I guess this could be the beginning of the end for “pure PCM” in Tidal


Looks like if you choose hifi in the app, you’ll still get MQA albums, it just won’t unfold them. These are still not true cd quality.

In roon I always look to see if non-MQA version available and if only MQA, I’ll let roon do first unfold. Haven’t test whether folded or unfolded sound better but haven’t founds many MQA only albums yet. Just a handful.

So in roon if you want the same as hifi setting, change setting in roon not to unfold.

Allow selection of Hifi vs Master for TIDAL
Allow selection of Hifi vs Master for TIDAL
(Chris Connaker) #2

So Tidal is no longer streaming CD quality for the albums you tested even though you selected HiFi / CD Quality?

(Rudy R) #3

Chris, I am thinking this might be for newer releases only. I looked up some “classic” titles I’d seen before in mqa format and they are still all present in 16/44.1 PCM versions as well, viewed through Roon.

(Minor quibble, but since I turned off mqa abilities in Roon, it would be nice if it didn’t list those versions at Tidal… :wink:)

(Chris Connaker) #4

I guess this could be the beginning of the end for pure PCM in Tidal.


What I’m saying is streaming a MQA album at cd quality is not the exact same thing as the original cd album. MQA files are different even without unfolding and will sound slightly different from the original cd.

So with a chord dac when they say to use the unaltered source and avoid MQA, these still have been altered.

I’m still sticking with Tidal over Qobuz because of the larger library. If all pmc cs versions go, I’ll move back to Qobuz.

(Chris Connaker) #6

Yes, they are absolutely different.

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(Rudy R) #7

It very well could be. I bailed on Tidal after having heard a few PCM tracks that were sonically compromised. (Some files had digital watermarking that affected the midrange band, and gave the music, especially piano, a kind of garbled “underwater” sound. Unless it’s been fixed, the track “In The Darkest Place” from the Elvis Costello/Burt Bacharach album was a glaring example of this.) I can’t see Tidal lasting much longer anyways–many audiophiles bailed for Qobuz, and the mainstream consumer really sees no advantage to Tidal over, say, Spotify. They may not go away, but I could see an acquisition happening in the next year or two.


I’ve gone back and forth with Tidal and Qobuz. I’ll eventually bail on Tidal once Qobuz has a better library. Once I got my Hugo 2, I was less concerned about hires, so Tidal was more appealing. Just had to make sure I avoided MQA. I’ll have to test the watermark issue. How widespread is that?

(Chris Connaker) #9

I did a little more testing and found the HiFi version of the Black Keys album is streaming at 44.1 and the MQA version, both decoded and non-decoded, streams at 48 kHz. Not that this is conclusive of the HiFi version being CD quality, but it’s a start.

Still can’t stream the HiFi pure PCM version through Roon though. Only MQA.

(Rudy R) #10

Not sure how widespread, but I’ve read elsewhere that it was primarily titles from Universal, and not all of them. Rumor was that Universal was going to replace them with unaltered files, but since they can’t be trusted to keep their back catalog from going up in flames, I don’t know what to think anymore. A few acquaintances of mine felt that certain PCM titles from Tidal had a similar strangeness to them. It’s hit or miss trying to find them, but I noticed it primarily on something I knew really well from having owned a CD copy of it myself.

Just wanted to add that I checked the album you posted above, and it shows up the same for me here as it does for you.

(Chris Connaker) #11

Watermarking is up to the record label, not the streaming service.

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(Jesse Knapp) #12

My understanding is that Universal has different supply chains for North America — in which files are often watermarked — and the rest of the world, meaning that a track on Tidal might be watermarked when played in the US but not elsewhere. Like @Rudy_R, I’ve also heard that Universal is phasing out the practice of watermarking. Perhaps Qobuz’s current library was originally delivered for Europe, or delivered for the US after watermarking had been abandoned, so they’re not streaming the same files as Tidal. In any case, there are many albums that, at least in the US, are watermarked in Tidal but not in Qobuz. In fact, I have not encountered any watermarks in Qobuz so far, which is the main reason I’ve switched to that service exclusively.


Yeah noticing the new releases are starting to be just MQA. Looks like I’ll be heading back to Qobuz sooner than I thought.

Edit: Just checked the Master section on new releases and most still have the pmc version up.


Maybe it’s just bad links on their app so not all views see the same. Not all new releases show up under the main new releases pages quite often.

(Chris Connaker) #15

The “genius” of Tidal is that switching your settings to HiFi means you get CD quality even though the album says Master.

It looks like they only have MQA but what’s streamed is dependent on your Tidal app settings.

Think we need the same settings in Roon.


Are you sure you’re not still getting the MQA version just capped at 16/44? I doubt it’s actually steaming a different version if it shows the “m”. Have feeling that’s only version label sent. Kind of like how Qobuz sometimes only has the hires version.

(Peter Lie) #17

I recall reading a post a year or two ago finding Universal watermarked albums in Qobuz at that time are not watermarked when they became MQA in Tidal. So it was a choice between watermark and MQA…


Think Tidal claimed at one point they were not replacing cd quality albums with MQA. I guess technically they’re not. They’re just not including it on some new releases. But we kind of assumed MQA wouldn’t be the the only option.

Going to master section just makes it easier to find the MQA version first and then see if they have non-MQA version as well.

I ended signing back up for Qobuz and really enjoying the sound quality. They have the reverse issue in roon. Some albums identified as hires only play at cd quality. This is a known issue of hires only being available for download in Qobuz but still marked that way in roon.


There are many albums on Tidal that are available only as MQA.

I know because I despise the concept of MQA and always try for a non-MQA release. Lately, that becomes more and more of a problem.

Saying, “Well, this album or that album is available in a non-MQA version.”, doesn’t mean anything.

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(Dave Richardson) #20

Just got an email from HD Tracks and noticed that both the Black Keys and Doobie Brothers albums you mentioned are on sale in 24/48 resolutions. They might be only available in MQA on Tidal but the pure PCM versions are available elsewhere.

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