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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 6:36 am 
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I’ve been doing a three way comparo between a piece of music played in three formats - Tidal MQA, Tidal CDstream, and a physical Redbook CD. The music is Dolce Duello, the wonderful album from Sol Gabetta and Cecilia Bartoli. The Tidal stream is played through a Bluesound Node 2, using the Bluesound DAC to provide MQA decoding. The CD is played through my Teac Reference transport, using optical out, into my NAD C368, which has the same (or very similar DAC) as the Bluesound.
Using the Bluesound BluOS on my iPad to control the Tidal tracks, and the NAD iPad remote to switch sources, I’ve been able to do a pretty fair A/B/C comparo. Everything is playing through GoldenEar Triton 3 speakers.
Realizing there are still variables inherent in the test (I won’t bore you with a full list of cables), I should mention that the BluOS app allowed me to set the volume between all three versions to be equal.
The results? First, my expectations - I expected the MQA to be superior to the others. I was surprised to find the physical Redbook CD to be the best to my ears - darker background, more natural timbres in the voice and cello. The MQA was close, but the differences were there. I was able to switch back and forth from my listening chair using the remote, with tracks starting at the same time, allowing comparisons on the fly, at the same point in the performance. Each time, the CD was marginally, but noticeably clearer, and a touch richer.
The difference between the physical CD and the Tidal CD stream was even more marked, particularly in terms of soundstage. I also did a quick check on the standard “lo-fi” Tidal stream, which took much of the fun right out of the music.
I’d be interested to hear the experience of others. Meantime, it has justified (for me!) my practice of purchasing physical CDs of music I discover on Tidal, and which I particularly enjoy. CDs such as Dolce Duello also come with extensive and lovely CD booklets, which is an added bonus.
My next experiment will be the same process, but through my headphone setup (Magni 3, Final Sonorous 3).


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 8:10 am 
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After some experimentation I've never found any reason to go to greater resolution than that of a standard Redbook CD. I look for CD's with good performances that are well recorded, well engineered and well mastered.

Younger people with better ears may be able to hear the diff in high resolution sources, but I'm not sure it matters from a musical perspective.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 9:48 am 
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DHRCanuck wrote:
I’ve been doing a three way comparo between a piece of music played in three formats - Tidal MQA, Tidal CDstream, and a physical Redbook CD...


Haven’t done any formal testing but your results align with my preliminary findings.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:04 am 
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Wind Chaser wrote:
DHRCanuck wrote:
I’ve been doing a three way comparo between a piece of music played in three formats - Tidal MQA, Tidal CDstream, and a physical Redbook CD...


Haven’t done any formal testing but your results align with my preliminary findings.


Yet on my system, the results are the exact opposite, crazy .... :D


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:04 am 
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I've not yet heard MQA but I have flipped between cd/cd flac rip to laptop/HIFI Tidal/lp. If it's a quality recording cd rip usually wins the day in my humble system.

EDIT: I should note that of the 2 24/96 downloads I've purchased that they have both been as good as I've heard in my system.

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Last edited by shawnwes on Mon Apr 16, 2018 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:18 am 
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I don't claim to be overly knowledgable about the inns and outs of digital, but to me it seems that MQA was rammed down our throats just to protect the industries profits.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:24 am 
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As I have aged, I have become far more tolerant of digital sources ... whether that is due to declining auditory acuity or the technological progress in digital recording/processing or a bit of both, I'm not sure.

Tidal HiFi has become my #1 music source; I play it in the car, at work, at home, in my dedicated listening room, and while sleeping. I have not done a head-to-head comparison to CD, however, I don't notice any difference when I'm switching sources, and there is material on there that the sound stage and imaging is wonderful ... for example, with Diana Panton's "That's All" her voice is dead center, very natural, and the piano images way off to the right (beyond the speakers).

I have also experimented with 24/96 and 24/192 sources, and while the noise floor is a bit lower, and there is a bit of extra fidelity there ... it's not worth repurchasing my collection.

I'm really excited by Tidal, because for so many years I was stuck listening to the same 200 CDs ... now I could listen to a new album every day and never run out of music. So much music to discover. And I think the quality is very, very acceptable. I don't have the technology to play back MQA.

Some time when I'm bored of listening to music I may do some direct comparison. Thanks for your thoughts.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:32 am 
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L-Man wrote:
As I have aged, I have become far more tolerant of digital sources ... whether that is due to declining auditory acuity or the technological progress in digital recording/processing or a bit of both, I'm not sure.

Tidal HiFi has become my #1 music source; I play it in the car, at work, at home, in my dedicated listening room, and while sleeping. I have not done a head-to-head comparison to CD, however, I don't notice any difference when I'm switching sources, and there is material on there that the sound stage and imaging is wonderful ... for example, with Diana Panton's "That's All" her voice is dead center, very natural, and the piano images way off to the right (beyond the speakers).

