Tidal Connect... but how?

Jemster

Member
Hi, I'm hopeful a few experts here will have been through this and are able to help out... sorry it's a bit long.

I have been using Apple Music for the past few years, my system is based around an iMac that I leave iTunes running on (in one login, other family members log in using other accounts for other reasons). I have a few AirPlay devices around the house and I control the music using the Apple Remote app to control the iMac iTunes installation from either my iPad or iPhone.

All has been well, until recently I started noticing library corruptions happening - stupid things like tracks being in the wrong order, other tracks disappearing, yet being correct and in-order on the main iMac. Apple support were painful and useless at fixing it despite being reproduced on several iOS devices and several Macs so I started looking at other streaming services.

Spotify (the obvious choice) has a nice UI, but the audio quality is horrible on the main HiFi (Apple Airport Express into Arcam Alpha 7, KEF Q5's) - the compression is very noticeable. Then I tried Tidal. Even in the base level account type, the audio quality was noticeably better, and HiFi is great. I liked the UI (although not without it's glitches) so wanted to switch over. The problem is, I can't work out how to get the same kind of experience.

I don't want my iPad constantly tied up with the Tidal client streaming to the Airport Express. That's not practical.
The desktop client doesn't allow selection of audio output - I know I can set the iMac to output all it's audio over AirPlay, and AirFoil allows me to control which speaker remotely. It's a kludge, but it kinda works. Why Spotify and Tidal can't build this into their apps, I have no idea.
But even if I get that running, there's no way of remotely controlling the Tidal desktop client (Remote Desktop / VNC is out as the iMac gets used for other things too)
The only Chromecast Ultra I have in the place was quite good, streams could be left to run on it, although the client wasn't the best at re-attaching to the device, I could probably live with it.
Chromecast Audio doesn't exist apart from eBayers wanting £60+ and I'm not sure I want to pay that for an obsolete device (I can't believe there's no current alternative?!?)

It seemed to me that Tidal Connect is probably the way to go - but is there an 'affordable' Tidal Connect device? I don't want MQA and I'm certainly not willing to spend £500 on a device that supports it, so the Node 2i is out.

I bought an Arylic S10 as the Arlyic website claimed it supported Tidal Connect. It doesn't. It supports Airplay and you can use their own 4stream iOS app to start Tidal streams, but that way I lose all the discovery functionality in the Tidal client, so that's out too. If it did support Tidal Connect properly so it could be used from the Tidal app it would've been a winner, as it is, it's winging its way back to Amazon at this very moment.

I've heard of Roon, don't know if it could solve the problem but to be honest, I'd be reluctant to pay a monthly fee equivalent to the monthly fee I pay to a streaming service just for a front end.

Am I really stuck with Apple Music for this kind of functionality?
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
Tidal Connect supported devices
 

Stu75

Active Member
I've been a Spotify user for years but recently signed up to the cheap trial deal with Tidal to hear better quality streaming.

I assumed it would be a similar set-up.....I guess it can be but I am still using my Marantz SR7010 which doesn't connect to this service.

I know newer machines do but thats no good to me right now.
At least Spotify is bringing HQ to their service but had it been as straightforward as I thought,I'd know be happy I'm sure to continue with Tidal.
 

Jemster

Member
Tidal Connect supported devices

Seen that list, it's a really handy list... Well, it would be, if it was a concise list of tidal connect supporting devices with prices and suppliers.

Frustratingly all that is is a list of lots of different manufacturers with lots of different models and I've already spent hours wading through various websites trying to get my head around whether it can be done for a reasonable amount of money. Tidal do not make this easy. And it would seem the answer is no, but I can't be definitive about that, which is why I'm here.

I've been a Spotify user for years but recently signed up to the cheap trial deal with Tidal to hear better quality streaming.

I assumed it would be a similar set-up.....I guess it can be but I am still using my Marantz SR7010 which doesn't connect to this service.

