Amazon HD vs. Tidal HiFi (MQA)

I just did an A/B test between my newly acquired Amazon HD account and my (relatively) longstanding Tidal HiFi subscription and boy, what I have to tell you!

I only needed to play two tracks in order to decide to cancel my Tidal subscription. The first song was “Hey Now” by London Grammar. I started with the Tidal (non-MQA) version and then switched to Amazon’s UltraHD version. While I couldn’t sense a strong difference between the two, I nevertheless heard more meat-on-the-bone with Amazon and I also was getting a slight sense of the chills with the Amazon version. This wouldn’t have been enough to get me to switch; however, when I played the Ultra HD version of “Starboy” by The Weekend and then switched to Tidal’s (MQA) version the difference was night and day! Not only was the MQA version much quieter, but there wasn’t even a trade-off of a more “analogue” sound or something. it just sounded worse in all ways…less dynamic, less clarity and just overall far less involving. I was expecting MQA to at least be the equal if not the superior version, especially considering that the London Grammar track had almost been a tie. I don’t think that this is to say that MQA is worse than Tidal’s non-MQA versions, but rather it’s more likely that either The Weekend track is a better recording for showing off differences in equipment and so forth or that one of the two services has a quality control (or possibly and more accurately a consistency) issue. Nevertheless, it was enough for me to switch (and I’m no fan of Amazon, but frankly I might hate Jay-Z more, so…) Once I have lived with Amazon for a while I’ll give Qobuz a try and see if it’s better (I suspect that it will have better sound quality than Amazon but fewer titles).

My equipment for this review was an LG V30 smartphone/Naim NAC & NAP 152/Scansonic MB2.5.


I thought Qobuz sounded better than Tidal, too. FWIW, in the 16ish months since Qobuz went live in the US, they’ve filled in a lot of holes in their library.


Thanks for the detailed write up!
I’ve been a customer of both and will likely switch back to Amazon at some point. I’ve been riding on a few discounted or free Tidal accounts for the last few months.

MQA is a compressed lossy format, 96/24 or 192/24 should “sound” better (though if the difference is audible is open to debate) the big win on Tidal is usually the newer Master.

Having said that I went Tidal -> Amazon Music HD -> Qobuz, the first because of the prevalence of 96/24 and in some cases 192/24 on Amazon Music, the second because I needed a working web interface for my Volumio streamer.

And I agree many of the holes in Qobuz’ library have been filled.

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I had tried spotify and And Tidal once and for fun because I am a prime customer I tried the Unlimited .Ouuf that were worlds in comparison.
And now I also switched to Hd.
But Spotify and Tidal were really quieter than Amazon.
You really have to turn up 10-15% more on the volume control compared to Amazon.
However, since I switched to Hd, I was satisfied with my old setup, whereby the differences to Unlimited and Hd would hardly be worth more money for Hd.
Now, almost two weeks ago, I got a new Dac that makes me think a little differently.
So technically everything is okay with the Dac.
I hear the same songs every now and then where I get different quality.
The same song in Ultra or just normal Hd.
And there I sometimes hear real differences where it can only be traced back to the recording.
Most of the time you can hear a slight scratch in the middle or high range.
And I made a cross comparison with an Mp3 file that is already 18 years old and played the same title with Foobar.
And there was nothing to hear, no scratching or anything like that.
I think that my Dac is a bit sensitive and is relentlessly uncovering what is not bad.
But Amazon also likes to show me a bit more cheating, especially when I say Best Quality in the settings, I expect this too.
Especially when the song is in Ultra Hd I get Hd and next time Ultra, what’s that?
In any case, there would still be room for improvement on the part of Amazon.
Otherwise I really try quboz.
How it is.
He also recognizes my annoying Dac twice, which is annoying for what?
He is already playing on the Dac, why show again? The mode does not change anything. Also song information is somehow missing whether it is played in 24/96 or 16 / 44.1 or 24 / 44.1.
This is also somewhat arbitrary.
And just clearly define which formats are played with which subscription and a decent description of how the scheiss player actually works
Then Amazon would be absolutely okay in terms of price performance.

