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CD vs Tidal vs Qobuz - battle of the 16 bit 44.1kHz audio files. Studio Monitors
Old 27th March 2017
  #1
CD vs Tidal vs Qobuz - battle of the 16 bit 44.1kHz audio files.

Been testing CD vs Tidal vs Qobuz. Both Tidal and Qobuz are their Hi-Fi packages meaning 16 bit 44.1kHz audio streaming (and downloading for offline content). No Normalisation is on (just old school level matching ;-) ) and all settings have been made to only play at 16/44.1 and never downgrade over Wi-Fi etc.

This test has been going on for some time over a variety of systems and various connections. From my mastering studio monitoring chain (Barefoots/Prism/USB/Masterlink AES/Jack cables/Browser) to laptop with a couple of cheap earphones and earbuds, to iPhone over home Bluetooth speaker, and even the car CD player against USB and headphone jack inputs.

Lots of paths to compare basically. Lots of genres played too - including reference files I know extremely well. I have to say I enjoy listening at this level of detail compared to the lossy formats that were the previous options for most streaming platforms. I wasn't expecting a difference due to the same bit depth and frequency but I found there was.

Perhaps it is the apparently lossless FLAC conversion that is used from the CD files.
Perhaps something doesn't quite make it over the thousands of miles of network cables the internet delivers the files at.
Also Bluetooth is different to jack cable - personally I found the jack to be slightly truer to the CD than BT.
CD AES is slightly different to Analog out. Which is correct who knows? A difficiency in one method can easily be countered with a difficiency in the other's. e.g. the AES digital ports of either device or the analog XLR cable etc. All are high grade but none the less it still is relevant.

I enjoy all platforms. Perhaps Tidal more but it can feel a bit 'enhanced' in the low mids and almost transient designer up top. Qobuz is close to CD but missing a fraction of low end, which makes reverb tails and trebles slightly more obvious to me.

CD still rules in my opinion.
More 3D and slightly wider. Balanced and the most natural.

Of course - you can't compare the ease for the consumer though. Having a portable device hold your CD collection at this quality is fantastic, and a modern triumph we should all appreciate.
Attached Thumbnails
CD vs Tidal vs Qobuz - battle of the 16 bit 44.1kHz audio files.-img_0272.jpg  
Old 27th March 2017
  #2
Lives for gear
 

As it should be

It would seem that cd should be better but what do you mean by transient designer in TIDAL, are the highs tipped up smoothed out or what? Also I would interpret that Qobuz is a bit leaner, Am I reading this right?
Old 27th March 2017
  #3
By the transient designer effect in Tidal - I mean a little 'drier' (slightly less sustain) and more snap (attack) than the CD.

Yes Qobuz is slightly leaner than CD (& Tidal) to my ears.

Fastly played music is clearer in Qobuz, but the kicks and snares in Tidal really give some groove to tracks that is quite pleasing.
Old 27th March 2017
  #4
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comfortablynick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zac Zikis View Post
Perhaps it is the apparently lossless FLAC conversion that is used from the CD files.
No, FLAC is more than "apparently lossless." It can be demonstrated to be exactly the same as the source once decoded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zac Zikis View Post
Perhaps something doesn't quite make it over the thousands of miles of network cables the internet delivers the files at.
Certainly it's possible that something doesn't make it over a network connection. If that happens, though, you would be likely to experience a dropout or a nasty digital click — something very obvious. What you won't hear is 'missing a fraction of low end'. That's how analog signals work, but not how digital signals work. The low end isn't going to just get lost along the way somewhere.

Are you 100% certain that you are comparing the exact same masters? A difference in mastering could cause tonal differences such as you are describing. You must isolate that variable because mastering differences are going to be 1000x greater than a supposed difference in lossless formats. Could you take one song and post a clip of each format you are comparing? I'm sure some of the folks here more knowledgeable than I would be able to assist in figuring out why they sound different when they should not.
Old 27th March 2017
  #5
Theory may say it's exact, but my ears hear different.
I did make sure about the same mastering as far as I could control. So if a CD was a deluxe version, I used the same Deluxe version that appears on that platform.
The fact is it happened to so many albums across many different devices and connections, so it started to become more like a sonic signature to me.
I don't think copyright law would allow me to make the recordings you ask. I would urge you to try the free streaming trials against CD's you own.
Old 27th March 2017
  #6
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comfortablynick's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zac Zikis View Post
Theory may say it's exact, but my ears hear different.
I did make sure about the same mastering as far as I could control. So if a CD was a deluxe version, I used the same Deluxe version that appears on that platform.
The fact is it happened to so many albums across many different devices and connections, so it started to become more like a sonic signature to me.
I don't think copyright law would allow me to make the recordings you ask. I would urge you to try the free streaming trials against CD's you own.
If it's the same master, wouldn't you rather figure out what's going on than to just assume that all streaming services have a "sonic signature"? If what you say is true, I would say the companies involved may be lying to the customers, since you aren't getting a lossless copy of the source.

