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Taz777

Why does Qobuz sound different to Tidal?

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I've just signed up to Qobuz Studio (monthly subscription to Hi-Res audio). I'm on my month's free trial at the moment with a view to moving across from Tidal to Qobuz if Qobuz sounds better.

 

A couple of hours of flipping between Tidal and Qobuz every 30 seconds or so across a few well-known songs and it is apparent that Qobuz sounds different. This is a surprise to me. The entire musical 'signature' of the songs is different. With Qobuz the songs have more air and mids are slightly recessed compared to the same songs in Tidal. Also, the slight midrange boom I was hearing on the Tidal songs is far less prominent in Qobuz. This is listening via my speaker system.

 

How can the same digital music sound markedly different? All of the equipment is the same. Only the desktop apps for Tidal and Qobuz are different.

 

Initial impressions are that Qobuz sounds better to me for the genre that I listen to. By comparison, Tidal sounds a little compressed and a bit more 'in your face'. It may be better for other genres of music.

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Under settings in Tidal you should have Quality set to Master, then under Sound Output click on more settings and make sure sliders match the image below:

 

tidal-settings.png

 

I assume you do not have an MQA capable DAC, these settings ensure Tidal does the first unfold on MQA encoded files to 96. And choose WASAPI over ASIO. I have both Tidal and Qobuz and also find the sound quality to be slightly better on most files on Qobuz. You can hear the audible watermarks on some recordings that are not MQA on Tidal, especially solo piano.

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Yes, I have exactly those settings and the DAC I am using with my speaker-based system does not do MQA, so I get 96kHz. It's just the sound is different between the two streaming services.

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42 minutes ago, Taz777 said:

Yes, I have exactly those settings and the DAC I am using with my speaker-based system does not do MQA, so I get 96kHz. It's just the sound is different between the two streaming services.

What do you mean you are getting 96K? What tracks? Are you sure you are not listening to an MQA file in Tidal? I am not disputing you btw.

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Some of the tracks are MQA but not fully 'unfolded' so the DAC sees 96kHz, so I compare these tracks to HiRes tracks in Qobiz, some of which are also 96kHz. However, the vast majority of tracks are 44.1kHz so it's really those that I'm comparing. Of those, the Tidal ones appear to be 16-bit (CD quality) whilst the Qobuz ones appear to be 24-bit. The 16-bit ones are upsampled by the DAC (according to what I see on the display). However, that wouldn't account for the different feel to each track (I think).

 

It may well be a moot point though. Of my two small playlists so far, Qobuz only has around 60% of the songs. That's a showstopper for me.

 

It's a bit of a shame as I prefer the sound of Qobuz compared to Tidal.

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13 hours ago, Taz777 said:

Some of the tracks are MQA but not fully 'unfolded' so the DAC sees 96kHz, so I compare these tracks to HiRes tracks in Qobiz, some of which are also 96kHz. However, the vast majority of tracks are 44.1kHz so it's really those that I'm comparing. Of those, the Tidal ones appear to be 16-bit (CD quality) whilst the Qobuz ones appear to be 24-bit. The 16-bit ones are upsampled by the DAC (according to what I see on the display). However, that wouldn't account for the different feel to each track (I think).

 

It may well be a moot point though. Of my two small playlists so far, Qobuz only has around 60% of the songs. That's a showstopper for me.

 

It's a bit of a shame as I prefer the sound of Qobuz compared to Tidal.

Not that it matters to you, but you are not comparing apples to apples. I find it interesting that you are finding the content that much different. For me, Qobuz has just a "lil" more of what I want. Perhaps you listen to different genres than I do?

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I mostly listen to smooth jazz and also a little R&B/soul. For that, the Tidal catalogue is a lot bigger than Qobuz's. I think that Qobuz probably has a lot more classical music tracks. However, for me, a 40% reduction in my music collection is hard to swallow.

 

Both interfaces are quite similar so getting used to Qobuz didn't take long.

 

One other difference I noticed was that Qobuz desktop, on my Mac, uses CoreAudio in macOS. I think that this means it doesn't talk to the DAC directly. Tidal, on the other hand, talks directly to the DAC and can use 'exclusive mode' and also force a full volume signal to the DAC, bypassing any OS volume controls.

 

In that respect, I believe that Tidal talks more natively to my audio hardware than Qobuz does.

 

One other thing that was a little annoying at times was that Qobuz sometimes had smatterings of French here and there (as it's a French company) and some of the translations were quite poor.

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5 hours ago, 4est said:

Not that it matters to you, but you are not comparing apples to apples. I find it interesting that you are finding the content that much different. For me, Qobuz has just a "lil" more of what I want. Perhaps you listen to different genres than I do?

 

"lil"    What is that?   Google remains confused, help.

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1 hour ago, NOMBEDES said:

 

"lil"    What is that?   Google remains confused, help.

Sorry, it comes right up in my Google as "little"...

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6 hours ago, Taz777 said:

I mostly listen to smooth jazz and also a little R&B/soul. For that, the Tidal catalogue is a lot bigger than Qobuz's. I think that Qobuz probably has a lot more classical music tracks. However, for me, a 40% reduction in my music collection is hard to swallow.

 

Both interfaces are quite similar so getting used to Qobuz didn't take long.

