Apple Music better sound quality than Tidal?


I am interested to know what others think (and this is NOT a question or an offer to debate the merits (or otherwise) of MQA).

I am increasingly thinking that Apple Music Lossless/Hi-Res often sounds much better than Tidal HiFi (or MQA). Including when listened to over AirPlay or Bluetooth (admittedly various Apple AirPods and an iPhone). But I also notice a considerable difference in favour of Apple Music on my hone Audio system. It’s not super high-end, but it’s a very good quality set of speakers, amp, streamer and DAC (all separates with an added audio grade power supply).

For example, if you’re interested try listening to Van Morrison’s: “Latest Record Project Vol 1.” The title track, track 1.

I chose this track because the difference is clear with the lead vocal, instrument separation / resolution, percussion, keyboards and backing vocals.

You will need both a Tidal and Apple Music Subscription and a way to listen to Apple Music with decent Audio system or headphones. Or both using an iPhone/iPad with a decent pair of AirPods or other decent headphones.

Listen on Tidal via Roon or whatever, then Apple Music (either with AirPlay to your system or an iPhone or iPad Tethered to a DAC (don’t bother with a Mac, it will probably not sound good).

I would love to know what others think?

Sorry it’s not such a great track, it’s OK though, but by no means his best and you may not like Van Morrison or his genre. But the track is a good example as it isn’t loud, complex, electronic or classical.

This is not intended to stimulate a debate about whether Apple Music or Tidal is better, both have their merits (for the record I prefer Tidal). But I am interested to know if anyone agrees this track sounds better on Apple Music.


I think Apple Music sounds better than Tidal, but by a small margin. Qobuz sounds the best.


I concur. IMO, Qobuz sounds better than Apple Music.


Very possible different masters are being used unless you can 100% verify they are from the same master it’s hard to really say. It’s possible that one is also mastered to a different target LUFS. If it’s MQA then I would not be surprised it’s sounds different though as they are. Also ensure that any normalisation is off when using BT on both, not sure if you can on AM. When using AirPlay Apple Music reduces to AAC so not a direct comparison anymore.


Airplay on AM is 44/16 I believe but that’s the highest it goes.

Nope if you’re streaming from Apple Music it defaults to AAC not lossless for AirPlay 2. This has been discussed ad nauseum on here and many other forums. You can only AirPlay 2 lossless 44.1 from AM if you’re using downloaded content or it’s a legacy AirPlay only streamer. If it supports AirPlay to it’s AAC.

@CrystalGipsy is correct.

Just tested it. Apple Music AirPlaying to my Cambridge CXNv2.

In a way both are correct, it’s 44.1/16 but AAC and not lossless :slight_smile:


Actually AAC doesn’t have a bitdepth due to the encoding method. It’s only when it’s decoded to pcm but you can choose what you want. Roon decodes them all to 24bit as they feel it sounds better.

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Yes, but even that sounds better than Tidal HiFi for this particular Album. The Album is fairly new (2021) so unlikely that there is a remastered version. Why would AM have a different master to Tidal in this case?

What is LUFS?

Without any real in-depth testing but using my iPhone with wired Fiio dac and headphones I would conclude.
1/ Apple Music outputs at a higher lever than Tidal. Halve volume on AM against 3/4 on Tidal.
2/ For mobile etc it would depend on the interface I preferred.
3/ Tidal is much easier to integrate into Hi-Fi etc.

So sound quality I think is the same once volume matched but Tidal is easier to live with overall.

For me, I’m currently going for a Tidal win.


According to my DAC, it is receiving 44.1 kHz via AirPlay and 24/48kHz via AirPlay to my AppleTV with an HDMI splitter and digital output to my DAC.

L oudness U nits relative to F ull S cale

I think you may be correct about this. There is definitely a loudness difference between Tidal and AM with this particular track. I found myself having to equalise the volume when listening.

However, even with the volume adjusted, the AM track sounds considerably better to me. It’s not even a small difference. I messaged Tidal feedback. At first, they said they are looking into it and subsequently messaged to say “We appreciate your input regarding the quality of the songs you mentioned, new audio has been requested by our content provider.” So I can only assume they agree. Or, they are just placating me!

So Wiim Mini is lossy with airplay? This is interesting. I wish apple would let us control this.

This I agree with, but I am surprised you think they sound the same

That means nothing as explained saying it’s 44.1 doesn’t mean it’s lossless. AM does not AirPlay lossless over AirPlay 2. If your DAC is old and only supports AirPlay legacy then you will get lossless 44.1 but if it’s AirPlay 2 compatible it will only get AAC this is just how they have done it.

Only Apple Music is lossy via AirPlay 2 others are not. It seems to be a limitation of Apple Music. I think Qobuz only sends legacy AirPlay stream when. This was confirmed by Naims software director on their forum when lossless was released. He looked into the debug code and could see what stream it was pulling.

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No wander my Wiim mini when I used it on my Naim system was lacking. I don’t like Apple hiding this information.

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Interesting, I had never considered this. So it could be a lossy format but streamed at a bit-depth/rate of 16/44.1?

Either way, the AM track sounds better.