UMG Watermark, true or false?

Anyone noticed this with “digital downloads” (Qobuz, 7digital and the like) as opposed to streamed content?

Not me.

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I cancelled my Tidal subscription as well over 6 months ago mainly due to this, and out of principle. I use another cheaper streaming service from time to time, on the go essentially, to discover new music. I buy a cd or two per month.

Another reason for not using Tidal is that I really dislike the interface of their website and app.

I do wish Roon offered a way of playing other sources through RAAT but that is another topic.

Update: they seem to have fixed this some, but definitely not all, of the watermarked albums. Just checked out Ella Fitzgerald But Beautiful and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions and I don’t hear the watermark anymore, when it used to be very clear. Both those albums are also available in MQA format, maybe that’s why they got fixed. But the Bill Henderson/Oscar Peterson album I posted earlier still has the watermark. Would love to know if they’re going to fix all the problem albums–anyone hear anything? Tidal support hasn’t responded to my last inquiry.


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How do we listen to a watermarking distortion? Is there any equipment to detect this?

Post #3 above

This is terrible, I listened to a lot of Philips/Dutch-Grammophon and Decca classical recordings from Tidal, this is later acquired by UMG from Polygram groups many years back. I also have CD/SACD versions too.

Now I’ve to compare both the CD and Tidal if I can make up the difference.

This isn’t just on Tidal though, they do this on all their music. No use in changing to Spotify or other sources, as it’s not Tidal who adds the watermarks, it’s UMG.

That’s true. I bought an UMG-album which sounds bad on Tidal just to try it out. The bought version doesn’t sound better.

Really? A standard res download?

I wonder if that’s also the case for high res downloads

I haven’t heard watermarking except on streaming.

Yes a standard 16/44 download.
I never heard it on high res streaming or download files.

I’m not sure that’s true. I compared a few streams and Spotify didn’t appear to have the watermarking.

I think it’s possible Universal have provided un-watermarked streams to their clients but Tidal haven’t re-uploaded them. It’s a lot of work.

I can imagine this being extremely inconvenient if you also have loads of golden teeth to brush :wink:

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For some reason there seems to be debate on whether this happens. My ears are too tuned into details, I guess. The worst cases of albums that warble or, as I call it, “squibble,” are obvious to me, especially when the music is upsampled and more space and detail become audible. When I first found Qobuz, I was getting frustrated because my favorite early Sting and Jimmy Buffett albums were squibbling on Tidal. I discovered that the Qobuz selections of the same material were clean–no sign of watermarking. However, after a year of having both music streaming services, I’ve discovered that there are classic rock artists that have obvious squibbling on Qobuz. Styx is an example. Listen to a cd version of Kilroy Was Here, then listen to the Qobuz. Especially listen to the vocals–they sound like they are being processed through an aquarium water pump. bbbbbbbb. Ugh. Frustratingly, I have found myself keeping both streaming services just to bounce back and forth when I hear squibble. Listen to the “Son of a Sailor” album on Tidal or “Kilroy was Here” on Qobuz if you don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s hard to tell which labels are UMG because of the monopolies–Geffen, A&M, and many more are under their umbrella.

I think part of the explanation is that watermarks are not applied consistently across markets, so someone in the US might point to an album as an obvious example of watermarking, and another person in the UK could check the same album on the same streaming service and hear no problems.

There’s no question watermarks are real. A download I once purchased turned out to be watermarked, although the sample tracks on the seller’s website had not been (because of the designation of certain files for certain markets). The seller was able to send me clean versions. Each of the watermarked tracks was a megabyte or two larger than its non-watermarked counterpart.

Luckily the problem seems to be fading. I only rarely encounter a watermarked album on Qobuz anymore.

Welcome to the community!

Thank you! Now if I could just find the option to convert PCM to DSD…still looking.

Sure thing. Sample rate conversion is handled by Roon’s DSP engine. A quick way to navigate to it is by clicking on the volume control in the lower right part of the screen. Here are illustrated instructions:

On the DSP page, choose “sample rate conversion” → “custom” (under the first drop down menu). You can convert to any rate supported by your audio device.