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Question Tidal Masters

JEDIBLADE

Well-known Member
Hi,
I normally use spotify and have always wanted to try tidal especially with MQA. I finally got my act together and have started the free trial. I'm pretty sure I've got tidal set up properly as the tracks I'm playing have the little 'M' symbol next to them. I'm playing the tracks from the tidal desktop app on my nuc, the nuc is connected to my Arcam 850 amp with an hdmi, the amp knows it's getting a higher bit rate as it displays incoming sample rate as 192kHz as opposed to 96kHz when playing spotify.

So all appears to be well , the thing is when I play tracks from tidal, then play the same track from spotify I can't hear any difference. Now if that's just down to me and my ears fair enough, I'll save myself £10 a month. I'm just wondering if I'm missing something obvious and there's a weak link in the chain I'm not aware of. I'm a bit of a noob with streaming etc so please keep any replies in layman's terms.

Cheers
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
Spotify always supplies audio with a sample rate of 44.1kHz, so something in your audio setup is upsampling the audio to 96kHz!

I'm not saying that this is the reason for you not noticing a difference between Spotify & TIDAL, but clearly it doesn't help when trying to do a comparison, if you've not got your system to configured to supply the digital audio bit perfectly in the first place (or at least give an explanation for the unexpected sample rate).

How exactly are you getting Spotify's audio to the Arcam AVR850? For example, if you are using the AVR850's Spotify Connect support, have you set the AVR to upsample that input (and apply any other DSP)?

You didn't say, but given there isn't a Linux version of the TIDAL Desktop App, it's highly likely you're running Windows on the NUC. So, exactly what settings does the Windows audio output device have, that you using to send the audio out via HDMI to the Arcam?
Also, exactly what settings have you used for audio output on the TIDAL Desktop App?
 
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JEDIBLADE

Well-known Member
Spotify always supplies audio with a sample rate of 44.1kHz, so something in your audio setup is upsampling the audio to 96kHz!

I'm not saying that this is the reason for you not noticing a difference between Spotify & TIDAL, but clearly it doesn't help when trying to do a comparison, if you've not got your system to configured to supply the digital audio bit perfectly in the first place (or at least give an explanation for the unexpected sample rate).

How exactly are you getting Spotify's audio to the Arcam amp, eg:
- Is it via the NUC that you're running the TIDAL Desktop App or some other hardware? Via the NUC
- What software are you using? Straight off the Nuc, no other software involved.
etc.

You didn't say, but given there isn't a Linux version of the TIDAL Desktop App, it's highly likely you're running Windows on the NUC. So, exactly what settings does the Windows audio output device have, that you using to send the audio out via HDMI to the Arcam? The sound card is an AVR6 (2-INTEL (R) Display Audio), the sample rate noted in the properties is set to 24 bit 192000 Hz (Studio Quality), spatial sound is set to off.
Also, exactly what settings have you used for audio output ont the TIDAL Desktop App?[/QUOTE
In the settings section streaming Quality is set to Master, the Use exclusive mode force volume and Passthrough MQA are all set to off. Sound output is set to the sound card in the nuc I.e. AV6.

I appreciate your help and apologies if I haven't answered fully
 

JEDIBLADE

Well-known Member
Answers in bold on your quoted answer.
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
Ok, to get the TIDAL Desktop App to output its audio bit perfectly from your NUC to the AVR, you need to make sure:
- The AV6 Windows audio output device can be used in Exclusive Mode & given priority, by setting its "Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device" & "Give exclusive mode devices priority" options;
- The TIDAL Desktop App's Use Exclusive Mode & Force volume options are set (leaving MQA Passthrough unset).

The TIDAL Desktop App should now be able to override the default bit depth/sample rate resolution setting you currently have for the AV6 Windows audio output device (24bit/192kHz) to the appropriate value and therefore get the audio bit perfectly to the Arcam. So the TIDAL Desktop App will use a resolution of 16bit/44.1kHz for its audio tracks played at Hi-Fi quality or lower, plus either 24bit/88.2kHz or 24bit/96kHz for its MQA Masters tracks.


