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Various quality options on streaming services - how?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Fretbuzz, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    How do they actually create these different tiers? Do they just start off with the highest resolution version of each and every album then do a 'Copy all > convert to > save as' to get the lower ones?

    Don't know why but, having tried the main ones, I'm not convinced the absolute quality of the better ones is all it's cracked up to be, at least consistently.
  2. IceG

    IceG pfm Member


    My Meridian Sooloos streamer offers a range of downtranscoding options for exporting the FLAC, etc., files making them suitable for lower resolution situations and to reduce disk space requirements.

    The streaming services are marketing driven and so want to offer tiered choices with different prices and the opportunity to upgrade - standard consumer manipulation techniques.

    I recently tried free vanilla Spotify as an alternative to TIDAL and gave up after three days so, for me, there is value in those higher quality resolution and UI options.
  3. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Yep there's definitely more to the higher quality options in general, specifically in direct comparison to the lower quality options (not considering physical media equivalents), but I've just been feeling there's something really contrived about the whole thing, and un-genuine in what they're offering. Very blanket and negative I know! Just trying to get my head around it.
  4. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    Ime the quality of Qobuz streaming is absolutely superb. No difference between it and my own cd rips, and the high res stuff is surprisingly worthwhile. Absurdly cheap. Why would you not want to listen to the master if you could?
  5. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Really? 100% sure it's 100% pure master file you're listening to?

    Genuine question!
  6. notevenclose

    notevenclose pfm Member

    I think the answer probably varies from one album to the next. You can't really know what the record company is supplying, the 'hi-res' version can be a different master from 'CD' or lower quality versions.

    In truth, I came to the conclusion a couple o years back that so-called 'hi-res files' are esssentially a waste of time, money and effort.
  7. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    Nope, not 100% sure. I upgraded to the Qobuz hires service as an experiment and was pleasantly surprised, hard to put your finger on, but the hi res stuff just seems sweeter and more involving. I listen to mostly classical music, which may possibly benefit more. Can’t understand why you think streaming is “contrived and un-genuine”. Musicians make a recording; it can be downsampled and messed about with and cut onto vinyl, it can be downsampled and distributed on cd, it can be downsampled and streamed or downloaded, it can be left as it is and streamed or downloaded. I choose the best quality I can get and I prefer to stream rather than download as streaming currently offers me much better value. A Qobuz cd quality sub costs 50p a day. Hi res a few p more. Preposterously good value. Couldn’t have dreamed of such musical bounty 20 years ago. When I say I rate hi res, I mean recent digital hi res recordings, not re releases of 40 year old stuff originally reorder onto analogue tape.
    marshanp likes this.
  8. Heckyman

    Heckyman pfm Member

    It’s an interesting point, because “CD quality” from “audiophile” streaming services definitely sound worse to me than FLACs ripped from CDs I own and streamed from Google drive.

    Apple Music, despite the lossy compression, sounds pretty good and I don’t feel like I’m paying for something I’m not getting.
  9. Heckyman

    Heckyman pfm Member

    ..maybe you’re hearing the infamous “watermark”
    Fretbuzz likes this.
  10. JemHayward

    JemHayward pfm Member

    The 'original' is always unknown. We have a CD at home that I suspect is a bootleg transfer from a vinyl record or tenth generation master tape copy, as when we found the 'original' on Tidal the difference was really marked, I'd always assumed it was just a poor recording.
    A friend of mine has a few excellent albums out, and I asked her if there was a hi-res version available, but the studio they used was 16bit, 44.1k max, so if there is ever a hi-res version of one of those albums on the market, it will have been up-sampled.

    Disk space is cheap, so I suspect streaming companies store in full resolution and down-sample on the fly before they stream.
    Fretbuzz likes this.
  11. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Some I've heard can sound great but - irrespective of streaming - production and mastering matter much more than resolution. As you say it's lack of any sort of provenance that makes all so.. let's say opaque.
  12. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Main thing is enjoying music.

    What seems contrived and un-genuine, though, is what streaming services appear to offer on the face of it. I mentioned in another thread I tried Qobuz CD and it wasn't that close to the quality of ripped CDs of the same album streamed the same way (CCA>DAC). As per this:

    Just naturally made me question the whole thing. And true master? Just cannot be sure. (And don't get me and other started on MQA!... :))

    But again the main thing is whether you enjoy it.
  13. JensenHealey

    JensenHealey pfm Member

    The Hifi News reviews which show the frequency distributions of some of the so called Hi-res releases is eye opening. If only such information were freely available to subscribers!

    There is no such thing as a 'master' recording. All recordings are 'mastered' (= altered by mixing, compression - perhaps variable - and equalisation) and masters for different formats are needed - a CD master is never the same as an LP master, even if they are derived from the same 'mix'.
    Andrew C! likes this.
  14. AndyU

    AndyU pfm Member

    My experience is different. Never noticed a difference between my rips and streaming from Qobuz. Maybe there is something duff with your replay system or the way you had it set up. It would take awhile to find it, but a few months ago someone on here did a bit for bit comparison of a Qobuz stream and his own rip and found them to be bit identical, thus setting to rest worries about watermarking as well.
  15. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Well duff.
    AndyU likes this.
  16. John Phillips

    John Phillips pfm Member

    I too haven't found Qobuz lacking but I am sure Qobuz (or any other streaming service provider) is to some extent at least at the mercy of its content suppliers.

    The path from a digital music file back to "source" is typically obscure these days. The HiFi News download reviews reveal, as @JensenHealey writes, frequent shenanigans. In fact even assuming that a CD is fairly minimally processed is now unwise.

    Different content providers may behave very differently. It's reassuring that at least some Qobuz content is known to be not watermarked. So Qobuz, it seems, is not manipulating files generally. However it may need more extensive testing to determine if any particular content provider is being transparent.

    I think we don't really have any guarantees at the consumer end of the underlying quality of the various streaming service options. Even if we know and understand the limitations of the various delivery formats.
  17. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    Thing is the web is the web, making downloaded content potentially shit/fakes/lies..... nothing can be truly verified but why get hung up on this?! what does it sound like, are you enjoying it? if so nuff said, enjoy your music, buy another.
  18. Stunsworth

    Stunsworth pfm Member

    Same here.
  19. Heckyman

    Heckyman pfm Member

    Besides the publisher and streaming service, there are a bunch of different network audio streaming protocols and an ever increasing number of proprietary 3rd party hardware integrations.

    This makes comparisons very difficult — which, after all, is what this forum is all about!

    For example, Tidal HiFi may sound worse via the Tidal iOS app but better via Audirvana or Roon. Apple Music could be better via iOS / Airplay but Roon or Audirvana isn't even supported.

    Why care? Because CD has been the benchmark of digital reproduction and for some folks, streaming still falls short.

    If you're one of those people, you want to know which part of your system is "duff" so that you can fix it. Is it the streamed source file, the decoding software, the network streaming protocol or the audio hardware itself?

    Most people don't want endless digital faffery. Transparency from publishers and streaming services would be one less thing to have to test. If you could be sure that a "CD quality stream" delivers the same data as on the CD (as it should in theory), then you could look for problems elsewhere.
  20. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    A simple enough task to test, rip a 'Master' CD to a local server them compare a service with so called 'Master' Streamed version.

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