Tidal vs Qobuz vs other streaming services

I wasn't quite sure if this should go in Digital source or PC based so I'll put it here.

I was interested to hear from anyone who has used Tidal or Qobuz on a high quality system (eg not earbuds, car etc) and what they thought of the sound quality, music catalogue etc.

First a confession. :eek: Like many of you I build and tweak speakers and take sound quality very seriously. For many years I used to "sample" music online and anything I liked enough I bought on Redbook CD...

Then when iTunes switched from 128kbit DRM AAC to 256kbit non-DRM AAC I got a bit lazy and started buying albums from iTunes knowing full well that they didn't sound quite as good as an actual CD...but they sounded "close enough" for most music, and could still sound pretty good on a good system, and convenience was the driving factor.

Then a number of years after that I first tried Spotify, lured in by the low monthly cost and more or less unlimited access to browse and instantly play nearly any music and got hooked on the easy discovery of new music. I figured that anything I really liked I would buy the CD's for, but I never did! :eek:

Some of you may know that Spotify is alone in using Ogg Vorbis with other services using either MP3 or AAC. Personally, I don't like the sound signature of Ogg Vorbis. Of the three I would rate AAC as the best with Ogg Vorbis considerably worse and MP3 marginally worse than Ogg Vorbis.

My music collection has been a mixture of CD's, CD's ripped to Flac, CD's ripped to AAC, older "acquired" MP3 rips, and Spotify, and after moving country once and house twice since then I no longer even own a CD player, despite keeping my CD's for possible future ripping to FLAC.

My main digital music playback system is now a Raspberry Pi 4 running Volumio with a Behringer UMC204HD USB DAC.

I was recently going through some old CD's and decided to try playing one for the first time in years - the only thing I have that will even take an optical disc now is an Xbox one! This goes to the TV via HDMI and the headphone analogue output of the TV then goes to the amplifier. Hardly an ideal signal path - fine for watching TV Shows and Movies but not what I would want to use for Music.

Surprisingly or perhaps not surprisingly despite this tortuous signal path there was no doubt that the CD played via the Xbox one and TV to the amplifier sounded better than the Spotify version of the album through a much better quality DAC. Much better. I tried many CD's and the result was the same - I had forgotten how good CD's sounded compared to lossy codecs after years of conditioning (brainwashing ?) by listening to lossy audio... :eek:

I decided enough was enough and that it was time to research music streaming services that offer lossless audio, which didn't exist back when I first joined Spotify many years ago but now did exist.

So I came across Qobuz and Tidal who seem to be the two main players right up until the very recent announcement of Amazon Music HD. (More on that later)

As it happens, Volumio with the MyVolumio subscription supports full quality playback of both Tidal and Qobuz out of the box, (as well as playing my local FLAC, AAC, MP3 content and Spotify as well) making it very easy to do direct comparisons of the different sources using the same software and same DAC.

So I signed up for a free month trial of Qobuz which runs out in about 10 days and recently signed up for a free month trial of Tidal as well so I can do a direct comparison within the trial periods. So far I have listened more to Qobuz than Tidal since that trial runs out first but here are my thoughts so far on sound quality:

In short Qobuz sounds fantastic. :D Although you can choose to play MP3 versions of songs if you want (for example over 3G/4G on your phone when using ear buds to reduce data usage) all but a very very few tracks have at minimum CD quality FLAC at 44.1Khz 16 bit available.

Those songs that are CD quality literally do sound indistinguishable to my actual physical CD's that I had ripped to FLAC previously, and far superior to Spotify's lossy Ogg Vorbis versions of the same albums.

I have no doubt that they are using perfect FLAC rips of CD masters, so sound every bit as good as buying a CD, ripping it to FLAC yourself and storing it on a local media server.

A surprisingly large number of albums, both old stuff that has been re-digitised and current releases are also available in "Hi-Res", with Hi-res meaning 24 bit and/or >44.1Khz, and they show up with a separate badge in the listings, and when played in Volumio the sample rate and bit depth is indicated.

There seem to be a wide variety of sample rate in use depending on the specific album.

I've seen 44.1Khz 24 bit, 48Khz 24 bit, 88.2Khz 24 bit, 96Khz 24 bit and 192Khz 24 bit. My Behringer DAC supports all bitrates and bit depths natively without any resampling.

I'm now in my mid 40's and last time I checked my hearing only goes up to about 16Khz instead of the 18Khz it did in my 20's.... traditionally I've been a bit sceptical about "Hi-Res" formats as the higher sample rates in particular seem to be wasted if 44.1Khz will already work up to 22.05Khz and I can only hear up to 16Khz...

