Problems with TIDAL MQA and QOBOZ "Hi Res"


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 MQA.

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 does.).

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?


Previewguakus
Recently I have noticed the exact same "sounds like singing through burlap" on several recordings I listened to on TIDAL.  I was thinking that maybe my inherently bad attitude was making me think that something had changed at TIDAL. My second thoughts were perhaps my drivers had expired, or maybe cable problems, or other minor issues...then I started thinking maybe my hearing was deteriorating.

So we can lay it at the feet of the record companies....that makes total sense, although you would think that if they had a fraction of a brain the marketing dept. would make sure the streaming services got top shelf recordings....maybe sell a few more CD's or Vinyl...maybe get a few more 99 cent downloads.  But then as I write this I'm thinking that maybe the opposite is true. The record companies are losing business to the streaming sites, so why send them the good stuff. 

All in all it's too bad that corporate America and the short term gain mentality is taking a toll on music quality. 
mspot probably hit on the truth. It makes the case for expanding your collection of tracks that you like before the record companies destroy them and give them to the streamers.
I've streamed Billy Joe's music using Tidal and I think it's in the recording. So much so I can't listen to him anymore. What do others find?
I would put the blame at the source — the record labels, which have remastered many albums into worse sound. On the web, there are many complaints about the sound quality of current releases of older albums. Unfortunately there isn’t anything you can do about it. The streaming services (Tidal, Qobuz, etc) simply pass to you whatever they received from the record labels.


Maybe Spotify willget it right.