As an audiophile, I only want to listen to lossless audio, and high-resolution audio is even better. I also refuse to subscribe to streams with copy protection. This leaves out iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify, and their ilk. I also listen almost entirely to Classical music, so if that is not your thing, some of my comments may net apply.
A few general comments are appropriate for classical music fans. Unlike most other genres where the artist name and the song title are needed, for a classical fan, much more information is needed so that you know what you are listening to. You need the
- name of the composition
- name of the movement or section (which can be quite long)
- performers (conductor, soloists, symphony,...)
- performance date (not the same as the release date)
- the release date (so you can tell if it has been remastered)
None of the streaming services do this properly, although Qubuz is the closest to what is required. Thus, I always must look up the thing I am listening to on the Web. I have found that Allmusic usually has the most complete information.
Another issue all the services are guilty of is sometimes streaming tracks in an album out of order. Why, I wonder?
I have extensively tried Deezer, Tidal, and Qobuz, but Deezer never turned on their Hi-Res music stream while I was subscribed.
Tidal must be having financial problems because they ripped me off several times. They have a policy of no refunds, no matter what. In particular, I had two accounts at Tidal, and there is no way to log out of their Android app to switch accounts. This caused me to accidentally subscribe twice while trying to get it to work. Even 1 minute after activating the wrong account, they refused a refund.
Tidal uses MQA for its high-resolution tracks, which is technically not lossless, and I do have Audirvana Plus to decode them on my computer, and also have a BlueSound Node 2i to decode MQA on my HiFi system. However, it is quite unclear how to record these MQA tracks so that they can unfold at a later time. And my old ears cannot hear any better reproduction from MQA vis-a-vis a 24-bit 96-kHz stream (Qobuz). The advantage to MQA is that it takes less bandwidth, which may be important when listening on a mobile device.
There are several issues with Tidal that made me drop it.
- Its Mac application keeps stopping with red error messages. Weekly-ish upgrades do not seem to make things better.
- It is really aimed at non-Classical customers.
- They do not have that many Classical tracks, and even fewer in MQA.
- It is often impossible to tell what you are listening to because Classical tracks need much more information than pop/rock tracks (see above). For example, in a collection album, the composers are often not listed. (Which composer wrote which quartet?)
- Because of this, I always have to open a browser to look up the album so I can label it properly when I rip. This is made much harder by the fact that NONE of the writing on the application is selectable so that I can easily copy it into the browser search bar. This is a royal pain.
- Most (in my opinion) new albums are NOT listed in the new album section. I have to read BBC Music Magazine or American Record Guide and mark new albums. Then I search for them, and even though they were never listed in New Albums, they are there about half of the time.
- Many of the tracks are overloaded (clipped at 0 dB), ven after I reduce the recording volume. What is the point of a Hi-Res or lossless track when the loud parts are distorted? (Lord of the Rings recording)
- Tidal plays other music after my desired selection. There seems no way to turn this off!
Deezer is based in France, and has many of the same issues as Tidal. But their application does not crash.
- It is impossible to copy text out of the application.
- Again, not all new albums are listed.
- They never got the promised high-resolution tracks.
- Another issue arises if you listen to operas where there are track divisions, but no natural pause in the content. MP3 requires a gap in the music at these points, but FLAC should allow a gapless stream. Deezer has gaps in the "lossless" stream. This does make it easy to find track label locations, but interrupts your listening enjoyment.
Qobuz just turned on in the USA two weeks ago. Its Hi-Res (24-bit) stream costs $25 a month, but it is worth it. There are still a few teething pains in that not all the albums that say they are Hi-Res, are actually in Hi-Res, but Qobuz says they are working on it. Qobuz is by far the best of these three services.
- Note how many albums are available in High-Resolution:
- The Album title information is selectable and copyable, so it is easy to find information about the albums.
- While the track labels are not selectable, and also do not list the composer, if you double click a playing track, you get full information that IS selectable and copyable. However, the full track name is still cut off, so you must still use a Web browser to get the movement tempo.
- Note that the track has its bit rate displayed.
- Generally, things are not clipped. Compare the same Lord of the Rings recording:
- Qobuz has program notes for many of the albums, and informative articles:
- I have just discovered that if you click the album cover in the bm playing section, you will unlock the following screen, which lets you read and download the whole album booklet! I try to put the pdf of the booklet in each of my ripped albums, hoping that some player will soon let you view them.
- Their Mac application has not crashed, but lately I have had annoying problems with their cache being corrupted. The playback gets to a certain point in the music and just stops. The play button shows a circular waiting gif. Restarting the album will not work—it will stop again at the same point. You must clear the cache by clicking on the top-right user icon, selecting Music Playing, scrolling to the bottom, and clearing the cache. I restart Qobuz for good measure too.
- If you adjust the volume properly, there are no overloads.