You should use a better connection than airplay. Wifi or wired would make an appreciable difference in sound quality.
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Airplay works thru my Wi-Fi and it allows Redbook 16/44 quality and nevertheless the ripped CDs from my laptop thru airplay is much better than tidal hif. It's even slightly better imo than the CD transport wired to the dac. Infact I use this to directly feed my amp without a preamp. I'm just disappointed in the so called CD quality from tidal hifi that I'm not getting. I am getting a Chromecast audio soon to see if that makes a difference in the tidal sq.
Same here. Tidal supposed CD quality is NOT on par with same music ripped to my hard drive in either wav of 16/44 flac. Btw I'm using Roon for both tidal and ripped files, all wired, all to the same dac, same path down stream, both coming from my pc. The difference is audible and it's absolutely in resolution. Btw i have a hifi tidal subscription obviously.
In my system ripped CDs in WAV files stored in either Innuos Statement or Antipodes DX3 then to DAC (both using Roon software and both streaming Tidal) is significantly better SQ (IMO) than Tidal 16/44 FLAC files through the same DAC. WAV files tend to always sound better than FLAC files in my system.
I think that the general consensus is that tidal lags slightly behind in sq from locally stored files, streamer or not. Although miles better than hq from spotify it’s not really red book quality. I think it’s still worth it. The op should try roon. It will improve both sources and might bring tidal sq closer to local files. In either case, both will sound better.
Tidal sounds slightly better than CDs for the most part on my rig. This is completely system dependent. I have an Innuos Zen 3 server and Sotm Switch and Ethernet cables. Again, the answer to this question is 100% system dependent. Meaning what your front end is including cabling and LAN network gear and tweaks. In digital it all matters.
Chromecast audio devices again are convenient devices to send audio to different systems throughout the house but not for serious listening IMHO.
Plus sometimes they work okay sometimes not. I guess that is part of the reason Google bailed on CCA hardware. On the flip side they are so darn cheap they can be fun to try.
You mentioned the Laptop connection is working better for you - time to explore the music available as you mentioned.
Airplay uses ’middleware’ to stream music (same as UPnP and DLNA use middleware). Suspect Chromecast will be worse - technology focused on quick & easy connectivity.
You will not get best streaming sound using these technologies.
Tidal HiFi sounds extremely good on NAD C388 (digital integrated amp) with BluOS2i MDC module - which also has native MQA unfolding (and that sounds even better). I like the NAD solution because digital stream goes directly to amplifier stage, without (noise-inducing or tone-effecting) digital-analog conversion, analog-digital conversion, no interconnect cables or cable ends, no interconnect termination points, no termination wiring to the boards inside the unit, etc. It is a direct path (except for the MDC board pin/socket) to digital amp stage. Also very convenient, compact, and simple solution (one device - no signal path connections).
My opinion, the NAD C388 (or C368, etc.) is a great value, because you could spend more than the cost of the entire unit on one set of good interconnects that might go from out-board streamer/DAC to an integrated amp. With this unit - there is no need for interconnects (for streaming). So there is no contemplating if you have the ’best’ interconnect, or if switching to silver or copper could improve the sound (it can’t because there aren't any cables).
Find devices with ’native’ streaming (no UPnP/DLNA/Airplay middleware conversions) - look for Bluesound and others.
As posted above, I also stream Tidal and Qobuz and the sound quality is excellent.
Any streaming service (Tidal, QoBuz, etc) requires a fully operational network. This means your modem, router, cable signal being in range, cable junction boxes, ISP down stream services and all other related parts must be working correctly. Streaming requires a wired connection for the very best sound quality results. A Wi-Fi connection will not support Tidal, Qobuz, etc. streaming services.
Streaming requires these parts to be operating at full capacity. If you have sound quality issues or instability issues, I suggest you investigate all the areas mentioned above. No, it is not easy and requires a cooperative ISP Tech to help identify and correct these issues. You should also confirm your modem can handle the streaming load. If it is old, you might need to replace it. You should also check your inside cables and connections.
Qobuz 24-bit/96 and 24-bit/192 albums are great sounding.
Once your network is correctly operating, you should be able to successfully stream these services. Unfortunately, I had all the above issues and it took me several weeks to get everything corrected. I am now streaming Tidal and Qobuz perfectly with no drop outs or related cable signal issues.
It is not easy getting all these parts working. You have to have “patience” and contact your ISP for assistance, when needed. I fully explained my streaming instability issues were impacting my listening to my music and the ISP Tech knew exactly what was needed. I suggest you start with your router first and then your cable company. As I stated above, every single part in the streaming chain needs to be confirmed it is working correctly.
Tidal, Qobuz, etc. sound quality will work using a Wi-Fi connection (maybe) but the sound quality using a wired connection will be much better.
My Aurender N10 server is connected to my router using a wired connection and the streaming sound quality is excellent. I also tried a Wi-Fi connection and the SQ was very poor.
