Is using streaming services worthy of an audiophile?


I read that a lot of people on this forum use Tidal etc. Is this ok from audiophile perspective? I mean, do people who use such services actually know what quality is streamed? Don’t you lose all control over your music when you surrender to streaming services?
defiantboomerang
Yes, yes, and no. 
@douglas_schroeder 

Could you be a bit more specific, please. 

Specifically, how do you know that the claimed file quality is actually streamed? What prevents streaming services from downgrading their signals?
Tidal good
Splatify bad
Many DACs will give an accurate read on what bit Rate, etc is actually arriving at the DAC.  Many on this forum have used this info to discover that some streamed music from Tidal or other streamed sources is not high res, and occasionally discovered that MP3 files are being used
   Tidal tries to minimize this, but to answer your original question, the only way to control this is to own the file in a physical format
I am new to streaming.  I've had audiophile aspirations most of my life and have collected and listened to music for the past 55+ years. I have a modestly extensive collection of LPs, CDs and SACDs that I have accumulated over this time.  I enjoy having this collection and have tried to optimize my system to get the most out of my physical media.  All of this is to say that I do have an investment in physical media and certainly that is the comfort zone of my experience. So I went into streaming in general and Tidal in particular with a bias toward physical media.  My experience with Tidal is that in many ways it has transformed my listening experience.  For those audiophiles who truly enjoy music and the discovery of new music I think Tidal is great.  In my experience the sound quality of of their lossless and MQA albums are on a par with what I get from my CD player...and sound quality IS important to me.  I am not sure if Tidal is "audiophile approved", nor do I care.  My ears still work and I can discern between good and bad sounding recordings.  I don't need a device to reveal to me the meta data of the digital file before I can enjoy it.  
No concern with Tidal.  My Roon software is set to play the files natively (no conversion) and my DAC reports the incoming bit and sample rate on the display. So I know I am streaming CD quality or better.

As Shadorne has said, some DACs display the incoming signal. The bottom line is what type of sound quality you can get from your rig. I can get sensational sound quality from steaming Tidal's upper quality service through ROON.

But, to get the most out of it you need to work with ROON's digital engine settings.

I have heard some MQA demos and I'm not terribly impressed. Pretty overblown imo.

+1, shadorne. 


My streamer, Auralic Aries Mini, displays the sampling rate of anything playing on the Lightning DS app so i always know. And direct comparisons to my own ripped files and Tidal have mostly been about even, where I start to see differences is when one version is a better master. i.e. I may have ripped a K2 version of a cd and Tidal doesn't have the K2 my version may sound better. Other than that it's a wash.
Also not sure what "lose control of all your music" means? All of "my" music is at my fingertips on a NAS drive and I can play anything I want from Tidal as well.  I would call that much better "control" of my music and much more convenience.
Tidal is fantastic.  Tidal is also a good tool to find new vinyl, listen before you buy.
I can get sensational sound quality from steaming Tidal's upper quality service
+1

Tidal is fantastic.  Tidal is also a good tool to find new vinyl
+1
"  Tidal is also a good tool to find new vinyl, listen before you buy. "

That is ridiculous Tidal is exclusively and solely a digital service you obviously have no idea how audio works or you would not make this claim. There is no way to tell from a digital stream how a "vinyl" as you say would sound because very often the "vinyl" is mastered from a different source than the file for the digital stream and even if the "vinyl" was made from the same file there is no way to know anything meaningful at all about the quality of the actual "vinyl" pressing that you might choose to purchase because of course the quality of vinyl pressings very widely.
@clearthink...I interpreted this is mean "if you like the album, (songs, music, etc) then you can buy the vinyl copy.

I did this all the time with CDs.  If I was interested in the artist/title, I would buy the CD, if I liked the CD, I would purchase it on vinyl.

Tidal has eliminated the "CD" step.  I haven't bought a CD in a couple of years.  I listen to it on Tidal, if I like it, I'll buy the LP.

YMMV
@clearthink,

I think you have taken @james1969 words out of context. He may be referring to the content of a album.

I ‘listen’ to lot of content on Tidal and other sites that allow audio samples before buying downloads or 24bit CD’s.