So do they sound any better than CD quality ? Despite my initial scepticism I would say yes, some of their Hi-Res tracks do sound slightly better than the CD versions. It's hard to describe subjectively (I'm more of an objectivist) but there is something about the smoothness and naturalness of the treble and separation of instruments and sound field that is undeniable. It sounds slightly cleaner and more spacious but at the same time effortless without any over emphasis of the high frequencies. Sorry but that's the best description I can give it.

The difference is not huge but it was noticeable with the right playback system and on many but by no means all albums. If I had to come up with a scientific explanation I can think of two possibilities, given that I don't believe in sound frequencies higher than our hearing limit having any impact on what we perceive.

One is that sampling at only 44.1Khz means your anti-aliasing and reconstruction filters have to cut off before 22.05Khz, and if you are trying to include all frequencies up to say 20Khz without attenuation, that's is a very steep filter needed to do that. That filter is inevitably going to have either phaseshift or time domain effects within the audible spectrum which may be audible. And if the filters are not done properly musical content above 22.05Khz may be folded back into the audible spectrum and this is likely to be audible as well as aliasing which may add something artificial to the top end.

Sampling at 96Khz means you can use much shallower more benign filters and also place their cutoff frequency WAY above the audible spectrum so that the filter skirts don't impinge on the audible spectrum at all. Having said that I think going to 192Khz is a complete waste of time over 96Khz, and I did not hear any difference between them, nor was I expecting to.

Something else to consider when comparing 44.1Khz and 96Khz even on the same DAC is that the DAC itself switches to different reconstruction filters for each sampling rate, and that may have an impact on the sound.

On my Behringer which I also use with ARTA for speaker measurement, at 192Khz it is of course ruler flat well beyond human hearing as measured in loopback, however at 44.1Khz there is a small rolloff in the upper treble starting about 15Khz before it drops rapidly at 20Khz. Would this "premature" droop be audible ? Possibly.

Possibility two for why the Hi-Res versions might sound slightly better is simply that the "Hi-Res" masters are probably sometimes different masterings of the original recording, and there's no easy way to know this.

I've read about some albums which when released in "Hi-Res" have had less dynamic range compression applied during mixing, and this of course would likely make it sound better especially if the original release was made during the loudness wars. So in that case the Hi-Res version of the song definitely sounds better, but not due to its sample rate or bit depth but simply because it was mastered better, and a version of that downsampled to CD quality would likewise sound better as well if it had been available.

But if all that is available is the original CD mastering with more dynamic range compression and the Hi-Res remastered version that has less dynamic range compression, then I say listen to and enjoy the Hi-Res version, just don't necessarily assume that it sounds better due to higher bitrate or sample depth!

I noticed these differences in mastering in for example a Moody Blues album where there are at least 3 different versions of the same album on Qobuz. One of the CD quality versions sounded just like the original LP I remember from years ago with a slightly strident and forward midrange on the vocals and a little bit of edginess on strings.

The Hi-Res version sounded better tonally balanced and slightly more laid back and easier on the ears especially in the midrange - clear but clean and much easier to listen to. Clearly the remastering engineer has gone in and applied different EQ to the individual channels and rebalanced the mix and in my opinion it sounds much better and more like a (good) modern recording.

Anyway, after two weeks I'm super impressed with the sound quality of Qobuz, especially to a full size stereo system with a good quality DAC that can output the "Hi-Res" tracks at their native sample rates. The CD quality tracks sound exactly like FLAC rips and there are a surprising number of albums in Hi-Res formats which all sounded at least as good or slightly better than the CD quality versions. I'm finding myself enjoying the music much more again and have spent quite a lot of time listening during the trial period.

Next up is Tidal. They also have CD quality 44.1Khz 16bit FLAC available for most songs, however I have come across a few albums that are only available in MP3.

From what I have listened to so far Tidal's CD quality FLAC sounds identical to Qobuz's CD quality FLAC, perhaps not surprisingly, except in cases where a different master (remastered vs original etc) has obviously been used, and as the labelling of some of the releases between the two services can be a bit inconsistent you can sometimes end up listening to a different release of the album especially with albums that have been remastered more than once.