I have one more suggestion. Previously, I had similar sound quality issues, signal dropouts, sound distortion and discovered it was my Linksys router. Under some conditions, it would drop the cable signal. Linksys said they were working on the packet dropping issue.
I then purchased the Apple Extreme router and the signal dropouts and sound quality issues went away for a while and then returned due to the Apple router. It stopped working sometimes. I also do not think it could handle the streaming load
I replaced it with a Luxul XWR3100 router and the Luxul XAP1510 KIT (extender) and everything is working great. My Ethernet wired streaming sound quality from Tidal, Qobuz is excellent. Please check your router to ensure it is functioning okay and can handle the required streaming load. Google your router and look for any documented issues. Older routers may not be able to handle the streaming load especially for uncompressed files.
I hope this helps you solve your streaming issues.
I stream wirelessly from an Asus router to an Auralic Aries and sound quality with both Tidal and files stored on a NAS is excellent. Auralic recommends using the wi-fi connection in order to eliminate the possibility of electrical noise traveling through the Ethernet cable from your router and other upstream devices. Whether this is a real problem I can’t say, since I’m not able to run a cable all the way from my router on the second floor to my listening room in the basement.
Wifi is yet another piece of the puzzle which needs to be sorted properly, starting with your IP, of course. A moderately fast speed is more than enough to stream high res audio. (If you can stream Netflix, Hulu, or some other video service then your speed is beyond adequate.) Then, if you have crappy wifi coverage a mesh router is a great solution. You can even go wired from a mesh point as I do with my microRendu, allowing for some flexibility with ethernet-in devices. Once your wifi is sorted you will be hard-pressed to hear a difference between it and wired. I've used both Tidal MQA and Qobuz 24/192 streams without issue or sound degradation via my own well-sorted out wifi.
Asus RT-AC3100 (AiMesh-capable) or RT-AC3200 (tri-band 2x5Ghz + 1x2.4Ghz) can wifi Tidal HiFi without issue.
Current network (covering 1 acre and 4k sq.ft. 2-story house) is AC3100 (mesh router), Cat6 to two AC1900 (mesh nodes) streams Tidal Hifi everywhere in the house and (near as I can tell) anywhere on the property.
+1 use good wireless router(s).
Thank u all for all ur inputs. What I don't understand is if only data i.e. 1s and 0s are being transmitted, why does it matter whether it's airplay, pc, iPad or a dedicated streamer. Shouldn't they all stream the data effectively to the dac? Shouldn't the sq be all the same if indeed only the data is what's being streamed?
My good friend, who also design's analog and digital products uses Tidal via hard-wired directly to his Innuos ZENith music-server from his internet-modem as well as via his house A/C line. Doesn't use it via WiFi. The music-server is connected via USB to his DAC. We have loaded exact copies of CD's into the music-server, then listened and compared to the exact same CD via streaming from Tidal, and there is a subtle, but noticeable difference. The loaded CD sounds a smidge quieter, possesses more micro-detail, and just sounds more-real than either from the direct internet connection, or the direct connection via the A/C wiring. I have also experienced the same results with my set-up too, and I use QoBuz. The quality between direct connection from the internet-modem is also slightly better than the A/C internet connection to the music-server, although less noticeable than listening from the loaded CD. This is all in CD-quality format. I have not tried this comparison with Hi-Res music down-loaded to the music-server versus streaming, however I believe it would have similar results. One other thing... In comparison to my dedicated PC with all solid-state memory running the latest JRiver software, the Innuos ZENith music-server beats the PC hands-down !
@liquidsound, interesting. How does the Innuos beat the pc sound? My tidal via laptop sounds less detailed and less transparent with a boosted low end and harsher high end. Almost sounds like tidal had loudness turned on. Qobuz 16/44 seems a tad better but not much although the 24/96 sounds much better. It's different than my CDs but not sure which is more accurate. This is all thru my laptop via Chromecast or airplay, which I don't discern any significant difference. I think the weakest link is probably streaming via a laptop and not Wi-Fi thru airplay or Chromecast but these streamers are so expensive! I'm ok w hi-res on qobuz but I wish it had the top track and similar artist features that tidal has to make exploring new music easier.
If any of you have extra time on your hands I suggest you read though some of this thread. Search for the posts by "romaz" he is very well informed.
The sound quality of tidal streamed over the internet will sound different from person to person based on your internet front end. There aren't any audiophile modems, however as this thread suggests, using a linear power supply on your modem will improve the sound quality of streamed content. The thread I linked suggests using a series of switches with quality ethernet clocks and cables to a renderer to improve the performance of streamed content.
I haven't tried any of this myself but its high on my list of future upgrades. I've gone down the research rabbit hole between TCXO vs OCXO clocks - these things get expensive. A popular manufacturer for some of this stuff is SoTM if anyone is interested.