And yes, I agree with you there is no way to tell by listening to a album on Tidal that the same album on LP or CD’s will be better sounding or vice versa.
@clearthink,  I solely meant using Tidal to listen to music.  I subscribe to the 44.1 kHz sample rate (the premium) for good sound through my system.  If I find new music that is available on vinyl, I buy it.  Radio is not what it use to be, nor is MTV for that matter.  So where do you go for new music these days?  Tidal is my tool for new music, it does not replace my music collection.  My records are my greatest treasure, so to add new music to my record collection, I am using Tidal to enjoy new music through.  Peace dude.
I also like listening to Tidal Streaming music because it is easy to use and I love the variety.  Of course, the BEST part is their excellent uncompressed sound quality.   In addition, I can change my mind on an album and quickly find a different album to listen to.  The flexibility and outstanding sound quality of Tidal is a big listening plus for me.
 

Tidal music selections are improving and additional albums are always being added including MQA Albums.   Tidal also offers various play lists you can select or you select your own album.  Another advantage with Tidal is that you can select an album and then page down to see additional albums by that artist.

You can go to the genres tab, and then select classical music, jazz, country, etc.  Here you will see a variety of content.

You need to decide if the Tidal $20 per month charge is worth it. I feel the Tidal sound quality is well worth the $20.  I suggest you give Tidal a try for one month and then decide.  I highly recommend Tidal Streaming.  


@james1969 ~ I guess he wasn’t thinking clearly :-)

Now let’s get back to our discussion of how great is Tidal streaming, even for Vinyl lovers 😉
@lalitk ~ Tidal rocks!  I had a friend over who wanted to compare the latest Remastered version of Brothers In Arms (Dire Straights) from Tidal vs my regular issue pressing of Brothers In Arms...he went away in disbelief...
Music is culture. Music is people talking to other people en masse.

It is much more important than the brand of tubes we use in an amp.

Now, pushing for better transmission and reproduction is always worthwhile, but let’s not forget that we are merely diddling at the fringes of the treasure that is musical culture created by those who make audio gear worth pursuing. 

In so far as streaming helps us connect to current music, culture, and cultures... it is priceless and none of us are really worthy of any of it.

Best,

E
I use Deezer and have been a customer for several years, Deezer library is massive.  It also streams at 16/48 but you have to have a Sonos player.  I did the Wyred4Sound upgrade ( total ~$800) and now the Sonos up samples to 96Khz and my DAC indicates that.  I use RadioParadise (320acc stream) and let them send me an eclectic mix, when I here something I like I drop it into my Deezer playlist.  If it really strikes me I seek out the vinyl.   
As a newly converted believer in streaming music I have to say Tidal must be hard to beat.
I am playing a lot of their masters albums which my bluesound vault manages to run at the full 192 via its own internal dac which I output via single ended analog outs to my Mcintosh c48.
I was able to directly compare this with the digital out from the Vault going into the c48 which is limited to 96.
The album I used for a 7 way comparo( read on) was crime of the century by supertramp.
The Tidal MQA at full 192 sounded slightly fuller, more lively than the mcintosh limited 96 version although both knocked the ripped flac files at 44.1 into next week for depth and realism.
Next up came a test of my original cd played via digital out and balanced xlr to the c48, here the xlr was a clear winner but I still feel the Tidal MQA was richer.
Finally I gave my vinyl copy a spin...well as you all know vinyl is just well VINYL and it is just so hard to compare it to anything else imho.
For $20 a month I am sticking with Tidal for a while and as it seems they are adding MQA albums daily I am quite content right now, I mean Uriah Heep at 192? Heaven! 










if it's not worthy of audiophile, it's definitely worthy of music lover regardless of quality.
It’s certainly has a respectable position on the audiophile spectrum if you ask me when you consider what modern technology components can do these days. Use your high dollar transport, TT and a fine bottle of scotch to deliver the full on pleasure palace.
Don’t let people tell you that Tidal is inferior to vinyl. Not all vinyl is perfect or always sound the best. I have heard Tidal MQA 192 that sounds better that the vinyl equivalent and I have some vinyl that sounds better than MQA. 

Also, if you like newer releases music, you are more likely to find it on Tidal than on vinyl. For example, there are only a couple of Joe Bonamassa on vinyl and if you like Fourplay, nothing is vinyl.
@czarivey 

Audiophiles and music lovers have almost nothing in common. Ordinary music lovers usually find despicable Apple earbuds perfectly acceptable, for example. I am 100% certain that audiogon members enjoy music on a much deeper level than music lovers.
there are only a couple of Joe Bonamassa on vinyl
Not true. The label Provogue released almost all of his albums on LP a few years ago.. I have at least 6 or 7. 

