - it seems to be a bit of a love-it or hate-it thing, maybe depending on personal attitudes and habits in relation to both library approach and playing approach. However, what is undeniably good is that it is available for free trial! I suggest doing a free trial to assess the UI and feel for what Roon does, initially using whatever is the cheapest (ideally free) implementation (e.g, on a computer you already have) before buying anything only for Roon use.