Where they differ is that for "Hi-Res" Tidal uses something called MQA, and that's where a can of worms starts to open up. :rolleyes:

Instead of the open, lossless FLAC codec used by Qobuz for Hi-Res, MQA is a weird Frankenstein proprietary codec that is partly lossless and partly lossy. For the full gory details of what I think is wrong with it and why I don't like it on a conceptual basis, I direct you to the following article:

MQA: A Review of controversies, concerns, and cautions - Reviews - Audiophile Style

To boil it down to it's simplest, it has a lossless PCM base encoded in the most significant bits at 44.1Khz or 48Khz onto which additional "detail" for higher (than 20Khz) frequencies is encoded using a lossy codec whose data is encrypted and encoded into the least significant bits. Figure 7A of that article explains it.

To play an MQA file at its full quality you need a hardware DAC that can "unfold" the file and process it back into its original state.

If you play it on a regular player then this additional "detail" is not retrieved. Because the least significant bits of each sample are effectively pseudo random noise (encrypted data looks like noise) that undecoded data would manifest as a slightly higher than normal noise floor - the article suggests that an MQA file played without a decoder would be equivalent to about 44.1Khz 13 bit...so not quite as good as Redbook CD without a decoder.

When fully decoded the lossy part of the data is combined with the PCM part to increase the bit depth and sample rate to 96Khz 24bit, but remembering that frequencies above 20Khz and bits below 13 bits have been processed through a lossy codec.

In short its a clever way to create a hybrid lossless/lossy codec that can "play" on anything but only play at full quality with the right MQA licensed hardware. Supposedly the file size is around 1/2 to 1/4 of FLAC at the same sample rates.

My biggest issue with MQA is simply that I want to move away from lossy codecs back to lossless, so why would I want to jump onto a weird hybrid proprietary codec that needs special hardware support (which I don't have) for full performance and probably sounds worse than Redbook without suitable hardware... ?

Five years ago when bandwidth was less than today I could see the point but today there is enough bandwidth to simply stream FLAC at high bitrates - and Qobuz proves that. So I think MQA is a solution looking for a problem that no longer exists, and in the process throws the baby (lossless audio) out with the bathwater!

I've played a number of Tidal "masters" as they call them with MQA, however I don't have a DAC that can decode them, so my only comment is that they sound "fine" but don't sound any better than the CD quality version of the tracks. So in my situation if I was to subscribe to Tidal I would stick to the CD quality FLAC streams as I'm not interested in buying an MQA compatible DAC when I don't believe in the philosophy or rationale behind it. If there is enough bandwidth available, just stick to FLAC in my opinion.

In terms of numbers of "Hi-Res" tracks, Qobuz seems to have far more Hi-Res FLAC tracks available than Tidal has MQA masters.

In the next post I'll briefly compare catalogue, iOS/desktop apps and pricing and then my conclusions, as well as a quick mention of Amazon Music HD.
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Next up is the iOS and desktop apps. This is where Qobuz starts to stumble a bit to be honest.

Spotify is the gold standard when it comes to user interface design, the ability to easily browse for music, add it to favourites and playlists, go to artists or albums from individual tracks etc... in fact I like everything about Spotify and the Spotify app, except the sound quality!

The Qobuz iOS app is serviceable but it's no Spotify that's for sure. Music discovery is fairly good but the app overall just feels a bit slow and clunky and dare I say it, buggy. Sometimes a song will fail to play due to a temporary network failure (for example driving in a car) and instead of recovering the situation automatically like Spotify will after a brief pause it will either stop playing completely and sit there or just skip to the next track at the first sign of any disruption to the stream.

It doesn't seem to pre-buffer enough before it starts playing, even with the quality in the app set to MP3, so if you're on a marginal data connection you'll get stutter or slight pauses sometimes that you won't get with Spotify which seems to manage its buffer much better. Quite frustrating. But overall the app is satisfactory as a secondary method of playing music when on the go.

The Windows Desktop App however is pretty bad. It's hard to detail everything that's wrong with it, but the UI design is just poor and confusing, and simple things like browsing for albums and artists then attempting to play an album feel very cumbersome. It's not a patch on the Spotify desktop app, or even iTunes for that matter.

Fortunately for me I never use the desktop apps of any of these services so it doesn't directly affect me.

The Tidal iOS and Windows Desktop Apps are both much better. In fact the iOS app is almost a clone of the Spotify app with most of the same UI conventions and layout and on the whole it works better than the Qobuz app, however I have sometimes had problems with it stalling due to a marginal data connection and then either aborting playback or refusing to play the same song even while it will play a different song - so similar playback issues to the Qobuz app if the internet connection is less than perfect.

So for provided desktop and iOS apps Tidal is the clear winner and the apps are nearly as good as Spotify.

