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I'm about to take the plunge into streaming and Tidal seems the best option at present. Is that right?
I have a Bluesound module in my NAD Master Series M12 preamp/DAC which works well in managing my Music Library of FLAC files.
Does Bluesound (with Tidal) do a good job of providing best quality streamed music? Thanks
You are in the UK so can use Qobuz. The CD version ( 19.99 gbp/month) is superb IMO. Most reports that I have read of users with both Tidal and Qobuz rate Qobuz as having the better sound overall. However as Tidal have adopted MQA that may change that although the full MQA repertoire has not yet been loaded to their servers.
The week before last Qobuz launched a new desktop player which both sounds even better and has a nicer GUI.
When you download the player it will appear in French but as soon as you enter your user name and password it will change to English. User support is in English too.
Qobuz also allows you to download to e.g. to your phone so that you can play back later without having to connect.
Also you can buy the recordings from Qobuz as downloads at considerable discount compared to other download providers. For example a couple of weeks ago I purchased an album in 24/96 from another service. It was 14.99 gbp whereas Qobuz has it for 8.99. NB: CD data rate sales are for all subscribers but hi-rez are only for subscribers to their Sublime offer ( but that also saves on 2 months subscription per year).
Why not give the free trial a go?
NB: I have no relationship to Qobuz except as a subscriber.
As for Bluesound I can see that this is a wireless distribution system that coennects to other Bluesound amps and speakers but I don't have the impression that they are of the ultimate audio quality - good mid market? However the module in the NAD appears to offer full MQA decoding. If you want to use that then Tidal is your only choice but currently only a minority of repertoire offered is so encoded.
Thanks PAR. Yes, Bluesound does offer some form of wireless distribution but my setup is all hard wired to the router. The NAD M12 with Bluesound board should be as good as any streaming hardware available and this feeds a GamuT amplifier via balanced cables and then on to Avantgarde speakers and / or Quad electrostatics.
As I understand it, Tidal can be controlled by Sonos software but the Sonos limit is 16/44.1 I believe. Tidal is also available on Bluesound platform which can digest hi-res to 24/192.
Qobuz is only available on Sonos (presumably with the 16/44.1 limitations), or by using their own app to find one's way around their library.
Frankly I'm a bit allergic to apps (and refuse to consider phone apps), so I'm inclined to look only for services that are Sonos or preferably Bluesound compatible, which can both be controlled from my Windows tablet or PC.
Can you describe why one 16/44.1 streaming service should sound any different from another, or why one platform (Bluesound, Sonos, etc) should make any difference to the sound. I'm totally ignorant in these matters!
I did have to register my account with SONOS as residing in Europe in order to get a download for the QOBUZ player.
Only downside to that is that I may be deported soon. :-(
Bits are not bits. Jitter is one problem. Clock stability is another. Unstable power supplies. RFI problems. Reflections caused by poor impedance matching. Also the analog output sections of these devices can be poor to excellent. Digital playback can be very very complicated.
> Bits are not bits. Jitter is one problem. Clock stability is another. Unstable power supplies. RFI problems. Reflections caused by poor impedance matching. Also the analog output sections of these devices can be poor to excellent. Digital playback can be very very complicated.
But surely if I use the same hardware (and definitely no PC in the system), there should be no difference whether it gets it's 16/44.1 files from NAS (my own music library), Tidal, Qobuz, or any other streaming service offering 16/44.1? If not, why not? Thanks
But surely if I use the same hardware (and definitely no PC in the system), there should be no difference whether it gets it's 16/44.1 files from NAS (my own music library), Tidal, Qobuz, or any other streaming service offering 16/44.1? If not, why not? Thanks "
Alan has already given several reasons why differences can exist. There are others (latency, phase). Remember that the hardware involved isn't just yours when streaming. You are hearing the hardware (and software) from e.g. Qobuz or Tidal too.
There is a simple test. Just sign up to a streaming service. Then listen to the same 16/44.1 piece of music from your NAS and from the streaming service. Obviously as they are both 16/44.1 they will sound exactly the same :-)
You want something that is controlled from your Windows PC? Then download the Qobuz desktop to it. It is highly "sorted".
But the different services are using different hardware to send you the files
riddled with all the above problems so the same file sent by the different services could sound different. You are falling into the old cd is perfect sound forever.
When I sent a digital master from our studio to be converted into a cd the cd never or seldom sounded the same as the original master.
By the way the digital signal sent from your computer to your dac is actual an analog signal subject to analog problems
Thanks but you're confusing me here and I'd like to be clear on what is actually happening.