BTW, I'm still unclear as to how you are getting your Spotify's audio into the Arcam. My fault as I spotted that the AVR850 supports Spotify Connect after I first sent my last post and it looks like you replied to that version of the post, rather than the later edited one - sorry about that!
From your reply it appears you are using the Spotify (desktop) app on the NUC, is that correct?

Also, are you using AVR850's Spotify Connect feature, ie, setting the AVR850 as a 'connected device' on the Spotify app itself?
If so, the 96kHz sample rate has to be something the AVR is doing to its Spotify Connect input, ie, the AVR has somehow been set to upsample Spotify's 44.1kHz audio to 96kHz.
 
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JEDIBLADE

Well-known Member
Ok, to get the TIDAL Desktop App to output its audio bit perfectly from your NUC to the AVR, you need to make sure:
- The AV6 Windows audio output device can be used in Exclusive Mode & given priority, by setting its "Allow applications to take exclusive control of this device" & "Give exclusive mode devices priority" options;
- The TIDAL Desktop App's Use Exclusive Mode & Force volume options are set.

The TIDAL Desktop App should now be able to override the default bit depth/sample rate resolution setting you currently have for the AV6 Windows audio output device (24bit/192kHz) to the appropriate value and therefore get the audio bit perfectly to the Arcam. So the TIDAL Desktop App will use a resolution of 16bit/44.1kHz for its audio tracks played at Hi-Fi quality or lower, plus either 24bit/88.2kHz or 24bit/96kHz for its MQA Masters tracks.


BTW, I'm still unclear as to how you are getting your Spotify's audio into the Arcam. My fault as I spotted that the AVR850 supports Spotify Connect after I first sent my last post and it looks like you replied to that version of the post, rather than the later edited one - sorry about that!
From your reply it appears you are using the Spotify (desktop) app on the NUC, is that correct?

Also, are you using AVR850's Spotify Connect feature, ie, setting the AVR850 as a 'connected device' on the Spotify app itself?
If so, the 96kHz sample rate has to be something the AVR is doing to its Spotify Connect input, ie, the AVR has somehow been set to upsample Spotify's 44.1kHz audio to 96kHz.

All set and yes it's sounds much better, spotify is connected to the amp via spotify connect. I don't have a desktop app I just use the app on my tablet and select the AVR as a device. Not sure why its up sampling as there's no setting on the AVR to do that. Seems odd because when the TV is on with spotify it shows 320kb/s?
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
You need to be a bit careful here and not mix up sample rate with bitrate. CD resolution audio has a sample rate of 44.1kHz (and a bit depth of 16 bits). Uncompressed (lossless) CD resolution (PCM) audio has a bitrate of 1411.2kb/s, given by the formula:

no of channels X sample rate X bit depth - ie, (for stereo) 2 X 44.1 X 16

To save data, Spotify uses compressed (lossy) Ogg Vorbis encoded audio streams, reducing the original uncompressed lossless PCM CD resolution audio to a bitrate of 320kb/s. This is what your TV is indicating - the sample rate will still be received at 44.1kHz, though it's likely the TV is resampling that to 48kHz, in order to easily pass it through its video centered hardware (the audio used by video normally has a sample rate of 48kHz).

Note - the above formula to work out the bitrate does not apply to compressed audio, because it only refers to uncompressed audio.


Bear in mind Spotify can also use lower quality further compressed audio Ogg Vorbis streams at 160kb/s and 96kb/s, plus even HE-ACC encoded 24kb/s streams.

Are you certain the Arcam is indicating a sample rate of 192kHz for its Spotify Connect input source and not one of the above known Spotify stream bitrates?
 
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JEDIBLADE

Well-known Member
Just checking what I put in my first post so I don't get confused, the AVR is showing a sample rate of 96kHz when playing spotify.
 

Cebolla

Well-known Member
Yep, sorry meant 96kHz - looks like I'm getting confused with all these numbers! Double checked the rest, they appear to be okay. :)

Odd - may be the AVR's display is incorrect. So it's displaying kHz instead of kb/s - though that implies it's receiving the lower quality 96kb/s stream for some reason.


Edit: It has been known for some devices to indicate the wrong bitrate value, eg, I've seen some Pioneer streamers incorrectly displaying a 48kb/s bitrate, when I know for certain the stream is at 320kb/s. So it's possible the Arcam has got both the value & symbol wrong.
 