I have also experimented with 24/96 and 24/192 sources, and while the noise floor is a bit lower, and there is a bit of extra fidelity there ... it's not worth repurchasing my collection.

I'm really excited by Tidal, because for so many years I was stuck listening to the same 200 CDs ... now I could listen to a new album every day and never run out of music. So much music to discover. And I think the quality is very, very acceptable. I don't have the technology to play back MQA.

Some time when I'm bored of listening to music I may do some direct comparison. Thanks for your thoughts.


+1
I think that's probably a very common position. All the time we spend talking about this hobby and chasing the audio dragon only gains us at best, if it can be quantified, maybe 25% closer to the master tape when compared to a decent basic high end stereo system.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 10:47 am 
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DHRCanuck wrote:
I’ve been doing a three way comparo between a piece of music played in three formats - Tidal MQA, Tidal CDstream, and a physical Redbook CD. The music is Dolce Duello, the wonderful album from Sol Gabetta and Cecilia Bartoli. The Tidal stream is played through a Bluesound Node 2, using the Bluesound DAC to provide MQA decoding. The CD is played through my Teac Reference transport, using optical out, into my NAD C368, which has the same (or very similar DAC) as the Bluesound.
Using the Bluesound BluOS on my iPad to control the Tidal tracks, and the NAD iPad remote to switch sources, I’ve been able to do a pretty fair A/B/C comparo. Everything is playing through GoldenEar Triton 3 speakers.
Realizing there are still variables inherent in the test (I won’t bore you with a full list of cables), I should mention that the BluOS app allowed me to set the volume between all three versions to be equal.
The results? First, my expectations - I expected the MQA to be superior to the others. I was surprised to find the physical Redbook CD to be the best to my ears - darker background, more natural timbres in the voice and cello. The MQA was close, but the differences were there. I was able to switch back and forth from my listening chair using the remote, with tracks starting at the same time, allowing comparisons on the fly, at the same point in the performance. Each time, the CD was marginally, but noticeably clearer, and a touch richer.
The difference between the physical CD and the Tidal CD stream was even more marked, particularly in terms of soundstage. I also did a quick check on the standard “lo-fi” Tidal stream, which took much of the fun right out of the music.
I’d be interested to hear the experience of others. Meantime, it has justified (for me!) my practice of purchasing physical CDs of music I discover on Tidal, and which I particularly enjoy. CDs such as Dolce Duello also come with extensive and lovely CD booklets, which is an added bonus.
My next experiment will be the same process, but through my headphone setup (Magni 3, Final Sonorous 3).


Excellent ! Thanks for sharing.

pj

-- 16 Apr 2018 18:56 --

L-Man wrote:
As I have aged, I have become far more tolerant of digital sources ... whether that is due to declining auditory acuity or the technological progress in digital recording/processing or a bit of both, I'm not sure.

Tidal HiFi has become my #1 music source; I play it in the car, at work, at home, in my dedicated listening room, and while sleeping. I have not done a head-to-head comparison to CD, however, I don't notice any difference when I'm switching sources, and there is material on there that the sound stage and imaging is wonderful ... for example, with Diana Panton's "That's All" her voice is dead center, very natural, and the piano images way off to the right (beyond the speakers).

I have also experimented with 24/96 and 24/192 sources, and while the noise floor is a bit lower, and there is a bit of extra fidelity there ... it's not worth repurchasing my collection.

I'm really excited by Tidal, because for so many years I was stuck listening to the same 200 CDs ... now I could listen to a new album every day and never run out of music. So much music to discover. And I think the quality is very, very acceptable. I don't have the technology to play back MQA.

Some time when I'm bored of listening to music I may do some direct comparison. Thanks for your thoughts.


Hi L-Man: I assure you it's NOT : "... whether that is due to declining auditory acuity ..."

The technology has improved considerably (since about years 1999/2000). Yet to this day, digital SQ is immensely impacted by AC power quality.

Indeed, the available music 'sampling' on Tidal was unimaginable a few years ago.

Rest assured, ANY new format (distribution/playback) takes years before all the 'objections' are ironed out. The CD remains a quality listening experience. For those careful, 18-24/96-192 resolution can confer considerable 'tonal' improvements -but it is not a given; a crappy recording/mastering will remain that regardless of resolution.

Keep enjoying. And, discovering !

pj


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 11:43 am 
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I agree here, with a slight difference on the fidelity question.

L-Man wrote:
I have also experimented with 24/96 and 24/192 sources, and while the noise floor is a bit lower, and there is a bit of extra fidelity there ... it's not worth repurchasing my collection.


