ultra_prescriptivist t1_jegg6lw wrote

>When you will be more reasonable, then forget Tidal, its a scam. Tried Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Apple music side by side. Tidal is nearly as bad as Spotify. I really enjoy Deezer as it's cheap and great value (cd quality).

  1. Tidal isn't necessarily "a scam" if you can get over MQA, philosophically. Stick to their Hi-Fi tier and the sound quality is fine.
  2. Spotify isn't necessarily "bad", as most people can't tell between their Very High setting and lossless anyway.
  3. The particular master recording used for a given album has a bigger impact on sound quality than bitrate, therefore since Deezer shares a lot of the same master recordings with Spotify, they basically sound the same anyway. For example, they both use the same flawed copy of Gorillaz's track, El Mañana from the album Demon Days, for whatever reason. Here is a spectrogram analysis of the track as it appears on the original CD (left) versus Spotify (right). Now the same comparison but for Apple Music (left) versus Deezer (right).

ultra_prescriptivist t1_je8hkn1 wrote

Man, I feel for you.

I was pissed when my M&D MH40s started falling apart just outside their warranty, and they were "only" $300. I can't imagine spending HE1000SE level cash and having to do two RMAs within the warranty period.

At that level, the QC assurance should be absolutely top notch. No excuses.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_je46l7p wrote

>I disagree with your pretentious pointing at a person and claiming that the person in question is full of BS because they don't agree with everything you said.


They never agreed/or disagreed with anything I said to begin with, plus I ever accused them of talking BS.

Many people don't realize just how powerful perecption bias is until they try a blind test for themselves. That was just my way of responding to OP but also including CertainlySomeGuy so I didn't have to write two comments instead of one.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_je3xiw5 wrote

>I can't tell the difference if the time of comparison is reasonable far apart.

What do you mean, sorry?

>In tests like you mentioned, there are songs where I notice the difference and some where I don't.

So in which songs did you notice the difference and how many times were you able to correctly identify them?


ultra_prescriptivist t1_je2i7kq wrote

I've done a lot of comparing different streaming platforms and I've come to the conclusion that none of them are enough to completely replace my local FLAC library.

A quick summary, from my personal experience:

Apple Music - good quality master recordings (for the most part), and affordable. Let down by the fact that Apple are Apple and purposefully make things difficult if you are not already inside their little walled garden.

Amazon - terrible apps and search functionality

Spotify - good cross platform support, great music discovery, but little attention given to master recording quality. Their new TikTok style UI has me worried, as well.

Tidal - MQA, overpriced for what it is

Deezer - basically Spotify but with less functionality and same lack of attention to master recording quality

Qobuz - Nice apps, good attention to master recording quality but terrible search functionality and music discovery

YouTube Music - huge library, nice clean apps, but music quality is a mixed bag

As far as sound quality goes, the differences between different services are often grossly exaggerated. Essentially, if they use the same master recordings, and they generally do, then they will all sound the same (all other things, like volume, being equal).

Ultimately, the fact that you don't have any control over what master recordings are being used (in some cases, only crappy, dynamically compressed remasters are available instead of the original CD) is a big problem for me, and the other is that you are basically just renting the music you listen to.

So for now I use Spotify for music discovery and mobile/social listening but still continue to buy and download local files through Qobuz and Bandcamp.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_je2c4ra wrote

Again it comes down to there being a difference on paper but not to our ears. Human hearing has numerous blind spots that lossy codecs can use to cleverly remove audio data that is either 1) outside of the audible range to begin with, or 2) too quiet or drowned out by other sounds in the mix. As such, it doesn't really matter if you have very expensive gear or not, your ears will always be the bottleneck.

Expensive gear exists simply because it generally does make music sound better, regardless of whether it's lossless or lossy. What matters far more to our enjoyment of that music is how well it was recorded, mixed, and mastered. File formats and bitrates/samples rates etc, have nearly no impact past a certain point.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_je2ab73 wrote

"On paper", sure, but to our ears? The vast majority of people, u/CertainlySomeGuy included (most likely), can't tell high bitrate lossy from lossless in a blind test.

It's relatively easy to set one up for yourself - check this out if you're interested and have ten minutes to spare.

