Tidal, DTS Play-Fi, Apple Music, AirPlay

Discussion in 'Home Theater and Stereo' started by CJ, Aug 30, 2018.

  1. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin Top Poster

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    I'm experimenting tonight with a few things. First let me say computer audio is still very complicated. More complicated than it needs to be, although it is getting better. But, it can be hard to get working right at all and when you do, you can also really foil yourself.

    Some of the troubles can come in how you get audio to your front end and ultimately your pre-amp and people frequently end up with resolution issues and aren't even aware. For example I can get on the Tidal desktop app and configure it for the highest resolution but if I then send it to my Arcam AirDAC to listen on my stereo I'm getting 16/44.1k because that's all Airplay supports and its also been compressed using proprietary compression for transmission over Airplay. That's going to happen to anything I "cast" over AirPlay regardless of how good the original source is.

    But I have a few options at my disposal without spending any more money, one of which I had kind of forgotten about and that's kind of where the playing comes in.

    My Anthem AVM-60 supports DTS Play-Fi. I'm not a Play-Fi expert but its basically a license-able playback and control protocol. Think about Sonos software but not brand specific. It allows you to stream music to a Play-Fi device including local content on your phone or tablet, from compatible NAS devices, and from streaming services. The latter is of particular interest to me because when you stream to a Play-Fi device from Tidal, you can stream in high-res and your phone or table it only a remote control. You aren't "casting" the audio from your phone.

    So I actually did a three way bake off.
    1. Apple Music over AirPlay from my phone to my Arcam AirDAC
    2. Tidal high-res over AirPlay from my phone to my Arcam AirDAC
    3. Tidal high-res directly to my Anthem
    The results were pretty stark in some cases, less so in others. The difference between Apple Music and Tidal, both over AirPlay was STARK with Tidal being the clear winner. I am confident I could get a 100% in an AB blind test. I actually need more time to decide if Tidal directly to the Anthem is significantly better than Tidal over AirPlay. What that tells me is that AirPlay is not terrible but Apple needs to step up its audio track quality.

    Now I've been begging for high-res Apple Music for years because I like the interface and I Already have an Apple Music Family Plan. I've been told I'm pissing into the wind with that wish. Historically I'd have agreed but I'm starting to see the non-niche direct competitors to Apple Music (e.g. Spotify) roll out high-res so I'm hoping that Apple's hand gets forced at some point.

    I'd also like to see Apple license some high-fi gear to directly integrate Apple Music. Rumor has it Apple is rolling out new "high fi" update to their Airpods, a brand new pair of over the ear headphones, and an updated Home Pod. These plans, if true, may indicate Apple could finally be ready to upgrade the quality of their accompanying music platform.
     
  2. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Well-Known Member Top Poster

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    I hear what you are saying, went through it all when deciding on the LS50w speakers. It is complicated. I went away from Apple for the reasons u mentioned. Ended up using Spotify on the highest res settings and I am pretty damn pleased with the audio quality.

    Having said that I would change subscriptions services for improved quality quickly, if the library is there. Tidal seemed to be focusing on music that really isn't my thing. I have friends using Apple and they are happy, casting to things like small sonos speakers.
     
  3. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin Top Poster

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    Music availability is a valid concern though all of these services literally have millions of tracks. I did already find an artist completely missing from tidal. I don’t recall who right this minute but I was bummed.

    The second issue is Tidal’s interface blows goats. I’m far from the only one who thinks that.

    My best outcome would be if Apple bought Tidal as well and expanded their high res footprint.
     
  4. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Well-Known Member Top Poster

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    Agreed Apple buying Tidal and not ruining it with some proprietary compressions etc. would probably be a solid for a lot of consumers. Of course Tidal is marketed like it is a better deal for artists...….

    Can Tidal even survive without being bought, not everyone thinks it can?
     
  5. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin Top Poster

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    Not sure. The answer was NO not that long ago but Sprint bought 30% for $200M. Honestly maybe Apple doesn't NEED to buy them. Maybe they just need to roll out their own premium audio version of Apple music. Tell people they need it, then tell people their headphones aren't good enough and sell them new headphones.
     
  6. DYohn

    DYohn Bronze Member Donor Top Poster

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    Tidal is fully integrated into Roon, FWIW.
     
  7. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Well-Known Member Top Poster

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    Sitting in my sweat spot, listening to symbolistic white walls using Spotify playing on the
    LS50w speakers. What does Roon do for me?
     
  8. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin Top Poster

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    I feel like Roon is Plex for music, in which case it doesn't do anything for me because I actually want ONE, high-res source for music not multiple. I also believe David was an early adopter and got a good deal on a lifetime license. Today a Roon license is $500.

    "Roon manages digital music files collected on hard drives [I don't have any] and networked storage [I don't have any]. It can also watch your iTunes library [I don't have one any more, its all Apple Music which Roon does not support], and optionally integrate with the music streaming service TIDAL [there are now dozens of high end Tidal endpoints from companies like Naim, Cambridge Audio, Sim Audio Moon, BlueSound, and any device that supports DTS Play-Fi including Anthem, McIntosh, B&O and more]."
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2018
  9. DYohn

    DYohn Bronze Member Donor Top Poster

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    Like I said, FWIW. :) I don't use Tidal or any other streaming service, all my media is on hard drives, and the SQ plus convenience of Roon is a winner.
     
