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Tidal vs Spotify

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by krismusic, Sep 5, 2015.
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  1. bigshot
    Of course for classical music, performance quality is much more important than recording quality. I'd take a dry boxy Toscanini Beethoven symphony over the best high bitrate recording by a no name regional Eastern European band. And thankfully, classical music has been well mastered and recorded since the late 60s, so most of it sounds very good.
    sonitus mirus likes this.
  2. nrvenice
    False dichotomy. Even Rachmaninoff playing Rachmaninoff is hampered by the low quality mono recordings.
  3. bigshot
    It depends on if you are listening to the recording or the music. "Audiophile" classical music is usually performed by experienced, but faceless regional orchestras. And most classical recordings since the age of stereo are recorded to very high standards anyway. There's no reason to sacrifice performance quality for recording quality.
    Last edited: Jul 3, 2017
  4. Strangelove424
    Reading through this thread, there seems to be a lot of confusion as to what the differences may be in regard to encoding vs. mastering. I have a pretty big stake in finding an answer to this, and I think it's worth the time. For the most part, I switched to streaming, even when I have PCM files sitting right next to me locally. Streaming has become my access point for most music- it's just easier, and I have the kid in a candy store feeling when I can access almost every album ever made. With this in mind, I put aside my negative feelings about Tidal's associating with MQA and recent Jay-Z acquisition, and got a trial subscription for a month.

    I began by capturing a WAV from both Spotify @ "premium" (320kbps 16/44.1 OggVorbis) and Tidal @ "HiFi" (16/44.1 FLAC) quality. I sampled Philip Glass' Sand Mandala from Kundun, Bach's Matthaus Passion by Ton Koopman, and the Beatles "Let It Be" Remaster. I tried my best to find the same masters of each, but can't absolutely guarantee it. With the soundcard in 44.1khz mode, I created an Audacity project @ 44.1khz, and captured streams from both music services. I then output both streams independent to a 16-bit/44.1khz WAV file, as to retain all data possible. My first step was ABXing. I could not differentiate beyond statistically random. This led me to approach things from a more concrete perspective, a nulling of the two WAV files I attained from each stream using the audio processing software Diffmaker. I have decided to post the files so that everybody can listen with their own ears:

    Tidal HiFi vs Spotify Premium Null track: Philip Glass, Sand Mandala, Kundun -
    (edit: Please do not adjust your volume for this test, the purpose is to compare noise and artifacts to regular listening levels. I should also warn you that there is a slight overhang at the end of the clip where the null drops off and the monks return, so please don't blow your ears or speakers out by turning up the volume.)


    Consists mainly of low frequency oms and didgeridoo. Doesn't seem to present any issue.

    Tidal HiFi vs Spotify Premium Null track: Bach, Matthaus Passion, Ton Koopman


    Low level noise, seems to be amplified when the chorus comes in toward the end. Wish I had captured more of the chorus, but was worried about file sizes.

    Tidal HiFi vs Spotify Premium Null Track: Beatles, Let It Be, Remastered


    Some low level noise around the vocals, but I don't know what to make of the extra piano hit. There are two remasters of Let It Be, from 2004 and 2009, and because Spotify and Tidal both list the albums' original 1970 release date, there's no way to know for sure which is which. Probably a mastering difference.

    I hope this has been useful. To me, according to the ABX results, the differences based on encoding do not appear to audible enough to justify Tidal on their own. However, it does seem to me that certain masters on Tidal are of better quality. One example is Fleetwood Mac's Rumors, which only appears on Spotify as the brickwalled and distorted "Deluxe" version. Tidal has a standard non-deluxe master that sounds much better. Philip Glass' Koyaanisqatsi was in its original form on Tidal, whereas Spotify only had an inferior soundtrack version with lots of hiss. I was also able to find a Till Bronner album named Oceana on Tidal that I have been missing since the days of MOG. On the other hand, Tidal was missing the Beatles Anthology, which I never purchased due to price, and enjoy having access to on Spotify. And Jay-Z's obvious marketing influence over Tidal, along with MQA, makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little. MQA is very disturbing to me, and I find it difficult to give money to a company that promotes it. I am still in the process of deciding what to do, because I do think that Tidal's library is curated with better masters. I may do further testing at Tidal's reduced 320kbps ($10/month) quality to see if it contains any marked differences from their 16/44.1 FLAC. But even at $10/month (same as Spotify Premium) the moral qualms I have with MQA are deep, and are the biggest hurdle in me choosing Tidal.
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017
  5. bigshot
    Great info! Thanks!
  6. Strangelove424
    No problem, glad if you can find it useful!
  7. Niouke
    very nice, the candy store effect is real over here as well :)
  8. nrvenice
    Very helpful in my own exploration, thank you. It seems from your post that you are very familiar with the Beatles but I'm curious about the Bach track, had you ever heard it performed live? And in general, how familiar were you with that particular recording prior to the abxing?

    My hypothesis is that track selection is crucial when trying to pick up subtle differences during abxing. Hearing classical pieces live and being familiar with the tracks is part of this. Also, I've noticed that isolated voices and instruments recorded at higher volume, and full choruses and orchestration recorded in unison are most revealing of differences in headphones and speakers.