I know newer machines do but thats no good to me right now.
At least Spotify is bringing HQ to their service but had it been as straightforward as I thought,I'd know be happy I'm sure to continue with Tidal.

I think if Spotify HD came along at this point in time, I could use that in combination with AirFoil and it might be pretty close to what I need. So far though, it also doesn't exist.

I've got 6 months of free Tidal here to decide if it stays or goes, so I'm not throwing in the towel just yet.

I'm wondering about buying an iPad Mini and just dedicating it to the setup in the living room as a Tidal source. Maybe that would work well.
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
Seen that list, it's a really handy list... Well, it would be, if it was a concise list of tidal connect supporting devices with prices and suppliers.
Not sure how you would expect Tidal to maintain a list of prices and suppliers because the world is quite a large place and prices and suppliers will change on a daily basis.

Also when you ask for help it is always useful to tell people what you have done to get to this point as we can only guess and the default is to assume that you are just starting out on your quest for more info in the absence of any information. :lesson:
 

Jemster

Member
Not sure how you would expect Tidal to maintain a list of prices and suppliers because the world is quite a large place and prices and suppliers will change on a daily basis.

Also when you ask for help it is always useful to tell people what you have done to get to this point as we can only guess and the default is to assume that you are just starting out on your quest for more info in the absence of any information. :lesson:

I really wouldn't expect them to (not denying it would be nice...). I'm just saying that list is about as ineffective as it could possibly be as you have to hop all over the place searching hugely different sites for anything that might work.

Sorry I didn't mention that I had seen that list already, it skipped my mind while I was listing all the other things I had encountered and tried or thought about so far - I figured I'd made the introductory post quite long enough :)
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
It seemed to me that Tidal Connect is probably the way to go - but is there an 'affordable' Tidal Connect device? I don't want MQA and I'm certainly not willing to spend £500 on a device that supports it, so the Node 2i is out.

A DIY RPi based streamer for about ~£90 appears to be the cheapest (or free if you already have the RPI & appropriate DAC add on board), if you are willing & able to spend an hour or so messing about configuring the software in Linux:
Tidal Connect on Raspberry Pi
However, it's not officially approved by TIDAL, so may suddenly stop working!

Incidentally, TIDAL are fast becoming an MQA only audio streaming service. They are actively replacing all of their original lossless CD albums with lossy MQA-CD versions - it's not just their hi-res tracks that are MQA encoded. Something to bear in mind, given that you "don't want MQA".
 
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Jemster

Member
A DIY RPi based streamer for about ~£90 appears to be the cheapest (or free if you already have the RPI & appropriate DAC add on board), if you are willing & able to spend an hour or so messing about configuring the software in Linux:
Tidal Connect on Raspberry Pi
However, it's not officially approved by TIDAL, so may suddenly stop working!

Incidentally, TIDAL are fast becoming an MQA only audio streaming service. They are actively replacing all of their original lossless CD albums with lossy MQA-CD versions - it's not just their hi-res tracks that are MQA encoded. Something to bear in mind, given that you "don't want MQA".

Now that is an interesting possibility. I’d rather have something off-the-shelf but am not averse to a bit of hackery if there’s nothing else that may work. Have to work out minimum spec of RPi for that - 3b and 4 are mentioned along with several DAC options. I see they are MQA capable too.

When I say I don’t want MQA, I mean I don’t particularly need better than CD quality. If I can get it as a side-effect of this project, I’m more than happy to have it. I’ve just been reading that MQA vs. Lossless 16/44.1 thread and it’s disappointing to say the least. I wonder what MQA-CD sounds like in comparison to Apples 320kbps streams...
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
Now that is an interesting possibility. I’d rather have something off-the-shelf but am not averse to a bit of hackery if there’s nothing else that may work. Have to work out minimum spec of RPi for that - 3b and 4 are mentioned along with several DAC options. I see they are MQA capable too.
The code was apparently originally intended to run on an ARMv7 processor under Debian Stretch and therefore should work on any ARMv7 or ARMv8 Raspberry Pi (so not the single core ARMv6 based Raspberry Pi models - the original Pi 1 range and the later Pi Zero range).