 

One other difference I noticed was that Qobuz desktop, on my Mac, uses CoreAudio in macOS. I think that this means it doesn't talk to the DAC directly. Tidal, on the other hand, talks directly to the DAC and can use 'exclusive mode' and also force a full volume signal to the DAC, bypassing any OS volume controls.

 

In that respect, I believe that Tidal talks more natively to my audio hardware than Qobuz does.

 

One other thing that was a little annoying at times was that Qobuz sometimes had smatterings of French here and there (as it's a French company) and some of the translations were quite poor.

 

There is a 15 day free trial of Audirvana for Mac which offers both Tidal and Qobuz integration.

Both services will sound better, interesting to compare again then.

 

Matt

 

 

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7 hours ago, Taz777 said:

One other difference I noticed was that Qobuz desktop, on my Mac, uses CoreAudio in macOS. I think that this means it doesn't talk to the DAC directly. Tidal, on the other hand, talks directly to the DAC and can use 'exclusive mode' and also force a full volume signal to the DAC, bypassing any OS volume controls.

 

In that respect, I believe that Tidal talks more natively to my audio hardware than Qobuz does.


In that case you're not getting a true sound comparison. I'm on Windows where direct access to my DAC is offered up in more than one way by Qobuz just as in Tidal, under Account > Music playing > Listening preferences. If the Mac app can't do that, you won't get a good comparison until you use Audirvana, Amarra, or some other way of bypassing Mac audio.

 

 

7 hours ago, Taz777 said:

 

One other thing that was a little annoying at times was that Qobuz sometimes had smatterings of French here and there (as it's a French company) and some of the translations were quite poor. 

 

 

This drives me crazy in any app. They've clearly used machine translation on some of that, even though they're based in Paris surrounded by some of the best translators and localizers in the world.

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2 hours ago, matthias said:

 

There is a 15 day free trial of Audirvana for Mac which offers both Tidal and Qobuz integration.

Both services will sound better, interesting to compare again then.

 

Matt

 

 

 

I have the full-blown Amarra Luxe on my desktop and I did listen to both Tidal and Qobuz through Amarra on my desktop system. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the Qobuz sound more. However, the massive shortfall in songs available from my Tidal playlists is a show-stopper for me. I could have lived with a 2-3% shortfall as I believe you can request music from Qobuz and they may add it to their catalogue in the future, but the gap is too big for me currently.

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8 minutes ago, Taz777 said:

I believe you can request music from Qobuz and they may add it to their catalogue in the future,

 

I asked for an album and in a few months they had not only one, but TWO versions of it.

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Just now, AudioDoctor said:

Using Audirvana+ to playback Qobuz can completely bypass all Core Audio processing.

 

Indeed. As does Amarra Luxe.

 

My comment earlier was pertaining to the Qobuz desktop app vs the Tidal desktop app.

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14 minutes ago, Taz777 said:

 

I have the full-blown Amarra Luxe on my desktop and I did listen to both Tidal and Qobuz through Amarra on my desktop system. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoyed the Qobuz sound more. However, the massive shortfall in songs available from my Tidal playlists is a show-stopper for me. I could have lived with a 2-3% shortfall as I believe you can request music from Qobuz and they may add it to their catalogue in the future, but the gap is too big for me currently.

 

Did you transfer playlists via Soundiiz or another automated process? I ask because I'm wondering if some of the missing tracks could be on Qobuz in slightly different versions that could be found via manual search.

If not there, all I'll say is we still don't know what licensing deals the Qobuz folks are working on as they continue to expand globally this year, but my guess is that Tidal is likely to remain stronger in hip-hop/R&B which is their largest market and overlaps with smooth jazz. I'm just someone posting opinions on the internetz though.

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I did one playlist containing 103 songs manually, which took a few hours, and then used Soundiiz. That produced exactly the same results.

 

I did study the missing songs in some detail and found that quite a few of the artists were American smooth jazz artists. Whilst Qobuz had some of their albums in some cases, the tracks I wanted were on albums that weren’t available in Qobuz yet.

 

Here’s an example: Lindsey Webster. Both Tidal and Qobuz have her albums but Tidal has almost all of her songs, whilst Qobuz has fewer, unless I’ve messed up and haven’t searched Qobuz properly!

 

I think it’s simply down to genres.

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The good thing about a rolling monthly subscription is that I can take another look at Qobuz later in the year. I have my list of 'missing' songs so it'll be easy to check if they are available in Qobuz then.

 

I am keen to use Qobuz purely on the more 'airy and open' sound signature, compared to Tidal.

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3 minutes ago, Taz777 said:

I am keen to use Qobuz purely on the more 'airy and open' sound signature, compared to Tidal.

 

Is this your verdict listening via Amarra Luxe, via the desktop apps or via both?

Thanks

 

Matt

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23 minutes ago, matthias said:

 

Is this your verdict listening via Amarra Luxe, via the desktop apps or via both?

Thanks

 

Matt

 

Hi Matt,

 

Via each desktop and through Amarra Luxe. I found the Qobuz sound was a little more open lighter which suits the smooth jazz genre.

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4 hours ago, Taz777 said:

 

Hi Matt,

 

Via each desktop and through Amarra Luxe. I found the Qobuz sound was a little more open lighter which suits the smooth jazz genre.

 

I have so far never heard the contrary regarding SQ Qobuz vs Tidal.

 

Matt

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