Usability Issues with Tidal


I’ve been using Tidal since October. So far, I’ve been less than impressed by the user experience, especially the user interface. Tonight, I was in the process of setting up my new Bluesound Node 2 with Tidal. I forgot my password so I went online to request a reset link, which is what all websites require. I don’t get the link for over an hour. Then the link came during dinner, and the email said the link would expire in 10 minutes. I tried anyway and it didn’t work. I had to ask for another password reset. Another hour later, I received an email and then I immediately tried to set a new password. It would not work. To me, this is sub-standard, especially for a “premium” service. 
They don’t have any live tech support, no chat, nada. 
Wondering what you all think about your user experiences with Tidal so far. Do you think the better SQ makes it worth it?
wakethetown
Try them on twitter.

I am more entranced by the amazing back catalog than I am the user experience. Honestly I have been having streaming issues with them of late. :(

Erik
@erik_squires 
What is a 'back catalog'?
Bob
Sorry, what I meant is that their collection of old jazz and classical recordings is pretty impressive.
No issues with Tidal service...whatsoever. And yes, Tidal Hi-Fi is worth every penny, IMHO.
@erik_squires 
I find Spotify's catalog to be more extensive, unfortunately, it isn't in high defintion.
I am trying out Deezer. Sounds good, but the catalog seems limited in Classical, and I am having a problem with playback
Bob
My Tidal streaming service is working fine and it is highly recommended. Yes, I did have connectivity problems but they were caused by my Linksys router. This router was dropping packets and a repair was not available. I replaced it with an Apple Extreme Router and it is working perfectly. My other connectivity issue was caused by my ISP’s junction box outside my home. It was replaced and everything has been fine since.

My emails to them have been answered in 24 hours or less. Their service has been excellent.  

I like Tidal’s album selection and the sound quality is superb. I also like their MQA Masters selection.  

I agree with lalitk that Tidal is easily worth $20 per month. Tidal Streaming is recommended. 
The sound quality is better than other streaming services, but that ain’t saying much. On my tenth try I was eventually able to recover my password and connect Tidal to my Bluesound box. My initial impression of the sound quality was positive, but my point of reference was mp3s downloaded from iTunes.
I was surprised that masters were available on my iPad since I had read they were only available on the desktop version of Tidal.
I did A/B testing between these MQA tracks and the same song on CD. The CD blew the MQAs out of the water in terms of dynamics and the proper balance of the mix.
I don’t think the UI is anywhere near best in class. I do like having access to the library and I suppose it’s worth the $20 per month, but I am not delighted by Tidal.
@wakethetown, I am streaming Tidal using an Aurender N10 Music Server and their Conductor App running on my iPad is very easy to use.  My sound quality is excellent.   The MQA Coded albums are available in the Master Tab.

I am surprised your CD’s are sounding much better than the same album on Tidal.   As I understand it, you are using the Bluesound Node 2 with Tidal. My Aurender is using an Ethernet line connected to my Apple Extreme router connected to my Arris modem.   

How is your Bluesound Node 2 connected to your router?   What router are you using?   As I described above, my Linksys router was having major signal problems and the resulting distortion prevented me from listing to anything from Tidal.  

I doubt your ISP is the problem but it might be worth while to ensure your signal strength is okay (call your ISP and request this test).  My Arris modem FAILED its signal testing meaning the ISP had to replace my outside junction box (entire neighborhood issue).   An out of range signal distorts the signal and causes all kind of problems.  You should also run a speed test on your modern to ensure your speeds are okay.  

This type of trouble shooting is not easy and maybe others can add their suggestions.    


 @hgeifman thanks for your reply. I’m using a high-end business grade Cisco router. I have plenty of bandwidth. I am using wi-if rather than Ethernet, and I wonder if that is affecting the sound quality. Running a hardwire to the Node 2 is not super practical due to location constraints. 

I chose the Bluesound box for its wireless capabilities, the price point, and good reviews. If I need to hardwire it I may choose a different solution, such as a music server and better DAC. 

