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Apple Music vs Tidal

Crunchynut

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The second part of this thread has a series of comments on whether IOS devices pass lossless over Airplay or not. It got a bit confusing for me - sorry.

So - is there a definitive answer to my question - which is - if I download a lossless file from Apple Music and stream it to my hi-fi (iFi Zen Stream in my case) using Airplay (Airplay 1 I presume) is it truly at 16bit 44.1 kHz per the source file with no manipulation, or has it undergone some down sampling and up sampling?

Thanks
 

acbarn

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The second part of this thread has a series of comments on whether IOS devices pass lossless over Airplay or not. It got a bit confusing for me - sorry.

So - is there a definitive answer to my question - which is - if I download a lossless file from Apple Music and stream it to my hi-fi (iFi Zen Stream in my case) using Airplay (Airplay 1 I presume) is it truly at 16bit 44.1 kHz per the source file with no manipulation, or has it undergone some down sampling and up sampling?

Thanks
IMG_0325.JPG
 

acbarn

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That’s clear. Thank you! One question though - how do I know if I’m using Airplay 1 or Airplay 2 when sending from my iPad or iPhone to my iFi Zen Stream?
It depends upon the receiver. Being a newer device, the Zen Stream is almost certainly using Airplay 2.

Most likely Apple downsamples for Airplay 2 to reduce the bandwidth demand on your LAN when streaming to multiple rooms. So they’re trading what is likely inaudible differences for more stable multi-room streaming. Airplay 1, of course, can’t stream to multiple end points, which negates the need to preserve bandwidth for those devices.

If you’re wanting to use AirPlay 1, you could replace your Zen Stream with a Raspberry Pi running Ropieee XL, or a used Apple Airport Express.

PS - there is one anomaly in the above chart. I have been able to get bit perfect streams from iOS via USB to an RME DAC. This may be a difference in the DACs used to run the tests, I’m not sure.
 
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bevok

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It depends upon the receiver. Being a newer device, the Zen Stream is almost certainly using Airplay 2.

Most likely Apple downsamples for Airplay 2 to reduce the bandwidth demand on your LAN when streaming to multiple rooms. So they’re trading what is likely inaudible differences for more stable multi-room streaming. Airplay 1, of course, can’t stream to multiple end points, which negates the need to preserve bandwidth for those devices.

If you’re wanting to use AirPlay 1, you could replace your Zen Stream with a Raspberry Pi running Ropieee XL, or a used Apple Airport Express.

PS - there is one anomaly in the above chart. I have been able to get bit perfect streams from iOS via USB to an RME DAC. This may be a difference in the DACs used to run the tests, I’m not sure.
His tests to verify USB bit perfect performance were on the basis of the HDCD light coming on when feeding the audio to a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3, which is obviously a specific set of circumstances. I'd be really interested in some more generic testing of this. I found the absence of the light and its behaviour odd and would love to know why this was occurring. The Apple Music interface definitely talks about bit-for-bit accuracy specifically so I can't help feeling something else is going on. Any links to other testing or your own results?
 

dufferdan

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Hello,

Am contemplating changing from tidal to Apple Music

Read a lot about Apple Music being better in terms of sound quality in comparison to Tidal.

Also i dont like tidal’s approach to mqa and their deceiving tactics.

Additionally is half the price where i live and it would integrate perfectly with my Apple products.

That being said, i have a hegel amp and I dont see a way to stream to it lossless…

Does anyone know a way?

If there is not, would it be worth to switch to apple
Music and stream to hegel via airplay considering that airplay is fairly good on hegel?

Is apple music lossless that much better to justify using airplay instead of tidal?
I posted about a comparison I did mid last week as a tribal between Apple Music hi-res lossless and a CD quality lossless rip to my computer. I used an old iPad 2 connected to a camera adapter/card reader that is also powered by Lightning input. The Apple Lossless hi-res file was definitely underwhelming via USB compared to the Squeezebox Touch streamed 16/44.1 CD rip. However, two potential issues. The DAC is around 13 or 14 yrs old (Beresford Caiman) so I am guessing the USB implementation is poor relative to todays equipment. Also, the file may be more compressed for listening on earnuds or other noisy environments.