Next up is integration with 3rd party players. This is an area where Qobuz seems to be particularly strong, albeit not as strong as Spotify. It now has support in Volumio, has been supported for a while in Roon, and there are many, many hardware vendors like powered speakers, high quality amps etc which directly support Qobuz streaming. There is a big list of devices on the Qobuz website so check there.

The Qobuz iOS app supports Qobuz connect which is basically a clone of Spotify Connect which allows your phone running Qobuz to act as a remote control and UI for the device actually doing the playback.

Spotify connect is my favoured way to control Spotify on Volumio. Volumio itself is headless and has its own web based GUI that you use through any browser however Spotify connect meant that I didn't even have to use the Volumio UI - I simply launched Spotify on my phone, found an album or song, chose Volumio as the playback device, hit play and it would start playing. At that point I could lock the phone and the phone was not involved in the playback.

Sadly Volumio does not support Qobuz connect but many other devices do.

Tidal seems to have a reasonably wide 3rd party device support as well, however not nearly as much as Qobuz and does not have an equivalent "Tidal connect" functionality in the App, meaning you need to use the UI of the playback device or use some other 3rd party app other than the Tidal app to push playlists to the device.

Both services are natively supported in MyVolumio on Volumio meaning I am using the Volumio web interface to control playback. This works well although it is not possible to add songs/artists/albums/playlists on Qobuz/Tidal from this web interface, but for searching and playback it works great.

Next up is the Catalogues. This is where Qobuz also starts to falter a little bit. Sort of, depending on your musical tastes...

All streaming services are missing albums and sometimes even artists that are available on other streaming services. It's impossible to get everything on one service, however of the services available that I've used, Spotify probably has the largest selection and it almost never happens that something I look up is not available on Spotify.

Unfortunately while Qobuz's catalogue is extremely diverse, it has some significant gaps and I would say out of the three services it has the smallest selection. It still has over 90% of what I've looked for but a number of my artists on Spotify either don't exist on Qobuz or only have one or two albums when they may have 8-10 albums on Spotify.

Another thing that happened annoyingly often is that there would be entire albums or a few tracks in an album that were "not available for streaming due to rights holders restrictions", where you would only get a 30 second sample, while the exact same albums and tracks on Tidal and Spotify were available in their entirety. Kate bush is one who had a few albums suffering from "sampleitis" but there were a number of others I found as well.

Sometimes it would affect a particular release or reissue of an album but not the original version of the same album!

Conversely there was virtually nothing in my Spotify collection that was not also available in Tidal, in full and nearly always in at least CD FLAC quality, so Tidal's catalogue seems to more closely overlap Spotify than Qobuz's catalogue does.

However counter intuitively of the artists that were in both Qobuz and Tidal, many of them had many, many more albums in Qobuz. Roy Orbison was a good example with Tidal having all the well known Orbison albums, but Qobuz having all those as well as many, many older more obscure albums of his that I have never come across before!

If you like classical and Jazz, Qobuz also apparently has one of the widest selections around, with Tidal focusing more on mainstream and popular artists like Spotify.

Unfortunately I feel like I'm in the situation where I couldn't switch to Qobuz and eliminate Spotify entirely as there are too many gaps in the catalogue of albums that I already have and like, even though they do have >90% of what I want and in extremely good quality.

Tidal has pretty much everything I want and has better apps however I would effectively be limited to CD quality FLAC only due to their use of MQA, and I did find the Qobuz Hi-Res stuff often sounded slightly better than the CD quality FLAC.

Next up is pricing per month. Up until recently it was:

Tidal: $9.99/£9.99 for MP3 quality, $19.99/£19.99 for CD FLAC and MQA Hi-Res
Qobuz: $9.99/£9.99 for MP3 quality, $19.99/£19.99 for CD FLAC, $23.99/£23.99 for Hi-Res as well.
Spotify: £9.99. (Not sure of the US price)

As you can see, Qobuz is very expensive compared to Spotify especially if you go for the full Hi-Res subscription. :( If it could be your only service (had everything you wanted) and you were really serious about sound quality you could almost justify it, however if you have to keep Spotify or Tidal as well to fill in the gaps it becomes very expensive indeed.

A couple of months ago Amazon threw a spanner in the works when they launched Amazon Music HD at $13.99/£13.99.

This gives both HD (CD quality FLAC) and UHD (up to 192Khz 24 bit FLAC) for a price that's not much more than Spotify...