I have tried the various streaming services and never noticed a sonic signature. I did test a Qobuz file against the same exact master on CD, and it was digitally identical as expected and sounded the same. I did not do blind testing because I couldn't tell a difference during a sighted test.

You could certainly post 30 second clips of the examples you're referring to, to show what differences you're hearing. Please do so, it will really help us figure it out and possibly help improve one or more of these products.
Old 28th March 2017
  #7
Did you check the Level ? My Versions for digital distribution are lower than the CD Master...
Old 28th March 2017
  #8
Yes - level matched by ear (volume wise), but if you are asking about integrated loudness metering then sorry no.
Old 30th March 2017
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zac Zikis View Post
Theory may say it's exact, but my ears hear different.
I did make sure about the same mastering as far as I could control. So if a CD was a deluxe version, I used the same Deluxe version that appears on that platform.
The fact is it happened to so many albums across many different devices and connections, so it started to become more like a sonic signature to me.
I don't think copyright law would allow me to make the recordings you ask. I would urge you to try the free streaming trials against CD's you own.
That's an interesting observation.

As Nick notes, when everything is set up properly, a FLAC should deliver essentially a bit-perfect copy of the audio. Network problems would not, as a rule, manifest as 'micro-degradation' of sound quality but, as noted, as glitches. Interrupting digital audio transport over a network is going to 'break' playback, not degrade it in any sort of consistent manner.

Bluetooth -- it should be written in big letters in stone somewhere -- has a lossy codec wired into its audio-transport layer. If you supply true lossless audio to it, you'll should get the best case scenario, with only one layer of lossy compression. But, if, as most folks do, one supplies an already lossy-encoded audio file for transport over BT, it will be re-encoded in BT's internal lossy format -- 'multiplying' the degradation (just as if you were to make an mp3 of an mp3).

None of that is to necessarily doubt your observations, but rather to further lay out the realities within which those observations fit.
Old 30th March 2017
  #10
At any rate (pun grudgingly acknowledged), this topic is of particularly timely interest to me because -- as a decade-plus veteran of subscription streaming who has used 7 different stream services -- I last night experimented with Tidal's lossless 'Hi Fi' tier for the first time.

Now, let me say right off that -- as someone who has ABX tested various lossy codecs at a wide variety of bitrates, someone who has been able to reliably differentiate 256 kbps from 320 kbps (in properly made mp3s using the highest quality setting of the LAME encoder) but not differentiate such 320s from full lossless -- I really did not expect to tell a reliably noticeable difference between Tidal's lossless and my current streamer Google Play Music's 320 kbps playback.

But I could. And, while subtle, it was nonetheless consistently noticeable on a familiar reference album (in fact, the same one I had earlier used in my own 320 mp3 vs lossless testing. (I have a pretty good PB system and have done a lot of codec testing; others might not be able to discern as readily.)

This was NOT what I wanted to hear.

For one thing, I really like much about GPM, it has the best queue and playlist editing/management of any of the players I've used. But Tidal's queue management is HORRIBLE. There's no multi-select. You can only move or delete one track at a time in the list. If, say, you want to end play at the end of the current track, you have to go into the queue and delete each upcoming track one at a time.

(Of course, you can simply hit the CLEAR button and delete everything from the queue, halting PB immediately. By contrast, with GPM you just shift-click to select a block of tracks; you can also ctrl-click to select/unselect individual tracks; very handy! From there, you can delete or move the bloc of tracks around -- and, unlike some players I've used, dragging a track or group moves the queue window up or down to give access to the full queue.*)

Of course, if you're the kind of listener who only listens to an album at a time, in original sequence, that's not going to be a big deal. But for those of us who like to get hands on with what's playing and in what order, sequencing tracks in the queue or in a playlist, just so, Tidal may seem like a big step backwards over a good queue system like GPM's.

