How come Tidal flacs sound better than e.g. Deezer flacs?

petergabriel

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When I recently read What hifi's review of Tidal, I was surprised to learn that Tidal, according to What hifi, sounded better than Deezer in hifi mode. Aren't we all raised to believe that flac is flac, it is lossless and thereby end of story? Apparently not.

The strange thing is, I even noticed this myself having tested Deezer hifi and Tidal hifi side by side, before reading the What hifi review. But, as flacs are flacs, I simply ignored my own hearing, thinking I must imagine things. What I thought I heard, but ignored, was that Tidal sounded clearer, crisper and with more drive to the songs, in summary; more engaging. And before you rave about Tidal using hi res files in Master mode, I played both streaming services in hifi mode only - for a fair comparison.

So, what to think? Uncle Google to the rescue, and lo and behold, apparently I am not alone, in thinking that flacs are not just flacs, and certainly not as "lossless" as you might think, as this scientifically more "substantiated" article seems to conclude: Why do flac and wav sound different?

So, what to think? How can Tidal deliver better sounding flacs? And do you agree that they are? Are they cheating, somehow using a magic enhancement potion when transcoding?
 
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abacus

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FLAC is a totally lossless format as the review shows if you understand the figures, however what the review points out is that some encoders/decoders are better than others. (In most cases unless cheap and nasty the differences will be negligible)

The quality will also be dependent on the original recording (Using a 24/192 is a complete waste as you will not hear any difference between that and 16/44 if they are from the same master. (The main reason 24/48 or 24/96 used in studios is to allow for loses in the mastering process)

As you mention it is possible for the supplier to use enhancements (If you have a decent computer you can use a DAW to do the same) which will always be unknown.

Pick the one that does what you need (I find Deezer to have an awful interface and a very limited catalogue compared to Tidal as well) and use that, then just enjoy the music.

Bill
 
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petergabriel

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Okay, I just find it odd that What hifi simply concludes that one streaming platform sound better than the other, without digging deeper as to why, when they are using the same file type which theoretically should sound identical. I better understand their arguments as to why aac sound better than mp3, as they are using different algorithms, but flacs should be, as you say, flacs.
 
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Vincent Kars

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Looks like the review is written by somebody who believes in the Master (MQA) hype.
As no formal testing has be done, there is no substance other than the usual outcome of a sighted test “believing is hearing”

The Zeilig/Clawson article has been severely criticized.
Their claim that a conversion from WAV > FLAC > WAV degrades the sound is about a credible as 5G spreading COVID.
Of course they were asked to do a binary comparison between the original WAV and the degraded one.
They turned out to be bit identical but Zeilig/Clawson still maintained there is an audible degradation!
The article is most of all a nice example of pseudo-science.

FLAC=FLAC is true but a file format doesn’t say anything about its content.
If it are different masters, they sure will sound different.
 
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Vincent Kars

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There are 9 different levels of FLAC.
No, 10 as beside the compression levels 0-8 there is also uncompressed FLAC so 10 :)

Not that it matters.
The “compression” level of FLAC is the amount of resources FLAC is allowed to spend on finding the best possible linear prediction. Obvious, the better this prediction, the smaller the residue.

However this will affect the amount of CPU used when encoding.
At decoding time (playback), there is no search needed for an optimal solution. The decoder simply calculates the linear prediction using the coefficients supplied and add the residue to it.
So regardless of the compression, the result at decoding time is always the same.
 

iMark

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That has been explained many times to @jjbomber. But he continues to post about different levels of FLAC. It is very confusing to readers who are new to this Forum. He doesn't want to acknowledge that lossless audio is lossless audio, irrespective of the compression rate.

Lossless is lossless.
 

jjbomber

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That has been explained many times to @jjbomber. But he continues to post about different levels of FLAC. It is very confusing to readers who are new to this Forum. He doesn't want to acknowledge that lossless audio is lossless audio, irrespective of the compression rate.

Lossless is lossless.
your mis-information is confusing.
 

nopiano

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When there are audible differences between streaming platforms there can be all sorts of reasons. But the way FLAC lossless compression works isn’t one of them.
Does that mean lossy compression, as I believe MQA has, accounts for WHF seeming to prefer Tidal sound over, say, Qobuz?

Funnily enough, before the pandemic I heard of both a dealer and a distributor of high end audio who had switched to Qobuz from Tidal for sound quality reasons. Go figure!
 
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petergabriel

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Niallivm

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For my money, WHF is losing credibility and authority with its ongoing support of Tidal (winner of “Streaming Service Of The Year”)
 
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iMark

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If two or three streaming services would use exactly the same FLAC copy of exactly the same master there shouldn’t be any audible difference. If there is, obviously a different master was used by one of the services. Most likely by Tidal.
 
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petergabriel

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After using MQA for a while, I actually find the sound fatiguing. I guess the initial clearer, brighter sound which I liked, makes it intolerable in the long run. Flac is much smoother, as it doesn't introduce digital noise like MQA does, which apparently is what causes the brighter sound.
 

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