In response to this Qobuz - who have been in the EU market for a long time but only entered the US market at the start of 2019 slashed their US prices and slimmed down to a single $13.99 a month plan that included full Hi-Res, with no more $9.99 MP3 only plan available. So essentially they eliminated the cheapest plan but slashed $10 off the most expensive plan to bring it directly into line with Amazon Music HD. So far Tidal have not moved and are still $20/month for CD/MQA quality.

Unfortunately for me, (being in the UK) Qobuz have not changed their prices outside the US yet, and we have no idea when this might happen or even if it will happen. A couple of people have emailed Qobuz support and they say that they are "working with the rights holders" to release equivalent pricing outside the US but who knows how long that could take.

So that's the current situation.

Amazon Music HD does look very good from a pricing, quality and catalogue perspective - I have not yet tried it and the main reason is that I cannot use it with Volumio, so I have no way to get Amazon music in full Hi-Res quality onto my stereo as the best I could currently do would be to use airplay which would resample it to 44.1Khz 16 bit, or plug it into my Echo Dot which also only does 44.1Khz 16 bit and has a terrible noisy DAC in it...

The big problem with Amazon Music HD especially the Hi-Res tracks is that there are almost no hardware devices at the moment that support it and would truly output that quality level (although they are increasing) and Amazon are also dead set against any "non-commercial" 3rd party playback solutions.

In other words they are not interested in cooperating with any open source projects such as Volumio to enable support for Amazon music, and one open source player that was previously compatible have had their API access yanked by Amazon and basically told "come back to us when you're a commercial product".

I'm very happy with Volumio and my USB DAC and frankly don't want to spend a lot of money on some expensive playback device that is Amazon compatible and certified, so for the moment Amazon Music HD is out of the picture for me but I will keep an eye on the situation as it's early days yet.

What I'm probably going to do is cancel both my Tidal and Qobuz trials when they run out and wait a bit to see whether Amazon's entry into the market forces Qobuz and/or Tidal to drop their prices in the UK - if Qobuz do drop to £13.99 for full Hi-res I'm inclined to go with Qobuz and keep Spotify for £9.99 as a backup to fill in the catalogue gaps - also it allows my other half to use Spotify on her phone when I'm using Qobuz on my phone or on the Stereo, so effectively a family plan as at the moment we can't both use Spotify at the moment and have never bothered with a family plan.

So that's my rundown of the current state of the art with high quality lossless streaming, what have you found and have any of you experimented with Qobuz/Tidal or Amazon Music HD for that matter ? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts...
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I have tidal, tried qobuz for a month after they announced the $14.99 price for hi rez.

But I'm sticking with tidal mainly because tmobile doesn't count tidal streaming against my data limit, but it does count qobuz. so I'd use all my data for music wiht qobuz.

I also like tidal's artist's radio feature, qobuz doesn't have this. So its easier for my to find new music on tidal.

I found tidal and qobuz to be same quality at cd rates.
However (and maybe its me lol), I think my ripped cds sound better.
Tidal ‘masters’ come across 24/48 without MQA.......if you can’t find any you might check the settings. Of course not all selections are available as masters but I’m thinking maybe a third are. You really have to dig for them sometimes but they are there.

The brown M indicates master not MQA
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Tidal ‘masters’ come across 24/48 without MQA.......if you can’t find any you might check the settings. Of course not all selections are available as masters but I’m thinking maybe a third are. You really have to dig for them sometimes but they are there.

The brown M indicates master not MQA
I'm using Tidal mainly via the Volumio web interface, and there doesn't seem to be any distinction between the two. I see an icon that looks like a black M inside a grey/brown rounded rectangle on some tracks but most tracks don't have it.

Sometimes the M tag results in 48Khz 24 bit playback, (I have no MQA decoder) and sometimes it is only 44.1Khz 16 bit. From what you say it looks like the M on Volumio is indicating "master" but not necessarily MQA.

In that case there are even less MQA encoded tracks on Tidal than I thought...!

I had transferred my Spotify Library to both Tidal Qobuz using soundiiz for testing and when I compare the two there are hardly any 'M' tagged tracks on Tidal but a large percentage on Qobuz have the gold Hi-Res audio badge.

For example on one mixed playlist of 278 tracks there are only five 'M' marked tracks from 3 artists. Of those, all five are only 44/16 when played back, however other M marked songs in some other albums that I search for show up as 48/24 when played.

By comparison the same 278 mixed playlist in Qobuz has 21 tracks flagged as Hi-Res, with all of them being 24 bit and either 48, 96 or 192Khz.

