I am still on the fence about MQA (Tidal) vs FLAC (Qobuz). In many cases, Qobuz sounds better, but in certain MQA tracks, Tidal sounds amazing. Since I use Roon as my catalog and playback platform, I am really agnostic about which streaming service I am listening to. It is totally about the music sound quality.
I am open to the possibility that I may be listening to tracks produced from different recording masters on the competing services, but I don’t have the time or the interest to research this.
If I was forced to choose one streaming service today, it would be Qobuz, even though Tidal is cheaper for me due to a military veteran’s discount. But I am still not there, and so I continue to have both services available.
I’m not sure that MQA is the reason for Tidal’s sound. I had Tidal for 5 months in 2020 (5 for 5 deal), but never used MQA. It sounded different and sometimes better than Qobuz and Amazon HD for the same tracks. I took it as coming from Tidal’s universal filtering or “tone adjustment” system. When starting from a rough source, Tidal can certainly be easier on the ears.
Tidal is the most expensive streaming service I have. That includes audio and video.
In general I found tidal did sound a bit smoothed over with extra gain (loudness wars) and added bass emphasis, sonic qualities that are not my preference so maybe Im more tuned to pick up on them as something I dont appreciate. Others may like the sound profile, it’s cool either way. And there may very well be better sounding tracks on Tidal, just not consistently enough for my ears for me to place a lot of value in it as format I wish to pursue or look at as a selling point.
When I undertook it to amuse myself I did the comparison with the same albums that were either on a different service or an actual flac copy I had. For the most part I preferred the non MQA high res versions. Its possible that they were mastered differently for various services but Id be really surprised if that was the case.
I need to look more closely at what Amazon HD offers and see if I can dump Tidal. Id actually like to try out Qobuz but it is not available in Canada last time I checked.
If I had to keep just one audio streaming service it would be Primephonic. I only keep Tidal for the occasional non classical listening I do, about 10% of listening time.