This is horttopic that comes up time and time again. Many argue that Qobuz SQ is overall better than Tidals I am not talking HiRes vs MQA here so lets keep this out of the equation as that’s a whole other kettle of fish and thread. I am talking plain CD quality which is the bulk of offerings on both services and is apples to apples comparison. How can there be a difference when both offer up the same uncompressed files a Flac 44.1.16. Different masters aside which is an obvious culprit how can the same mastered file sound different on one platform to the other? Is it really just platform bias?
Many argue that Qobuz sound more warm and natural, where Tidal sounds processed. I for the life of me cannot detect this. The both sound equal to me. Its now much easier to check with Qobuz now in the Roon eco system. Before I guess everyone had to fudge it in to their systems through a different chain. Now its all through Roon its a much better apples to apples comparison with no room for different protocols or software/hardware differences. That said I found it hard when using other methods to.
I went through last night a number of albums and played tracks I know well from both services and struggled to hear any difference. If there was any its so small it passes me by so for me I think it safe to say I am happy with either and its all down to what they offer above this that will make me keep one over the other. Saying that I am contemplating keeping both for a while to see which one I end up using the most.
If both are from same master, then it should technically sound the same. Across the board, CD quality are actually down-sampled and some are sampled rate to 44.1k from Hi-Res masters. The only difference you will hear is Tidal Masters vs Qobuz Hi-Res; even both are derived from the same masters, Tidal Masters goes through an additional MQA processing. In a good quality setup system, one can perceive SQ difference.
I completely agree!
In a lesser quality set-up MQA sounds slightly less good than Qobuz hi-res. However in a really top quality system that caters for full MQA unfolding, one can perceive the SQ difference and the added quality of the MQA masters.
The difference in SQ is probably due to the use of different filters. Qobuz Hi-Res is mastered by studios using Linear Phase filter, which universally used since the early days of CDs. When it is playback at consumers end, most conventional DACs will default to same Linear Phase filter unless it is user selectable.
In the case of MQA, since the studio master already processed using Linear Phase filter during the recording session, MQA will have to re-processed the file and add their own variant of Minimum Phase filter. When this is playback using MQA DAC, a variant of Minimum Phase filter is used at the DAC. Different digital filters have some effects on the SQ even they belong the same group. For instance, Linear Phase sharp vs slow and Minimum Phase sharp vs slow.
Minimum Phase (slow) are normally used as ‘listening mode’ which preserves timing information while Linear Phase is used as ‘measures mode’ which maximally waveshape and better frequency noise rejection (SNR); looks good on specs and graphs.
I have just finished a fairly exhaustive comparison of Tidal vs.Quobuz sound quality, taking advantage of the decent trial period from Qobuz.
I believe my system to be pretty revealing, and in my opinion there is absolutely no difference in the sound quality between the two, on like for like files.
16/44.1 certainly the same, but also with hi-res files, (using Roon to decode the MQA).
Albums I like which I found to be missing on Tidal, were also absent on Qobuz.
I can see absolutely no point in me paying the additional cost for Qobuz.
I’m slightly disappointed in the sound quality of Tidal MQA. For instance, I have 3 different versions of Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams; a ripped CD on my Sonic Transporter, Tidal MQA, and 96/24 Flac from HD Tracks. By a significant margin the CD sounds better than the other 2 formats. On other albums the same holds true. Theoretically the higher resolution music file should sound best but it depends what the source material is. To my uneducated ears the sound engineers of the past have often done a better job with sound quality than what engineers do today when they dig up older material and remaster it. I see why Sonos sticks to CD quality. I was hoping I would exceed CD quality with Roon, Tidal, and my Bluesound Pulse 2i’s but so far this has been elusive.
There is a possibility that there is a difference between Qobuz and Tidal for certain albums. Qobuz is not available, so I cannot compare them. But I do have both Tidal and Idagio (lossless streaming of only classical music), and whereas in Tidal, several albums from the Decca group (e.g. Decca and DG) have watermarking, and therefore are quite unlistenable, they do not have watermarking in Idagio. The difference in sound quality is quite remarkable. I have no idea why watermarking is fairly common for Decca group in Tidal when it is not in Idagio, but if Qobuz would also be spared from watermarking, then such albums would definitely sound better in Qobuz than in Tidal.