A quick look on Discogs, shows that they are still for sale with pretty decent prices.
Perhaps the key is listening. I think in all the madness of files types, sizes, delivery, equipment etc many audiophiles lose sight of the main aim....the listening experience. Often when I am changing artists, songs or digging into my own library of digital music I pick (haphazardly) a file that is an old itunes mp3, ripped aiff or whatever and I still enjoy the music. Isn't that amazing? Why worry? Can one enjoy an mp3 file alongside a flac or dsd?
I am 100% certain that audiogon members enjoy music on a much deeper level than music lovers.

Yaa! Especially those who got 23 versions of Dark Side of The Moon! Chckle..chuckle..whahahahaha!

Defiantboomerang > do people who use such services actually know what quality is streamed?
> Don’t you lose all control over your music when you surrender to streaming services?

As DS said, Yes, Yes, NO.

The only question I have is, ‘are Audiophiles music lovers or not?’ if yes, then they too are into music streaming as viable sources.

Here’s where I either turn in my audiophile credentials or I get to keep them and either way works for me.

I noticed lately, my collection of ripped tracks borders on about 24,000. Once I rip everything I own, well, then more. It did not take long for me to see pretty much any streaming service had a bigger library. MUCH BIGGER!

I could care less to spend any time at all trying to see what bits and words are sliding thru the software or DAC. Its just plain silly IMHO.

Ears are the testing devices. They tell me what is good or not so good. So far I’ve not found so so sounding cuts to sound better if they are artificially upsampled to greater numbers.

Neither am I so pedantic that ALL music MUST be HD quality for me to enjoy it. Streaming content is streaming content. The main thing about it is the exploration aspect. Having the ability to listen to something I don’t have, and I an enormity of less thean I have of more around here, subscribing gives me incredible opportunities to find new ‘pearls’ and then seek out their HD files or hard media copies, should I really enjoy them.

Listening to new tuens helps prevent blind purchases which simply do not pan out as worth the expense way better. Being exposed as well to artists I’ve never experienced is another positive for the various streaming services. Regardless the HD-nish of the cut.

As for losing control, I’m wondering if the OP means not being able to as easily point and click, or drop the needle on a cut quite so readily if the content is always on an exterior venue which is or are susceptible to abailability beyond our own control.

The sheer facts of Streaming outweigh its subjective shortcomings in mobility, alone. Given the vast number of selections, it seems streaming has it hands down as a very viable ‘input’ or source for music lovers.

The single issue I see is the learning curve with each streaming app. RWV.

although you can get into the old analog v. digital debate, it's very difficult to argue against the superior sound quality of hirez streaming. that said, i do feel that true audiophiles, which i define as reactionary old men like most of us, will always be biased towards physical media which, if nothing else, frees us from having a computer screen shoved in our faces all the time.
I am not going to reiterate everything that's already been said, other than I agree with all.  Tidal has transformed to the way I listen to music, all at a price of $20 per month, which is what, 1 or 2 CDs a month, for access to millions of titles.  

Audiophile quality - CHECK,
Music Lover quality - CHECK.

I have found TONS of new music and artists that I would not have access to without Tidal.  I just hope and pray they stay around a long time!!!

My setup: 2012 Macbook Pro (Tidal -> Roon -> HQPlayer's DSD256 up sampling) => Verastarr Nemesis USB cable => SLA battery powered ExaSound E32 DAC.  Stunning! 


I say this as a fan and exclusive user of Tidal/Roon.

One difference is immersion or lack thereof, and the rewards derived from a commitment to listen to an album in it's entirety.

Having physical media generally encourages one to take in the whole (even with a remote and a disk player).

Our new ways make it too easy to skim and skip and be frenetic vs exercising control and discipline of our attention and it's span.

This I lament, as I'm guilty of the former.
As a convert to Tidal I have to say that I do not even use a computer for it or even indeed a Tidal app.
I do it all from my LG smartphone through the Bluos app for my Bluesound Vault 2. I am logged into Tidal through that app and basically can listen to everything I own or desire to from Tidal,s vast ever increasing libary without having to do any more than push a few buttons on my phone, talk about convenience.
The masters can also be directly accessed from the phone now and is just so easy its silly.
As others have mentioned the available music on Tidal lets me listen to stuff I probably never would if I had to stump up 10 to 20 dollars on a cd on a "chance" I might like it.
So $20 a month on Tidal is peanuts in reality.
And there is no question in my mind on the SQ on the hirez recordings at all.
Absolutely. Sounds great these days done right and more ways to enjoy than ever.

