Tidal and classical music - time to try it?


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Sep 20, 2007
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I have, so far, mostly resisted streaming services. I have not found one that suits my preferences. However, maybe things are changing.

I have two listening modes.

Serious listening in my A/V room which has a nice surround system including Atmos speakers (real ones not a soundbar).

Casual listening e.g. in the car or a small stereo system in my home office.

Never headphones, earbuds, etc. I hate those. Never while in the gym, jogging, or anything like that.

I am mostly into classical music and I prioritize quality over convenience. There are limits, for example I won't bother with vinyl (even if I thought that it sounded best) but popping a physical disc into a player is acceptable when I am in serious listening mode. At the moment, my ideal is an SACD, I particularly like the extra channels.

I already have a colossal collection of CDs ripped and available on my phone or tablet (thanks to a 256GB microSD card). This pretty much satisfies the casual modes and a streaming service does not add any convenience.

A downside to any streaming service that I have reviewed so far is the organization. This is generally optimized with non-classical music in mind but classical music is usually organized quite differently.

I have access to Amazon Music via my Prime membership. I sometimes use it to fill in odd gaps. E.g. the other day, I realized that I didn't have You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet. So, I listened via Amazon Prime but then I bought it. For classical music, I sometimes use it for try before I buy. If I like it then I buy it (usually in a physical format). One example of this was trying the Mahler symphonies. Many of my serious classical music friends love Mahler but I don't get him. I used Amazon Music to check and it confirmed that I don't like Mahler; it saved me a wasted purchase.

My wife subscribes to the Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall. I enjoy it as well but it is not optimal for me as it is for her. For her, seeing the players adds a lot and is worth the lower audio quality. For me, seeing has less value except for ballet and opera(which they don't do) and I prefer the higher quality of a CD or better still SACD or BluRay. I am no saying that the audio is bad, just that it is not as good as a physical disc.

I tried Medici TV for a year thanks to a Black Friday 2020 deal. It was quite good but the players were limited. It had many things where the video was important: opera and ballet. The audio quality was variable and only just acceptable at best. I could only play it via my laptop and hence not easily on the main or bedroom TV. Berlin wins in this regard as there are apps suitable for our TVs.

Another reason that I have avoided streaming (except the uses that I just mentioned) is the quality. Until recently, it was not good enough to consider for serious listening. This might be changing. Tidal seems to be offering classical music with high quality and extra channels. That is tempting. They have a £2 for 3 months offer on their HiFi Plus service. So, I will probably give that a try. I will be surprised if I choose to continue but, who knows, I could be wrong. Lots of high quality multi-channel classical music might tempt me.

I have some concerns on the ease of playing. Will it be better than Medici? Will I be able to get apps for my Samsung TVs. I have found one for the Firestick. This is not ideal but I have a Firestick in my main TV.

Have any classical music fans tried Tidal? How is the range available? How well organized is it? Have you tried any high quality or multi-channel formats?
I think Qobuz is quite well known for Classical.

I only occasionally listen to classical but enjoyed a Telarc best of type playlist on Tidal last week (All of the content lossless CD quality and some of it better than CD quality). I have a lot of Music BDs, SACDs and even DVD-As and generally find Tidal is just as good when comparing stereo content, surround sound music is a significant step up using the disc content though.
The tidal deal is so good that it is certainly worth trying. I just need to remember to cancel it if I don't like it as it would have to be very good to justify the on-going cost. Considering I have a huge collection of music already, I doubt that I will be convinced to stay with them.
The music you get bundled with Amazon Prime is fairly limited. Fortunately Amazon Prime Music Unlimited HD isn't that expensive and the Hi-Res selection is ever growing.

I'm sure there would be a free trial period.

Unfortunately I couldn't comment on the Classical content available.
Well at £2 for 3 months for their "HiFi" level, it seemed worth trying. Just one evening of play so far but I have pretty much made up my mind.

So far, I have managed to play it two ways: an app on my 4K Firestick and an app on my Samsung TV. The Firestick app supports Atmos but the Samsung app does not.

The search, from a classical music point of view, was terrible. This is fairly much par for the course. Streaming services are mostly aimed at non-classical genres which are typically organized quite differently.

