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Tidal vs Spotify

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by krismusic, Sep 5, 2015.
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  1. krismusic Contributor
    An excellent point IMHO. It's largely why I asked the question.
    I sometimes think that everything I think I know about audio is placebo!
    The differences I hear are more weight and impact I the bass and more air and sparkle in the highs.
    As you say classic bias perceptions.
    So I figured Sound Science was the place to get some straight answers.
     
  2. RRod
    If you can verify that the two services use the same master for a song, then you can pipe the output from your sound card from each service then compare using various methods. I dunno how to do this on Windows; on Linux you can either define a file pipe or capture output from a PCM monitor stream.
     
  3. Cathcart
    I personally prefer Spotify because it's cheaper here in the Philippines: only around $2 monthly. Can't say anything about quality against Tidal, because I haven't tried Tidal extensively, but Spotify's 320kbps is alright for my daily use. I honestly can't make out any huge differences between FLAC/ALAC and 320kbps unless I try really hard, so that's that for me.
     
  4. krismusic Contributor
    Hmmm. My hunch is that Spotify are not giving a true 320 kbps.
    Im not tech savvy enough to test. It would be great if someone who is could have a look.
     
  5. frodeni
     
    What is exactly missing? Do you have a tune, and may you please explain what we may listen for in that tune, that will give us a hint as to what you speak of?
     
    I used Spotify, as usual, yesterday to fine new tunes. I came across "Rain From Heaven" by Eric Paslay. I actually played that beauty close to 20 times, both on Spotty and Tidal. For every single instrument there is differences. I used both on max SQ.
     
    The guitar at the begging loose a lot of its higher pitched overtones, the string one to the right. Also, the base play for that guitar is almost lost for Spotty, rather, I needed to listen very carefully as to if it was there at all. It is, just not how it should be. That guitar rendering is wrong and out of tune. Much of the guitar rendering is simply not there with Spotify.
     
    As usual, the finer after effects, like echo, or subtle effects as to the imaging width, applies to all instruments. There is a electric guitar used for this, on the far left, and a piano sound. On Spoty, the rendering is lacking in articulation, there is more black silence surrounding these. The imaging is more pinpoint.
     
    There is also a clear lack of attack. Accross the entire frequency range. It is clearly heard on the cymbals and the guitar. Tidal reproduction is harsher for instruments that needs it.
     
    Tonality is different. Due to lack of finer details and the lack of articulation, different instruments gets focus through the tune. The subtle lack of environmental effects, results in more silence between the instruments and vocals. Also, the lack of attack, alters the perception of beat, and what makes the beat.
     
    I could go on like this for quite some time. In the end, a pattern of less articulation, seems to describe the difference the best. It seems to be the root for the differences. And no, volume has nothing to do with it, simply because the relation and emphasis between instruments and voices is changed. The tonality is off. Adjusting the volume for the main voice, make other parts in the rendering off by volume.
     
    And how do I volume adjust base or the drums, when it by Spotify lacks articulation and thus sound differently?
     
    The listening was done using my PC as a source. Listening on the Oppo HA-1, connected by AQ Coffee USB, Heimdal2, and HD800. This of course should make people jump at me, but I choose to leave it as it is, as this is about the perceived difference, not if there is one, because that is a given. (hint:ASIO and Windows)
     
    So, it would be nice to get a sample tune, and a description of what the difference is.
     
    I can listen to the same tune, replicating your settings, and then compare notes.  
     
    Also, Spotify might simply add an enhancement filter to their output. Just comparing output, is simply not proof of much. The encoding algorithm might also differ, and the source of the transcoding. If there is a difference, it needs to be understood, to make any meaningful claim. Objective data has the annoying trait, that it needs to be given meaning, to have one.
     
  6. krismusic Contributor
    Hi frodeni, thank you very much for your detailed post.
    I'm busy with work but ASAP will get some ear time and try to make the evaluations you ask for.
    A track I am using is Saving Grace on the album Highway Companion by Tom Petty.
    Highly recommended if you like high quality rock music.
    I'll post back as soon as I can. Kris
     
  7. frodeni
    Great! 
     
    Also, thanks for the tune tip! I liked that one.
     
    Spotify on high, Tidal on AAC 320, and Tidal on FLAC 1411 all sound different to me, on my setup. Tidal also support direct output to my Oppo HA-1 by ASIO, which further improves the result. This tune is also so great, that I will be happy listening to it over and over, which really helps doing this kind of analytic work.
     