So while Tidal has more tracks and less gaps than Qobuz in general, of the tracks that they share, far, far more of them are in Hi-Res on Qobuz than Tidal, and that has been the case for everything I've searched for side by side so far.
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I’m not sure about Volumio.....it sounds like it might be leaving a lot on the table.

One thing I’ve noticed is many of the well recorded 16/44.1 renderings sound better than the master version.
I haven't spent a lot of time listening to MQA tracks without a decoder, I'm focusing more on Qobuz at the moment as the trial runs out soon however I'll give the MQA tracks more listening after that.

Volumio fully supports MQA - it's one of the few open source players that will work properly with an MQA compatible USB DAC to allow full "unfolding", however I don't have an MQA DAC and don't plan to buy one so that point is moot to me.
I’ve been wanting to try Qobuz just to check it out for myself.
I find myself leaning towards Qobuz due to no MQA and being truly lossless as a result, and the seemingly much larger percentage of tracks which are in Hi-Res.

However against that it is too expensive, (unless they drop the price in the UK like they did in the US - then it will be cheaper than Tidal) there are significant gaps in the catalogue and the iPhone app is a bit clunky.

I don't think it could be my only streaming service unless they fix the gaps in their catalogue, otherwise they need to drop the price so I can keep Spotify as a backup to fill in the gaps...
Ok here's a good one for anyone with Qobuz and either Tidal or Spotify to try comparing to show just how important the provenance of the masters is and how we can't always assume the same masters are used...

Look up the song "BB's Theme", full name "BB's Theme (from Death Stranding)" by "Ludvig Forssell, Jenny Plant" on Qobuz and either Tidal or Spotify.

This song was used on the trailer for the game Death Stranding. When I initally heard this song on the Youtube trailer I liked it and tried playing it on Spotify and I was quite disapointed. It just sounded bad (worse than the youtube trailer) but I couldn't really put my finger on it. Sort of distorted and congested, and it wasn't possible to listen to it at a moderately high volume without finding it quite unpleasant.

Tonight I tried playing the same song on Qobuz. Holy moly what a difference in fidelity! :eek: It is especially apparent at the beginning of the song before the bass line starts up.

On the Spotify version the treble sounds silibent and there are what sound like obvious lossy codec artefacts at around 5 seconds - you'll easily hear it, listen out for a sound that "shouldn't be there"...

Aha I thought, what a great exampe of how much better Qobuz sounds than Spotify. Out of curiousity I tried playing the same song in Tidal HiFi (CD) quality and instead of sounding identical to Qobuz as I expected it actually sounded the same as Spotify complete with that weird artefact at 5 seconds which is completely absent in the Qobuz version. Whoops!

So maybe Tidal only has an MP3 version of that song and they've "upsampled" it to CD but without actually having a CD master ? Possibly, however I switched Qobuz into 320kbps MP3 and it still sounded good and nothing like Tidal or Spotify.

I can only conclude that Tidal and Spotify have both been given the same bad master of this song, with a quality that is clearly deficient. It sounds silibent and full of artefacts near the beginning and congested and compressed, perhaps even distorted later on when the song gets going to the point that I can't listen to it.

The Qobuz version on the other hand sounds crystal clear, clean, uncompressed and easy to listen to, and frankly sounds top notch even at fairly high volume.

Anyone who can make the comparison between the services for this song agree ?

Edit: Looks like Tidal has both the bad and good versions of the song if you look a bit harder.

The bad version is on the album "Ludvig Forssell - Death Stranding (Original Score)" while the good version is in the album "Geek Music - The best video game Music, Vol 5".

On Qobuz the album is called "Geek Music - BB's Theme ("From Death Stranding")"

Just serves to further prove how the provenance of a recording is so important when there can be multiple versions of it available...
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Have you looked at Deezer?
I only recently started a subscription on their "Premium" version which means 320kb/s MP3, jumped on a subscription because my mobile phone operator offered it for half the price for a year, normally 9,99€/month, they do also have right now an offer for 0,99€/month first 3 months for Premium, then there's the "HiFi" subscription which is FLAC packed 16 bit 44kHz CD quality too, the boast right now of having 56 million tracks but I can't say much about it, time will tell.
Deezer - music streaming | Try Flow, download & listen to free music

It's possible to download for "offline" mode listening, mistakenly I tried to download a song but realized because I am on Linux desktop I couldn't figure out how to do it so used a browser extension to download the song, but which due to DRM was garbled, I only later found out that Deezer have a special app that allows for offline listening but the support is for Windows, iOS, Android, but not for Linux, also it seems like the downloaded song can't be played back completely offline as the app, as I understood it, needs to be connected online so it can verify the user still having a valid subscription, but I can't verify that due to the lack of Linux support.