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  10. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin Top Poster

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    Yeah didn’t mean to come off like a dick. It just happens naturally. I don’t think roon helps me.
     
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  11. DYohn

    DYohn Bronze Member Donor Top Poster

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    No dickishness perceived, or perhaps it was obscured by my own. :)
     
  12. Dustin B

    Dustin B Well-Known Member

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    I haven't used Roon, just browsed their site quickly after multiple mentions here from David. My understanding from that quick read is it's main selling point is that it has an interface designed to evoke an experience like handling an LP album cover. So doesn't matter what source or sources you use, you can get that same experience.

    Does it live up to that David or does it not work as well with some sources?
     
  13. DYohn

    DYohn Bronze Member Donor Top Poster

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    My experience is mostly with sources on my server and it handles any file format I have ever used over the years from crap MP3 to 24/192 FLAC. The meta data which is the selling point they make the most out of is quite nice, but I find myself listening more than looking at it. I find the really great SQ over wireless to be the biggest selling point for me. Much better sounding than DNLA or Logitech Squeeze data. I have loaded a few internet radio-station streams and they work fine so I have no reason to think Tidal would not be good. My biggest complaint is it is not compatible with SirriusXM on line. I also like that if you install a Roon server and you use Roon endpoints (or iOS devices) it is the simplest setup of any networking based software I've ever used. Literally load the app and play.
     
  14. Chris Slade

    Chris Slade Well-Known Member Top Poster

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    Either Roon is so far ahead of it’s time, that I simply don’t understand it’s value..... or it is nothing and will fade into the night, kinda quickly.

    No idea which one it is.
     
  15. Carl V

    Carl V Well-Known Member Donor Top Poster

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    I had a soolos touch screen service back in the day. Roon is a sorta outgrowth of that. Like David I like the data/ metadata aspect and the unversality of its application. Yes, I pay a fee. Being a middle aged Luddite I am not too concerned with the latest boy band, k-pop or hip hop sensation. Nor do I support the streaming rental business model
    Much. I don’t see it fading into the nite. It wont dominate either. Domination is tricky or slippery slope. Today free or shadow subsization is needed for market domination.
    Ymmv yadda imho
     
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  16. Jay Brown

    Jay Brown Well-Known Member Donor Top Poster

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    I installed Roon yesterday afternoon to try it out for 2 weeks. I gotta say, for the first time in a long while, I did not have to worry about a song not playing through my Oppo because a particular app crapped out, constant audio dropouts while streaming from my NAS, or having to reset the Oppo and my receiver just to get both devices to play nice with each other.

    As a result of trying to refresh my audio library through Plex, only to have duplicates of artists and songs, coupled with SMB and NFS issues from an update to the Freenas OS, I decided to remove the music component from Plex all together, and simply play files through the Oppo Mobile app. While that worked, it was very unstable. As described above, constant dropouts, mobile app crashing, network connectivity between my Marantz Receiver and Oppo 203.

    I've read about Roon, but that price tag was always on my mind. I've tried J River in the past, but the constant indexing of my music directory caused me to move away from that platform. I've lost a number of drives in the past, and constant indexing was one of the contributing factors to those failures.

    So now back to Roon. I signed up for the 2 week trial, and within 2 hours I was already sold. Support for my Meridian Explorer 2 DAC which I now use on my Laptop, Airplay to my Marantz Receiver, my Pixel 2 Phone, my Samsung Galaxy Tab S, Casting to my Nvidia Shield, Sony TV (Android TV) and Chromecast Ultra, and of course the support for the Oppo 203/205. No Dropouts, no rebooting of components or mobile devices. Playing music was an instant experience. I didn't have to wait for a song to load, it just played.

    One thing I was also looking for was something "headless". When I play music, I have an Activity via my Harmony Remote for "Oppo 2-channel music". This turns on my Marantz receiver, and Oppo 203, and both components use their analog ins and outs for playback. The TV and other components are off and I just use my mobile devices for browsing my music. Now with Roon, it was such a seemless and easygoing experience in this manner.

    I may hold off until the end of the year to pay for the yearly price which is pretty steep, but sheesh, this product was so convincing that I might just pay for it when my trial is up.
     
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  17. DYohn

    DYohn Bronze Member Donor Top Poster

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    Your experience with Roon mirrors mine. I paid for the lifetime subscription after three days of the trial.
     
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  18. Carl V

    Carl V Well-Known Member Donor Top Poster

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    It just works.
     
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  19. CJ

    CJ Bronze Member Admin Top Poster

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    Streaming audio is definitely still in its infancy. I periodically had problems with my iPhone disconnecting from my airDAC which uses Airplay. I think that's more about the way mobile devices manage connections when you minimize the app to do something else. That was always the case for me when I had dropouts, I had closed Apple Music and was browsing the web or similar. Especially if I hit a site with an ad with audio.

    With the DTS Play-Fi app I'm not longer streaming from my phone to my AVR. I'm literally just using my phone as a remote. I think this is similar to Roon in that the Roon endpoint is directly streaming the audio, not your phone. Your phone or PC is just the remote.

    My only remaining issue is that Tidal is not gapless and the gaps are abnormally wrong. Listening to something like DSotM is downright jarring.
     
  20. Jay Brown

    Jay Brown Well-Known Member Donor Top Poster

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    Just got an email from Roon Labs and they are extending my free trial for an additional 30 days. Today was the last day for my 2-week trial. This was totally unexpected. I'm definitely purchasing an annual license next month.
     

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