my plan is to order a new Topping D70S MQA DAC to replace the out dated Caiman. I will likely re-run the A/b comparisons Best I can then. Since I am rolling a new big figure in age, I am likely to revamp my entire two channel system, but a new DAC is badly needed regardless.

edit to add…I am basically fully into the Apple ecosystem. Having subscribed to Apple News, and Apple Music a while ago on a family plan, so the family can also use it, I went whole hog and did Apple TV and the complete package. Essentially, for an extra $3 a month over the two subscriptions I now have Fitness, TV, and a bunch of other stuff.. so unless I see a huge advantage, I am unlikely to subscribe to Spotify, Amazon Music or Tidal. And yes, I have used the Fitness workouts and such. Many of the “trainers” are annoying as heck, but they are decent workouts.
 
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elliott

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Also something to note is that apple gets 24 bit masters from artists and compresses those, not CD rips, so the version you're hearing on Apple Music may not be the same version elsewhere. For a lot of funk music at least, I prefer Apple's versions better despite differences in sound quality.
 

dufferdan

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Per my other thread on Apple Lossless vs CD rips, the D70 arrived and gave it a go. To some of the posts above:

1. Apple Music, streaming from iPad via lightning camera/card reader powered by a lightning connection does stream 24/96 via USB input to the Topping. It also does 16/44.1.

2. I also fed the Topping my Squeezebox Touch via Optical audio tot he Topping. It registered lossless 16/44.1; 24/88.2; 24/96 resolutions from the Squeezebox from various ripped DVD Audio disks and HD Tracks downloads via ALAC and converted to ALAC for playback on Mac.

I also, for chits and giggles, streamed the same files via Bluetooth to the Topping from my iPhone. It registers the files at 44.1, but I am pretty sure they are compressed and not lossless. That or the Bluetooth feed just sounds lousy in comparison to the other two. I was listening via my Audio Technica ATX 50x monitor headphones.

One thing to note, while I am positive the iPad was streaming hi res lossless audio via USB, a lot of the Apple masters were relatively lifeless. I was comparing lossless rips of the 2009 remasters of the Beatles albums (Let It Be and Abbey Road) vs the Apple Music hi res of the same albums. I also did a comparison of the Doors LA WOman, I ripped from DVD Audio (24/88.2) vs Apple Music 24/96.

The Beatles remasters were very different. It was really apparent on the first song of Abbey Road. Come Together. The 2009 remix in 16/44.1, as you get to the end of the song, there is a very clear cymbal/high hat playing above the music, quietly, but definitely there. On the Apple Music 2019 hi res, it is totally and completely absent. I’d love to have someone check me on this. But the hi res Apple Music version was, to me lifeless and flat, relatively speaking. So, clearly the different masters, to my ears, even though 24/96 on Apple Music, may not translate into a more accurate or musical experience, especially if compressed heavily.

When I compared Like for like files, for instance, Let It Be (naked), which I think are the same master, and both sources were 16/44.1 lossless (not hi res on Apple) , they were pretty much identical, especially when I lowered the Touch volume to match the perceived slightly quieter level of the USB fed files. (92%level on the Touch).

The Doors LA Woman, once again equalized on the volume, sounded almost identical, so I think they were from the same masters and Apple does not appear to have added compression.

While I have no electronic equipment to verify what my ears are telling me, I admit to pretty wild tinnitus which could make slight differences. But where I noticed differences, they were pretty stark.

So while we may have lossless streaming, I think the relative mastering is also important. Compression being the evil giant that seems to rob immediacy, vibrant reproduction. Bit perfect hi res, but flat master will, IMO , lose in pleasure effect to lossless 16/44.1 every time.
 

bevok

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Hi
The 2019 hires of Abbey Road is not only a remaster but a reMIX so that likely accounts for things like the different cymbal sound and changed dynamics. It would be interesting for you to compare your cd rip to this version (the 2009 remaster which is likely the same, unless like me you are still rocking the original 1987 cd releases!)
Hopefully that link works.
Sounds like a good setup anyway, enjoy!
 

Crunchynut

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@dufferdan Very interesting. Could I clarify a couple points?
S
So, clearly the different masters, to my ears, even though 24/96 on Apple Music, may not translate into a more accurate or musical experience, especially if compressed heavily.

