Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP

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soundmax

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Hi!
I'm new to Tidal and I'm now in the trial period for its services.
I have used a network player from another brand which has the built-in Tidal option.
My findings so far are: given the same track streamed from Tidal versus a flac file played from Usb stick or Nas there are distinct differences in the favor of the physical file.
The streamed from Tidal version has less soundstage, dynamic compression and bad timing resulting in less enjoyment of music.
I am using the hi quality streams (not listening too an mp3) and I tried to match the exact album release in order not to be fooled by different masters.
Consistently the ripped to flac physical file version beats the streamed one...

Have you noticed the same problem so far with Bryston gear?
What could be the explanation for what I'm hearing?
Will a Bryston player display the same issue? Or both versions will sound identical?
« Last Edit: 19 May 2017, 11:46 pm by soundmax »

James Tanner

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #1 on: 19 May 2017, 04:22 pm »
Great topic soundmax !  :thumb:

james

zoom25

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #2 on: 19 May 2017, 04:25 pm »
Great topic soundmax !  :thumb:

james

Here I thought you would have hated these types of topics by now.  :green:

zoom25

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #3 on: 19 May 2017, 04:33 pm »
To OP:

Yup, nothing sounds as good as direct playback from MPD via a connected drive. Not NAS, not Roon, not Shairplay. It's the most evident with Roon for me. Even on Mac when I tried Tidal, it didn't keep up with Audirvana Plus and local playback...Surprisingly, I still had a lot of fun with Internet Radio Stations. James had a few good ones awhile back.

Local playback is still the best via MPD. Although, you can still tweak the system if you want even more and if you care about these things.


Rusty Jefferson

Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #4 on: 19 May 2017, 05:22 pm »
......Consistently the ripped to flac physical file version beats the streamed one...
Have you noticed the same problem so far with Bryston gear?
What could be the explanation for what I'm hearing?
Will a Bryston player display the same issue? Or both versions will sound identical?
I've not yet heard Tidal sound as good as stored/ripped media on any brand of server/network device.  Something happens to the soundstage in particular.  Tidal seems 2 dimensional and the stored files more 3 dimensional in the systems I've heard, though none were Bryston players. Can't imagine why.

soundmax

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #5 on: 19 May 2017, 08:46 pm »
You said it doesn't sound as good as stored media on any brand of server/network device.
I'm wondering, what is the explanation?

First, I want to believe that some form of coding/compression is not applied at source  level by Tidal and what gets streamed is indeed a flac file. Let's assume that.

Second, what I feel is that the sound that reaches the DAC has the symptoms of a "bad transport".
And maybe this is what's happening... in a streaming protocol packets are not resent if they are lost (am I correct on this?) and between Tidal source server and your PC there is a whole world of optics fibers, switches, media converters, long runs of cables, etc. that induce a lot of jitter on the way and potentially lose packets on the way.
I could be wrong, so I'm open to hear the technical explanation.
My conclusion: while I'm not hearing dropouts or other glitches while listening on Tidal, neither the sound quality is on par with stored media.

So does Tidal sounds bad just because of the nature of the "streaming" protocol ?
Or is there something else involved ?
Like encrypting/decrypting of the file etc. (I assume the file is crypted when transferring between Tidal and your device. Again, am I right ? please correct me)
How does Bryston treat these issues? Is there any buffering/downloading ?



CanadianMaestro

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #6 on: 19 May 2017, 10:34 pm »
Weird, because a lot of people, it seems, who listen to Tidal thru streaming love its SQ and say they would not listen to much else, even CDs.


Rusty Jefferson

Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #7 on: 19 May 2017, 11:16 pm »
Weird, because a lot of people, it seems, who listen to Tidal thru streaming love its SQ and say they would not listen to much else, even CDs.
I'm not saying Tidal SQ is bad, just that if you have a very good system (including the network device), you'll notice the quality is better with ripped/stored files, in my experience.  That doesn't mean Tidal isn't great for it's access, variety, and enjoyment.

soundmax

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #8 on: 19 May 2017, 11:39 pm »
@CanadianMaestro: I agree with you, for most people it should sound fine and it's a convenient solution.
I'm more interested to find out your personal opinion, your own conclusion.

