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Streaming Services Are Comparatively Different, subjectively…

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Headchef

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They may well be different but so what? They may be sourced from different masters or otherwise have different pedigrees. I don't think anyone knows for sure how the various streaming services source their tracks and in what format - or what happens to the tracks after the services get them. No doubt it's a constantly changing hodgepodge of formats and distribution methods depending on country, record company, streaming service or licensing deal.

Every service has undoubtedly some standardized 'master' format they use for distribution. There will be automated systems to convert tracks from one format to another, add metadata and watermarks etc. I think most of us know how challenging it can be just to maintain consistent metatagging and cover-art of a personal flac library. I imagine it's a bit more complicated to maintain a library of hundreds of millions of tracks sourced from god-knows-where in any consistent manner.

My point is whatever 'difference' you may find between streaming services in any one track or album will not necessarily be the same for any other album. And since every service is constantly changing features, updating licensing, formats etc. even if today one service sounds consistently 'better' for a sample of tracks it may not do next week. Or it may just be some upstream encoding error that is not representative at all ...



This is why I just stick with Spotify. They have the largest library, the best discovery, decent useability and competitive pricing. And of course sound just fine. Do you really expect perfection for $10 a month? If you want the guaranteed best unadulterated quality then buy the CD.

well the point is that higher res (higher quality than CD) services are supposed to be just that, if we were to extrapolate upon your surmising there’s little point in measuring anything, such as DAC’s, Amps, etc.

what I’m trying to point out is there is a marked and noticeable difference in playback reproduction across the currently available sources, something that if say you were considering dropping a substantial sum on say a new DAC it’s worth considering which streaming service might suit it best, for example an overly bright cheaper DAC might sound far better if fed Tidal or Amazon due to what I’m inclined to think is a degree of hi/low roll off within their services…
 

Jimbob54

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Difficult job this. Several factors have to be considered and determined if they are the same or different when playing each stream. Probably not a comprehensive list :

As others have said, is each file from the same master? Almost impossible to tell from the data provided by the services

Is the player software the same? If not, how do we know what the Qobuz /tidal etc apps are doing to the streams? Obviously need to ensure leveling and any eq in the players is off, but anything else?

Are they all going same route from player to dac? So exclusive /wasapi/asio /roon or the Windows or equivalent stack with all its APOs?

I'm sure there are other factors to be considered but I dont think it's as easy as saying which sounds best.

Put it another way, if 2 services start with the same master, both get a 16/44 rip and the end result sounds different after proper level matching, if any of the above factors aren't in play, what the hell are they doing at their end? And why?
 
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bluefuzz

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well the point is that higher res (higher quality than CD) services are supposed to be just that
There's never been any reason to think that so called hi-res files sound 'better' or are 'higher quality' than standard redbook CD. That applies whether from a streaming service, flac file or disc of some sort. Any perceived difference is due to different masters.

if we were to extrapolate upon your surmising there’s little point in measuring anything, such as DAC’s, Amps, etc.
Not at all. Measuring gear is useful to establish where it is worthwhile to invest time and money - i.e. better speakers, headphones and room coorection/DSP make orders of magnitude more difference to your sound quality than any microscopic difference between two streaming services.

what I’m trying to point out is there is a marked and noticeable difference in playback reproduction across the currently available sources,
There is? There is some anectdotal reports that certain specific tracks have differencees between services (which I do not dispute), but as previously noted, there is no evidence of any systemwide differences of any consequence. None of these services are going to last long if there is a marked inferiority in the sound quality of any particular service.

for example an overly bright cheaper DAC might sound far better if fed Tidal or Amazon due to what I’m inclined to think is a degree of hi/low roll off within their services
Ah ... now we're getting into the 'do dacs have a sound' territory on which there are already numerous threads on this site. Suffice to say that if there there is that much difference in sound quality then I think something in either the dac or stream is seriously broken ...
 