Tidal lowers volume by 40% when u switch to exclusive mode. You have to crank it back up.

Edit: not saying it sounds better. Just talking about the volume difference.

I like Amazon over Qobuz because they seem to have more Ultra HD tracks than Qobuz. that is to say tracks above CD sound quality. recently they put a lot of Simple Minds albums in Ultra

I did my compare last night and I was the same like after 3 or 4 tracks, now to move my Tidal over. Will miss the Tidal UI, especially on Apple TV but that quality floored me

U guys know when amazon hd is getting expanded? Seems like the hd only is available in a fiew places…

My issue with Amazon Music is that my DAC doesn’t switch bit rates to match what’s playing - and this is whichever DAC I use. It stays at whatever I’ve set it to in Windows, so I’m always like… Is this what it’s supposed to sound like?

I use normal Tidal, not the hifi version, and I like it a lot. I’ve been thinking of stepping up, but I have no interest in MQA. Is it possible to do Tidal just for the FLAC?

Also, frankly I have zero interest in giving Amazon any more money than I already do. Yes, I have Prime and use it a ton, but still…I really think it’s important to do business with anyone other than GAFA.

AFAIK, yes. The Hifi tier does everything as 16/44.1 flac with the option of “Master” quality. However, I think you can go into settings and tell it to max out at 16/44.1.

Yes, this is basically what I do. You can set which tier you want Tidal to stream at, HiFi being 44.1/16 FLAC. If you keep it at this setting, even the ‘Master’ stuff will stay at this bit rate.

You have to set up your pc to do whatever you want it to do, if it shows you 24/192, you can save it that way.
If Amazon Hd only shows 16/44.1 then it won’t work anymore and it will play like this.
More does not work than the source file can output. your pc does not scale it up to 24/192. why this is not displayed i have not found out yet. i know it’s annoying, because the provider can advertise with hires etc. it’s not even hires. it’s not even virgin cd quality if you like.
I have used Amazon unlimited long and Hd but since they have such a great payment system where I am asked to pay by credit card and don’t accept normal charges I have deleted my Amazon account.
I switched to Deezer and took my playlists with me and found out that Deezer is not even bad.
I also found that Deezer sounded much smoother and quieter than Amazon.
I also found that Amazon sounded smoother and quieter than Amazon, and I have the impression that Amazon amplifies their music before outputting it, so I understand the previous speaker that you shouldn’t put everything into Amazon’s throat because the service is quite subterranean, and the performance in Prime is just as good, but it’s annoying because I get the same songs played over and over again in the podcast and nothing new.

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Make sure you try to volume match before comparing sources, because louder = better most of the time.

Yes, although it’s really a distinction without a difference. MQA files on Tidal are just 24-bit FLAC files that have some extra inaudible data that tell an MQA decoder how to unfold.

MQA is only used on the Master tier (orange), and that gives you either 24bit/44.1 with bit rates around 1000 or 24/48 FLAC with bitrates around 2000, depending on the album. Those can be unfolded into MQA by software or hardware for some extra sound benefits at times, but they’re still just FLAC.

If you were to acquire some 24/48 MQA files straight from Tidal’s servers and play them in a program that doesn’t support MQA at all, those files just show up as FLAC, and they sound and play just like 24/48 FLAC would, because that’s what they are.

The HiFi tier (blue) on Tidal gives you straight-up CD-quality 16/44.1 FLAC with bit rates around 1000, no MQA involved.

If you like Tidal on Normal, you’re gonna like it more at higher qualities.

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Just a suggestion… Don’t forget about Qobuz.

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i’m still probably going with tidal if just because student discount makes it cheaper

take a look to deezer have a Student program to,Qobuz and Tidal was not mine.

That’s just a Spotify level Stream

Not hifi or lossless

Tidal (non MQA) was super weird sounding to me…something very unnatural. I couldn’t handle it and after 3 days switched to Qobuz.

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