The MQA DACs mentioned (eg the iFi) are all external devices - I don't believe there are any Raspberry Pi add-on board DACs that support MQA.


When I say I don’t want MQA, I mean I don’t particularly need better than CD quality. If I can get it as a side-effect of this project, I’m more than happy to have it. I’ve just been reading that MQA vs. Lossless 16/44.1 thread and it’s disappointing to say the least. I wonder what MQA-CD sounds like in comparison to Apples 320kbps streams...
The code appears to contain the MQA Core decoder (aka 'software decoder') which when enabled, via the appropriate configuration setting, would give you that "side effect" of the hi-res MQA file tacks being decoded to the MQA core signal (aka 'first unfold') at either 24bit/88.2kHz or 24bit/96kHz. The MQA Core decoder would also upsample any MQA-CD file tracks to 24bit/88.2kHz (not really a bonus).
 
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johnfryett

Active Member
Another vote for an RPi based solution. I'm running a free-to-download Moode player on an "original" Model B using mConnect as controller on an iPad. I use Qobuz as my main streaming service so I'm not familiar with Tidal but I understand that it will work with mConnect. I've added a USB DAC to the Pi but that's not strictly necessary.
 

Baobr

Active Member
A DIY RPi based streamer for about ~£90 appears to be the cheapest (or free if you already have the RPI & appropriate DAC add on board), if you are willing & able to spend an hour or so messing about configuring the software in Linux:
Tidal Connect on Raspberry Pi
However, it's not officially approved by TIDAL, so may suddenly stop working!

Incidentally, TIDAL are fast becoming an MQA only audio streaming service. They are actively replacing all of their original lossless CD albums with lossy MQA-CD versions - it's not just their hi-res tracks that are MQA encoded. Something to bear in mind, given that you "don't want MQA".
Slightly off key but Cebolla (as well as others) you seem to have good understanding of these things. So it's not worth ditching Quboz for Tidal especially if a) you're not too bothered with mqa and b) any dac you have is non mqa compliant.....surely they've shot themselves in the foot
 

Jemster

Member
The code was apparently originally intended to run on an ARMv7 processor under Debian Stretch and therefore should work on any ARMv7 or ARMv8 Raspberry Pi (so not the single core ARMv6 based Raspberry Pi models - the original Pi 1 range and the later Pi Zero range).

The MQA DACs mentioned (eg the iFi) are all external devices - I don't believe there are any Raspberry Pi add-on board DACs that support MQA.



The code appears to contain the MQA Core decoder (aka 'software decoder') which when enabled, via the appropriate configuration setting, would give you that "side effect" of the hi-res MQA file tacks being decoded to the MQA core signal (aka 'first unfold') at either 24bit/88.2kHz or 24bit/96kHz. The MQA Core decoder would also upsample any MQA-CD file tracks to 24bit/88.2kHz (not really a bonus).

Hah, I’m feeling I know very little about MQA, but always good to learn!
I bought an RPi4B yesterday and today it arrived. Got Tidal Connect running on it in about 20 minutes. So easy. Been using it plugged in to the HiFi with a 3.5 to 2-phono lead just to establish its reliability and abilities and gotta say it’s great. No little quirks with disconnections and not adding tracks to play queue like I was finding with Chromecast.

So now it’s time to add a DAC and a case. There seems to be a shortage of DAC Hats available, almost everything is out of stock. Either Brexit or somebody has invented something with a DAC and bought all the stock!!

I was going to go for something like a HiFiBerry DAC2Pro but you’re saying that’s not going to do MQA even though it supports the required bitrate? I’d prefer internal for an all-in-one solution but If I were to go the external DAC route, what’s capable of MQA at a reasonable price?

