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Tidal vs Spotify

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by krismusic, Sep 5, 2015.
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  1. Orestes1984
    Quite possibly.
  2. bigshot
    An imbalance like that would either be the result of the cartridge not being flat, or your phono pre amp being colored. You might try swapping in a different phono preamp and see if it's causing the response shift. In any case, if your digital media doesn't sound as good as your turntable, some judicious EQ is badly needed. You can probably equalize to make both your turntable and digital sources sound better.
  3. Orestes1984
    The reality of it at the moment is listening to digital through a pure analogue stage with a valve amplifier as that is how I've got everything set up right now. Digital files sound quite harsh, my source at the moment is an Apple TV3 with a DAC which adds more issues in the loop, but even when I go directly in, it sounds about the same. There is something about listening to analogue sources such as vinyl on valve amplifers as they were intended to be listened to. I should add an EQ in the loop and check out what exactly is going on though.
  4. castleofargh Contributor
    vinyl has so many things going wrong(objectively) that I wouldn't expect an EQ to be enough to even out the differences with a digital source. many types of distortions, extra noise, massive crosstalk, EQ, and of course the master being typically different.
    but maybe we could take this discussion to a topic that isn't so very digital in substance ^_^.
  5. Orestes1984
    There is nothing perfect about digital reproduction either the redbook standard is just one such standard and its flawed also, we have much higher resolution, higher detail digital sources now. To be fair I'm not talking about digital files mastered for analogue media, I'm talking untranslated analogue pressings that were originally recorded on an analogue reel to reel tape. Lets separate out the wheat from the chaft. CDs lack resolution especially at high frequencies that lead to harsh and tinny sounding highs that are especially exposed when played through an analogue amplifier and despite the higher noise factors involved vinyl has a far more accurate and untainted wave form than any CD can have (objectively speaking) I'm not even going to buy into the way digital files are brick walled to the point of clipping for extra loudness where vinyl mastered on analogue tape is generally not either.

    We do have some greater advantages today that weren't available in the seventies, but most recording studios don't actually make use of them. I'm not sure you've ever seen a Pro Tools, or VST mix down on a modern desk where compressor is stacked on top of auto tune, is stacked on top of reverb, on top other filters egads leave it alone please or find someone who can actually sing... don't get me started on what people call "producers" today its not even worth entering into that discussion.

    Go have a listen to Adele's world famous "21" album and then listen to Melody Gardot's "The Absence" album please and then tell me that popular music producers are any good at actually mixing music today and you will hear the difference with your own ears. Most modern music is a bit like looking through photos with both instagram and snapchat filters applied, most of the stuff that they do to music today is terrible and sounds terrible. Then very occasionally there is someone who speaks Jazz music, as it was spoken 50 years ago.

    Technically there is more resolution and bit depth in digital files, but the way music is mastered today and abused it really doesn't take advantage of that extra resolution and anyway, the perceived differences don't really stack up. You might here a cymbal crash in the highs, or some extra bass kick in the lows but most people don't perceive below 30hz and above about 16khz though with all of the other noises going on. That's just physics of the human ear. If you normalise the music for the middle there is actually no benefit in either format (technically speaking) of course. Those few producers that come close are not the types that most people listen to.

    Whenever I have found actual attributed differences beyond what I like and don't like, it has always been able to be attributed to the mix and not to the medium itself. If you want an actual attributed hard and fast rule as to whether an LP or a CD will sound better, you need to know a little bit about the pressing of the LP and the approach of the CD master. Music recorded and released on vinyl from the original tape source almost inevitably will sound better than the CD reissue of the same track, likewise music mixed for digital and released digitally will almost inevitably sound better on CD. If the LP has been remastered for digital it almost definitely wont sound anything like the original LP release, and probably worse. Music produced during the oil crisis on vinyl in the 1970s and 1980s might sound worse, but if you get a re-release on thicker vinyl it might sound better.