The troubling thing is that I don’t have a great CD player, an old OPPO 83, and MQA should equal or best this quite easily if I’m to believe the marketing. 
I guess the pertinent question is what cd player do you have? And are you using the analog outputs of the Node2? To really get the best sound you should invest in a good DAC you will be stunned at the improvement you get.
@wakethetown, Based on my experience, steaming Tidal requires an Ethernet connection (hard wired) since Wi-Fi is not good enough.   If running an Ethernet cable is not possible, it is my understanding your signal will have problems meaning that Tidal may not sound the best.  

Are you sure you cannot run an Ethernet connection?    If not, you could try running Ethernet over power.   This means buying connections and running the Ethernet signal over your power lines.  This is not the best but is certainly better than Wi-Fi.   

@jond, I agree that a better DAC will improve his sound quality.   
@hgeifman @jond have either of you heard the Cambridge Audio CXN? Can you recommend a DAC at a decent price point?  
Im going to look into hard wiring, but it’s not my first choice. 
I have not heard the Cambridge but what's your overall budget for a DAC?
I ran a Blue Jeans Cable cat-6 data line directly to my Aurender N100H and tidal works great! No complaints at all with their service. I think hard wiring makes a big difference.
I have the Vault 2 hardwired to my router and the Node 2 connected by wifi in my bedroom. I don't hear any sound difference between the two.
@wakethetown, I am not familiar with the Cambridge Audio CXN DAC.   I suggest you go to the digital forum of Audiogon and search for DAC's.  Schitt makes several lDAC's at various prices points.  See:
http://www.schiit.com/home

You need to determine your price range and then research DAC's in your price range.   It is my opinion that spending a little extra for a high quality DAC is worth the money for improved sound quality but you need to make that decision.  I suggest you not rush a decision, and audition some DAC's in your price range.  

I agree that hardwiring is a pain, and expensive, but it is worth every penny.  I hired my audio retailer to help me install an under my house Ethernet cable.  We ran a cable to my family room where I already had a cable connection.  We installed the Luxul XGS-1008 switch box and plugged the new cable into the Luxul.  It works perfectly.
@wakethetown, The Ayre Codex DA is excellent and, yes, I own one.

https://www.ayre.com/codex.htm


"I am using wi-if rather than Ethernet, and I wonder if that is affecting the sound quality"

This is 100% why your are not happy, try plugging it in using Ethernet :-)

If you want the best performance from streaming Tidal you must use a wired connection.


Matt M
wakethetown, The Node 2 is a $500 streamer and DAC. It will give you good but not great sound. You will probably be able to distinguish some but not all MQA albums with it. It’s not one of the "giant killers" we hear about from time to time.

If the rest of your system is fair to average, a better streamer/DAC will give you a little better sound but will not transform your system. Before you spend any more money, you might want to hang on to the Node 2 and enjoy the wide variety of music it gives you access to while you do some research.

We might be able to help you more if you tell us what your system consists of and what you would like to hear in an upgrade.
Thanks for the great feedback. I jury-rigged an Ethernet connection between my router and Node 2 using an old Netgear switch as a link between two cables so I would have enough length (over 25 feet). I immediately noticed a difference.

To confirm what I was hearing I invited my wife and daughter to conduct an A/B/C test to see which one they preferred. I played an MQA track from Tidal. A was wireless streaming, B was CD, and C was Ethernet wired Tidal. They preferred C, the hard wired connection to the Node 2. I was still leaning toward the CD (option B), but my wife, a trained musician, and my daughter also a musician with very keen hearing, pointed out that there was more detail and resonance with the Node 2 compared to the CD player. Their least favorite was the wireless connection, which confirms my initial reaction.

We ran the test two more times. For the second and third tests I eliminated the wireless option for convenience. I tested two tracks from Tidal that were non-master quality (e.g. CD quality). For the second test, an Adele song, both my wife and daughter preferred the CD player. Interestingly, for the third test, a Gregory Porter song, both my wife and daughter overall preferred the Node 2--although certain passages had more attack and decay with the CD player. There is no doubt, however, that they sound different.

My working hypothesis is that the MQA tracks really make a difference--and are better than CD quality as advertised--providing the Node 2 is hard wired.

