Music streaming service comparison

Pistolpete1

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After my recent purchase of an ifi zen air blu, I'm keen to get the best sound quality out of it. I've been impressed with the unit so far, and it offers so much more than the echo dot I was previously using in terms of sound quality.

Therefore I have recently been comparing Spotify premium against amazon prime music (not HD version) whilst being streamed through the unit. I hope to compare more HD services in the near future, and invite comments from others who have done similar tests in the past to offer any insight to what they discovered.

Before talking more about my views and results, I must explain that for each test I used my Google Pixel 7 to control the music. It was running at the highest option of LDAC, and the bluetooth connection was set to maximum volume throughout. My phone was connected to my home WiFi, and the zen air blu was connected directly to my Pioneer A-605R stereo amp and KEF Q500 combo.

I wasn't sure what, if any, differences I would hear between the two music providers, as both work at a low, non lossless bit rate. Saying that, after listening to both for an evening the differences were quite clear to hear.

On the one hand, the sound was full, rich and had depth to the vocals, whereas the other had improved top end clarity and drive. But with that clarity came the potential to be lean and harsh vocally, whereas the other had issues with a muddled bass, yet depth to the vocals that would never fatigue my ears.

My conclusion in this battle of sd sound was that Spotify had a mature sound, with good midrange depth, but lacked in bass definition and high end clarity and details. It would never be fatiguing to my ears, but that lack of definition was clear once amazon prime was listened to, with it's improved clarity, drive and detail. Yes the vocals might feel a little leaner, and have the potential to be fatiguing, but to my ears the amazon prime service through my system just sounded more 'hifi' due to the improved details in the music I was hearing. It sounded more natural and how I personally perceive the music should sound most of the time. But this view did differ at times depending on what music/song was being played at the time.

Saying all that, both are very good through the ifi zen air blu unit, leaving me more intriguing as to how the HD services will compare once I get chance to test some of them.

Any news on the Spotify hifi service yet?
 
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DiggyGun

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What genre of music do you listen to?

We like Jazz and use Qobuz, which has, apparently, largest number of Jazz recordings and the most in HI-Res.

The sound quality is very good and we also use our iPhones / iPads as the controller.

Use it both on the main (Linn — Naim — Kudos) system and office (PC [Linux] — SMSL — Q Acoustics) system.

Also use Amazon Music (Non HD) on the Echo devices, but not as detailed.

You can try it free for a month and see if you like it.

DG…
 

Pistolpete1

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I'm not into jazz, but my tastes are variable mainly from the 80's, 90's and some more modern music.

I'm aware of Qobuz and tidal but have not researched them much as yet.
 

abacus

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Everybody will give you a different opinion, so you will have to trial for yourself.
I use Amazon HD as I am also a Amazon Prime Member so is the best value for money, however the interface leaves a lot to be desired.
I have tried Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz and I find them to be way overpriced for what they offer.
Apart from sound quality (No Lossless) Spotify blows the rest out of the water.
Have fun choosing.

Bill
 

Witterings

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I often switch my Amazon account between standard and HD res and can definitely hear a difference, HD's just that smidge fuller / warmer so definitely worth the free trial.

If you're trying to optimize your sound, did you consider a WiFi streamer like say the WiiM mini as opposed to a Bluetooth streamer?

Overall though I wonder if different streaming services quality is as contentious an issue as cheap or expensive speaker cables / interconnects.

I've been speaking with HiFi retailers a lot this morning about something totally different and a few have bought it back to what's your source and what streaming service are you using and each had their personal preference .
One of the people though with 30 years industry experience without any prompting from me was absolutely adamant the one service he'd never consider was Spotify which kind of goes against @abacus 's comment above :)

The same person was also adamant it's also about the quality of streamer you're using and that overall you'll never get the same quality over the internet as you'll get from say ripped CD's on a NAS drive.

He may be right but I think so many people stream because of concenience and also the ability to try new artists without committing to purchasing a physical copy ... although he also said he uses streaming to find new artists / music and if he likes them then buys the physical and rips it.

I've only used Amazon HD until now but am thinking I should at least free trial Qobuz and Tidal just to see if there's any real difference, I have a couple of WiiM's so could stream the same track from 2 different services ... 1 to each device and just switch inputs on the amp to get immediate back to backs which may be interesting.