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JEDIBLADE

Well-known Member
Resurrecting this thread, I've now got a Arcam 550, which is fed from a nuc. I stream tidal via a HDMI from the nuc to the Arcam. I now also have a nord nc500 power amp for the front three, my question is other than changing the amp(s) or speakers is there anything that will give me better stereo sound?
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
I would turn it around and ask if you feel there is something missing?

An obvious issue if you are still using Tidal MQA via tidal app into HDMI is I expect you are only playing decoded MQA and not decoded and rendered MQA. Whether you notice the difference is a difference matter. For non MQA playback, then of course this is not an issue.

With some HDMI devices I would say do not ever have HDMI in the audio path (I cant remember what if anything Window may do to stereo audio out via HDMI). Using optical or coax digital connection for music may be better (or not), but I would expect that AVR to not mess with the incoming audio bit stream much if at all. I would also hope that nothing is happening at the source end to change sample rate etc which with HDMI is the other usual source of sound degradation.

You only mention 'NUC', I assume this is running windows with the Tidal app on that? I have a NUC as well, but it runs Roon's ROCK OS with Roon server on it and HDMI out on that to my AVR is perfectly clean for music.
 

mikeysthoughts

Well-known Member
I would turn it around and ask if you feel there is something missing?

An obvious issue if you are still using Tidal MQA via tidal app into HDMI is I expect you are only playing decoded MQA and not decoded and rendered MQA. Whether you notice the difference is a difference matter. For non MQA playback, then of course this is not an issue.

With some HDMI devices I would say do not ever have HDMI in the audio path (I cant remember what if anything Window may do to stereo audio out via HDMI). Using optical or coax digital connection for music may be better (or not), but I would expect that AVR to not mess with the incoming audio bit stream much if at all. I would also hope that nothing is happening at the source end to change sample rate etc which with HDMI is the other usual source of sound degradation.

You only mention 'NUC', I assume this is running windows with the Tidal app on that? I have a NUC as well, but it runs Roon's ROCK OS with Roon server on it and HDMI out on that to my AVR is perfectly clean for music.
To help answer this, I'd suggest trying a GOOD pair of headphones with both sources. A decent hi-fi retailer can help here.

Once I'd heard the difference between Google Play music at 320kbps and Tidal at full HiFi (no MQA decoding) there was no going back. And that was only based on A/B testing on an HTC U10 built in DAC.

Once you've done that you'll know what to listen for. Then you'll be on better ground to understand the weakest links in the chain.

Unless your amp is faulty, the Arcam is absolutely not the weakest link here. In fact I'd go out on a limb and say the nuc is the issue. No matter how much I tried I could never get a windows based system to deliver anything more than adequate sound quality for music.
 
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JEDIBLADE

Well-known Member
Thanks both. Thinking of getting a Cambridge audio streamer 851n straight to the amp. Think that might be the cleanest way, however intrigued by roon as this is the second person to recommend it, @Khazul are you saying just by running roon on my nuc the sound quality would improve?
 

Khazul

Well-known Member
@Khazul are you saying just by running roon on my nuc the sound quality would improve?

No not at all - all I am really saying is I have no idea what windows may or may not be doing, but the Linux based platform I am using shows that you can have clean unmolested hi-res audio over HDMI and that can be a perfectly reasonable thing to do if both ends of the HDMI connection are well behaved devices.

Roon is very good at what it does, but whether it is the right system for any given user (vs price) depends on what they eventually want. Roon in itself is not going to give you better quality audio playback over something else that is as well behaved if using the same signal path, same hardware, same OS drivers etc. Bits are bits etc. If there is a problem with using HDMI, then I would blame the platform (Windows) rather than the player.

What Roon is good for is providing a multi-zone high quality audio playback (for NAS, Tidal, Quobuz) with a really good UI for browsing and some nice features to help with discovering new music. Its like the streaming equivalent of hifi separates - ie it has a separate streaming server that does any needed decoding and processing, audio outputs where you need them and UI that can each be install on different platforms or devices giving a huge amount of flexibility in creating a really good multi-zone hi-res audio system. These days there is a lot of very respectable high end equipment that directly support Roon's own audio network protocol.

If Roon is of interest, then I think that may be a separate discussion to this one.
 

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