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Headchef

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There's never been any reason to think that so called hi-res files sound 'better' or are 'higher quality' than standard redbook CD. That applies whether from a streaming service, flac file or disc of some sort. Any perceived difference is due to different masters.


Not at all. Measuring gear is useful to establish where it is worthwhile to invest time and money - i.e. better speakers, headphones and room coorection/DSP make orders of magnitude more difference to your sound quality than any microscopic difference between two streaming services.


There is? There is some anectdotal reports that certain specific tracks have differencees between services (which I do not dispute), but as previously noted, there is no evidence of any systemwide differences of any consequence. None of these services are going to last long if there is a marked inferiority in the sound quality of any particular service.


Ah ... now we're getting into the 'do dacs have a sound' territory on which there are already numerous threads on this site. Suffice to say that if there there is that much difference in sound quality then I think something in either the dac or stream is seriously broken ...
There's never been any reason to think that so called hi-res files sound 'better' or are 'higher quality' than standard redbook CD. That applies whether from a streaming service, flac file or disc of some sort. Any perceived difference is due to different masters.


Not at all. Measuring gear is useful to establish where it is worthwhile to invest time and money - i.e. better speakers, headphones and room coorection/DSP make orders of magnitude more difference to your sound quality than any microscopic difference between two streaming services.


There is? There is some anectdotal reports that certain specific tracks have differencees between services (which I do not dispute), but as previously noted, there is no evidence of any systemwide differences of any consequence. None of these services are going to last long if there is a marked inferiority in the sound quality of any particular service.


Ah ... now we're getting into the 'do dacs have a sound' territory on which there are already numerous threads on this site. Suffice to say that if there there is that much difference in sound quality then I think something in either the dac or stream is seriously broken ...

rubbish in rubbish out.

as for the “all DAC’s are the same unless they’re broken” is asinine, sorry but if you believe that fine, but it’s nonsense.

again, rubbish in rubbish out, my whole point is to work out which is the highest quality/best for reproduction streaming platform all your room correction or DSP can’t magic data from the ether, if you’re playing something which a filter has rolled off the bass & treble you’re going to be doing little more than polishing a turd.

anecdotal? I’ve listed two exercises that you could actually contribute by taking part in within the above posts, and actually contribute towards building some form of consensus.

again the “it’s probably broken” is just a nonsense, an anecdotal flag of self identifying ignorance.

If you fancy actually contributing to this please I would welcome sensible input and collaboratio, if you think posting pointless comments to up your post count please just find another thread.
 

kyle_neuron

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May I ask how you’re listening to Apple Lossless for the purposes of your subjective comparison?
 

Koeitje

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Its just different masters and some other processing.
 

acbarn

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My advice would be to pick the service that provides the best combination of selection, user interface, price, future compatibility, etc., and don’t look back. All of those that offer “lossless” are good enough that the differences are minuscule and inconsequential in normal music listening. At least for me, too much of this kind of scrutinizing distracts from the main point, which is to enjoy music.
 

bluefuzz

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all DAC’s are the same unless they’re broken
That's not what I said, even though I believe it is essentially true. And there's no need to be rude. I'm just trying to save you wasting your time chasing moonbeams ...
 

kyle_neuron

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on a MacBook Pro, usb into the dac

Ok, that makes this super easy then if you’re using all of the services on the same device via their respective apps or web pages.

This is what you need. It’s super easy to use:
https://rogueamoeba.com/audiohijack/

You can directly record the output of any app to a file. The trial version adds noise after 10 minutes of recording, but that should be more than enough to grab a whole song - just restart the app, and do the next service with the new 10 minute grace period.

Then you can cut down the song into segments and do the MUSHRA test I mentioned. Or you can do biased subjective comparisons to your heart’s content.
 

Soniclife

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Ok, that makes this super easy then if you’re using all of the services on the same device via their respective apps or web pages.