I think I have repurchased only one recording in order to get it in high-res. The extra fidelity, though, goes a little further for me than just noise. Mastering is tremendously important, but given the same source, I hear the difference as a wider soundstage, more openness, better dynamics.

The thing is that better dynamics open up a lot more detail. It's like removing compression. When sounds get scrunched together in volume they blend together. When they have more space to expand, you can hear more differences. Sometimes that makes all the difference to my appreciation of the music.

This is what makes repurchasing even thinkable. In some cases the Red Book version ( even if it avoids the worst aspects of digital ) sounds like a cartoonish version of a performance. Performers' images are fatter, timbres are homogenized, musicians are grouped closer together. The soundstage shrinks.

What strikes me about the OP's very interesting and welcome report, and the responses, is that MQA doesn't offer a clear improvement over what we have already. And for those who hear degradation instead, there's not much of that either. Overall impression : meh.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 12:05 pm 
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Toby wrote:
I agree here, with a slight difference on the fidelity question.

L-Man wrote:
I have also experimented with 24/96 and 24/192 sources, and while the noise floor is a bit lower, and there is a bit of extra fidelity there ... it's not worth repurchasing my collection.


I think I have repurchased only one recording in order to get it in high-res. The extra fidelity, though, goes a little further for me than just noise. Mastering is tremendously important, but given the same source, I hear the difference as a wider soundstage, more openness, better dynamics.

The thing is that better dynamics open up a lot more detail. It's like removing compression. When sounds get scrunched together in volume they blend together. When they have more space to expand, you can hear more differences. Sometimes that makes all the difference to my appreciation of the music.

This is what makes repurchasing even thinkable. In some cases the Red Book version ( even if it avoids the worst aspects of digital ) sounds like a cartoonish version of a performance. Performers' images are fatter, timbres are homogenized, musicians are grouped closer together. The soundstage shrinks.

What strikes me about the OP's very interesting and welcome report, and the responses, is that MQA doesn't offer a clear improvement over what we have already. And for those who hear degradation instead, there's not much of that either. Overall impression : meh.


That is difficult to say. My findings with MQA was quite different - grant it I used files sourced from da web opposed to the Tidal stream. I found with the music I sampled, MQA was an improvement over Redbook, but no difference could be detected with 24/96 or even 24/192. I even modified the MQA file thus breaking its fingerprint and still found it to be better than Redbook (still no different than hi-res).

viewtopic.php?f=4&t=49209#p782961


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 1:17 pm 
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A really interesting comparison. Thanks for sharing!

A question for the OP: were you able to ensure decent level-matching in this test? You wrote that the volume was set the same on all sources on the BlueOS app, which sounds helpful... I wonder if the sources (ie. streaming vs. CD) were coming into the app at the same initial level. Is it possible that the CD source was louder or quieter than the streaming source prior to the BlueOS volume control?


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:28 pm 
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Done the MQA route via Tidal with both Meridian and Audioquest DACs. It can be good with modern recordings but I found most reissues of older albums, nothing special. It’s a nice garnish to add to your listening palate occasionally, but it’s not the paradigm shift in audio processing I was hoping it might be. All my MQA dacs are now sold and I’m back to 16/44 and 24/96. Don’t even have any DSD to speak about. Ultimately it’s the music and how well it was recorded that matters. I’ve heard ‘hi-rez stuff that bordered on unlistenable, I’ve heard mp3’s that were hypnotic. Re-mastering with new techniques will never turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 3:39 pm 
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I'd be interested in a Tidal vs Deezer Elite comparison...

So far a Flac streaming service can't beat my EAR Acute and hard discs...Great for my midfi system but can't compete in the reference room..

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:01 pm 
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Thanks for the many responses! A couple of points:
The volume levels between sources were an important consideration. I was able to even them up to “as close to perfect” as I could tell. That facilitated the ease of comparison.
This comparo was done with a single album. It was the high quality of the recording which prompted my interest in doing the test. Also, it is the only CD I have, as far as I know, which is represented in all three formats on Tidal. The most that can therefore be said regarding the results is, they reflect the narrow limitations of the test sample, the playback equipment, and my own opinion. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be receiving CDs of two more outstanding recordings: “Oscar, With Love” a Peterson tribute played on his own Bosendorfer; and “Venezia Millenaria” by Jordi Savall. I expect results to vary between recordings, but I also expect the MQA stream to be superior to the Tidal CD stream (and certainly superior to the Tidal lo-fi stream). I will be interested to have my expectations overturned!
Finally, it needs to be said that the comparo was conducted because a) I love the music, and b) I thought it would be fun! And it was! And, since I was listening particularly carefully, it brought out elements of the performance that had earlier passed me by - the best reason for such a procedure.


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