Led Zep IV - Tidal MQA stream vs Local MQA file

I’m curious as to why my downloaded MQA copy of this album sounds a little bit better than the MQA stream from Tidal. I mostly listened to ‘Rock and Roll’ and there is definitely more excitement and dynamics to the guitar in the right channel after the drum cymbal intro. Given that Roon identifies both sources as MQA 96 Studio, they must absolutely be the same source right?

Or is this just a Roon peculiarity and local files have always sounded better? I must say i’ve never tried comparing local flac with streamed flac before as there was never a guarantee of the same mastering.

Does your signal path match up for both?

Hi. Yes, same for both.

When you say downloaded, do you mean that you purchased an MQA version of that album? Otherwise, as far as I am aware, adding a Tidal album to your library does not mean that the album is actually downloaded to your system. It is still streaming it from Tidal.

This kind of situation is a pain because there is little doubt you can hear it but it isn’t a trivial matter to explain. I’ve experienced it both ways with both MQA and none MQA files and have long since stopped comparing.

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Yes, a purchased MQA version compared to the Tidal stream.

My position exactly.

There may be subtle differences between locally stored music files and music files streamed from music services such as Tidal or Qobuz, but in my experience (where Masters are the same and discounting MQA which some people don’t like) they are likely to be very subtle, inconsistent and really not worth bothering about.

I have a fairly large album collection on my NAS, but when I play music these days I don’t bother to check whether I’m playing a local file or the equivalent file from Tidal. It’s easy to tie oneself in knots looking for those elusive trivial improvements and losing out on the enjoyment of just simply listening to the music.

Of course, differences or perceived differences could by system dependant or system induced, and so if you’re convinced that there is a consistent drop in quality and can’t live with that, then I’m afraid your only recourse is to switch to a different streaming service that may sound better on your system and to your ears.

As a matter of interest I do have 3 MQA albums that I purchased a couple of years ago when I was first experimenting with MQA using my Mytek Brooklyn DAC+. I also have the equivalent 16bit/44,1 and hi-res versions of these albums on my NAS. From memory, I could not detect a significant difference between the MQA versions and the equivalent hi-res versions downloaded from Qobuz.

Perhaps his question revolves around whether Roon’s SQ implementation is affecting playback of either file - otherwise the ONLY reason is that the source files used are indeed different.

Yes that was my initial question given that the MQA flag SHOULD indicate that the sources are identical; is Roon affecting the SQ via different playback chains for Tidal vs local?

Just in case the MQA sources were actually different, i thought i’d try an offlined Tidal MQA stream vs a live Tidal MQA stream. Now these sources are identical, so any differences should definitely be down to Roon, right?

Using Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ as a test i found the opposite result from my ‘‘Rock and Roll’ test: the Tidal MQA stream sounded better than the offlined Tidal MQA flac! It sounded clearer in exactly the same way the purchased ‘Rock and Roll’’ flac sounded better than the Tidal stream.

So now i have no clue what’s causing the differences!

I do these comparisons purely out of curiosity and whilst subtle, the differences are consistently noticeable but it’s not something that detracts from my music listening enjoyment. I’d certainly not notice the difference if someone had swapped tracks whilst i’d left the room or anything.

Well, if you can notice a sonic difference, it IS pronounced enough to be noticed by anyone. And this should not happen unless files/sources are indeed different.

Over to Roon for clarification; is OTA streaming SQ somehow inferior to local?

Hi. Not sure if i was clear enough in my previous response but in my second test the streamed MQA sounded better than the offlined MQA file; this was the opposite of my first test where streamed MQA sounded inferior. Whether this indicates subtle differences in Roon playback, or differences in the source files, i do not know.