[FWIW, while there are some good features in Spotify -- I really like that if fades in and out of pauses and such, and while not a good option fidelity-wise, their integrated program compression may not be as good as something like ReplayGain would be, it's better than the nothing most of the others give in terms of evening up track levels on the fly -- but, for the way I play, that Spotify queue is abysmal.]


* With regard to the 'stop/pause-after-current' option missing in both Tidal and GPM, I have to note that I use a free, third party desktop GPM work-alike player** that has a few extra options [like an alternate color scheme to replace GPM's annoyingly fast-food-looking orange-and-white color scheme] and, notably, a pause-after-current option.

(Now, it has to be noted that that pause-after-current feature is mildly 'compromised' by GPM's gapless playback caching; if you invoke it in the last 45 seconds or so of a track, you're going to hear a snippet of the next track before it stops; it's similar to what happens if you change the queue order in the same time window; in this regard, Tidal behaves about the same if you delete or move the next track in the last part of the current song.)
** [Google Play Music Desktop Player Unofficial is the current, unwieldy name you'll find it under when you search Google Chrome Extensions for it]
Old 30th March 2017
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
Bluetooth -- it should be written in big letters in stone somewhere -- has a lossy codec wired into its audio-transport layer. If you supply true lossless audio to it, you'll should get the best case scenario, with only one layer of lossy compression. But, if, as most folks do, one supplies an already lossy-encoded audio file for transport over BT, it will be re-encoded in BT's internal lossy format -- 'multiplying' the degradation (just as if you were to make an mp3 of an mp3
Well explained. As mentioned many connections were used and same results. What I find interesting is with the Bluetooth connection. Even though both services use FLAC 16/44.1 (so using a lossless source) they both would have undergone the same lossy codec degradation when BT was being used for playback due to the transport codec as you pointed out. So if they are exactly the same file, both being degraded exactly the same way by BT playback, they should still sound identical right? But they do not (to me). Tidal sounds different to Qobuz even when both are coming from same device going to the same destination.

The reason I tested this option initially was because my wife had Qobuz and I had Tidal on different devices. I couldn't understand why they sounded different playing the same material going to the same BT destination. This is what led me to get both platforms on the one device to compare and remove some of the possible variables of using different devices. As I say it was still the same result.

So I can only deduct that perhaps something is going on within the players that give the sonic signatures I hear. I'm not saying they add a final playback EQ or anything, but perhaps for some reason each player has its own tone when audio is run through them. Perhaps one is a little inferior to the source compared to the other.

I don't think it is possible to take the player out of the equation by using a 3rd party player instead unfortunately, so can't test this.
Old 31st March 2017
  #12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zac Zikis View Post
Well explained. As mentioned many connections were used and same results. What I find interesting is with the Bluetooth connection. Even though both services use FLAC 16/44.1 (so using a lossless source) they both would have undergone the same lossy codec degradation when BT was being used for playback due to the transport codec as you pointed out. So if they are exactly the same file, both being degraded exactly the same way by BT playback, they should still sound identical right? But they do not (to me). Tidal sounds different to Qobuz even when both are coming from same device going to the same destination.

The reason I tested this option initially was because my wife had Qobuz and I had Tidal on different devices. I couldn't understand why they sounded different playing the same material going to the same BT destination. This is what led me to get both platforms on the one device to compare and remove some of the possible variables of using different devices. As I say it was still the same result.

So I can only deduct that perhaps something is going on within the players that give the sonic signatures I hear. I'm not saying they add a final playback EQ or anything, but perhaps for some reason each player has its own tone when audio is run through them. Perhaps one is a little inferior to the source compared to the other.

I don't think it is possible to take the player out of the equation by using a 3rd party player instead unfortunately, so can't test this.
Thanks for the extra info. That's really interesting. I think your reasoning sounds pretty solid, so maybe it's our assumptions.