This is what you need. It’s super easy to use:
https://rogueamoeba.com/audiohijack/

You can directly record the output of any app to a file. The trial version adds noise after 10 minutes of recording, but that should be more than enough to grab a whole song - just restart the app, and do the next service with the new 10 minute grace period.

Then you can cut down the song into segments and do the MUSHRA test I mentioned. Or you can do biased subjective comparisons to your heart’s content.
Delta wave is also great for comparing different versions once captured like this. It's what I would start with before a listening test.
 

kyle_neuron

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Delta wave is also great for comparing different versions once captured like this. It's what I would start with before a listening test.

Great tool! Although personally I’d do the test first and then verify the ‘why’ based on my findings & results. I prefer minimising my biases by not actively listening for what I’ve seen on a graph or data render where possible.
 

dmac6419

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well as someone that plays both guitar and bass I’m quite used to scrutinising the sound of my guitars coming out of my amps, especially if I’m modifying the tone. There’s a million and one ways that you can alter the tone, sometimes you might want to actually break up or corrupt the sound, other times you might want to make it as pure and accurate. Whilst doing that there’s a sweet spot between it sounding great or terrible and that sweet spot is usually where you still have the note I ringing true, with enough (let’s say for example) distortion, attack, delay, fuzz, reverb, etc so that it still give a definable change in pitch or tone amongst all the noise. That’s what I mean by bass resolution poor, it’s as though elements of the bass notes are lost in the reproduction, it sounds as though there’s a notable LF roll off.

As for the “where’s the measurement, I can’t see any measurements, youre not valid without a full suite of measurements“ read the damn post, Prior to conducting detailed measurements its customary to conduct what is known as a preliminary study and gather opinion. That’s what I’m doing now. Would you like me to draw you a graph?
I play guitar and bass too and I can hear everything I need to hear on AM radio,you should be able to too,why over analyze instead of enjoying the music, camp A is no better than camp B.
 
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Headchef

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Ok, that makes this super easy then if you’re using all of the services on the same device via their respective apps or web pages.

This is what you need. It’s super easy to use:
https://rogueamoeba.com/audiohijack/

You can directly record the output of any app to a file. The trial version adds noise after 10 minutes of recording, but that should be more than enough to grab a whole song - just restart the app, and do the next service with the new 10 minute grace period.

Then you can cut down the song into segments and do the MUSHRA test I mentioned. Or you can do biased subjective comparisons to your heart’s content.

that’s great! Thanks!
 
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Headchef

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Just been reading this, quite interesting to see his findings relating to MQA, this does tie in with my recent comparisons….

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/62527-testing-mqa-is-it-worse-than-flac/

I’m beginning to wonder if HiRes streaming is in something of a clever marketing buzz?

seems like they might just be adding extra air to the packets of potato chips and selling them as better tasting?
 

kyle_neuron

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I’m beginning to wonder if HiRes streaming is in something of a clever marketing buzz?

seems like they might just be adding extra air to the packets of potato chips and selling them as better tasting?

Pretty much. For playback purposes, there's a big chance of introducing unwanted distortions or other errors in the signal chain - unless the entire signal path is very considered.

Have you watched this classic?
 

Jimbob54

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Just been reading this, quite interesting to see his findings relating to MQA, this does tie in with my recent comparisons….

https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/62527-testing-mqa-is-it-worse-than-flac/

I’m beginning to wonder if HiRes streaming is in something of a clever marketing buzz?

seems like they might just be adding extra air to the packets of potato chips and selling them as better tasting?

Pretty much. People should focus more on getting better quality recordings/masters and less on the hi res/ MQA stickers and lights. Redbook 16/44.1 is ample for most recordings, listeners and systems.

PS dont conflate MQA and Hi-Res even though both may result in "air in the packet", there are different quirks in the tech which you will see if you search and read the huge closed MQA threads on here. But this isnt an MQA thread so I shall be quiet!
 
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