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Topic: Quality of Streaming Services (Read 1373 times) previous topic - next topic
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Quality of Streaming Services

... Spotify vs Tidal, to be exact.
I recently subscribed to Tidal, hoping for the ultimate streaming quality available (FLAC, in some cases HiRes material).
But after some tests and comparisons with Spotify and existing CDs, I unfortunately had to realize that lossless streaming does not necessarily deliver the best quality. In many cases the Tidal file is compressed much higher than the comparison file from Spotify (e.g. "Robert Francis - Junebug" from the album "Before Nightfall" from 2009 (MusicBrainz lists only one CD for this album, so probably no "remastered recording" exists).
Spotify: DR=9, ReplayGain=-5.76 dB
Tidal:   DR=4, ReplayGain=-11.68 dB

Despite Spotify's lossy codec (Vorbis, afaik), this version sounds much better due to the much larger dynamic range, and that's despite Tidal labelling its track a "master recording".

Has anybody else made a similar experience?

Re: Quality of Streaming Services

Reply #1
despite Tidal labelling its track a "master recording".
Any idea of what that means?   I don't...

Every recording is "mastered" and some are re-mastered, sometimes improving them and sometimes making them worse.    But you can't really define "better" and "worse" except for your taste & preferences...

"Original master" may have different meanings too...    For an older recording it could be the original analog master or the original digital master, etc.

I guess this shows that the recording & production are usually more important that worrying about lossy compression...

Spotify: DR=9, ReplayGain=-5.76 dB
Tidal:   DR=4, ReplayGain=-11.68 dB
Be a little careful with that...   Lossy compression often increases "DR" (crest factor), but not by 5dB!!!    And it doesn't change the sound of the dynamics.

The ReplayGain adjustment is just an indication of loudness which is sometimes related to dynamics.  But if the streaming services are using different loudness normalization you'll get different ReplayGain numbers.    Tidal may not be doing any loudness normalization....     It's supposed to be bit-perfect, right?  Loudness normalization requires altering the "bits".  

Re: Quality of Streaming Services

Reply #2
With "master recordings" they usually mean HiRes audio files. But sometimes, a regular 16 bit/44.1 kHz file is sent.
Btw. here's how the waveforms look like:


Re: Quality of Streaming Services

Reply #3
Tidal's "Master" labeled music is lossy too, even in the 'HiFi' tier. If you want to be sure you're getting lossless audio, I would avoid Tidal.

That being said, different versions of the same album can sound different (more or less compressed...) and unless you know which one you're gonna get, there's not much you can do.

Re: Quality of Streaming Services

Reply #5
I'm guessing either MQA's mangling is responsible or more likely it's a completely different master.

Re: Quality of Streaming Services

Reply #6
so probably no "remastered recording" exists
It was released as a single first, later on album.
One mastered for the album and one for being broadcasted on radio (substantial dynamic compression)?

Re: Quality of Streaming Services

Reply #7
Looks like I had completely forgotten about this MQA crap.
And, like discussed in the cited GoldenSound article, there seems to be no way of getting lossless (like ripped audio CDs) content from Tidal. Regardless of the fact that they don't seem to bother to offer the best mastering but roll out brickwalled audio.
The question that remains (before I turn my back on Tidal): Is this hard-limited b*s* what they get from the record companies when they ask for best quality or is this compression applied by Tidal on purpose?

NB. I'm not after HiRes files because of their enhanced bit depth or sampling frequency - I'm sure I can't hear the difference compared to CDDA. But I was naive enough to believe that "HiRes Master Recordings" = better sounding mastering with higher dynamic range...

Re: Quality of Streaming Services

Reply #8
So after watching some of the "GoldenSound" videos:
Is it save to assume that, in a nutshell, MQA takes some bits (how many?) of the 16 bit audio samples (thus reducing the SNR by ~ 6dB/bit) to magically encode information about the frequency band above 20 kHz using noise shaping?
Then it would perfectly make sense to reduce the dynamic range of the source files before the MQA encoding process...