Which is best for SQ - Tidal Masters or Qobus Studio? Which streaming service do others recommend overall as I don’t want to pay for both?
I have a subscription to both services.
I would say that the bigger difference is regarding the album selection they put forward into their lists.
Personally my taste is more European than American, as such, when browsing Qubuz I find much faster some music to my taste.
The sound quality is pretty much the same. The availability of the service is now on par…it wasn’t the case one year from now…Qobuz caught up Tidal…hopefully for them…
I tend to prefer Qobuz, because it offers real highres material. Tidal only delivers CD quality in lossless form, highres is streamed in MQA encoded form. There is a lot of debate about whether MQA sounds better or worse than the original hires master it is derived from. As a matter of principle I prefer to have the original, so I stick with Qobuz.
I have had two trials of Tidal but I have yet to find an MQA encoded album that sounds better than the version in full resolution on Qobuz. Most sound the same, some Qobuz sound better. This is a personal view, others may come to a different conclusion.
Having said that, dCS probably have the best MQA decoding on the planet.
Thanks for your feedback. I signed up for free trials of both and compared Qobuz hires with Tidal MQA on a couple of albums. I agree, the Qobuz sounds marginally better to my ears. The same was true when comparing standard CD. However, I have nothing against MQA as it’s quite an ingenious technology if implemented properly. For example, I bought an MQA encoded CD and ripped to a USB drive. Through the Rossini, the CD plays in standard resolution but the ripped version plays in full MQA. And the ripped version sounded marginally better to my ears - even compared to the Rossini CD which is one of the best!
MQA CD is about the worst of both worlds. “Normal” MQA is 24/48kHz which expands to whatever the master was. MQA CD is 16/44.1 (actually more like 14/44.1), so the expansion process has about 50% of the information of a normal MQA file to work with. So much of what you are actually hearing is just upsampling of a file that contains less information than a regular CD would have contained.
Having said that, many people find the distortions and filtering that MQA introduces quite pleasing, much like the distortions inherent in Vinyl reproduction. But this pleasing nature has nothing to do with accuracy relative to the original master.
To put some numbers around this:
A 24/176.4kHz master contains 4.23Mbit per second
A 14/44.1kHz MQA CD file contains around 0.6Mbit/s. This is around 15% of the information of the original. There is simply no mathematical way you can reconstruct the original from 15% of the information. 85% of the resulting file will be interpolated and upsampled (even if the result sounds pleasing to the ear).
Finally, every MQA file or MQA CD started as a PCM master. The goal of MQA is to lose as little of the original quality while reducing the file size. But some fidelity is always lost.
No matter “if” something is lost, the MQA versions almost always sound better than 16/44.1 and never worse.
From my perspective as a mainly classical music listener unless things have changed a lot recently Tidal’s UI makes me feel very unwelcome. Its home page appears to welcome only rock or hip hop fans in an age group several decades away from mine. Classical music , which on Tidal for some reason appears to include movie soundtracks and theatre musicals, is almost hidden away.
Further it lacks Qobuz’ curation that provides small essays on the music or artist (rather like Roon) together with other text enhancements. The recently improved metadata now offers what classical music enthusiasts really want, in particular a field for “work”. It isn’t perfect but it is a big improvement.
Finally Tidal, unlike Qobuz, does not offer the opportunity to see the CD booklet which may be essential when investigating unfamiliar music.
Oh, I forgot about the substantial discounts on purchased downloads that Qobuz Sublime + offers. Which is of great use to me as I do not use streaming as a complete substitution for a personal music collection.
As for sound quality , as mentioned, Tidal’s hi-res offering is MQA only whereas Qobuz streams FLAC files up to 24/192. I don’t want to become involved in an anti-MQA discussion so I will leave it at that.
Qobuz is more expensive than Tidal for hi-res content but , in my view , you do get what you pay for.