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Review and Measurements of Chromecast Audio Digital Output

DDF

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I just found this out after doing a lot of searching.

Is there any point in having the HiFi Premium subscription than? Or should I just have the HiFi subscription and save the money?

I cancelled Tidal Premium, I really didn't see it as adding any value.

The reason I keep Tidal is that it's supported in UAPP on Android (Spotify isn't), which has fantastic PEQ/GEW and headphone EQs (inluding limiting) for just a small one time extra purchase. UAPP also support Tidal casting. They say the casting is experimental but it's been flawless for me to my CCAs. Battery consumption is also very low. Finally, I sideload UAPP on my Nvidia Shield's and get the benefit of room EQ for my home theatre, using my NAS or Tidal as sources.
 

Buckeye Amps

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I cancelled Tidal Premium, I really didn't see it as adding any value.

The reason I keep Tidal is that it's supported in UAPP on Android (Spotify isn't), which has fantastic PEQ/GEW and headphone EQs (inluding limiting) for just a small one time extra purchase. UAPP also support Tidal casting. They say the casting is experimental but it's been flawless for me to my CCAs. Battery consumption is also very low. Finally, I sideload UAPP on my Nvidia Shield's and get the benefit of room EQ for my home theatre, using my NAS or Tidal as sources.
So with just regular Tidal, I assume songs only show up as HiFi as the best option available?

The only thing I was told by someone else is just because you are only able to get HiFi doesn't mean the song might only be available in Master (MQA) and then a sort of "bastardization" conversion happens. I kind of have gotten lost in an MQA rabbit hole.
 

DDF

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So with just regular Tidal, I assume songs only show up as HiFi as the best option available?

Yes

The only thing I was told by someone else is just because you are only able to get HiFi doesn't mean the song might only be available in Master (MQA) and then a sort of "bastardization" conversion happens. I kind of have gotten lost in an MQA rabbit hole.

I don't blame you, the whole MQA circus is clouded in secrecy. A few enterprising individuals (e.g. Goldensound, I think banned here) reverse engineered MQA processing with some success.

MQA drops the bottom two or three bits from the 16 bit audio and uses them as a sub band holding "data" that reflects the signal which is above 20kHz. On playback, it uses these bits to reconstruct the signal above 20 kHz (they call it "unfolding"), playing back at 88.2 or 96 kHz sample rate.

It's been shown that sometimes this ultra high frequency content is just fake signal synthesized from the signal under 20kHz because the original master was band limited to 20 kHz, other times the master was sampled at 96 kHz so there is signal up there to add (frankly inaudible).

Some savvy investigators are also finding that labels have been uploading the MQA file as "Master" and the very same file without the MQA tag as HIFI, so Tidal SW on playback cant't unfold. These HIFI files, instead of true 16 bit, are now ~ 13 bits with the bottom 3 bits (meant to represent > 20kHz if MQA decoded) just noise. The encoding used isn't dumb, my understanding is that these bottom bits are almost dither like when not unfolded, to reduce their audibility. But its not real 16 bits, like Qbuz or Apple lossless. No one really knows how common it is for the labels to do this, but I would expect its probably the norm now, for any Tidal music that has a Masters version. 99% of listeners wouldn't care and its far cheaper to only manage one set of files.

The other thing MQA claims to do is correct for the recording chain's phase distortion. One can only guess how they even arrive at what changes to make. I've seen no info describing how they do it. The usual options are FIR filtering, which could also add some (should be inaudible) pre-echo, or all pass filters which wouldn't. The HIFI files would also have this processing on them, whereas the original 16 bit (Qbuz, Apple) wouldn't. While phase can have a very subtle impact on the timbre during parts of the music, its impossible to know if MQAs phase processing is audible, better or worse on any given file. I just look at this effect as a very subtle "remaster".
 
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Buckeye Amps

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Thank you for all that.

If I only listen to Tidal in my car (through Android Auto USB connection using the Tidal app) and through casting to a CCA for my home theater, are the Master level tracks useless to me, hence the HiFi Plus plan is wasted money (for me)?
 

DDF

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Thank you for all that.

If I only listen to Tidal in my car (through Android Auto USB connection using the Tidal app) and through casting to a CCA for my home theater, are the Master level tracks useless to me, hence the HiFi Premium plan is wasted money (for me)?

No probs!
My opinion, yes. It's the conclusion I came to. Before I dropped Premium, I looked into the 360 audio: very little content, and the effect didn't work for me. Your CCA won't support Atmos so you can't take advantage of that either
 

Buckeye Amps

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No probs!
My opinion, yes. It's the conclusion I came to. Before I dropped Premium, I looked into the 360 audio: very little content, and the effect didn't work for me. Your CCA won't support Atmos so you can't take advantage of that either
And just to clarify, even though I will be on the normal HiFi plan, there is still a good chance tracks labeled as HiFi are actually MQA without the label and will still have those 3 bits missing? Or that tracks labeled as Master but playing back in HiFi will also have the missing bits?

But in the grand scheme, it shouldn't make an audible difference?
 

DDF

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And just to clarify, even though I will be on the normal HiFi plan, there is still a good chance tracks labeled as HiFi are actually MQA without the label and will still have those 3 bits missing? Or that tracks labeled as Master but playing back in HiFi will also have the missing bits?

But in the grand scheme, it shouldn't make an audible difference?

Yes to all except the % of affected files is"maybe" to "likely"
 

Buckeye Amps

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Yes to all except the % of affected files is"maybe" to "likely"
Thanks.

So if I REALLY wanted truly lossless playback, both in my car and using the CCA, Qobuz would be the better option?
 

Rottmannash

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Thanks. So if I REALLY wanted truly lossless playback, both in my car and using the CCA, Qobuz would be the better option? Yes. That's what I use. UAPP>S20+>USB dongle >line in on head unit.
 

DDF

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Thanks.

So if I REALLY wanted truly lossless playback, both in my car and using the CCA, Qobuz would be the better option?

Yup. Tests I've seen haven't turned up any MQA based files there yet and chromecast supports 24/96 quobuz. Your car won'tt matter at all though, road noise makes lossless zero value there

Can't comment on its catalog or recommendation engines (don't use it, quobuz isnt available in the frozen north of Canuckistan)
 

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Rottmannash

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Due to Android resampling one must use UAPP to achieve bit perfect output.
 

capslock

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My conclusion was to ditch Tidal altogether. More than half of the titles are Master-only, so that means with a HiFi subscription, I would be getting the same files with the MQA stuff weaved into the PCM but with the tags missing so it stays there instead of being unfolded. Lossless this is not.
 

capslock

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Julf

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A few enterprising individuals (e.g. Goldensound, I think banned here) reverse engineered MQA processing with some success.

Why did Goldensound get banned?
 

Buckeye Amps

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So is there any audible downside to leaving Qobuz at the highest quality setting (24/196) even though the CCA only supports 24/96? Will this cause a conversion issue that leads to quality degradation or anything like that?
 

mSpot

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So is there any audible downside to leaving Qobuz at the highest quality setting (24/196) even though the CCA only supports 24/96?
Does 24/96 work for you? For me, casting Qobuz to CCA only works well up to 48kHz, and I get frequent stuttering at anything higher. Others have reported the same experience. I just tried it again to verify.
 
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