With regard to hidden 'sonic signature' EQ 'enhancements' -- it would not be the first time a player did something like that. There were, as I recall a number of versions of Windows Media Player (4 through ? I think) that had a not so slight bass bump built in. I remember upgrading from WMP 3 to 4 (I think it was -- this was 20+ years ago) and immediately saying to myself, 'Whoa, Nellybelle!' I'm sure they thought they were trying to be helpful, thinking we were all listening over 2.5" desktop 'computer speakers' -- not 200w/ch biamped 8" monsters. The bass bump sounded stupid and muddy so I switched players and never looked back. (Pretty sure they got rid of the boost at some point, probably over a decade ago, but, WMP, huh? )
Old 31st March 2017
  #13
BTW, I'm no audio data protocol expert (as I often note about some topic or other before sticking my foot in my mouth) but I've read some persuasive reasoning that BT audio for music could be improved if they 'just' updated the protocol to allow un-data-compressed transmission of files already flagged as data-compressed. That said, I think they decided to enforce a 'maximum' bandwidth -- to fit within the maximum b/w of BT -- by brute compressing everything and letting the gods of the Internet sort it out.
Old 31st March 2017
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
With regard to hidden 'sonic signature' EQ 'enhancements' -- it would not be the first time a player did something like that.
...in order to be the platform everyone can't help but subscribe to, cos it just sounds so good compared to the competition? Surely not.
Old 31st March 2017
  #15



Imagine being the first person to plug an early pair of already boomy, bassy Beats headphones into WMP during its bass-enhanced phase...
Old 2nd April 2017
  #16
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by theblue1 View Post
At any rate (pun grudgingly acknowledged), this topic is of particularly timely interest to me because -- as a decade-plus veteran of subscription streaming who has used 7 different stream services -- I last night experimented with Tidal's lossless 'Hi Fi' tier for the first time.

Now, let me say right off that -- as someone who has ABX tested various lossy codecs at a wide variety of bitrates, someone who has been able to reliably differentiate 256 kbps from 320 kbps (in properly made mp3s using the highest quality setting of the LAME encoder) but not differentiate such 320s from full lossless -- I really did not expect to tell a reliably noticeable difference between Tidal's lossless and my current streamer Google Play Music's 320 kbps playback.

But I could. And, while subtle, it was nonetheless consistently noticeable on a familiar reference album (in fact, the same one I had earlier used in my own 320 mp3 vs lossless testing. (I have a pretty good PB system and have done a lot of codec testing; others might not be able to discern as readily.)

This was NOT what I wanted to hear.

For one thing, I really like much about GPM, it has the best queue and playlist editing/management of any of the players I've used. But Tidal's queue management is HORRIBLE. There's no multi-select. You can only move or delete one track at a time in the list. If, say, you want to end play at the end of the current track, you have to go into the queue and delete each upcoming track one at a time.

(Of course, you can simply hit the CLEAR button and delete everything from the queue, halting PB immediately. By contrast, with GPM you just shift-click to select a block of tracks; you can also ctrl-click to select/unselect individual tracks; very handy! From there, you can delete or move the bloc of tracks around -- and, unlike some players I've used, dragging a track or group moves the queue window up or down to give access to the full queue.*)

Of course, if you're the kind of listener who only listens to an album at a time, in original sequence, that's not going to be a big deal. But for those of us who like to get hands on with what's playing and in what order, sequencing tracks in the queue or in a playlist, just so, Tidal may seem like a big step backwards over a good queue system like GPM's.

[FWIW, while there are some good features in Spotify -- I really like that if fades in and out of pauses and such, and while not a good option fidelity-wise, their integrated program compression may not be as good as something like ReplayGain would be, it's better than the nothing most of the others give in terms of evening up track levels on the fly -- but, for the way I play, that Spotify queue is abysmal.]


* With regard to the 'stop/pause-after-current' option missing in both Tidal and GPM, I have to note that I use a free, third party desktop GPM work-alike player** that has a few extra options [like an alternate color scheme to replace GPM's annoyingly fast-food-looking orange-and-white color scheme] and, notably, a pause-after-current option.

(Now, it has to be noted that that pause-after-current feature is mildly 'compromised' by GPM's gapless playback caching; if you invoke it in the last 45 seconds or so of a track, you're going to hear a snippet of the next track before it stops; it's similar to what happens if you change the queue order in the same time window; in this regard, Tidal behaves about the same if you delete or move the next track in the last part of the current song.)
** [Google Play Music Desktop Player Unofficial is the current, unwieldy name you'll find it under when you search Google Chrome Extensions for it]
Would you be able to compare the Tidal file (x1) vs the CD file (y) of recordings that are from the same source master? If you have those 2 files, you could make a x minus y file and see if the difference is zero. Right?

You could do the same for Qobuz (x2), thusly: x2-y

We would expect the difference to be zero. If we still hear differences, how could that be?
Old 2nd April 2017
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by svarthvitt View Post
Would you be able to compare the Tidal file (x1) vs the CD file (y) of recordings that are from the same source master? If you have those 2 files, you could make a x minus y file and see if the difference is zero. Right?