Some of my favorite memories of music was as a youth listening the radio. Not knowing what to expect next helps keep an open mind when listening. It also helps you discover new gems you would never know about otherwise that bring great pleasure.

These days, I have my own digital music library. Its a very diverse collection of music of all genres and ages, some familiar, much of it not. I spend a lot of time listening to it on random play using Plex or Squeezebox. Its my own personal modern radio station that sounds better than ever. Mapman radio. Nothing beats it. My record collection assembled over many years is gradually getting included as time permits. Those too sound better than ever on a good modern hifi that uses streaming.
I enjoy Tidal . I took an old laptop and bought a Cardas Clear cable to connect to my DAC . I pay $20 per month via Pay Pal . I think it sounds great . So for $20 per month , I have nothing to lose . I have discovered many new artists . For example AudioGon ad for high res download for the band " Noah Wall ". I liked it on Tidal , so I bought the download , or the vinyl . Some people CLEARLY OVERTHINK ! Yes that's a diss . I like trying recommendations based on the experience of people on this site . What I dont enjoy are poo butts that put positive people down . I spent 25 years working level 4 inmates and have had tussels with people that now reside on S.Q. Death row . So please don't be a tough guy on the internet , you're not . Happy Listening , Best of health , Mike B. 
Absolutely. I think another excellent measure of an audiophile is stretching ones boundaries to discover new music and Tidal, Google, etc all contribute to that. Some artist we knew even surprise us with a song on a different "album". So anything that makes you stretch, grow and listen is a good thing.
Cheers.
Hi,

I understand your concern @defiantboomerang but Tidal is okay. You can invest savely in streaming. I use It next tot my cd collection and FM tuner/antenna and couldn’t be happier.

I use a Rasberry Pi 3b with digi + pro board combined with Mood audio. This is a very cheap setup. Look it up on YouTube Hans beekhuyzen. Use Dbpoweramp’s to rip your cd’s to aiff. Done. You can mod it, or let somebody else mod it for you and you will go in the stratosphere, believe. Also not costly
If you need help, you can pm me.

Last night i had a terrific musical evening. Playing albums from my childhood streamed via Tidal. Reliving audiophile gems which i don’t own in the cd collection. Quality speaking, It’s absolutely amazing. High end without a doubt.

If you also throw Roon in the mix, you will not stop listening tot music. And quality goes up even higher. I Will Roon up later this year with my rasberry. My Roon trial version was *drool* Need to have it ;)
I have yet to find a Redbook track on Tidal that's not as good or better sounding than the CD version I play locally on a high-end Ayre CD player.  Then there's MQA on Tidal which generally sounds better than their Redbook versions.  Not to mention that Tidal is mobile so I use it while in the car or travelling.  We recently used Tidal in rental cars driving through Italy & Spain with very little streaming interruption even in small villages. Pretty hard to beat at almost any price.
Loomisjohnson-who says you need a computer screen in your face? My computer is 100 ft away from my dedicated audio room. Right now, i’m Shuffling between 34 albums of Paul Hardcastle which is a mix of ripped cds on my computer and from tidal, using Roon. I can put my iPad down for over a day without missing a beat.
i have been thru the stage of having a computer hooked up to my dac, never again. My system sounds so much better without using any USB cable, and just accessing my server thru my iPad.
@rbstehno 
Exactly
As I said I use tidal through my bluos app on my phone just using the home wired network(vault 2 uses hardwire not wireless to ensure no signal dropout) and computer is so far from my mind at all times.
Pushs of a few buttons and I am flipping between tidal MQA, my own ripped music and even internet radio stations.
Quality surpasses 44.1 Redbook CD imho
@cycles2

How can a Redbook track sound better on Tidal than on a CD? Are they not the same? I mean, bit by bit?
Ripped cds sound better than the original cd. IMO it is much easier to read and fix any errors when the hdd is running at 5400 or faster rpm than at 300 rpm. If you look at Tidal master, you can get hi-res albums not just your 16/44 variety. Some of my Tidal MQA albums are up to 192. 
Mid you can’t hear a difference between hi-res/dad/MQA then save your $$$ and just us cds or get the cheaper tidal subscription 
@rbstehno 

Many thanks for your explanation. If I understand you correctly, you are saying that ripping can correct some errors that cannot be corrected when you play a CD in real time? There are some things in your post I still don't understand.