For me, in order to hear the differences, I think it takes educated ears, good gear and to be sure you compare identical track versions (not old vs. newly re-mastered versions).
Most people have trouble distinguishing between mp3 and flac versions and they don't own expensive gear.
My personal conclusion is that streaming over internet is a convenient but not really an ultimate audiophile solution.
And:
 - it's not Tidal's fault, assuming they send the flac correctly
 - it's not gear manufacturer's fault (Bryston or others), they receive the bits via the Internet via streaming
I'm just curious if Bryston found a way to solve this maybe via some buffering...
It seems to me that the music is dead on arrival because of the streaming protocol, the transport.
What happens between the two ends takes a toll on the sound quality.

In my opinion, the only reliable way to have the maximum of quality is downloading the entire file, not streaming.

To illustrate this:
Imagine your network player doing streaming of a track from a NAS in your local network at home.
The digital signal will pass from the NAS through one or more Ethernet cables and/or maybe a router or switch (or even more) in its way to the streamer/player.
A lot of people try these days to optimize that :
- by using expensive audiophile Ethernet cables,
- replacing the power adapters of the NAS and routers/switches with clean and stable linear power supplies (LPS) or batteries
And notable improvements could be heard in a decent system! I enjoyed them, too.

Now imagine the NAS is a Tidal server located somewhere on the "web" and between it and your system is "the internet" :)
No more audiophile cables and LPS :)
The real-time audio digital signal travels through a web of cables and gear with dubious power supplies out of your control.
Only the download is guaranteed 100% bit perfect but streaming will affect the timing, will suffer from jitter and packet loss.

Eager to hear some opinions from "technical" guys, I could be wrong on what was stated above and I accept that.

CanadianMaestro

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #9 on: 20 May 2017, 01:22 am »
@soundmax, I've actually never used Tidal. Have read good things about it though, from some good people here and elsewhere.

A good day for me is if I can open an attachment.....hence I love BDP. Once set up, it's easy to op.

Will be interesting, though, to get to the bottom of this mystery.   :scratch:

zoom25

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #10 on: 20 May 2017, 01:55 am »
I had a Powerline adapter and switch combo. I got rid of the Powerline. I do want to try a direct connection one day with my main modem/router.

Anonamemouse

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #11 on: 20 May 2017, 07:24 am »
I auditioned Flac Tidal (on a non Bryston streamer), but stopped using it. My main issue was the sound quality, plus not knowing what source was used.
If you use it like radio without expecting much more it's perfect. But in my opinion it isn't good enough to consider it of audiophile level.

Krutsch

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #12 on: 22 May 2017, 12:08 am »

...

Second, what I feel is that the sound that reaches the DAC has the symptoms of a "bad transport".
And maybe this is what's happening... in a streaming protocol packets are not resent if they are lost (am I correct on this?) and between Tidal source server and your PC there is a whole world of optics fibers, switches, media converters, long runs of cables, etc. that induce a lot of jitter on the way and potentially lose packets on the way.
I could be wrong, so I'm open to hear the technical explanation.
My conclusion: while I'm not hearing dropouts or other glitches while listening on Tidal, neither the sound quality is on par with stored media.

...


'No' to all of the above. TIDAL uses TCP/IP to send encapsulated PCM data (as FLAC) from it's servers on the Internet to your PC/Mac. TCP/IP is a reliable protocol in that packets are guaranteed to arrive in order and be complete, without error - unless transmission stops altogether, or slows beyond playback cadence, in which case the music just stops until sufficient data is buffered on the receiving end.

There is no concept of "jitter" while audio data is in this domain - the packets are received and reliably assembled into a PCM stream, buffered by your PC and then sent to your DAC via the OS-specific audio layers (e.g. Core Audio for a Mac). TCP/IP does NOT contain any temporal information, in that the packets are not associated with a time of arrival and associated re-transmit - it's completely asynchronous.