You could do the same for Qobuz (x2), thusly: x2-y

We would expect the difference to be zero. If we still hear differences, how could that be?
We may not quite be on the same page but let me try to answer anyhow...

I'm not sure that there might not be possible differences between the headers of two separately encoded lossless files. (Both Qobuz and Tidal use FLAC per their own sites, but there is at least one other lossless format kicking around, ALAC, aka, Apple Lossless.) But, everything else being equal, I assume that two lossless files extracted from the same source file should null when combined out of phase. But I haven't had access to Qobuz.

(And, for that matter, my brief experience with Tidal was limited to one day when a friend logged in at my place and allowed me to play with it for the rest of the day. Did I mention I really hate the user interface and queue? YMMV but I really hate it. That and ten bucks a month is going to keep me on GPM for now; but if GPM were to move up to lossless, though, I'd have to make the jump.)


But, of course, my ('unfair') comparison was between Google Play Music's 320 kbps lossy and Tidal's FLAC lossless. So, of course, there would be no chance of solid nulling between the Tidal lossless and a lossy file with normal source material.

The point of my lament was that, having, myself, been previously unable to reliably differentiate in ABX testing a properly made 320 mp3 (using LAME at highest processing quality settings) from a full CD quality file (even though I could tell a LAME encoded 256 from a 320 on a familiar ref music file), I was then surprised to find a noticeable difference (using the respective stream library versions of the same reference album) between Google Play Music's 320 codec output and the Tidal lossless.

Obviously, it wouldn't be surprising to find a difference in the data between the lossy and lossless files; I was simply surprised (based on the above-described earlier ABX testing of my own 320 mp3 and CD quality) to be able to personally hear a noticeable difference in sonic quality between GPM's 320 and lossless using the same source album release. My takeaway on that is that the 320 kbps lossy codec or settings Google is using produced less than ideal-for-320 results. (I've looked repeatedly but have never found them specifically saying what codec they use, whether its part of their own codec library [I'd presumed Vorbis or hopefully Opus since they replaced the former with the latter in their WebM video codec and Opus is reputed by some to be the best quality audio codec available].)

At any rate, whatever, I was definitely disappointed to be able to hear a distinct difference (that I perceived primarily as a lack of HF definition/subtlety). I do have to say, though, that it's not a complete shock, as I'd ABX'd the late, lamented MOG's 320 mp3s against Google's 320 whatever back in Feb 2014 when I was looking for a new streaming home as Beats began shutting down MOG -- and at that time I'd noticed a subtle but differentiable difference in ABX testing between the two codecs; I prefered the MOG. Still, I'd had the [vague and untested] impression that Google had stepped up their codec at some point in the last 3 years; maybe -- apparently -- not.

More on Opus codec: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opus_(audio_format)


Anyhow, sorry for the confusion. I suspect it was my apples/oranges 'comparison' that threw off the dialog.

Last edited by theblue1; 3rd April 2017 at 07:50 PM..
Old 30th June 2017
  #18
Here for the gear
 

As it has been stated, the software used the play the files could have as significant an impact on the sound signature as anything else in the chain. If Beats can fool the masses with grossly amplified bass, it isn't crazy to think that Tidal would attempt to fool audiophiles with more delicate enhancement of certain frequencies that makes the music sound more 'fun'.

I would argue that in any test, both the device and the software used to play the tracks need to be identical. Otherwise, you are wasting your time carefully setting up the rest of your digital chain.

I would suggest using the USB Audio Player Pro app for Android, on the basis that I can stream directly from both Qobuz and Tidal, can play a WAV rip of a CD, and can output directly with a USB DAC. This would satisfy the requirements for uniformity that I stated above.

If you can hear differences in the services with this configuration, you are either not listening to the same masters; or either Qobuz, Tidal, or the CD manufacturer are flat out lying about their product.

Last edited by ryanfu; 30th June 2017 at 07:39 PM.. Reason: Addition info necessary
Old 10th July 2017
  #19
USB Audio Player Pro app

Quote:
Originally Posted by ryanfu View Post
As it has been stated, the software used the play the files could have as significant an impact on the sound signature as anything else in the chain. If Beats can fool the masses with grossly amplified bass, it isn't crazy to think that Tidal would attempt to fool audiophiles with more delicate enhancement of certain frequencies that makes the music sound more 'fun'.