Would also like to know what others who have experience of Deezer thinks of them.
I haven't tried Deezer, nor Amazon Music HD for that matter. The main reason is that Volumio connected to my stereo is my main playback method on the stereo, and it has builtin support for Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz, but not for Deezer or Amazon Music HD.

By the way anyone considering having a look at Tidal - a colleague sent me an offer link for Tidal which gives 5 months of any of their subscription tiers for £5.

I'm not sure if it's UK only (looks like it might be) and whether it's time limited etc but worth a shot for anyone interested:


When you use the link you can chose which ever subscription you like, but note that you can't change it later during the 5 month period - be sure to choose HiFi and not accidentally chose the default MP3 subscription level. It's the same £5 no matter which one you choose however the price after the 5 months obviously differs, but I think you can cancel or change at that time anyway.

This came at a good time for me as my Qobuz free month trial runs out in a few days and my Tidal free month trial runs out in about 2 weeks, however I was not willing to commit to either of them at this point when there are potentially price drops looming on the horizon, so £5 for 5 months of the HiFi subscription seems like a great way to tide me over (ha, ha) with at least CD quality uncompressed (I won't be using MQA) while I see how the market unfolds in response to Amazon Music HD.

The offer link is only valid for someone who doesn't already have an account - as I found out the hard way when I found my account which is currently in the regular one month free subscription period was not eligible! However I simply cancelled that account and signed up again using the offer link with a different email address and it accepted it despite giving the same details and payment method etc...

Note to Tidal: It doesn't make any sense to penalise someone who already signed up for the one month free trial...
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Excellent review of Tidal and Qobuz DBMandrake! I’m in the same camp.
I have had Tidal for a couple of years and run it on RaspberryPi 4 with a Pi2Media Pi2AES digital board. I’m running this into a Yggdrasil Dac. I have been trying out Qobuz free month trial to see if I’d switch from Tidal since it’s cheaper. To my ears Qubuz sounds very similiar to Tidal, possibly a littler more relaxed and cleaner, but just a smidge.
Tidal’s interface is better. It has genres that Qobuz does not have. Gospel / Christian, Latin and Holiday (which I just noticed). Qubuz does have many albums and artist from those categories but they are harder to find without those genre selections. I inquired to Qubuz on their Facebook page about this and their response was - “More genres are coming. It’s a big deal for us because the genres require a lot of curation and editorial - it’s a resource question.”
Sounds like they have a small team there, but I appreciate the quick response. For me, I think I’m going to stick with Tidal for now. Was considering Amazon music since I do subscribe to them but it won’t work with my setup, so no go.
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By the way anyone considering having a look at Tidal - a colleague sent me an offer link for Tidal which gives 5 months of any of their subscription tiers for £5.

Tidal is always doing huge discount or free 3-6 months promotion. I have never seen the Tidal's artist contract, but I'm pretty sure that they do not pay anything to the artist for the playback in those promotion periods, and if so, I feel their promotion is a little unethical.
I currently subscribe both services. Qobuz HiRes sounds better than Tidal MQA if you playback from Audirvana. Many popular music albums are missing from Qobuz catalog, but so many duplicated albums/songs on Tidal. Don't trust their claim, 60 million songs.
When you say duplicates, do you mean exact duplicates, or do you mean re-releases or different re-masters ?

Because if anything I've found a lot of duplicates on Qobuz. Look up the Moody Blues on Qobuz for example and see how many versions of the album "Days of Future Passed" they have. :confused: They don't all sound the same either. At least one of them is a remaster with a significantly different tonal balance.

Tidal is always doing huge discount or free 3-6 months promotion. I have never seen the Tidal's artist contract, but I'm pretty sure that they do not pay anything to the artist for the playback in those promotion periods, and if so, I feel their promotion is a little unethical.
If you're correct then yes that does seem unethical. I don't know how you would prove that they're doing it though.

That doesn't seem good either. As a company I get a sense that Qobuz is more genuine and perhaps more ethical. I get a better "vibe" from them than I do from Tidal, and I would prefer to support Qobuz.