Until it's being sent to the DAC, timing matters not one iota. And, since just about all DACs now are receiving PCM data via an asynchronous USB input, timing from the PC does not come into play either (i.e. there is no "jitter" here, as well).

If TIDAL audio is of lower quality, it has nothing to do with the protocol used to send it over the Internet - this is assured by the protocol.

It's possible that TIDAL applies a lossy compression to save bandwidth or to "catch up" if bandwidth does not allow full lossless playback, but I've not read that this occurs and I would be very surprised if this was the case. Apple AirPlay is known to "drop frames" to catch-up when streaming to multiple devices, simultaneously, in bandwidth constrained situations to keep playback in-sync across devices.

lcrim

Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #13 on: 22 May 2017, 04:31 am »
Tidal HiFi is pretty much all I listen to anymore. Sometimes I use my local NAS as source but the renderer determines the resolution.  My Android phone has Bubble UpnP loaded so I use that as my remote, works flawlessly in the car as well(plugged into car stereo.)
 Why anyone would use  a player in this day and age is beyond me.  The ability to choose from a library that size and that quality just obviates all other choices.  The only flaw is if JayZ decides to sell the company, the new owners would immediately lower the resolution to the crap standard.  Then again I read that there are folks who listen to Blue Tooth.
Larry

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #14 on: 30 May 2017, 12:04 am »
I'm with you Larry.  The Tidal back catalogue is shocking, stuff I never knew existed back in the day.  Tidal sound quality is good enough.  For detailed listening I still go with vinyl although new, higher res. MQA, Tidal competes well with the licorice pizza.  Hope they get MQA on my BDA.


jarcher

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #15 on: 30 May 2017, 01:49 am »
'No' to all of the above. TIDAL uses TCP/IP to send encapsulated PCM data (as FLAC) from it's servers on the Internet to your PC/Mac. TCP/IP is a reliable protocol in that packets are guaranteed to arrive in order and be complete, without error - unless transmission stops altogether, or slows beyond playback cadence, in which case the music just stops until sufficient data is buffered on the receiving end.

There is no concept of "jitter" while audio data is in this domain - the packets are received and reliably assembled into a PCM stream, buffered by your PC and then sent to your DAC via the OS-specific audio layers (e.g. Core Audio for a Mac). TCP/IP does NOT contain any temporal information, in that the packets are not associated with a time of arrival and associated re-transmit - it's completely asynchronous.

Until it's being sent to the DAC, timing matters not one iota. And, since just about all DACs now are receiving PCM data via an asynchronous USB input, timing from the PC does not come into play either (i.e. there is no "jitter" here, as well).

If TIDAL audio is of lower quality, it has nothing to do with the protocol used to send it over the Internet - this is assured by the protocol.

It's possible that TIDAL applies a lossy compression to save bandwidth or to "catch up" if bandwidth does not allow full lossless playback, but I've not read that this occurs and I would be very surprised if this was the case. Apple AirPlay is known to "drop frames" to catch-up when streaming to multiple devices, simultaneously, in bandwidth constrained situations to keep playback in-sync across devices.

Are you sure Tidal uses TCP / IP vs UDP?  And if so, would this be true regardless of what's used as a client?  E.g. Roon via their RAAT system uses UDP.  UDP is subject to potential signal quality / jitter / etc. 

I suspect the Soundmax is on to something re : the quality of the signal chain in streaming audio.  I can tell you from experience that Tidal gains better soundstage and less apparent compression of sound using a better ethernet cable - e.g the excellent and reasonably priced ones from Wireworld.  There are noticeable sound quality differences between the different models as well.  I've heard this using different clients as well, from Aurender to Ayre. 

Tidal seems to sound best as well with devices that cache the track to memory (e.g. Aurender, and now Auralic as well).

I've also noticed that Roon responds to better server hardware running that as well - and not just the endpoints, but also the server hoisting and running the Roon software.

