I have been using TIDAL for about two years when I
got the Audioquest Dragonfly Cobalt DAC. There was a TIDAL subscription card. I wanted to hear the difference in quality
that MQA could make. Early on, in my experience, it did make a difference. I could hear the expanded range, depth, and
clarity. However at that time, very few tracks were “master quality.” Most were newly produced songs that had just been released. Today, TIDAL
seems to be arbitrarily going through their entire library and simply up-sampling 44.1 tracks to MQA instead of getting them direct from the studio. I have a list of over 600 tracks in my playlist.
Two years ago, maybe 10 were MQA. Today,
maybe 30 are not MQA.
I had watched a Youtube video where a gentleman sought to disprove MQA’s claims
and compression methods. At that time I had a hard time agreeing because songs
that were MQA did have a positive difference. That is until these past two months. TIDAL seems to be in a rush to make sure every song is
I used to listen to Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” from his “Best of
collection.” I have this same song on FLAC that I ripped from my own CD. I use
this song as reference for the attack, decay and sustain of the piano notes. On
a well resolving system, you can hear the increased volume as he strikes the
keys hard versus the soft tones of gently pressing the keys. The sustain from one note is allowed to carry
over into the next note. It is quite melodic. Then when he sings, it sounds
like a concert hall with all the echo. Suddenly one day, TIDAL updated the song to MQA and
all the intricate notes rolled sharply off. There was no longer a sustain or a
decay. You’d get the attack and then hear the note roll sharply off into
silence before the next note. Then when he sung, all the echo was “cleaned off”
and he sounded as though he was singing through burlap. The song was utterly ruined and
it sounded like what excessive DNR sounds like when Dolby used to offer it on tape decks. I started noticing this on
other songs that were magically converted to MQA; a roll off of musical details and a sort of "compression" like sound. Suddenly,
that Youtube guy’s argument made all kinds of sense.
So I decided to switch over to QOBOZ based on a recommendation of their hi-res
and true 24 bit 96-192 formats. Sadly, I heard the exact same problems on the
exact same songs. Bill Joel’s “New York
State of Mind” is ruined in the exact same way. What's going on?
Comparing these songs to Foobar2000 and playing 44.1 FLAC, the sound quality is
immensely better, more detailed, and has a richness and depth. I have tried
playing around with the settings in both TIDAL and QOBOZ, to no avail. I admit
that in Foobar2000 I am using Kernel Streaming, but QOBOZ allows WASAPI
(direct), but doesn’t seem to allow ASIO to my DAC (even though Foobar2000
Is this the going trend for music streamers?
That there is this rush to provide “hi-res” content that has higher bit
rates that they are just up-scaling CD quality 44.1 files? The same reasons apply that
if you make a digital photo larger, even if you add more bits, it becomes blurry and
pixelated. The same happens to music when you attempt to up-sample. It becomes smeared. The only way to get a
true high bit rate, hi res music file is if it is mastered from the original
source tape from the studio. I feel like these streamer companies are trying to take a short cut.
Is there perhaps something I am missing or doing wrong?