A CD is made and is entirely digital with, let's say 6000,005 bits of information. If I rip this CD to the hard drive in my NAS, my ripping software isn't happy until it's extracted 600,005 bits.
If Tidal or Qubuz offer me that CD as a 16/44.1 stream, I'd expect my receiving device (my NAD M12 with Bluos card or my Sonos) to receive 600,005 bits - no more, no less, no analogue.
I have no "computer" in the system apart from one to select my music and to control my hardware - it doesn't touch the music.
Up to now everything is 100% digital and 100% identical to the CD itself, except that if I play the CD in a player, it is likely to pick up less than 600,005 bits but will make up the missing bits with its error correction circuits.
Are you agreeing with is or not so far? As I understand it, this is why music that's been effectively ripped from a CD onto a hard drive should sound marginally better than playing the CD itself in real time.
Now, the digital flow of bits (sent in "packages" by my NAS drive or by Tidal, etc) is worked on by my NAD M12 to produce an accurate and real time stream of bits that it sends down the AES/EBU cable to my DAC.
So far everything is 100% digital but instead of being packaged, it's now a real time stream. This work is done by the NAD, irrespective of where the packages of data came from.
The DAC converts to analogue - the first time since the music came down the microphone cables in the studio that it has been analogue, unless it was an old analogue recording in which case it was digitised some time later, but still before it found its way onto a CD.
Please correct me if any of this is incorrect. I can understand why streamed music may suffer from dropouts or other problems relating to the actual transmission of data between the server in the sky (or wherever Tidal or Qobuz keep their hardware) and my router, but I can't see why one file of 6000,005 bits should be any different from another.
Now for illustration, I've said 600,005 bits, but conversion to FLAC should losslessly reduce this to a smaller bit count, but I'd expect that bit count to be identical on my hard drive or those owned by Tidal or Qobuz. Thanks
Several things. I can't give you a whole course here on digital audio. Find a good book on this subject and read it.
Yes the bits in your scenario will be accurate but it is the timing of the bits that screws up the system. The packets are delivered as an analog signal. The dac takes that analog signal and recovers the bits. But because of the multiple problems I have already described above the bits are not sampled with correct timing causing distortion in the recovered analog signal. Digital transmission of music is different then digital transmission of text. Timing errors in text transmission do not cause any problems but they do in music transmission. Until you learn this you will be stuck in the bits are bits world which doesn't work for digital audio. I am done. I cannot teach you a whole course in digital audio
Thanks Alan, I think your response was directed at the OP rather than me. However thank you for the reminder that digital audio really isn't at all. It is analogue audio where part of the process consists of analogue data treated as if it were digital in order to provide robust storage. And, of course, the analogue data treated as digital describes analogue information.
As someone who spends WAY to much time in France, I have QOBUZ and TIDAL (and used to have DEEZER Elite) and if I could have only one...
It would be QOBUZ, even with it's new software which I do not like as much, and the fact that the classical catalog changes as to what can be streamed and what is just there for 30 second samples because they want to sell you the down-load. :-(
" It would be QOBUZ, even with it's new software which I do not like as much, and the fact that the classical catalog changes as to what can be streamed and what is just there for 30 second samples because they want to sell you the down-load. :-( "
I suspect that it isn't necessarily Qobuz that choose the recordings to be available only as 30 sec "taster" tracks, but the record company which is only prepared to license some new releases for streaming upon this basis. After all the strategy does seem to affect only certain labels and even then inconsistently.
Talking of the certain labels, one of the offenders is Chandos but recently they seem to have been less minded to do this. I notice that two of their new releases that I would expect them to consider as "major" in that they have also bothered to put them out as SACDs, are available to stream in full. I am referring to RVW, Job a Masque for Dancing/Symph 9 and Holst Planets/Strauss Also Sprach Zarathustra. Both recordings are astounding or astounding in part IMO. Enough to make me shell out the price to ensure that I have a permanent copy. I may put something about them on the Music forum.
I am sure that you may well like the new player once you become accustomed. Of course otherwise we may just not share tastes in this matter :-)
QOBUZ sells downloads, so those 30 second tracks are there to sell a download.
TIDAL does not and as such many (but not all) of the albums 'blocked' by QOBUZ can be streamed on TIDAL, for example BIS, Chandos and even some Channel Classics.
So I keep shelling out $$ for both services.
Although I am sure that $$$ are of prime concern to Qobuz the streaming restrictions are placed there by the record companies. I just checked Qobuz on some Channel Classics tracks and when selected a blue window pops up saying " The owners of the rights in this recording have not made it available for streaming. You may buy it".
When I say record companies it is also possible that they themselves are restricted by the artists or other rights owners.
