What sounds better? Tidal MQA or Qobuz HiRes

Thanks all for sharing your experiences!

I have tested some more the last couple of days confirming my original assessment that it is overall very close; maybe some super minor advantages towards Qobuz but I could definitely live quite well with both formats.

I agree that having used the best original master and state-of-the-art mastering equipment is probably more important then the format.

[Christopher S. Johnson]
One minor quibble is that we can’t assume that Tidal MQA and Qobuz Hi-Res are starting from the same original digital master. I purchase High-res music all the time and regularly see labels, especially in Classical offering the same recording at 24/96, 24/192, and even DSD64, etc. So what was the original that Tidal MQA started from, and what was the original that Quobuz Hi-Res started from? Neither of them equal 24/192 in any case. And is either of them, then, still “lossless?”

Christopher, I think when you look at the new release pipeline of Tidal and Qobuz and both album copies are from the same label, issued during the same week and provided with the same original sampling rate, e.g., Qobuz 24bit/96khz vs. Tidal 24bit/48khz MQA 96khz you can be quite certain that it was the same master.


That’s why I ditched Tidal and use Qobuz.

Qobuz 24/192 sounds very good, noticeably better than the same Tidal MQA 24/192 recordings with soft-decoding in the roon - more air and more detail .

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It’s not really about what it sounds like. PCM is what it’s meant to sound like as that is what the vast majority of music (99.9%+) is mastered and issued in.
MQA is just a format designed to extract cash at every step down the music distribution and hardware food chain. If MQA was better, it wouldn’t be 5 years down the line and most people ignoring it.

I prefer Qobuz to any MQA I have ever heard. To me, it’s like looking through clean glasses as opposed to dirty glasses.

Yes, per the inventor of MQA, Bob Stewart, MQA is lossy. He claims we can’t hear the difference, but I completely disagree. I hear a substantial difference. I prefer even 44.1/16 Redbook to MQA/.


Here is a great site for comparing various Hi Res to MQA. They use the same masters for the different variants.

So I agree that the “Placebo Effect” will be present for some, but I have based my listening on Tidal and Qobuz dual subscription side by side, same artist/album/tracks with similar rates and generally overall I preferred Qobuz, across a number of genres and listening levels.
The added bonus here is I prefer the music content and interface on Qobuz.
I’m not here for debate over Master sources and other undefineable detail, i liked what I heard over a period and one had to go, it was Tidal.

I made this little playlist while traveling. I have a Dragonfly Red DAC. At home I have the Qutest DAC.
I’m using my same headphones.
Roon acts like the Dragonfly is a MQA DAC. I have to look that up. I can hear a difference. Not so much that I’m sure I could pick them out each time. The Tidal sounds a bit punchier, actually louder, than the Qobuz. Maybe Roon software has something to do with that. I want to try on the Qutest as well. I cannot tell if one is more “pure” than the other. It feels the Tidal have more software involved.

I tried to get pretty much the same masters.

Well one has more layers, not that that is automatically bad.

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Have you ever heard about Nyquist–Shannon sampling theorem? No, and if you heard you did not understand it.
More important point: lossy in case of MQA is used not in comparison to the analog signal.
MQA is lossy comparing to the 192/24 digital sample.

Hi Thomas and others
Yes, I have been listening to both sources but in my case I don’t buy downloads - I use both services for streaming hi-res files. System is: Boulder 1010 pre and 860 power, Triangle Magellan Cello speakers, Marantz SA10 SACD player which also acts as external DAC to a Bluesound Vault 2. The Vault holds my ripped CD library as well as acting as link to Roon and Qobuz/Tidal, controlled via Lenovo laptop as core, plus tablet. I’m not tech-minded so don;t really understand about folding etc, but I have been comparing the 2 streaming services with direct SACD/CD playback and vinyl sources (Linn LP12 and Clearaudio Davinci cartridge).
So far I haven’t been able to establish huge differences between Qobuz and Tidal hi res versions of the same track, but on balance Qobuz seems to give slightly more natural sound. What is interesting is to compare the two services on remastered versions of older classical recordings (e.g. 1950s orchestral), where I think Qobuz makes a better job of portraying the rather flat acoustic of the period. Having said that, there’s something to be said for NOT being so accurate, but rather smoothing the sound off a little. On the rock/popular front, I’ve compared different versions of the Beatles White Album on Qobuz, Tidal, original stereo vinyl, and the recent remastered mono vinyl version. The last of these (mono vinyl) has an impact the others lack, but we’re lucky to have such SQ in so many different sources. I’ll keep listening.

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I think I’m going to have to give the nod to MQA. The description from one reviewer pretty much sums up what I’ve been experiencing…

Listening to the same hi-rez tracks on the two services, I’ve generally found that Qobuz sounds a little more incisive and detailed, Tidal a little more rounded and organic.

