Performance vs. wealth

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I was privileged to speak in front of the San Francisco Audiophile Society several days ago. There, a fine group of like-minded folks and I spent time together in the living room of our hosts, Joe and Debbie, playing music on a pair of Albert Von Schweikert’s VR-55 Aktive speakers and an all PS system. What a treat.

Our sources were both discs and streaming from Tidal through the Roon app. Of course, discs sounded better than streaming, something most of us take for granted. However, this sparked a lively conversation about bits are bits and…

It is often reported that media on Tidal’s premium service is lossless. With that in mind, we can all agree the method of transporting those lossless bit to the DAC shouldn’t matter to sound quality. Which then prompts two questions: why does music played on Tidal always sound slightly compressed and is it a big deal?

To the first question, I don’t have a good answer. My guess is that we’re not being told the full story of how tracks are stored, unfolded, and delivered. That “CD quality” doesn’t really mean what it implies. I’ll bet good money they aren’t lossless in the same sense of an exact bit-perfect match to the disc. But, that’s just a guess based on listening.

To the second question, I don’t find it to be a big deal as long as you’re aware of the limitations and keep things in perspective.

My meager library of tracks expands a thousand-fold with access to Tidal. I go from a few dozen cultivated and beloved tracks to hundreds—perhaps thousands—of great music to be enjoyed—not at a critical listening level but enjoyed none the less.

Keeping one’s expectations in line helps bring a wealth of new music into the home without the gnashing of teeth some disappointed Tidal fans experience.

Leave your performance expectations at the library door.