Thanks for all the help!
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
Spotify (the obvious choice) has a nice UI, but the audio quality is horrible on the main HiFi (Apple Airport Express into Arcam Alpha 7, KEF Q5's) - the compression is very noticeable.

Spotify sounds great in my opinion, as long as you use the premium service. Bluesound supports MQA. We’re all different, but my opinion is that MQA doesn’t necessarily sound better. The volume/gain is 2db louder then cds. That may be the reason many people like it.
 

Helix Hifi

Well-known Member
I’m no expert, but if you wanna buy an external Dac then it could cost a bit of money. I would google MQA Dac’s. I use the Node2i if I wanna stream MQA files (never do) still I like the Node2i.
 

jamieu

Active Member
I think the sub-text is 'What does MQA really offer above standard hi-res lossless FLAC files?' ;-)
 

larkone

Distinguished Member
I think the sub-text is 'What does MQA really offer above standard hi-res lossless FLAC files?' ;-)
It offers FLAC with added loss, compression, expensive and limited DACs and high licensing charges - so all good then :lesson:
 

Jemster

Member
:D Ok, I had a brief look at MQA DACs and decided it's not worth it.

Have just bought a HifiBerry DAC 2 Pro and a case and that'll do me for now. The DAC 2 Pro has a DSP upgrade available, so I guess if somebody comes up with the source code for MQA decoding that'll run on the DSP at some point in the future, it may be worth an upgrade.

I can always buy an external DAC later if the prices become any more reasonable. For now, I think that'll be me happy. Thanks for all the assistance guys, massively appreciated as I wouldn't even have thought of going the RPi route.
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
If the TIDAL Connect application is running with the --enable-mqa-passthrough false setting, it should already be decoding the MQA tracks to the MQA Core signal (aka 'first unfold') via the application's MQA Core Decoder.

In which case there is no actual audio left to decode and all the MQA DAC will be doing is upsampling the MQA Core signal and applying a rather dubious minimum phase filter (aka 'further unfold(s)', aka 'final unfold(s)'), via the DAC's MQA Renderer:
MUSINGS: Discussion on the MQA filter (and filters in general)... [Update: Including a look at the classic "Apodizing" filter.]
MUSINGS/MEASUREMENTS: On "blurring" and why MQA probably worsens transient smearing.
 

Jemster

Member
If the TIDAL Connect application is running with the --enable-mqa-passthrough false setting, it should already be decoding the MQA tracks to the MQA Core signal (aka 'first unfold') via the application's MQA Core Decoder.

In which case there is no actual audio left to decode and all the MQA DAC will be doing is upsampling the MQA Core signal and applying a rather dubious minimum phase filter (aka 'further unfold(s)', aka 'final unfold(s)'), via the DAC's MQA Renderer:
MUSINGS: Discussion on the MQA filter (and filters in general)... [Update: Including a look at the classic "Apodizing" filter.]
MUSINGS/MEASUREMENTS: On "blurring" and why MQA probably worsens transient smearing.

I‘m going back to vinyl. It was all so much easier back then... 😂 now if I could just get a filter to cure my mild tinnitus I’m sure I could then hear the difference between 1st unfold and all the rest!

Hopefully the DAC will turn up tomorrow then I’ll need to do a bit of reconfiguring. Will make sure I disable the MQA pass-thru while I’m there.

Thanks for your help and the light reading materials 😉
 

Jemster

Member
If the TIDAL Connect application is running with the --enable-mqa-passthrough false setting, it should already be decoding the MQA tracks to the MQA Core signal (aka 'first unfold') via the application's MQA Core Decoder.
while I was poking around in the settings I noticed
—codec-mqa false

I’ve set it to true, assuming that it’ll only request an MQA stream if this is true. Is there any way of telling what kind of stream is being received or sent to the DAC while it’s running? Can’t help feeling there must be a way of snooping this in Linux...
 

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