If Tidal have it for streaming then that therefore indicates that they simply have different licensing arrngments with the record company probably due to the slightly different business model.
This does indicate a problem with using streamng services as complete substitutes for other sources. Different business arrangements, temporary marketing ploys, artist exclusive deals etc. means that to get everything (or thereabouts) will always require multiple subscriptions.
The other hurdle is that of sustainability. I have written many times that I do not believe that hi-rez streaming services have a long term future (hopefully I will be wrong). A view recently supported by Klaus Heymann ( Naxos) when he closed his streaming service. This thought plus the ever changing relationships between given labels and the services means that I still buy discs and downloads of repertoire important to me so as to guarantee my freedom to hear it in the future (I hope).
> The other hurdle is that of sustainability. I have written many times that I do not believe that hi-rez streaming services have a long term future (hopefully I will be wrong). A view recently supported by Klaus Heymann ( Naxos) when he closed his streaming service. This thought plus the ever changing relationships between given labels and the services means that I still buy discs and downloads of repertoire important to me so as to guarantee my freedom to hear it in the future (I hope).
Interesting. Can you suggest what may replace streaming services? Will it be back to buying CDs, or to buying downloads of individual CDs, or what?
I can imagine an alternative to relying on our broadband or mobile services to deliver our music, but I'd be interested to hear of any alternative to streaming as a generic method by which consumers gain access to their music.
" Can you suggest what may replace streaming services? "
My concrn is specifically with hi-rez streaming services not with the overall concept.
Basically 70% of hi-rez streaming services' income is paid out to rights owners as royalties. As hi-rez services are priced at a premium rate compared to lossy streaming services the market interest for hi-rez seems limited as for most listeners cheaper alternatives are available (search online to see the number of subscribers Spotify has compared to Tidal). Thus the residual income is not enough to adequately support the service.
Even where subscriber numbers are high, such as with Spotify, they are still insufficient for them to turn a profit or even to break even.
If income from subscriptions is insufficient, then other revenue streams must be available to the ervice. Downloads will not suffice as the streams are directly substiutional. So that leaves streaming services who can offer a music service as only a part of their total commercial strategy. Step forward; Apple, Google and Amazon. They have the financial muscle to run the services and are probably in a position to get better royalty deals than the small fry.
Of course the difficulty for audiophiles is that none of the big streaming serices appear to be in the slightest bit interested in non-lossy delivery platforms.
So, in brief, hi-rez streaming services will ultimately give way to lossy services from a limited number of suppliers, none of whom will have their music services as their sole or main business interest.
By "hi-res" I presume you mean CD quality - 16/44.1 and not proper high resolution of 24/192.
Yes, it has always surprised and disappointed me that Amazon never offered CD quality downloads. However, even their 99p per "track" or typically £8 per CD in MP3 format is costly and CD quality would be even more with genuine hi-res (24/192) costlier still.
With streaming though, it shouldn't cost the providers much more to offer 16/44.1 compared with MP3. They need a bigger hard drive, but that's about it. The artists would (should) receive the same royalty whether their music is listened to in MP3, 16/44.1 or 24-192, so any extra revenue should be good for the provider.
The providers that offer higher quality should over time educate those non-mobile listeners to appreciate the better quality and get more to migrate to better quality streaming. They should perhaps reduce the difference in price between the 2 formats. Paying double for higher quality seems extortion to me! A 25% hike in subscription may pay them big dividends as far as number of premium subscribers is concerned.
For sure the market will change, but surely streaming is here to stay and hopefully one should in future be able to pick one's preferred quality with little difference in cost. Whether the likes of Tidal will survive if the big boys enter the market is yet to be seen, but I suspect if Amazon takes a serious interest, it'll be curtains for many streaming service.
Yes , hi-rez really can just mean lossless in streaming terminology, but CD quality up to 24/192 is what I am addressing.
The difficulty with pricing is that the streaming services and download providers don't have carte blanche. There almost certainly will be different levels of royalty payable for different qualities of the delivery. Not only do I expect that these differentials may be in place for the rcord companies' payments but also for the music publishers and artists (if the artists' payments are separate to those payable to the record company, which I don't expect).
That brings me to another economic difficulty that streaming services may face. The music publishers have a right to charge for every copy of their work made . This is called the mechanical right. It may be that each copy held by a streaming service results in a royalty payment for the exploitation of this right. However the vast majority of tracks that they have are never accessed by users and thus produce no income. I once saw a figure that indicated that for a service with, say, 30 million available tracks only a few thousand or tens of thousand are ever requested for play. So the streaming service may well simply just have to bear the cost of, say, 29 million of those tracks with little financial return beyond the fact that their mere existence attracts subscribers.
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