Interesting to hear other's opinions as well.
 

as286

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that overall you'll never get the same quality over the internet as you'll get from say ripped CD's on a NAS drive.
This is nonsense. Something either is or is not bit perfect, i.e. an exact copy of the original. It is a series of naughts and ones. If they are the same, they get converted in your DAC in the same manner irrespective of whether they come from a CD or online. Some services, like Tidal, use lossy compression such as MQA in their HiRes product and may sound worse than CD. Others offer lossless. A lossless CD is 44.1/16 and so is a stream from Apple Music, Qobuz, etc. This is why services like Roon are great, as they ensure that signal is perfect as it travels around and tell you exactly where and if there is a weak link. What you may want to ask is what the quality of the original recording was, which is where the master quality and HiRes snake oil conversations begin.
 

Witterings

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This is nonsense. Something either is or is not bit perfect, i.e. an exact copy of the original. It is a series of naughts and ones. If they are the same, they get converted in your DAC in the same manner irrespective of whether they come from a CD or online. Some services, like Tidal, use lossy compression such as MQA in their HiRes product and may sound worse than CD. Others offer lossless. A lossless CD is 44.1/16 and so is a stream from Apple Music, Qobuz, etc. This is why services like Roon are great, as they ensure that signal is perfect as it travels around and tell you exactly where and if there is a weak link. What you may want to ask is what the quality of the original recording was, which is where the master quality and HiRes snake oil conversations begin.

Just for clarity ... don't think it was me saying I agree with him, I was just repeating what someone had said and he's the 2nd dealer to say exactly the same thing ... although they both have in common a vested interest in selling expensive HiFi equipment.

The way they described it is: say the information sent is ... John Smith ....... but this may arrive as hjno mhist .... all the correct information is there (is that bit perfect) but just slightly jumbled.
 

BigH

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Everybody will give you a different opinion, so you will have to trial for yourself.
I use Amazon HD as I am also a Amazon Prime Member so is the best value for money, however the interface leaves a lot to be desired.
I have tried Tidal, Deezer and Qobuz and I find them to be way overpriced for what they offer.
Apart from sound quality (No Lossless) Spotify blows the rest out of the water.
Have fun choosing.

Bill
Deezer is cheaper than Spotify, Im paying £5.99 pm, Spotify is £10 pm and only low res, Deezer is cd quality. Tidal is £10pm. Qobuz is less than £11 pm, on annual contract.
I could not get on with Spotify sound quality.
I don't understand your comment.
 

abacus

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Deezer is cheaper than Spotify, Im paying £5.99 pm, Spotify is £10 pm and only low res, Deezer is cd quality. Tidal is £10pm. Qobuz is less than £11 pm, on annual contract.
I could not get on with Spotify sound quality.
I don't understand your comment.

There is more to a streaming service than just sound quality and price, and in this respect Spotify blows the competition out of the water. (You will also probably find that most users on other services would jump back (Or over) to Spotify if they added Hi-Fi instead of compressed)

Bill
 

BigH

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There is more to a streaming service than just sound quality and price, and in this respect Spotify blows the competition out of the water. (You will also probably find that most users on other services would jump back (Or over) to Spotify if they added Hi-Fi instead of compressed)

Bill
Does it, does not make much difference on my streamer, apart from Amazon which is rubbish. Qobuz is best for sound quality, best for jazz and classical. I did not find much difference between Spotify, Tidal and Deezer catalogue wise. So depends how you are streaming it. I did have some issues with Qobuz but that seems be my BT router. Yes if Spotify had cd quality for £10 pm then more people would use it, but I doubt they will.
 
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Witterings

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Yes if Spotify had cd quality for £10 pm then more people would use it, but I doubt they will.

Just seems daft that they don't, they have such a strong foothold in the market would seem stupid to see that drift away because they can't keep up with what the competition are offering ... that'd be mad business sense.
 

BigH

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Just seems daft that they don't, they have such a strong foothold in the market would seem stupid to see that drift away because they can't keep up with what the competition are offering ... that'd be mad business sense.
Why when they are selling lower quality for that price. Many people are not bothered about sound quality. If they had to cut existing subscription prices then they will lose money. Most of the competition has all cut their prices in the last 2 years, Tidal can bet for £10, Deezer, can bet for even less, Amazon £8 with prime, Qobuz is just over £10 pm per annum. When Tidal was £20 and Amazon £15, then Spotify had room to add Hifi level.
Remember Hifi is very niche.
 