By ‘compressed heavily’ do you mean compressed into a ALAC but still lossless (ie original file can be fully reconstituted) or are you meaning some lossy compression?


I also, for chits and giggles, streamed the same files via Bluetooth to the Topping from my iPhone. It registers the files at 44.1, but I am pretty sure they are compressed and not lossless. That or the Bluetooth feed just sounds lousy in comparison to the other two. I was listening via my Audio Technica ATX 50x monitor headphones.

Isn’t Bluetooth always lossy - whilst there are some excellent codecs eg on Sony platforms, there isn’t a lossless Bluetooth protocol, is there?

Just making sure I understand your points ….. thanks
 

dufferdan

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@bevok: based on my testing where it sounds like the masters are the same, Apple Music and my rips are identical (Let It Be Naked 16/44.1, 2003 and LA Woman rip 24.88.2, Apple Music 24./96)haven't done it with Abbey Road, but would assume similar results.

@Crunchynut: by compressed heavily I am referring to more EQ compression, not bitrate, the dynamic range is more compressed, higher volume lows, lower volume highs, not as much dynamic range....aka loudness wars....

BT is lossy, I get that, more as an aside noting the difference in audio quality was very apparent and noticed in comparison to the streamed or ripped versions

An additional note if I may. I have my CD player hooked into the Topping via coax digital out and compared the CD to the ripped version of the CD thru the Touch. The CD player output and the ripped version were identical. No perceived differences.
 
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Crunchynut

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@bevok: based on my testing where it sounds like the masters are the same, Apple Music and my rips are identical (Let It Be Naked 16/44.1, 2003 and LA Woman rip 24.88.2, Apple Music 24./96)haven't done it with Abbey Road, but would assume similar results.

@Crunchynut: by compressed heavily I am referring to more EQ compression, not bitrate, the dynamic range is more compressed, higher volume lows, lower volume highs, not as much dynamic range....aka loudness wars....

BT is lossy, I get that, more as an aside noting the difference in audio quality was very apparent and noticed in comparison to the streamed or ripped versions

An additional note if I may. I have my CD player hooked into the Topping via coax digital out and compared the CD to the ripped version of the CD thru the Touch. The CD player output and the ripped version were identical. No perceived differences.
Got ya. Thanks
 

Tangband

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Theres a lot of disinformation going on regarding apple lossless. The thruth is that Apple music is as bitcorrect as TIDAL, for halv the price.
One has to remember that NO hifi brand or hifijournalist on the internet or in paper-form gonna promote Apple music lossless because of two things:

1. Apple has just made all their products high-end streamers . Noone else in the hifi industry gonna benefit from that, except Apple and Apple customers. You must buy and use Apple gear. Apple is then a direct competitor to all other streamers in the hifi business. Its even a threath to the whole high end industry.

2. Apple dont do any advertising in hifi sites or in papers. Thus, theres not gonna be any positive writing at all. One example is Stereophile that pretends that Apple Music lossless dont exist.
 
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dufferdan

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Theres a lot of disinformation going on regarding apple lossless. The thruth is that Apple music is as bitcorrect as TIDAL, for halv the price.
One has to remember that NO hifi brand or hifijournalist on the internet or in paper-form gonna promote Apple music lossless because of two things:

1. Apple has just made all their products high-end streamers . Noone else in the hifi industry gonna benefit from that, except Apple and Apple customers. You must buy and use Apple gear. Apple is then a direct competitor to all other streamers in the hifi business. Its even a threath to the whole high end industry.

2. Apple dont do any advertising in hifi sites or in papers. Thus, theres not gonna be any positive writing at all. One example is Stereophile that pretends that Apple Music lossless dont exist.
Regardless, I think it is fine for 95% of my needs, especially when I can stream my ripped library from my Touch. So I support it!
 

TheBatsEar

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I would be astonished if you could reliably distinguish Tidal from Apple Music in a blind test.
But "i dont like tidal’s approach to mqa and their deceiving tactics" doesn't sound blind testable to me. :cool:


@Op: I think you are supposed to buy Apple hardware to play Apple Music. This with this might be a solution:

 

telemike

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Ughhhh. Going back to Apple. Tidal app and function on IOS is half baked. I’ll go back to Spotify if they ever have lossless launched. Apple sounds good at 16/44.
 
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