The problem is the large holes in their catalogue and high price. (Which is still £24.99 in the UK for Hi-Res with no drop in price like the US)

If they can fill in the holes in their catalogue sufficiently and drop the price a bit (or both!) I would switch to them in a flash, so it's a waiting game for me at the moment.
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Thank you Simon for a great and very complete analysis so far, and I am now subscribed to your thread. I am also watching the situation and still undecided which direction to take on our side of the pond. Currently streaming MP3 (up to 320kbps) quality from Google Play, I am interested in upgrading to CD quality FLAC streaming also. I am very happy with the Google Play catalog but have not compared it to others yet.

I am running Volumio on a Raspberry Pi with a I2S DAC. But because Volumio does not have native Google Play support, I can only stream my Google Playlists using BubbleUPnP (on my Android phone) that streams the Google Play music via Volumio acting as a renderer. It's complicated but works. BubbleUPnP supports Qobuz, Tidal and Google Play but I have not tried Qobuz or Tidal yet. However, I would much rather only just use Volumio (and their great UI) with a CD quality streaming service which is natively supported by Volumio. Hence my interest in your findings.
Well I decided to cancel my Spotify subscription for the first time in over 8 years and go "cold Turkey" with only Tidal to see how it goes during the 5 month discounted period. This saves me £50 over the five months and helps force me to notice anything that might be missing in the Tidal catalogue, as I won't be able to fall back to Spotify.

Cancelling a Spotify subscription doesn't close the account - it just drops you back to the "free" tier which means ads and only 6 skips per day, and I get to keep all my playlists etc so I can re-up the subscription any time in the future if I choose to do so.

So far so good - the Tidal iOS and Windows apps are quite nice - not as good as Spotify in some regards but close enough that it doesn't really matter. The main area the Tidal apps fall down a bit is in searching. If your search is over broad you'll find that the matches that come back are probably not what you're looking for and you'll have to craft a more specific search to find them.

A few times now I've been searching for something that I thought should have been a slam dunk only to have lots of "irrelevant" (to me!) results that technically match the search criteria, but not the thing I'm looking for, leading me to think they don't have it, but a more carefully crafted and specific search does turn up the item that I thought the broader search should have returned.

I think the issue may be that the number of search results per search is somewhat limited, so if what you're looking through is too far down the search results it just doesn't show it at all.

So far I've only come across one album I've looked for that I have in Spotiy that Tidal don't seem to have - a game Soundtrack.

The only thing I really miss from Spotify is Spotify connect - which has integration with Volumio. However if I'd gone with Qobuz I wouldn't have it there either.
Tidal is always doing huge discount or free 3-6 months promotion. I have never seen the Tidal's artist contract, but I'm pretty sure that they do not pay anything to the artist for the playback in those promotion periods, and if so, I feel their promotion is a little unethical.
I thought this was interesting. Check the section of the review near the bottom where it says "How does Tidal pay artists":

Tidal HiFi review: The good, the bad, and the costly - SoundGuys

This is apparently how much each streaming provider pays artists "per stream" (I assume that means per play across all users) and not only are the figures amazingly low, they also vary dramatically between streaming services, with Qobuz paying far far more than nearly any other streaming service. (More than 10x more Spotify or Apple Music...)

Whether that's because they're genuinely trying to pay artists more or whether they're just too small to negotiate "better" deals is hard to say, but it certainly might explain why Qobuz is/was so expensive...

Qobuz $0.04390
Peloton $0.04036
iHeartRadio $0.01426
Amazon Unlimited $0.01175
Napster/Rhapsody $0.01110
24/7 Entertainment GmbH $0.01050
YouTube Red $0.00948
Tidal $0.00927
Deezer $0.00567
Google Play $0.00543
Apple $0.00495
KKBox $0.00435
Amazon Digital Services Inc. $0.00395
Spotify $0.00331
Loen $0.00205
Pandora $0.00155
Vevo $0.00109
Yandex LLC $0.00051
YouTube Content ID $0.00028
UMA $0.00013

Despite paying a lot less than Qobuz, Tidal still pays a lot more than Apple Music or Spotify though, with Spotify being one of the most stingy for payouts.
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I have listened to TIDAL a couple of months and then also subscribed to Qobuz with high expectation. For some reasons there are overwhelmingly large number of praise of the sound quality of Qobuz over TIDAL. I hope Qobuz would beat TIDAL as it is cheaper at $15/month. Unfortunately, this is not the case... TIDAL sound better in my system to my ears.
I can summarize my findings here:
If I listen with my brain, Qobuz sounds better.
If I listen with my heart, TIDAL sounds better.

I'm keeping TIDAL, Qobuz has to go.