Or, if you can't be bothered to select your own tracks, convert them etc., check out this online test instead.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_je28wqt wrote

In most cases, normalization doesn't affect dynamic range at all; all it does is adjust the volume to a pre-defined level (measured in LUFS).

Spotify is different from other streaming services because Premium users can select different normalisation levels - quiet, normal, and loud.

The funny thing is that "Loud" here doesn't always mean that normalization turns the perceived volume up. If a track was mastered fairly loud already, enabling normalization and setting it to Loud may even drop the volume. You can see this on Daft Punk's Give Life Back to Music. Notice also how the shape of the waveform stays the same, since no dynamic range compression is being applied.

However, the one situation where the normalization setting does affect dynamic range is when we have a track with high dynamic range that was mastered relatively quietly and we set the normalization to Loud. The problem now is that the loud parts of the track might be pushed too high and cause clipping, so a limiter has to be applied to ensure that we don't get distortion. This applies to most classical music, such as this recording of Mahler's 5th Symphony.

Notice how the Normal setting looks the same as having normalization switched off but the Loud setting has compressed the track significantly, going from a DR (dynamic range) value of 12 to around 6.

For Spotify users who want to avoid any dynamic range compression, leaving normalization enabled and set to the Quiet or Normal settings is fine - they just need to be careful when having it set to Loud when listening to certain types of music.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_jdolpn3 wrote

I personally prefer optical because I've had issues with DACs and USB drivers in the past, but that's just me. The other benefit is the protection against EM noise.

The downside is the lack of support for anything higher than 24-bit/96KHz but that doesn't bother me.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_jdalv4a wrote

Thanks for that, although I notice you're now being a bit more careful when making claims about what "theoretically" sound better.

You should have really used such caution when writing this article, to be honest. In a technical piece about Bluetooth codecs, it seems to me that subjective impressions should be kept well out of it.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_jd8kdg7 wrote

Fair enough, I suppose that makes sense. I can see how the real-time transcoding issue could account for a more noticeable degradation than locally stored lossy files.

I don't really do Bluetooth audio, so I often fail to appreciate that it really is quite a different ballgame.

For Android users, what would you say is the best codec to use for a good balance between performance and reliability? LDAC or one of the aptX variants?


ultra_prescriptivist t1_jd7x956 wrote

Good write-up, especially for people like me who know relatively little about Bluetooth codecs as a whole.

I do have a query about the section on AAC, though:

>The compression algorithm of psychoacoustics of AAC is similar to MP3, and it cuts out a lot of data, but which the algorithm assumes you won’t hear. For the average listener, the compression is easily audible, with a decent pair of headphones.

Is the Bluetooth AAC codec somehow different and less efficient than the lossy compression AAC codec? Because, if not, this is a serious case of "citation needed".

Apple's lossy AAC encoder is extremely good, and blind tests have shown that the vast majority of people cannot tell between high bitrate AAC and lossless (Source 1 | Source 2) and may even be challenging to discern at bitrates as low as 128kbps.

How were your assessments of which codec sounds better made, exactly? Did you conduct any controlled testing, or were you just basing them on the assumption that high bitrate = sounds better?


ultra_prescriptivist t1_jd0nqwb wrote

>Or, do I just ABABAB the same track, but each time I make a decision the person in charge flips a coin that decides which source is A and which is B and I start again (repeat 5 times)?

Pretty much this. The idea is that you do the same comparison (e.g. the Depeche Mode track) multiple times and each time choose which one you think is which, with it being randomized after each decision. The more trials you do, the more you reduce out the possibility that you just happened to pick the right one by chance.


ultra_prescriptivist t1_jd0mkq1 wrote

Ah, well if comparing streaming services is the goal then I certainly have done my fair share of that, as my comment and post history will attest 😄

I did a similar thing, although for me it was testing Spotify versus other streaming services.

As an aside, my testing on Spotify/Deezer showed that they generally use the exact same masters, for whatever reason.

Anyway, I used Audacity and WASAPI loopback recording to take samples of the different services and analyze the results though a combination of A-B comparisons using Audacity and blind ABX testing using Foobar.

These methods may prove useful to you if you want to continue your testing without bothering your girlfriend, lol.