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Streaming service sound quality comparison video

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by SilverEars, Sep 16, 2018.
  1. SilverEars
    I think this belongs here for a discussion. To my ears, Tidal does sound better than Youtube. Hard to tell with Foobar and files. But anyway, I thought this video was interesting, and I'm sure people here have some thoughts to share regarding this video.

  2. bigshot
    Just looking at the keyframe, the waveform for Tidal looks louder. Did they do level matching before they did comparison testing?
  3. reginalb
    I did a comparison a while back where I did the free trials of Tidal, Apple Music, and Deezer. And I contrasted them against Google Play Music (which doesn't get nearly enough credit, it comes with YouTube Premium - formerly Red) as part of the price.

    They all sound basically the same. GPM has the best features for me (because of the bundled YT Premium - and I use YT a ton, so the no ads is yuuuuuuuge).

    I'd be interested to see if there is any difference between the YouTube Music app (which is going to eventually replace the Google Play Music app completely) and the main YouTube app.
  4. Steve999
    @SilverEars , I am not expert enough to really dig into this. I am concerned that these are sighted tests and if what @bigshot says is correct the amplitudes may not be matched. For me those would be deal-killers in terms of validity of the testing. And then this bit about our brain filling in details attributable to phase shifts causing some kind of hearing strain sounds, to put it gently, like it belongs in the museum of the hard to believe. And checking for phase shifts to judge audio quality, well, this is perceptual coding. I think he may be missing the point of effective perceptual coding.

    With @bigshot 's help I tested my own ABX limits in Foobar to the extent I could as far as audio encoding is concerned and pretty much know what my limits are, but obviously I can't know what goes on from point A to point B before a streaming service hits my ears, so that's an extra variable. At the margins the testing got a little tiresome TBH. If company A or company B is doing something audibly messed up with the streaming signal before it gets to my ears I really truly want to know about that. If I have a bias it's that I have Apple Music (for myself--it keeps all of the stuff it can't match in the cloud for me as a side benefit) and Spotify (for the whole family), so I would like to see those be transparent, but if not, there are other options, eh?

    For Tidal, I see a restricted library and paying $20 a month and I do not have confidence their streaming sounds any better. I am not going to be the one to be able to prove that definitively, nor am I going to spend the money to try to do so. I've tested lossless against MP3 and AAC and as I said I know where my limits are within a margin of error and I add to it a good cushion of safety and I read statistical results of ABX studies to make sure I'm in the ballpark. I am not going to say where my limits are because they are most likely a little different for everyone and I'm not going to open myself up to some ad hominem attack about how awful my hearing is or on the other side of the coin what a liar I am. Too much nastiness on these interwebs for my taste.

    By the way, in my mind getting the true lossless file is called "buying the CD"--a point the video maker seems to overlook entirely. These days I only buy CDs for music that I absolutely love and that cannot be found on Spotify or Apple music. I have CDs from the old days comprising maybe, oh, let me ballpark this, 12,641 tracks plus probably another 500 here and there I haven't picked through yet. To me that seems like a lot of music but I've been told it's a rather modestly sized library.

    Also that music this guy plays is so processed in the production part of the process part of me is just like, who cares. But honestly, I do care, and anything that puts competitive pressure in the area of fidelity is on one level fine with me. Although with Tidal I personally am concerned you are losing library and some other features with no audible benefit in fidelity. If I'm right, that's a lose-lose for me personally. If it makes someone else more comfortable in their decision, I can truly understand that as well.

    I have a wireless speaker where one of the streaming options is "uncompressed" and I do use that setting. And I have a bluetooth speaker that will let you place priority on connectivity or fidelity. I pick fidelity priority. it purports to select the best of a few codecs to get the highest quality bluetooth stream.--the choices are apparently LDAC, AAC, or SBC. I guess the latest Android OS supports LDAC now and that's a very high bitrate. That's over my head but if it's putting priority on fidelity and my signal doesn't drop I'm good with that. Neither of these speakers is anything close to my hi-fi rig, but they both get me to the point where the sound is super-enjoyable. To me, the biggest improvement in sound quality for my hi fi rig was when I bought a $500 subwoofer that could confidently do justice to and go down well below 40 hertz (about the lowest note on a double bass) or 27 hz (about the lowest note on a piano). That made the music sound so much more real to me. That was filling in information that I was sometimes consciously trying to interpolate back into the music to the extent it had made it into a recording.

    I also tried Google Play music as well, and Amazon Unlimited music. In my mind both are really great. I chose on features and price and what was going to be reasonable for a family of music lovers without paying money for more stuff but with no real benefit, so I have Apple Music and Spotify.

    So the bottom line is: I am really, really not confident in the guy who did this video's opinions or methodologies or ideas. Or in other words, I am deeply unimpressed. Or in other words, I am completely unpersuaded. But I will leave it to those with more technical knowledge or different perspectives and experiences than I have to give a better opinion and parse things out better or call into question my guesses. And if anyone knows how to maximize fidelity through any particular streaming service I'm right here and all ears! If it's a matter of clicking on a radio button or selecting a software option, bang, I'm there!!

    In the big picture, from my perspective, I was okay with hiss and hum and LPs and fiddly balance knobs and cassette decks and look where we are now!

    Hey, thanks so much for this post! And please post some more music in the music thread! At the end of the day, that's what I'm into! :)

    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
    SoFGR likes this.
  5. SilverEars
    Looking at the waveforms, Tidal does look louder, and it's rather significant of a difference from Youtube (which looks least loudest). SQ is graded in the same sequence as the level of loudness here.

    I'm wondering if it's just difference in amplitudes his comparison is showing.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2018
  6. bigshot
    Yeah. It's surprising that people go to all the trouble to do a comparison, but don't bother to level match. But we see that all the time around here on Sound Science.

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