I would argue that in any test, both the device and the software used to play the tracks need to be identical. Otherwise, you are wasting your time carefully setting up the rest of your digital chain.

I would suggest using the USB Audio Player Pro app for Android, on the basis that I can stream directly from both Qobuz and Tidal, can play a WAV rip of a CD, and can output directly with a USB DAC. This would satisfy the requirements for uniformity that I stated above.

If you can hear differences in the services with this configuration, you are either not listening to the same masters; or either Qobuz, Tidal, or the CD manufacturer are flat out lying about their product.
Ooh now this is interesting indeed! If the USB Audio Player Pro app completely bypasses the Qobuz and Tidal Players - this is exactly what's needed.

I do not have Android, and they don't quote Prism converters in their supported list either, but perhaps they just haven't tested that brand yet, and it likely works. I shall try and get my hands on an Android to test this if I can.

Unless there is an equivalent iPhone app?
Old 12th November 2017
  #20
Pno
Gear Maniac
I just started using Tidal HiFi myself...I can really tell the difference between it and Apple Music...really a huge difference...I really noticed it on a sound system I installed recently were I corrected the whole system with FIR filters (music playback system)...also gone off Apple music as it keeps replacing my lossless files with its compressed junk.

Tidal "Master" recordings do sound really good...not sure I could blind test them against CD, but maybe...I would be nice to do some null tests with Tidal vs. CD vs. possibly some DSD rips.
Old 12th November 2017
  #21
A few months back I was able to test Tidal lossless against Google Play Music. I'd already been able to tell between the LAME-prepared 320 mp3s that MOG used and Google's 320's (my impression was that MOG* sounded better) -- I believe Google uses the Fraunhofer codec for licensing reasons, possibly on a 'quick' processing setting (for cheapness reasons). Anyhow, I was able to differentiate in ABX testing and I felt MOG sounded better.

So I wasn't at all surprised that Tidal sounded noticeably better to me than GPM. And if THAT was all there is to a music streamer (for me), I'd be $10 poorer a month but listening to lossless.

But, for me, player usability and convenience is kind of a big deal. I'm not the kind of guy who just listens to a robo-stream or plays just one album at a time. I tend to monkey around with the song order, make 'programming' decisions on the fly, respond to whim, do last minute 'clever' segues, etc. A flexible player with good queue and playlist editing/management is semi-crucial to me. And GPM may be stuck with (presumably Fraunhofer-encoded) 320 mp3s -- BUT it's got more or less the best search engine and queue management I've used in any of the 8 streamers I've used over the last dozen or so years.

And the Tidal player is pretty much good for popping on an album and listening straight through. (For comparison, I really hate the Spotify player, it's confusing and obtuse in its UI, but at least it has a few more features. Still, it's dreadful, to my thinking.)

If I was a bit more bucks-ahead, I'd almost certainly subscribe to both. GPM for everyday use and Tidal for 'serious,' sit-down listening.

Now, if I'm not comparing the two, or thinking about that remembered comparison, I'm generally quite satisfied listening to GPM's 320s. But if I think about my testing, and the subtle but not (for me) entirely ignorable difference between lossless and the 320 system GPM uses, it is kind of a drag.


*MOG used the LAME encoder, at least originally. It sounded really good. With 320 mp3s I prepared myself using LAME, I (personally, with my 60+ year old ears) was not able to differentiate them from full CD in ABX testing -- though I WAS able to differentiate 256 from 320 (which surprised me). Anyhow, it seems clear to me that whatever codec and settings GPM uses, the results are [slightly] audibly inferior to CD/FLAC. But I JUST can't give up the player features/flexibility. =/


PS... Another favorite aspect of GPM for me is the album view browser. Because GPM is basically browser based (works best in Chrome), you can resize the page views. So I can go from big album pictures (4 across) to small (8 across). That said, a negative that could effect those on much older or slower computers is that GPM and Chrome are RAM-hogs.

Last edited by theblue1; 12th November 2017 at 05:27 PM..
Old 5th April 2018
  #22
Here for the gear
 

Is the difference being heard not due to the CD player playing the CD? So even if the files are identical they might sound marginally different due to a ‘sonic signature’ of the CD transport / player? Eg the car stereo referred to in the initial posting.
Old 9th February 2019
  #23
Here for the gear
 

I had the same impressions when comparing Tidal hifi and flac files on my hard drive.
They DO sound different. Flacks sounded more dynamic and open compared to Tidal files.
And Tidal sounds harsh and unnatural, full of digititus.
I compared the same masters, and a lot of albums, not just one song.
Using foobar to play flacks.