    I plan on testing myself on pieces fitting the above description (that I listen to very frequently: at least once per week) to see if I can't reliably hear a difference.
  9. Strangelove424
    Glad if the data could be useful to you! I've been a Beatles fan for a long time. I have not heard Matthew's Passion performed live. I attended concerts when I knew someone with a season pass to the LA Philharmonic. This was at the new Disney Concert Hall, which was amazing. Unfortunately, I never heard Bach there. At the time, I thought I was too cool for baroque. Then I was invited to an opera and I fell asleep (I realized that night not a single bone in my body appreciates opera) and I was never invited back again. Anyhow, Bach eventually became my favorite, and I came to see him as more modern than any composer that's arrived since. It would be nice to see Matthaus Passion performed live. Ton Koopman's version is well recorded and performed, and by a youth choir no less! (atleast it's listed as a youth choir, they sure sound older to me).

    Regarding ABX, I think with enough training anything is possible. Now that I have the null files and know exactly what to listen for, I tried to ABX one more time, but it's still a toss up for me statistically. Maybe someone with better hearing can parse it. The null tracks do indicate that OggVorbis has some difficulties with vocals and high frequency transitions. Perhaps that could cause some long term listening fatigue at cranked levels, but I have yet to ABX them successfully one by one. The closest I got was with Let It Be by focusing on the initial piano strike. I guessed a few times in a row successfully, but then I began messing up. My mind became fuzzy, I started losing concentration, thinking about the pretty colors in my desktop background, and then I got a headache. I don't think I'm cut out for ABXing.
    nrvenice likes this.
  10. nrvenice
    The Disney Concert Hall is my favorite venue for classical music. I've only been thrice but everything I experienced there was amazing (with sound design reasons: http://articles.latimes.com/2013/se...-disney-concert-hall-yasuhisa-toyota-20130922). I've loved Bach with his mass and the double violin concertos (Stern/Zuckerman) being my favorites.

    My abxing results for Tidal vs Spotify are probably flawed because I don't have a sound pressure meter that's sensitive to a tenth of a decibel. I painstakingly level matched the macbook volume for each track independently before abxing by playing both at the same time with one trailing by a few fractions of a second so that the "echos" sounded identical. For the tracks I selected I thought this worked fairly well because they had significant amount of silence. I then turned my back to my accomplice to ensure no physical cues. She rolled a 20-sided die (not what it looks like) and played Spotify or Tidal first depending upon whether the die showed odd or even. She wrote down each roll and I wrote, on a separate pad, my guess.

    I used the following songs:
    1. Track 1 (Medea: Invocation) from Montserrat Figueras: Voice of Emotion
    2. Track 6 (Les Pleurs [Mr. de Sainte Colombe, version viole seule de Jordi Savall]) from All the Morning of the World Soundtrack
    3. Good Liar by Selena Gomez

    For 1. I got 7 out of 10 right (after changing my last 2 answers). Before I changed my answers, I had 9 out of 10. I blame the change of my answers on the song since it got much more complicated as my trial progressed.

    For 2. I got 5 out of 5. No hesitation this time.

    For 3. Again, I had 5 out of 5. No hesitation again.

    For 2 and 3 I didn't bother to extend the trial because the differences were so obvious. It made me wonder if Tidal uses some kind of equalization to goose something.

    Anyway, this is good enough for me for now. And coupled with Strangelove424's observation on their masters, makes me comfortable to pay the extra $10 each month.

    I'llI'll purchase a

    I'll buy an appropriate spl meter if I decide to extend my foray into headphones and repeat this test.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
  11. Strangelove424
    The Disney Hall has an acoustic intimacy that belies its vast space. I was completely transfixed by a violin solo once, my eyes adjusting to figure the spacial dimensions of the tiny soloist amid the grandeur of the auditorium, because to my ears she was right beside me. It was striking.

    I dunno what to say about Spotify vs Tidal ultimately. I don't think perceptual quality is enough to justify the cost. So to me it comes down to function. Tidal has some better masters. The concert videos are pretty cool, atleast what I saw of Eric Clapton. I like the sound output control I get from their app. But Tidal's library isn't as extensive or eclectic, their marketing is nauseating, their music discovery abysmal, and helpful features like Spotify's remote connect are hard to give up once you've had them.
    shuto77 likes this.
  12. ThomasHK
    One of the recent advantages of Tidal, is that you can route the audio directly to the external DAC in windows, bypassing the windows mixer. This to me at least has a bigger effect on sound quality than the minute differences between the lossy and lossless compression schemes used.
  13. Orestes1984
    At this point I'm hard pressed to tell the difference between Spotify and CD. If I listen to the same album on vinyl however, I notice a much greater difference. Maybe its my ears, maybe its the 180gram vinyl, or original vinyl pressings no matter my ears prefer the vinyl.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  14. bigshot
    Your turntable probably has a different response curve than your digital player. You should be able to recreate that with EQ for the digital side and have both sound great.
  15. shuto77
    As someone who has both Spotify and Tidal, I have to agree with this 100%.

    To get the best experience from both, this is how I use them:
    1. I use Spotify at work, in the car, or on-the-go, when data is at a premium. Here, I typically use their discovery/station options to learn about new artists.
    2. While at home, or when I have a chance to download entire albums, I use Tidal. I just hit play, and forget the app is on. The less I interface with the app, the better. This is also mitigated somewhat if I use USB Audio Player Pro with an Android device, as I completely bypass the stock Tidal app, and access the files. Tidal is essentially then just a file server. The only drawback to using the USB Audio Player Pro app is that Tidal doesn't allow it to access downloaded encrypted offline files, so it's not really practical to stream on-the-go.
    I'm not sure if this helps anyone, but it's at least a way to use both effectively. (And in the case of USB Audio Player Pro, a way to enjoy the benefit of Tidal without out all the baggage that comes along with it. If I get another notification telling me Jay-Z's new album is available, or that the footnotes for said album are available, I may just throw my phone out the window.)
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