Edit: The more I listen the more I prefer good ole FLAC lossless from Qobuz! LOL!!!

Many, many tests have shown that if two files of the same selection are played at slightly different volumes, the louder is always preferred, and is usually preferred even if at a slightly lower fidelity.

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From a sound quality stand point, I give Qobuz 4.5 stars. As I don’t have Tidal, I’ve had to use other resources to compare MQA to the same files in FLAC, at the same volume level. I give MQA 2.5 stars. To my ears, on my system, there is too much distortion, impaired attack and delay, lack of ambience, and a lack of transparency.

I saw Monty’s videos. I didn’t pay to much attention to the Nyquist-Shannon theorem as I am more into what I hear in the final result. I admit, mostly due to age it is hard for me to tell. I mentioned the Tidal streaming bumps volume brightness.

FWIW - I spent the late 70s and 80s dealing with digital and analog field conversions (magnetic). I am comfortable with both digital and analog as that was my job.

While you can generate a mathematically perfect SIN wave (analog) with just a few points (digital), you can’t get the analog wave starts exactly right from digital signal. I completely missed where that was dealt with in Nyquist-Shannon theorem discussion. And, in theory, it matters. But, I can’t tell with my ears between the two.

There is a philosophy thing here also discussed in photography, which is is the most accurate original reproduction better than a post-processed reproduction where the photographer add their own feel. I am tending towards liking the better post-processing. That too, like the performer, is an art. It may be in DAC software, but I appreciate that Qobuz and Tidal do it differently.

I enjoy both services’ high resolution offerings, exactly why I will sub to both. I had a hard time paying for the poor audio quality on Sirius/XM, and jumped through hoops just to get the best sound quality from Spotify and Pandora. I have been waiting years for a service to give me the audio quality I want. Now I have two!


I actually prefer MQA - that’s leaving all technical backgrounds out and taking my personal taste into account - because in the end it’s about me listening to music and not about reading or comparing technical sheets :wink:


Hi all, I finally took the time to do a blind test on this.

The setup:

I picked 6 Hi-Res songs each from Tidal and Qobuz:

  1. Linkin Park, One more Light Live, What I’ve done
  2. Milos Karadaglic, Aranjuez, Concierto de Aranjuez Part One
  3. Vikingur Olafsson, Bach, Concerto for solo keyboard no. 3, Adagio
  4. Doors, L.A Woman, Riders in the storm
  5. Bernstein, Beethoven Fidelio, Act. 1 „Jetzt Schätzchen…“
  6. Hillman, Bidin my time, Bells of Rhymney

I tried to pick a broad variety of songs I know well. I set up 6 playlists of 2 in Roon with both versions of each song and then random played each playlist 5 times without knowing which version is playing. I therefore had to pick songs 30 times in total. The only criteria was my subjective sound quality impression. I made myself pick one of the two and could either allocate 0,5 or 1 point depending on my confidence of the decision.

I played the songs via Roon RAAT to my Devialet 220pro which is now Roon ready. I listened partly with my Sennheiser HD800s (it was to early for the family :slight_smile: and my B&W 802 D3.

Here are the results:
I picked Qobuz 19 times vs Tidal 11 times; taking confidence levels into account the score was 17 vs. 8,5 in favor of Qobuz. The distribution per song was interesting:

  1. Linkin Park: 3:2 for Qobuz
  2. Milos: 4:1 Qobuz
  3. Bach: 4:1 Qobuz
  4. Doors: 5:0 Tidal MQA!
  5. Fidelio: 4:1 Qobuz
  6. Hilman: 4:1 Qobuz

The Doors version in MQA was quite superior to 96/24; if you take this song out I always preferred Qobuz HiRes.

Overall it was really tough as both versions sounded very good. I would give Qobuz a bit more precision and detail while MQA sounded a bit more “relaxed” which might suit the doors recording. If I would have to pick for my system I would choose Qobuz now but could easily live with both.


Frustrating for me because after several days over several listening sessions between Tidal MQA and Qobuz hi res, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no universal answer. Some MQA files sound much better than some Qobuz (and/or FLAC hi res from HDTracks, etc) and vice-versa. Many I could tell no difference at all.

But here’s an example - I listened to this track maybe 30 times…

“Sara” from the Fleetwood Mac Tidal MQA file and the Qobuz 24/96 file…

No matter how many times I switched back and forth, Stevie’s voice always sounded more rounded, with more space “behind” her voice on the MQA file.

After that, I was convinced MQA just sounded better, but then going through another 2 dozen songs, I could not find any overall winner, it seemed to go to Qobuz on some tracks, and others I could hear no difference at all.

So I am thinking I’ll have to go through my entire Roon library and just pick which version sounds best to me…

Or just upsample everything to DSD I guess :slight_smile:


Thanks for sharing!