Edit:
PRO TIP: Using the Tidal Chrome player instead of the desktop one, makes the sound much better. Almost indistinguishable with flack.
Old 11th February 2019
  #24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicky2981 View Post
Is the difference being heard not due to the CD player playing the CD? So even if the files are identical they might sound marginally different due to a ‘sonic signature’ of the CD transport / player? Eg the car stereo referred to in the initial posting.
While different approaches to converter internals might create some quite subtle differences in sound, the primary source of such a 'sonic footprint' (that is to say, a 'pattern of inaccuracy') would tend to be in the final analog stage of such a CD player.

While the digital format allows 'perfect' signal transport while in the digital domain, it is, nonetheless, sadly true that many inexpensive, digital consumer devices* can have noticeably inferior analog signal output when compared to their more expensive or better designed/built counterparts.

*Think tabletop/all-in-one stereos, wireless speakers, phones, tablets, TVs, etc.
Old 26th February 2019
  #25
Pno
Gear Maniac
Try Tidal via Audirvana...it does sound great if the source is good...but neither does hifi nor mqa guarantee that...at least audirvana gives u the bitrate etc. u’re listening to...well, what they’ve wrapped it in anyway!

I’m very on the fence about Tidal overall, very mixed bag...for all its hifi/mqa this that, there’s many well dodgy masters on it; increasing exponentially the further u depart from pop 101...and the selection is poor compared to Spotify for less popular/new music...quite badly organised in general...simply all over the place...doomed to failure imo as is...

There is literally nothing good about it except sometimes it sounds better than spotify, and sometimes the mqas sound great.

FWIW I still have a subscription to all of them, Apple Music, spotify premium and tidal master or whatever it’s called...tempted to dump Tidal tbh...Apple Music is good as it gives me my iTunes library on the go...I like spotify for new/independent music hassle/ad free (also, I hate to admit it, but I’ve also found stuff via spotify I may not have otherwise...they also got me with the way the app links up instantly with ur phone, even Apple Music doesn’t do that on a mac/iphone)...Tidal, besides its roll the dice sometimes better sound quality, has nothing to offer...

Also, forget ideology, they’re all evil.
Old 26th February 2019
  #26
Pno
Gear Maniac
...I’m somewhat surprised Apple/spotify haven’t added lossless/mqa as a premium; they could easily wipe Tidal/HD tracks/sacd etc. out...the fact that they haven’t shows how little they/the market cares...
Old 26th February 2019
  #27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pno View Post
...I’m somewhat surprised Apple/spotify haven’t added lossless/mqa as a premium; they could easily wipe Tidal/HD tracks/sacd etc. out...the fact that they haven’t shows how little they/the market cares...
Tidal at one point had a simple A/B comparator on their website to help people decide if they wanted to pay the premium for lossless. I don't recall the precise percentage of responders who said they could tell the difference (as reported in the business press) -- but it was really tiny, no more than a few percent, IIRC.

I have, in the past, actually been able to tell one streamer's 320's from another's (on test material I've used for years) though, on properly prepared 320's I encoded on the highest/slowest quality setting in LAME, I was not able to tell those from the original files. So I'm fairly lossy-codec-sensitive.

Nonetheless, I have stayed with my streamer of choice (Google's awkwardly named and ineptly marketed Play Music) because its user interface, queue and queue management, and search engine work so well. (I recently had to use Spotify for an hour or two and was once again dumbfounded by just how clunky and annoying their queue system is. Still, it's not as bad as Tidal's, which is really just a joke, extremely inflexible.)

I normally think of myself as very sound-quality centric -- but if your chosen 'celestial jukebox' makes finding and sequencing music such a pain in the neck you groan every time you see its UI, that's a problem.

Speaking of 'seeing' the UI, I will say that GPM could certainly be more attractive. (I use the Chrome extension Stylebot to 'restyle' the GPM UI. I used to have to do a bunch of things to get better useability and looks, but the GPM team actually implemented a number of similar changes; now I basically use it to insert some muted background colors; I can share that if any GPM users are interested. I've seen it estimated that GPM has 3% market share, so, you know, I don't expect folks will be beating down my virtual door. )

Last edited by theblue1; 26th February 2019 at 06:36 PM..
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