Regarding my gear and my set-up. I’ve just purchased some new components after living with my current system for nearly 20 years. In my teens I was quite the audiophile: my first speakers were stand-mounted Spendors :) After finishing my education, broke as I was, I bought an affordable kit based on recommendations of a now defunct hi-fi magazine called $ensible $ound. I bought PSB Alphas, an NAD intergated amp, and a Marantz CD changer.

My current set-up is PS Audio BHK 250 amp and Signature preamp, Focal Sopra 1s, and an aging Oppo 83, Canare balanced interconnects. They sound great and I’m really happy with this foundation for my system.

In terms of my goals for streaming digital music, I’m not really educated about what is possible. I was able to hear an A/B test between a Sonos and an Arcam rPlay and I could immediately hear a big difference. I decided to buy the Node 2 because I read it was a step up from these units without a major price jump. I was focused on wireless capabilities because I didn’t realize it would compromise the SQ so much. I am open to exploring what would happen at the $1000-1500 price point. I read rave reviews of the PS Audio DirectStream but I’m not ready for that level of investment after just purchasing new amps and speakers.
Well wakethetown, your system is definitely 21st century audiophile quality. I would say that your cd player and the Node 2 are the weak links in your system. They are good quality but not at the level of the rest of your system.

Digital playback, both cd and streaming, have been steadily improving. Since you are satisfied with the wired Node 2, I would enjoy what you have while you look for an upgrade to your digital components. You will eventually come across a great deal on a better cd player and/or streamer, or someone will come out with one that is a big improvement at a reasonable price.

There is a lot going on in the digital world so there is no harm in waiting.  Our options are getting better.  There are components that combine the cd player and streamer, so you will have the option to replace two components with one. I think the newer Oppo units do this but I have not heard them. That’s about all the advice that I can can provide. Enjoy what you've got while you look for an upgrade.
Browsing the DAC listing this looks like a very good deal for $1500 from a company on the cutting edge of digital Chord, no affiliation with the seller.

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/da-converters-2018-01-05-digital-183a4592-7636-46c0-bebb-c97379db3...

Cheers,
Jon
Tidal has been great! Have had a few technical issues with streaming but no more than with Spotify, hifi is for sure worth it and premium on Spotify is good too, I use both and have a / b the sound quality, on some stuff I can’t hear the difference but on others the difference is very apparent, I like the the info on tidal but I find the premade playlists better on Spotify 
As audiophiles we should demand better no service that requires a monthly fee without telephone support should be tolerated. We are confronted with the words high end yet tech support is low end. I called schitt to get some presale info on their dacs and they have not returned my call. It appears they only wish to communicate through emails yet they want to sell you a dac for $2300. Moving forward as for myself any company wishes sell goods and services with the slogan high end will have telephone contact or I will not spend my money with them. UNACCEPTABLE.
@givin2u I agree with you about customer service. I never did hear back from Tidal about the difficulties I was having. A human to interact with is not too much to ask. They aren’t a startup anymore. 
In terms of SQ, after a few days listening to tracks, both MQA and CD quality, I have to say that it really varies from song to song. I can hear the tonal richness with the MQAs, the extra depth across the frequency range, but in many cases the codec seems to overly smooth things out. I don’t have the precise language to describe but it’s a homogenous filter that robs the music of energy. The CD tracks on Tidal sound a bit harsh, jagged in comparison, but have more energy and intensity. I’m not satisfied either way. As you all have mentioned perhaps I’m running into the limitations of the Node2’s DAC.

I’ve started reading about digital music. Oh my! Never realized what a labyrinth I was entering. Looks like MQA is going to become the standard just as Redbook did for business reasons not musical ones.  Arguments about PCM vs DSD, the limits of our ability to hear differences etc. It almost reminds me of the debates surrounding GMOs. I am not well-enough informed but it seems that the analogue mastering process is more “organic” whereas the digital codecs are allowing/forcing sound engineers to fiddle with the genetic structure of the music.  What I’m sometimes hearing is Franken-music. All the parts are there but in an arrangement that just seems “off”. Maybe there is no “right” just “different”. I’ve never contemplated this in such stark terms before. Hi-fi as a means to philosophical contemplation...
Update: just got a password update from a tech support rep at Tidal after 4 days. Service with a smile. Their SLA is SOL.
Thought this article was intriguing: http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2017/12/wyred-4-sound-dac2v2se-10th-anniversary-review/
If the router in is an actual Cisco router running some iteration of IOS, its not likely and ideal router for home use. The cost of those devices are far beyond throughput and the ability to support a vast range of protocol and service and an endless level of configuration flexibility. For most typical home networking needs, they will be outperformed by devices that are geared for the average home user. I work on their ISR, ASR, CSR, Nexus, and Catalyst series throughout the day and except for the VM iterations, I wouldn't run any of them at home. Even with the VM iteration, it simply has features I have little use for at home.