The classical music content seems poor but I will look a bit further. For content, my Amazon Prime Music is way ahead.

Atmos music. Unsurprisingly, very little classical music: all of the Beethoven Symphonies which is nice but otherwise just bits and pieces, e.g. odd movements or strange arrangements, rather than whole works.

I tried Beethoven's 9th Symphony as I felt that had a good chance of benefitting from Atmos. It did benefit and I could hear the soloists and other performers placed nicely in the soundstage. However, apart from the extra channels, the quality was noticeably poorer than from my discs. So, better in one way but worse in another: on balance, I thought that it was worse. It glitched at one point which is a definite no no for me. Maybe because the Firestick uses WiFi (the TV has an Ethernet cable) but it is only a few metres from the router and copes fine with 4k Atmos movies from DisneyPlus (*).

I tried some non-classical Atmos music. It was a struggle to find anything that I knew and liked (to be fair to Tidal, that says more about me than it). Some of what I found benefitted a little and some not detectably.

So, I have learned that Atmos has the potential to add to music, even classical music but it is not good enough for me from Tidal yet.

Unless something changes drastically in the remining 3 months of the trial, I won't be subscribing.

(*) An oddity I have is that:

NetFlix: Atmos if I run it on the TV but not if I run it on the Firestick.

Prime: Atmos if I run it on the TV or the Firestick.

DisneyPlus: Atmos if I run it on the Firestick but not if I run it on the TV.

So, DisneyPlus explains why I have a Firestick. Tidal is now in that last annoying group as well.
I listen to quite bit of classical but not exclusively. My brother however listens to nothing else but Classical and is picky about the right performance orchestra conductor etc not just the composer and the work. He settled on Qobus and is a big fan of the quality and whilst the search/organisation isn't perfect its the best around.
I am a Tidal customer , I listen to most types of music including classical.
The quality of sound is very up & down on Tidal, some of the Masters streams are good but there are also streams that purport to be CD quality that bear no comparison to the actual CD played thro the same DAC , Amp & speakers?
For instance I have just compared the Tidal stream of Jon Hopkins Opalescent which is flagged as CD quality on Tidal, to the CD played on a CXUHD disc transport connected via toslink to Lyngdorf amp & EM-ESL speakers and the difference is night & day.
Sounds very much like the Tidal stream was from a much lower res source originally.
I have also been a Qobuz user before & they appeared to be more focused on classical with more choice etc.
My verdict on Tidal for classical music fans.

Full price - definitely no.

Cheap trial - have a go. You might find a few things interesting.

It has answered one question for me: can Atmos add anything to classical music - yes. It's subtle (as is 5.1) but it can bring me a little closer to my ideal of closing my eyes and imaging that the players really are in front of me. However, there is only a little classical music with Atmos. The Beethoven symphonies are there which is a good start but although they have Atmos, the quality is otherwise disappointing. There is a Sheku Atmos playlist. In this case, the quality is much better but it is not full works e.g. just one movement of a concerto. This is sufficient to judge whether Atmos can add anything but I am not going to pay for bits and pieces.

As I feared, the organization is terrible from a classical point of view. I searched for Beethoven's violin concerto. I found three tracks. This was the first problem, each movement was a separate track. On my TV, the titles were truncated so I could only tell which was which by going into them. When I found the first movement, my reaction was: "that's wrong". It played a random part of the concerto during the lead in; I don't want that. To get to the next movement, I had to come out and find it. This spoils the flow, especially from the second to the third where there should be no break. It's a shame since it was a good performance and the quality was decent (but not exceptional). By an odd coincidence, the next day we went to Symphony Hall in Birmingham to hear the work and it was the same soloist (but not the same orchestra).

There are lots of strange versions of classical pieces. Of course, I can ignore them but they clutter the searches and it is not always obvious that they are not straight versions until you start them.

Will I try another service e.g. Qobuz? Not any time soon. I don't need a streaming service. I have a colossal collection of discs and they are convenient enough for me. If a service was well organized (from a classical point of view), had a huge catalogue, and lots of multiple channel and Atmos content then I might be tempted. I don't think that this exists yet.
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