    I listen to digital, but I keep my digital and analogue spaces separated. The two don't go together. People like to profess the greater bit depth of digital music from a technical perspective. They might be right but the vast majority of the differences that they spout out will be found in areas that are not discernible to the average persons ears and if they were listening by ear on a double blind test rather than pulling out statistics to support their claims they probably wouldn't be able to hear any technical difference what so ever.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  6. bigshot
    You're wrong about redbook. To human ears it is perfect. If it doesn't sound perfect, there is something in your system that is coloring it to sound bad. If you have speakers, that and the room would be the first suspects to check out to try to eliminate the problem. Equalization is essential in any speaker rig. I didn't realize that until about 15 years ago and it totally transformed my system. If everything is equal, the format shouldn't matter. LPs can sound great. So can CDs. So can lossy digital files. The trick is getting your system to present them all at their best.

    Edit: I see you're amping your digital audio through a tube amp. Perhaps the tube amp isn't used to getting the upper frequencies and is distorting. Most LPs started rolling off the highs at about 12kHz. CDs are flat all the way up to 20kHz. I would bet that has something to do with why your digital stuff doesn't sound good. It would be an interesting experiment to try EQing your CDs to roll off between 12kHz and 15kHz to simulate the LP curve. I bet that might sound just like your LPs.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
    upstateguy likes this.
  7. Orestes1984
    The issue really shouldn't be the tops it should be the bottom end below 30khz, but I'm rolling a sub for that.


    The issue is probably the fact that I haven't flattened everything out with an EQ just yet. I'll need to get a spectrum analyser and work out exactly what is going on.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2017
  8. bigshot
    Too much treble and upper mids sounds the same as not enough bass. I've learned a lot about frequencies by EQing. There's a lot about it that isn't particularly intuitive.
    upstateguy likes this.
  9. Strangelove424
    Ha! I understand that feeling completely! Or at least throwing Tidal out the window. Just because Jay-Z owns the company doesn't mean he gets to pretend no other musician is releasing an album that week. Tidal talks about wanting to empower musicians, but with all of their exclusive releases and Jay-Z tunnel vision, I think Tidal is doing less than Spotify to promote new artists. Speaking of which, you have an interesting idea to use Spotify to find music, and Tidal to listen, but does that mean you are paying for both services? Or using Spotify free?

    The Tidal desktop app is driving me nuts. Tidal keeps opening on startup, even though I have disabled that option. I've gone into msconfig to disable it manually but every time I do a new enabled entry shows up to replace it! I've never seen such aggressive behavior by a program to run at startup. I'm on Windows 7, but people are having the same kind of issue with OSX:


    Am I alone in this automatic startup experience using Windows?
  10. ev13wt
    It is because due to the technical limitations of the medium "Vinyl" compared to "digital". They are simply mastered differently.

    This is why many early CDs sound pretty "bad". They just used the master mix which was originally intended for vinyl.
  11. neil74
    I am no audio expert but I recently started the 30 day trail of Tidal after being a long-term Spotify user, I have historically also used Apple music but when I switched the android I had to go with Spotify as the apple music app is garbage on android.

    I only really stream indoors and mainly download all of my music for offline listening. It is actually this rather than sound quality that prompted me to try Tidal as Apple music has constant issues playing when offline and I have also had a few gremlins with Spotify losing downloaded songs too. I go on holiday in a couple of weeks and just did not feel I could trust either totally when I sat on the plane in flight mode. Anyway enough waffling here is my take on these 2 after a week with Tidal….

    General stuff excl.sound quality

    · The UI on Spotify is mostly better, I think it feels slicker and more mature, not massively so but I do prefer it. e.g. if I am browsing playlists on tidal and view one, when I navigate back it takes me to the top of the page again.

    · I do prefer though how Tidal displays offline material

    · Playlists are better on Spotify and Tidal is imo too hip-hop focussed. I have spent some time importing my playlists (using stamp) and also finding playlists on Tidal so I am all set up now but Tidal does lack the regular curated ones that I use on Spotify so new music discovery feels like it will be harder work on Tidal.

