Which Music Streaming Platform

Hi everyone, I’m a complete newbie on here and newbie to Naim and digital streaming so looking for advice on best platform for high quality streaming.

My faithful NAD separates gave up the ghost recently so I decided to move to digital music rather than CD. I tried a good few all in one streamers (thanks to the team at Loud & Clear for their patience) and was blown away by the power and clarity of the Uniti Nova so bought it on the spot. I have read a lot of posts about music streaming platforms,  in particular Tidal and Qobuz but I’m no wiser as there seems to be some real difference of opinions on both platforms. So which platforms should I look at???? I want high quality output and music tastes are pretty varied but interest in current music.

thanks in advance for your feedback

Original Post

Thanks for the replies. I’ve read a lot of posts and reviews about Tidal with quite a few of them mentioning poor quality, even on 16 bit files but then again a lot of posts saying Qobuz library is limited. What does everyone think about Apple Lossless as an option? Any other platforms I should consider? 

Never tried Tidal, have used Qobuz for a few years and on the whole happy with it.

They offer a 30 day trial for the MP3 and CD quality options:

https://try.qobuz.com/tb-web-1...KEAAYASAAEgLbrvD_BwE

I have the annual Sublime subscription giving CD quality streaming on desktop/portable devices which can be sent to the Nova using Chromecast (or Airplay) without loss of quality.  Sublime subscriptions also give you good discounts on a large proportion of their hi-res catalogue such that buying an album you like can be cheaper than the CD equivalent download.  Sublime+ offers hi-res streaming of available items (not all), but as Chromecast won't do gapless with the Nova I've held back on that, and tend to buy hi-res and stream from a NAS.

Apple Music does not use Apple Lossless but 256 kbps lossy AAC though it can sound very good, probably better than MP3. I have Apple Music but rarely use it.

 

Apple Music usually offers a free trial for new users.

Tidal is absolutely fine for what it is and is also native on your Nova so its a nice and easy user experience, its a no brainer to go for the free trial so give it a go regardless. Spotify has a great library and music curation but although native would not do justice to your Nova in terms of sound quality.

Hammy posted:

Thanks everyone, great advice. I’ll drop in to the dealer today and find out which platform they used to demo the system as it was pretty incredible so why reinvent the wheel 😁

You’ll very likely find that they were playing CD rips or High Res downloads from a Uniti Core. Playing your own stored music should sound better than internet streaming, particularly with high res. That’s why I mentioned your CDs, and whether you plan to rip them. If you do, you don’t need to go to the expense of a Core; a decent Nas can be just as good. 

All of these services offer free trial periods of at least a month, sometimes 3, or even 6 months. I used these to try Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer amd Apple Music. They all worked fine, and all had a wide range of music. 

I found Spotify the best, in all respects except for sound quality, as there is no lossless stream available unfortunately. If there was, this would be my first choice. 

Tidal is probably the worst in terms of the UI, and the selection of music, whilst large, is a little more limited than others. Despite this, I subscribe to it because it is lossless, sounds pretty good (although not quite as good as a CD rip) and is fully integrated into the Naim app. (It is also the only web streaming service that integrates with Roon, if you are thinking of trying it.)

Qobuz is good, apart from their customer service, which on occasion I have found to be truly dreadful, rude and unhelpful. 

Apple and Deezer both fine if you can put up with lossy streams. 

I assume from this that by streaming you are only thinking in terms of online from remote internet-based sources. Streaming also refers to playing music from your own locally stored music, e.g. stored on a computer or NAS (‘network attached storage’, essentially a streamlined specialised computer with often multiple hard disks), the music either being bought online and downloaded, or ‘ripped’ from CDs, or even from Vinyl. 

Ultimately the local store potentially at least can be better quality, no risk of dropouts, yours to keep forever with no subscription, no reliance on remote operators remaining in business and stocking the music you like in perpetuity. Against that, online providers offer considerably more choice than most people can ever even consider owning, and lower immediate cost of access to lots of music. 

That said, the two are not mutually exclusive. Any player capable of online streaming is likely to be able to stream from a local store (but the converse is not necessarily true), so starting online does not preclude also locally streaming, perhaps buying just things you like best and that you know you will always want.

As for the likes of Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, etc., one significant difference is the range of music they have, some better suited to individuals’ tastes than others, so maybe before subscribing to one you might want to do some detailed searching of them all. Other differences include ease of browsing.and searching , though that can also be influenced by the software on the platform you choose.not all players are set up to access all online sources, so it is appropriate to do your research of content in particular before committing to one that offers only, say, Tidal.

There are also differences in sound quality available from the different online providers, E.g. Tidal offers something called ‘MQA’ that is alleged to enable you to stream hi res music with smaller file sizes, therefore coping better with low bandwidth connections, but it is a lossy compression and not everyone is impressed - though some people are (a search of this forum will bring up a range of views). IIRC Qobuz offers hi res streaming, though I also seem to recall that might not yet be up and running. I have been pleasantly surprised at how good Spotify’s free service sounds, even though only 320bps- plenty good enough for the purpose I use it, which is checking out new music (and if I like it I buy it, so no point my paying for a subscription service). However, the difference in sound quality between hi res and standard versions etc is often more to do with the mastering than the resolution, and it is not unknown for people to prefer the standard quality version.

As for gear, the options include a dedicated ‘streamer’, connected to a hifi system just like a CD player, or the ‘all-in-one’ approach like the Atom and Nova, or you can use a computer connected to a hifi DAC, preferably a specialist computer as an audio source in its own right optimised for sound quality, while the DAC could be a standalone one, or if you already have a CD player with a digital input you could set up that way, giving the lowest cost intro to try out online streaming services before committing.

Innocent Bystander posted:

 I have been pleasantly surprised at how good Spotify’s free service sounds, even though only 320bps- plenty good enough for the purpose I use it, which is checking out new music (and if I like it I buy it, so no point my paying for a subscription service).

Hmmm -- I thought Spotify's free service was no better than 160kbps...

My mistake - nothing I’ve checked or even looked for, just incorrect recollection from mention by ithers. That makes me all the more surprised how listenable Spotify is, as I would have expected 160bps to sound awful, yet most does not:- it is not as good as streaming from home sources of CD quality, but is, to me, quite listenable for the purpose of assessing new things.

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