On the first day the Beatles began streaming over pretty much every service out there I began my day listening on Tidal. And because I’m such an audio nerd, after listening to the opening track on Rubber Soul, “Drive My Car,” via my Tidal App, I immediately switched over to my 44.1/24 bit FLAC version via Amarra and I as I listned I wondered, “What is the sample and bit rate of the Tidal Hi-Fi stream?” So I decided that I should acertain whether the Tidal stream was, as advertised, really full-resolution.
I began my quest by loading Roon, which is the only Mac OS player app I have that recognizes not only all my own music files on every hard drive but also can access all my Tidal album favorites. I figured I could compare the Tidal stream with my 44.1/24-bit files from the limited edition Beatles Apple USB stick that was released a couple of years ago, which would make comparisons easier and eliminate the variations introduced by different playback apps.
When I opened up Roon and searched for Beatles via Tidal it showed me all my own Beatles tracks, but none of the new Tidal Beatles streaming options appeared. At first I assumed that my own 320 MP3 copies of several albums were the Tidal streams, but after a couple of minutes of confusion I realized my error. My best guess (and that of my confidential Tidal insider) was that Roon had not yet synched their library with the latest Tidal library so none of the Beatles albums were available to Roon users yet.
I kept checking in with Roon to see if had gotten around to adding the Beatles albums to their database. But as of early Dec 25th Roon had still not added the Beatles stream to its playback library, but later that evening I resynched my Tidal library in Roon and the Beatles streams finally appeared. But when I looked at the info in Roon I saw that other than telling me it was a Tidal stream, it did not answer the essential question – was I getting a full-rez 44.1/16 lossless signal?
I did have one more way I could try to find out if the new Beatles stream from Tidal was in full CD resolution, thanks to the Linn Majik DSM network player that I have for review. The Linn displays the bit and sample rate for every digital track it plays, all you have to do is click on the album art at the top of the Linn Kazoo app (which is the app that runs the Linn Majik DSM). I looked at more than half the Tidal Beatles releases and all of them were, indeed, uncompressed, full-resolution 44.1/16 files.
I spent the next hour or so doing some A/Bs back and forth between my 44.1/24 files and the Tidal stream through an all-Linn system of the Majik DSM, Linn Majik 140 speakers and the Majik Exactbox-1 power amplifier. Thanks to matched levels and the Linn’s ability to rapidly switch from one track to another I could compare the tracks easily and I found that on the tracks I used (mainly from the Beatles later releases) I could not discern any major flaws or shortcomings in the Tidal stream when compared to the 44.1/24 files in my NAS drive. That’s a good thing, right?
Of course, like any boomer-aged audiophile I’m still waiting for the final shoe to drop – a higher than standard CD version of the Beatles. Yes, technically the 44.1/24 bit version I have IS better than redbook, but sonically these files were virtually indistinguishable on my system from the streamed versions (From what I heard my assumption is that 44.1/24 files were also made from the same masters) but I can’t help but wonder about what additional musical information I’d hear from true high-resolution digital files made from the original masters. And perhaps someday that pipedream will become a reality, but until then, welcome to a wonderful world where you can listen to the entire Beatles catalog anywhere that your smartphone can get a signal…and that is certainly a nice way to begin the new year…