Witterings

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Why when they are selling lower quality for that price. Many people are not bothered about sound quality. If they had to cut existing subscription prices then they will lose money. Most of the competition has all cut their prices in the last 2 years, Tidal can bet for £10, Deezer, can bet for even less, Amazon £8 with prime, Qobuz is just over £10 pm per annum. When Tidal was £20 and Amazon £15, then Spotify had room to add Hifi level.
Remember Hifi is very niche.

I get many people aren't overly concerned about sound quality and don't look at things like bitrate etc. but ask a potentially new music service subscriber if 2 services are the same cost would they like the poorer quality or a higher quality and I think it'll be a very small percentage that ask for the lower quality.

Certainly if I was one of the directors this quote would have me asking why and what they could do to stop it.

"With Apple Music being a distant second with 15% market share, and Spotify adding more subscribers in the 12 months leading up to Q2 2021 than any other single DSP, there is no risk of Spotify losing its leading position anytime soon – but the erosion of its share is steady and persistent."

Taken from here
.
 

BigH

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I get many people aren't overly concerned about sound quality and don't look at things like bitrate etc. but ask a potentially new music service subscriber if 2 services are the same cost would they like the poorer quality or a higher quality and I think it'll be a very small percentage that ask for the lower quality.

Certainly if I was one of the directors this quote would have me asking why and what they could do to stop it.

"With Apple Music being a distant second with 15% market share, and Spotify adding more subscribers in the 12 months leading up to Q2 2021 than any other single DSP, there is no risk of Spotify losing its leading position anytime soon – but the erosion of its share is steady and persistent."

Taken from here
.
Does not work like that, people pick the service they want, probably 99% are not bothered about cd quality, even some on Hifi forums use Spotify.
 

BigH

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You seem to be contradicting yourself
No because it will cost them money. They were going to do it in 2021 but I think the reason they did not eas because Amazon reduced their prices considerably on the cd/HR level. If Spotify can sell low res at $10/ £10 and increase the number of subscribers then do they need to cd quality? If their customers were all going to Tidal, Deezer and Amazon, then yes they probably would need to react.
 

robdmarsh

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however the interface leaves a lot to be desired.
Until recently I would have completely disagreed with you. The Amazon HD native app is very good and has about a dozen features that I find really useful: my station which plays all the things you've played over weeks and months but then throws in some new stuff (very much tailored to your tastes), my discovery playlist, jump to artist/album super quick, like and dislike buttons, similar artists & albums recommendations etc. I say until recently because the dislike button has disappeared on "my station", it thinks that because I listened to a few Ella Fitzgerald tracks I now only like 50s classic jazz and it's started throwing in some utter crap into my station that I would never choose. Not sure what is going on. Hopefully a temporary hiccough and it'll get back to what it once was which was great value for money!
 

BigH

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Until recently I would have completely disagreed with you. The Amazon HD native app is very good and has about a dozen features that I find really useful: my station which plays all the things you've played over weeks and months but then throws in some new stuff (very much tailored to your tastes), my discovery playlist, jump to artist/album super quick, like and dislike buttons, similar artists & albums recommendations etc. I say until recently because the dislike button has disappeared on "my station", it thinks that because I listened to a few Ella Fitzgerald tracks I now only like 50s classic jazz and it's started throwing in some utter crap into my station that I would never choose. Not sure what is going on. Hopefully a temporary hiccough and it'll get back to what it once was which was great value for money!
Depends what device you use. On BluOs Amazon is very poor, all the others I have tried are far better, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal and Spotify. The problem seems to lie with Amazon who don't seem interested.
 

clanking

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I've just bought a Wiim mini and started an Amazon Music trial as a Prime member this seems good value. I've never really used any streaming service in anger until this week other than the odd track on my phone.

In the Wiim app I have Amazon connected through an Amazon Alexa connection, then I can use the native Amazon Music app and cast to the Wiim. I think this results in bit perfect output from the Wiim to my amp over optical. Sounds good to my ears at least.

I get a bit lost in the app, can't seem to see any like buttons to train the algorithm, but I definitely have seen and used them at one point.

The most annoying thing is the home page of the Amazon app is obsessed with women in music and podcasts and promoting it far too prominently for me given I pretty much don't listen to any female singers.

The big win is that unlike Bluetooth both the wife and I can connect and control the Wiim at the same time.
 

ErikGdd

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I have been using TIDAL for 2 years and I am very satisfied with it. Everything depends on your end product, headphones, stereo system.... your needs and your budget. I mainly listen to classical music.
 

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