    Tell me what to listen for, and I will try to report back as accurately as I can.
     
    williamclarkonet and krismusic like this.
  8. krismusic Contributor

    Hi Frode, Well. Work slowed down and I have been able to have a listen over a period of a few days. It has been interesting listening over a period of time. Initially switching from Spotify to Tidal HiFi seemed like a huge leap in SQ. Over time I came to the conclusion that a lot of that is placebo. As Sonitus Mirus pointed out, being told that you are listening to a superior format introduces a major bias. It is also annoying that Tidal is slightly louder than Spotify. It makes sense to me that volume matching is important as playing music louder automatically sounds more dynamic.
    I would say that the real difference is actually quite subtle but worthwhile. If I had never heard Tidal I think that I would have continued to enjoy Spotify. However, there is no turning back!
    To be specific and referring to Saving Grace. At the begining Tom Petty's vocals sound more forward. the handclaps ( I always find handclaps a good tell) sound more realistic. When the band kicks in at around 1.05 there is more separation betyween instruments. Spotify sounds more congested.
    I also found a Joe Bonamassa track, Different Shades of Blue on the album of the same name, useful. Specifically cymbal sounds.
    On A Fiona Apple track, Daredevil, from her album The Idler Wheel... it sounded as if Fiona was singing inside my head!
    However. Just as I was convinced, I came across the Tdal Test, between 320 and HiFi. I didn't do great on that!
    I am 59 and have moderate Tinnitus. It is an irony that when I can afford nice gear, my ears are too shot to appreciate it properly.
    I took the Phillips Golden Ears Challenge, that's very interesting if you have not come across it, I did terribly with that! I think they need a new category. Tin perhaps?!
    So it seems that I do not have audiophile quality hearing.
    I do however love my K10 CIEM's and having spent a considerable amount to own them it does seem mean not to feed them the best possible signal. Even though logically I would probably be fine with the lower tier Tidal.
    I also applaud Tidal's aim of making the business model work for musicians. Kudos to Spotify for taking streaming out of the hands of pirates but they really need to do better in that regard.
    For those totally emotional reasons plus the improvements in sound that I can appreciate I shall keep my Tidal subscription. I will keep Spotify Premium as well for a time. I have a huge library of music on there.
    I hope some of that is of interest. I could have put it in a PM but I thought I would reply here in part to reassure anyone who is on a limited budget that they are not missing out on eargasms by sticking with a 320kbps service. Just subtle incremental improvement.
     
  9. sonitus mirus
     
    The interesting thing about this is that there actually is a difference that apparently is created using the Fraunhofer FDK AAC encoder, as similar results were found when converting other FLAC files to AAC with this encoder.  The Apple iTunes AAC encoder does not have the same issue with the files that I tested.
     
    Here is the listening test I performed between the Tidal FLAC and AAC versions.  At the time, I thought the differences were completely intentional by Tidal, as it was simply too much of a coincidence that the exact same differences were being coached for the test subject to listen for in the instructions.  That probably is just a coincidence, and I no longer believe it was intentional, but the differences do exist where none should when using the same encoder that Apple uses for their AAC files.
     
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/770352/how-well-can-you-hear-audio-quality#post_11662420
     
    I cannot hear any difference performing a similar test with either a purchased or created iTunes AAC 256 file (using the iTunes encoder) and Tidal FLAC, nor can I hear any differences with a Google Music 320 kbps MP3 and the Tidal FLAC.  Only the Tidal AAC is different from all of the others, and I can reproduce these differences using dBPoweramp with the available downloadable AAC codec plugin (FDK).   I do not know if this is typical for the entire Tidal library or only with these 3 test files.
     
  10. krismusic Contributor
    I guess it would not be surprising if the Tidal test was tweaked.
    Sadly I think Spotify are not being entirely truthful about the quality of Premium.
     
  11. ExistentialEAR
    Don't mean to be off topic this was converted via itunes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekpRdH9PrZI&feature=youtu.be
     
  12. frodeni
     
    Thanks Kris.
     
    I find it more a question of what makes people enjoy the music, and for most, these sonic differences play a lesser role in that.
     
    As for the changes you still hear, even at your age, they are all there. They will just manifest differently depending on a lot of factors, and for some gear, I simply do not hear them at all.
     
    As for the Tidal online test, I cannot tell the web samples apart, but they sure do not sound like Tidal playback on my PC. Some instruments are not even rendered at all, on this web test. So if you did not hear any difference Kris, good on you. That web test difference is pointless.
     
    I will be a bit busy going forward, so please send me a PM, if anyone want a response from me on this topic. It may take a while for me to reply.
     
  13. dcmtr
    The problem with Spotify's sound quality is largely down to the app, not the source files.
     
    You can avoid this problem by using Fidelify instead, a third party Windows interface for Spotify (which only works with Spotify Premium accounts). It makes the sound quality very noticeably better, although the interface is quite clunky and only for Windows.
     
    Fidelify also confirms the bitrate of the tune you are playing.
     
  14. krismusic Contributor
    A shame it doesn't work on a phone.
     
  15. reginalb
     
    This is the thing with streaming services: There are SO many more variables introduced that it's no longer a 320k MP3 vs FLAC question. I decided to give Tidal a try in my HT system against Google Play Music All Access (I'm subscribed to All Access at the trial $7.99/month rate, and I like the UI a lot more than Spotify). I feel like there might be some difference, maybe. But definitely not $144/year difference. And the lack of Google casting support from Tidal seals the deal. I don't want to have to use Airplay to stream it, since Android is my mobile OS of choice.
     
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