    · Playlist folders - Spotify has them Tidal doesn't.

    · Spotify Connect!

    · Anecdotal but so far Tidal feels better on battery too

    Sound Quality

    This is where it gets a little muddy for me. As I said above I am no audio expert, I have a Sonos setup at home and otherwise my listening is mainly through my Samsung S8 and B&W P5 S2 or P7 wireless, so decent but not top end kit by any means. I have tried a blind test and failed badly, that was though using my P5s through my MacBook pro so may or may not have been a good test. When I test the same song on both on my phone through the P5 or P7s I think Tidal sounds a hair fuller but that just could be my mind playing tricks. Where Tidal has been noticeably better so far though is consistency, I have always had the sense that some songs on Spotify sound worse than others and certainly the volume variance is wider than any other service I have tried (and I ensure that normalisation is off) so there may be some mileage in the claims that not all material is 320kbps on Spotify (the same concern has kept me away from Deezer too). It is a shame that Spotify does not display the quality like Tidal does.

    So I am not sure where I stand on these two to be honest, I have been patiently waiting for Spotify to deliver their own h-fi tier since it was mentioned in February/March but almost 6 months on the silence is deafening on this one. Will I stick with Tidal when the 30 days is up? not decided yet. Right now my most likely path is switching back to iPhone when the 8 is released and returning to Apple Music. I actually still pay for Apple music as my family all use it but am lucky enough to have 12 months of Spotify for free via my mobile phone provider.

    Lastly in closing another interesting theory I read recently was that lossless may be less stressful to listen to as with compressed files your brain fills in the gaps that you may not notice. Initially this sounded like a nonsense but it is an intriguing point, music interpolation on the fly?????
    castleofargh likes this.
  12. castleofargh Contributor
    I know which article you refer to for your last point, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is garbage theory as soon as we start looking at the magnitudes involved. first there is no gap and we could probably stop there. lossy formats just offer a slightly different sound because the quietest parts(somewhere below -60dB for high rate mp3/aac) are altered to save storage space. if the sound engineer had moved a microphone somewhere else, the sound would have been different. at a concert, if I change seat I will get a sound a little different. those 2 examples will alter the music significantly more than a high rate lossy codec will. some decide to treat any possible difference as a demon but then they change their headphone every 6 months and think that outstanding difference is just fine. it's constant double thinking and failure to see things as they really are.
    there is nothing wrong with the desire for fidelity, and sure enough lossless formats do that better. that alone should be the reason why people go for it, if they want to. not some propaganda to make a grain of sand look like a mountain because the market has monetized music based on weight so they'd rather have us purchase anything with big numbers.

    of course if 2 sounds were very obviously different in magnitudes and content, then it would be reasonable to consider that one can be more tiring than the other. one hour of lullaby will not feel as stressful as one hour of some punk singing his lungs out, even if played at the same loudness. but nobody would fail a blind test of lullaby vs punk rock. ^_^
    artifacts on real low sample rate are another matter, when clearly audible they can reach high amplitudes, and even from a subjective point of view, it kind of pisses me off when I notice them on low bitrate web radios. so yeah that's definitely stressful, like hearing Despacito 25 times a day. :wink:

    it all comes down to magnitudes.
    neil74 and ev13wt like this.
  13. bigshot
    If a lossy format and bit rate is audibly transparent, I don't see how it can be any more stressful to listen to than any other format. I find "listening fatigue" usually comes down to frequency response imbalances or spike, particularly in the upper mids where the ears are most sensitive. Headphone clamping can have an effect too. And of course extended exposure to really bad music!
    ev13wt likes this.
  14. ev13wt

    I have been posting this idea a couple of years now as well. Missing gaps are quiet cues that get cut off too fast or removing "sounds" we can't hear.

    Just because we can't hear something, doesn't mean it hasn't arrived at the eardrum.

    Before we hear, our brain filters out those sounds, after matching them against the brains memory lookup table of "sound correlates to X"

    Can someone link the article or pm me?
  15. neil74
    ev13wt likes this.
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