TIDAL Sounds Better than CD Rips from NAS

Okay, I’m not crazy but I swear TIDAL content is sounding better (smoother and more low end detail) than FLAC files ripped from CDs that are served from a Synology NAS.

I’m referring to seemingly identical releases according to TIDAL/Roon Metadata and CD booklets. The CDs were ripped via dBpoweramp and are stored on a Synology NAS. The CD rips sound brittle and generally brighter than the TIDAL versions. Note: No MQA content is involved in this disparity.

So, I’m ruling out this being my brain so what else could account for the sonic differences?

  • The drive on which I’m ripping CDs?
  • Different data stream characteristics between TIDAL content and the NAS?
  • Roon’s engine handles the content differently (no way).

Come on guys, help me out here.


I assume that the playback chain is identical for the CD Rip playback and the Tidal playback (particularly the part of the chain which does the D/A conversion). If there is a real difference there is only one logical conclusion, and that is that the bitstreams are different.

Don’t rule out your brain, no reason to unless you ca get someone to play each version without you knowing which was playing and correctly identify different version with a level above random.
Could be though that the tidal version is a different mastering than the CD you ripped?
Do you have any examples you could provide?

I totally agree with you, that’s why I said “…if there is a real difference…”:smiley:

I would be thinking about whether the Tidal stream has been ‘normalized’ (made louder) or some other sort of EQ, if the differences could be could be identified in a blind test.


my ears also preference the sound of tidal/ Deezer to my ripped cd’s.
I read a while back in a forum that these streaming services could have used a different copy from the master. Not sure that makes sense.

I recently got a music download from a friend and those sound as good as Tidal. I use Exact Audio Copy to rip to flac. The ones from a friend are aac.

It is possible to have MP3 files and convert them to a flac/aac extension but it’s still a MP3, but I know the ones I ripped are from cd.

When people say Ethernet patch cable make a sound difference that proves people can hear almost anything they want to. I am afraid I could be one of them at times. I’ll do another comparison to my rips and Tidal later today.

A different copy same the master will be identical when the data is in the digital domain. A different master is a whole different kettle of fish.

Unfortunately, TIDAL album info isn’t always reliable…

This Herbie Hancock album says released in 2008, but it’s a 192k MQA…

I just did this test a couple of days ago and had the opposite conclusion. The wav files on my MacBook Pro sound more ‘open’. Tidal sounds restricted and squashed by comparison. I think it is contributing to why I have been struggling to engage with some of the content I have been trying

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In most every case of multiple masters, the Tidal album is the latest, dynamically compressed remaster, while the CD rip may not be.

The long and short of it is that mastering makes a big sound quality difference – streaming and ripping do not.



Do we believe a 192/24 digital cut from the master is better than a 44/16 one?

Same master? No difference. And an ABX test can demonstrate whether true for you and your equipment.

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Like mastered for iTunes? Is Tidal perhaps running a similar program? They do have that Masters collection although I haven’t read much about what it exactly is.

I believe that certain LAN configurations CAN have an influence on the sound.
Not only the hardware used, but also the exact digital signal path through the LAN, which can be different for any particular streaming situation.

Playing ripped CD’s from local storage can result in a different signal path through your LAN than streaming Tidal music.

In my setup, most ripped CD’s sound better than the Tidal HiFi stream from what I believe the same master.
This has been confirmed during blind testing with family and friends as listeners.
Is it a coincidence then that - in my setup - during playback of Tidal music, the signal path of the digital bitstream through my LAN is longer and more complicated than during playback from local storage?

Assuming that the bits streamed and the hardware used are the same, the only difference remaining is the path of the bits through my home network.

The ripped CD’s are on the same windows 10 pc as is the roon core, database and music both on SSD.
Bits run through LAN ONCE from roon core to endpoint.

During Tidal streaming, bits run from cable modem to roon core, then from roon core to endpoint, passing most of the home network cabling TWICE
Consequences are:

  1. UTP cables must transport double the bit rate needing double the bandwidth. This CAN affect the quality of your digital signal if your LAN has bottle necks. (Remember a block wave is always received distorted unless bandwidth is infinite)
  2. Digital signal runs through more routers/switches and double the length of UTP cable.
    As a result, digital signal has more chance of being polluted by RF and cheap switching power supplies.
    Even with DAC’s still reading all bits correctly, this pollution CAN make an audible difference in the analogue output of the DAC. Same for the PSU of the DAC itself.

Would be intresting to know your exact LAN configuration and cabling plan.

Not sure what you mean by digital cut.
If remastered from analogue recording, 192/24 may be more correct in the time domain than 44/16, but frequency response will most probably be the same.

If you accept the premise that identical bitstreams will result in identical sound, then I would interpret the quote above to be suggesting that different network paths are causing the bitstreams to get altered. The internet just would not work if data got compromised in such a way on its journey.

If there is a real difference in the sound I would look elsewhere for an explanation.

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It seems illogical to me that the time domain is more correct in a 192/24 master than a 44/16, but frequency response will most probably be the same. Are you forgetting that frequency is also a function of time? If time is not correct then surely it follows that frequency will not be correct.

We are talking about digital audio material transferred from a digital source through some network boxes and cables, finally being d/a converted to get into your brain.
As long as the source material is bit-identical and the transport chain, including d/a conversion, is the same “feeling a difference” is pure voodoo.
If we are talking about different hearing experiences when changing IP cables or using WLAN instead, there’s no such category of “better” sound. You certainly may have a different target bit stream if the data connection itself is faulty. But in this case you have a more basic signal problem. Again, this would be a transport problem and has nothing to do with some sort of “audio quality”. The same is with video signals.
As long as the identical information is sent to your ears through the identical transport chain, any reason for a difference in the reception is located between your ears :wink:.
In your case I assume either a different stream and/or different d/a conversion. But why worry about it? Take it as it is :wink:. And check the audio preferences of your Tadal app and NAS. Don’t forget, both are totally different things.

Likewise Tidal outperforms my local files. I recently added an Aqvox 8 port switch with short Aqvox Lan cable to my system and now Tidal streaming through Roon in my Antipodes DXe sounds smoother and more detailed i.e. Better than flac CD ripped on my DXe. Up to this point it was always the other way round.

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I’ve also observed that TIDAL streams sound better than my FLAC rips 80-90% of the time, even on albums I suspect to have the same mastering.

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Your local stuff is completely insignificant compared to the path from Tidal’s servers to your home. The underlying networking architecture is based on taking the message apart into quite small “packets”, and sending them independently through unreliable channels. They don’t arrive in order, some don’t arrive at all and need to be retransmitted. It’s all synchronous, which means jitter doesn’t exist, it’s all jitter. And it gets sent through huge boxes with enormous power and enormous traffic coming through, and hence noise. And the routing of each packet is dynamically determined based on the momentary conditions on the internet, a packet traveling from Tidal to you may go through Iceland or Britain or Australia because “distance” in the internet is not measured in km. This is all brilliant stuff, it’s what makes the internet scalable and resilient, but it’s complex and counterintuitive.

I’m not saying that local conditions are unimportant, but it isn’t as simple as saying Tidal has a longer path.

(Similarly, while we measure jitter in picoseconds, my CDs arrive from Amazon through a FedEx every day, which means 24 hour jitter, and 48 hours on sundays. :slightly_smiling_face: .)