Tidal vs AS sound quality

I know that the Audirvana sound is better but…

Why is a difference in sound between Tidal with Tidal app vs. Tidal with Audirvana?

I thought that the music was directly send to our DAC from the Tidal internet service and that is the DAC who had the job of decoded the track.

I’m just curious to understand the principle

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Audirvana has optimized all processes for the best sound quality on Mac and Windows computers. Apparently Audirvana does a better job than the streaming services with their apps. So it makes sense that the same music sounds better via Audirvana than via the streaming apps.



Same question could be why does linux sound different than windows, even if both are setup for bit perfect playback, objectivist will say it makes no difference but in fact i also hear differences between softwares (even if all are supposed to play bit perfect)


There are long and inconclusive discussions about this on a lot of audiophile forums.

Why do people here differences when the software(s) supposingly play bit- perfect?

Lots of theories, but no definitive answers yet…


It will be interesting that Damien take a little of his time to explain us the path of one track of music from the source of Tidal to the input of a DAC to better understand how the signal is treated.
Until now, i thinked that the streaming music were send directly from the Tidal to the input DAC from internet or the network and that the software was there to handle the music. For the local music, I can better understand.
I only listen the streaming music from Tidal and I notice a good improvement in sound quality when using Audirvana.

It is not so simple. Tidal sends the music files to a computer with ethernet or wifi input and output to a DAC. Even an ethernet board in a DAC is some sort of computer. Without this computer part no DAC is able to receive music from Tidal. And exactly this computer between Tidal and the DAC has been optimized with the software player from Audirvana. Do you get the picture?


Yes, I get the picture now

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Because there are diferences in how each software achieves it’s ‘bit-perfectness’ ?

good question, probably not, i believe the bits stay the same (unless the software does something wrong) or it wouldnt be “bitperfect”

in the case of audirvana in windows you cant compare it to other software, if the other software doesnt use exclusive driver mode and i guess the biggest difference comes actually from exclusive mode

but in the case of linux machines underclocking and stripping linux itself down to a minimum makes a difference
from what i read by other people also stripping down windows down and underclocking makes a difference for dedicated music streamers

and i guess player software can be different in the sense of how threads are handled or something like this (atleast this is my guess)

im actually in the boat that thinks linux is straight up better than windows for music playback
tho windows is convenient and i still search a (the best) way of streaming all my windows sound to my linux streamer/endpoint which is connected to my “good” speakers (i actually just test audirvana right now if it would be convenient to use on my normal windows pc)

Taiko Audio tested all Linux and Windows versions and found Windows in the end much better which they use in a special version for their Extreme server. So I do not think that Linux is superior to Windows for music playback.


hmm interesting tho i never heared of taiko audio

im curious what a (good) dedicated windows music streamer sounds like tho most of them just look way overengineered
specially those DIY ones with expensive gaming mainboards etc, i dont think they are better than a RPI4, specially regarding noise, commercial mainboards just arent made for audio, they are made to “work” and getting trough EMI/RFI controls, thats it, well thats also the case for the RPI4 but it has way less stuff going on you have to consider

im actually a fan of a minimal setup like with a RPI4 and its the best i heared myself so far, i cant really comment on those expensive windows streamers since i havent tried them, i just know that my normal gaming machine sounds like crap compared to my RPI streamer

one advantage of many cores is you can run threads on their own cores, i also heared improvements running MPD on its own core on a RPI, tho the RPI is limited to 4 cores, im not sure how 20 cores can be utilized here

while OS setup plays a role, i think electric noise plays a bigger role, underclocking does way more than tweaking the OS, im not sure if you can handle 20 cores without getting more noise than with fewer/a more minimal cpu

actually im waiting right now for parts to build a optimized CM4 setup with for example better clocks for the RPI/CM4 and additional filter capacitors for the different voltage rails, i will compare against a stock RPI4, curious of what it will do and i hope to get a good system for way less than a dedicated windows machine :slight_smile:

You can, if interested please read this thread, I am not talking about gaming stuff:


Other question about AS quality.

I have currently the TIDAL HiFi subscription (NOT MQA).
I note that when I play an Flac Mqa 24/44khz from Tidal, AS play this track as 24/88khz like it made the first unfolding.
Just to be sure, I verified in my Denon AVR-S960 and it see really 24/88khz.

Since my Denon don’t have MQA decoder DAC, is I should have an anprovement in the sound if I change my Tidal subscription to the HiFi Plus (MQA) ?

Any idea !!!

I don’t think so.
Just a suggestion: Did you try Qobuz?
Qobuz is little bit more expensive than Tidal HiFi but less expensive than Tidal MQA.
You get up to 24/192 from Qobuz and the SQ is very good.


You would still get the benefit from Audirvana doing the first unfold.

In my opinion MQA is a bit of a joke. The sound is being changed in some ways that even with entry HiFi equipment can be heard. If you want the original sound quality(as in the way the artist designed it), without “artefacts” the only way is to leave Tidal.


Well, they claim it’s an improvement.

For non HiFi equipments the sound is better yes, because its a bit “enhanced” in a way like Spotify does to sound better even at lower bitrates, but at the cost of missing details. The same is with Tidal. For people with HiFi equipments you will notice - if you have an audiophile ear - that Tidal sound is artificial vs an original similar FLAC for example from another service. But some people seem to enjoy this artificial sound more → then yes, its an “improvement”. No disrespect, just my opinion.


Good point, if you don’t like it you know what you need to do.

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