They did have the small business line with Linksys during their ownership, but that was no more than in name. Better products were to be had by other vendors at that tier.

WiFi, even a decent unit, will have a large number of factors affecting performance. With the right set of tools, you can resolve many of the issues but some are not feasible to overcome without significant cost. Wired Ethernet will nearly always have a step up over wireless in nearly every scenario. Not always an option, but creating a test run is at least the gold standard. If there is a perceived sound quality difference, my best guess is that processors are working on error correction via TCP that address packet errors over the WiFi network. While all the data comes through, some latency through player may be created of no TCP offload processor exists that handles TCP error correction.

The Bluesound Node 2 is basically a variation of a Rasberry Pi3 like IOT board with some customized options. You're really paying for the software development over hardware. Its best use might be a transport device, but I couldn't say if it has a jitter prone output. 


My router is a Meraki, which is owned by Cisco. It’s professionally set-up by a network IT specialist. It’s definitely not the issue. 

I’m probably going to send the Node2 back to the store. I’m not sure what jitter issues sound like, but I don’t like the overly smoothed out sound I’m getting. The tracks lack dynamic punch.  
I’m likely going to give the Cambridge Audio CXN V2 a trial.  I’m curious why do few DACS have an Ethernet connection. I really don’t want to go through all that is required to run a Mac mini server, but it looks like that might be what’s ahead. 
Yes, Meraki was purchased by Cisco and its part of its SDN portfolio and is not a core Cisco product. It doesn't even have any of Cisco specific developed protocols that make them unique and has somewhat independent development.

I wouldn't discount on having impact as it contains features that are not typical for the home users. For example, it offers an IPS solution that is running Snort, and dependent on the rules being used, could impact web streaming services. The content filtering isn't likely a problem since those are quick to process and cached to some degree. The AV/Malware scanning options will also significantly impact its performance. If this device is being used in conjunction with a VPN tunnel, the typical AES encryption method used for those transfers could very easily eat up the CPU. A professionally configured unit to myself just means more advanced features could be enabled, thus putting a greater load. You really couldn't tell until you opened up the Meraki Dashboard and reviewed the settings. But if those features are not in use, the sytem should have more than adequate power. 

Based on what your comments about the sound though, I would agree with returning the Node2. Jitter issues will manifest themselves in very different ways depending on the device. Some devices will buffer any input to mitigate source jitter issues and others could be significantly affected. PS Audio DSD series has such buffering solutions in their product. They might have called it 'Digital Lens' at some point. Most modern DAC's today do buffer incoming data as they simply anticipate users will potentially see this out of some source devices.

As for why DAC's have few Ethernet connections, its more to do with continual changes in streaming standards than anything else. It means continued support and updates for client devices as new version of DLNA, Airplay, or Roon RAAT may be needed ongoing. Its a hard to quantify cost over the expected life of a component. Remember our audio components due have a longer shelf life than many consumer electronic devices users buy today. With that, many designers feel that an external transport solution might be best for something that will likely change once if not more in the expected service life of the DAC.
Tidal is pretty awesome.  It definitely exposes inadequacies in the internet connection &/or hardware, but, if you can manage the very demanding throughput, it’s well worth it.  
Tidal is a garbage app in my opinion.  I've been with Tidal for 2 years or more and probably had to email tech 30 times.  It's one thing after another with them and it's not getting better.  Program is ugly looking and bad vibes with the music they push.  If Spotify ever goes lossless Tidal is dead meat.  Spotify doesn't sound quite as good but the user experience is vastly superior and discovery of music is so much better.  They also have much more of the music that essential to my tastes.