1. Why is the number of rpm's important for error correction?
2. How many errors are made by a typical CD player during play?
3. What is the percentage reduction in the number of errors when you rip a CD and play the file?
I’m not saying that cds can’t handle playing music, most do just fine. When you read from a hdd, depending on the quality and speed of the hdd, you read many more MB per rotation, probably more MB than the size of the song. When you read all of this data into memory the system has much more time to process the data. I am not saying that CD players are bad but if you notice, your better players include more memory for processing the data.
some people must think if hdd is better than cd  then ssd must be better yet. For music not true. The companies that include ssd for buffer usage, could be doing more harm than good. If you look at certain streamers, ask how they handle write amplification and garbage collection issues, and how do they handle fragmentation: using discard for example.
SSD are great for many many things but for music I wouldn’t waste your money.

Hi Defiant,   To your original question about whether streaming is worthy of an audiophile, I'd say the answer can be yes. I don't have Tidal, but there are other methods. I'm using a Naim UnitiServe which gets the broadband music feeds from radio stations around the world. It lists for about 3k so not cheap, but not DCS/Boulder/Linn prices either. (The UnitiServe is out of print and has been replaced by Naim's Uniti Core)

The bitrate is shown on each feed so you know if you're getting: 32k (very low and not so great), 64k (fine), 128k (nice).... The quality varies with the bitrate, but even within the same bitrate the quality can go from so-so to really nice. Remember some stations are using super expensive equipment to transmit. Anyway, I didn't expect much but have found that a lot of stations sound great and of course you tap into so much different music that way. It isn't to say that vinyl isn't better (IMHO), but this can be CD quality.                              

As far as your questions about ripping vs. direct playing. When playing the CD a part that can't be read is filled in by the algorithm on the player and it moves on. When ripping the machine can keep trying to read the bit through a smudge or scratch. The Unitiserve will speed up or slow down to get a better read on the CD (I'm not sure if the lens changes angles as well) . It can be heard when the unit is varying the speeds during ripping. It also counts the errors so you know how many bits it missed on a CD in bad condition. Surprisingly its pretty few. I'd say 99% of the time there are no errors and only a few otherwise (fewer than 10). Its not hundreds or anything. I will say that on a really badly damaged CD the unit may just hang up, but that's probably only when the CD was used as a coaster or Frisbee or something.  The music is ripped onto the Unitiserve's 2Tb HDD, but a NAS can be used as well. Once its ripped the playback is great. 

Enjoy!
I use Pandora through my Blu-ray and Spotify via my tablet.....great for casual listening.  I have my NAD M51 dac decoding and it sounds ok.....any non enthusiasts think it sounds great but no comparison to CD or vinyl.... great for everyday casual music though
@ddrave44 

Many thanks for your answer.

How does Unitiserve deal with song titles? Does it find them online? What happens if there are no titles available?
Yes, the Unitiserve looks up the album title and song titles online. It runs through several online lookup services till it finds the title. It also picks up the cover art, performers, composers...  
If the title isn't available it generates a random string of letters and numbers and you can manually rename it with the album title, song titles and the artist. The nationally known musicians and labels are always found. It's local musicians that it may miss.                                                
By the way, the Unitiserve doesn't have a screen or remote and must be controlled by an iOS device through Wi-Fi or via a monitor. I have a couple of  iPod touches that my kids don't use anymore so I use them as remotes, but iPads and iPhones are also fine. The Unitiserve's replacement the UnitiCore can also be controlled from an Android phone in addition to the iOS products. For my Unitiserve there is also a desktop/laptop client that is downloaded from the Naim website that I use to manage the HDD's database and set up a backup to my NAS.
This may sound difficult, but its all very straightforward to set up and easy to use once it's all in place.
I just recently purchased an Oppo bdp105 to use as a disc player for my CDs. One of its features is that it can run Tidal, so I decided to check it out and purchased a subscription... It sounds amazing. On the Oppo, the sample rate of whatever you're listening to is displayed on their tv the Oppo is connected to.. but really, it doesn't matter. Tidal sounds incredible through the Oppo and I have access to all kinds of music I'd never buy but enjoy listening to none the less. In my rig, the sound is as good as CDs and almost as good as vinyl.
I figure, if I can't hear a difference, I'm sure not going to start looking for a reason to not like this set up. I still buy vinyl for listening and mp3s for DJing, but being able to listen to a random Fleetwood Mac song I have stuck in my head without having to buy it is lovely.