So with streaming as with other things digital, everything counts.  And therefore you have to consider and try to improve the signal chain you have to consider not only the client at the back end, but also the signal chain and devices before it as well (routers / cables / etc).

Welcome to audio nervosa 2.0, internet network edition!

Krutsch

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #16 on: 30 May 2017, 06:10 pm »
Are you sure Tidal uses TCP / IP vs UDP?  And if so, would this be true regardless of what's used as a client?  E.g. Roon via their RAAT system uses UDP.  UDP is subject to potential signal quality / jitter / etc. 

I suspect the Soundmax is on to something re : the quality of the signal chain in streaming audio.  I can tell you from experience that Tidal gains better soundstage and less apparent compression of sound using a better ethernet cable - e.g the excellent and reasonably priced ones from Wireworld.  There are noticeable sound quality differences between the different models as well.  I've heard this using different clients as well, from Aurender to Ayre. 

Tidal seems to sound best as well with devices that cache the track to memory (e.g. Aurender, and now Auralic as well).

I've also noticed that Roon responds to better server hardware running that as well - and not just the endpoints, but also the server hoisting and running the Roon software.

So with streaming as with other things digital, everything counts.  And therefore you have to consider and try to improve the signal chain you have to consider not only the client at the back end, but also the signal chain and devices before it as well (routers / cables / etc).

Welcome to audio nervosa 2.0, internet network edition!

TIDAL streams using HTTPS which operates at the highest layer of the TCP/IP model, the Application layer. So, yes, I am sure.

You can see this by running the TIDAL app on a Mac and opening the Activity monitor's Network tab, selecting the app process and viewing open ports, et al. This makes sense as it's the easiest way for TIDAL to implement their streaming protocol in a compatible manner, with respect to firewalls, the operating system, et al., as well as relying on TCP/IP to ensure packet integrity (i.e. ordering, accuracy and completeness of data, with built-in retry on detection of errors).

Again, there is no concept of audio jitter in the digital network domain. It's completely asynchronous and, again, TCP packets do not contain any temporal information (implicit or explicit); so, unlike SPDIF, which IS time-dependent with an implicit clock, there is no possibility of introducing jitter during the D-to-A stage by moving your digital audio file over the Internet.

The other comment ("everything matters") ... your sending server and network have to keep up. If they don't, you get dropouts or other behavior dependent on how the end point handles data starvation or disconnection from the sender's server. This is not jitter and isn't a cause of "compressed soundstage" and other subjective audiophile descriptors. It causes drop-outs, like as in clicks or pops or, as I've experienced with TIDAL: silence.

Stercom

Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #17 on: 30 May 2017, 07:19 pm »
Tidal seems to sound best as well with devices that cache the track to memory (e.g. Aurender, and now Auralic as well).

Agreed. The cache on my Auralic Altair makes a noticeable improvement to the SQ of Tidal.

James Tanner

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Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #18 on: 30 May 2017, 07:22 pm »
Hi Folks,

The BDP also plays the streamed file from memory.

james

Stercom

Re: Tidal hifi vs. physical flac file sound quality on BDP
« Reply #19 on: 30 May 2017, 07:37 pm »
I'm new to Tidal and I'm now in the trial period for its services.
I have used a network player from another brand which has the built-in Tidal option.
My findings so far are: given the same track streamed from Tidal versus a flac file played from Usb stick or Nas there are distinct differences in the favor of the physical file.

Have you noticed the same problem so far with Bryston gear?
What could be the explanation for what I'm hearing?
Will a Bryston player display the same issue? Or both versions will sound identical?

I auditioned Flac Tidal (on a non Bryston streamer), but stopped using it. My main issue was the sound quality, plus not knowing what source was used.
If you use it like radio without expecting much more it's perfect. But in my opinion it isn't good enough to consider it of audiophile level.

Hi Folks,

The BDP also plays the streamed file from memory.

james


Based on the above quotes, both the OP and others weren't using Bryston products. To the OP and others - did the device you use for Tidal cache the streamed files?  If not, then to answer the questions you posed, you should audition a Bryston or other streamer that uses a cache.