So, some of you may have read the sad story about my recently deceased iPhone. Well, rather than wallow in my sadness about the sudden costly investment in a spiffy new iPhone Xs, I decided to embrace the change, explore some of the unit’s capabilities and share some of those observations with you.
Given the sizable storage space on my iPhone — 256 GB! — and considerable processing power my beloved iPhone 5 only dreamed about, I could now try out some of the more significant mobile features of the streaming apps I currently use (Tidal and most recently, Qobuz).
I’ve recently wrote about my toes-in-the-water experience with my new iPhone while traveling on the East Coast (click here for that).
For a relatively apples-to-apples comparison of the two services, I am using a pair of parallel playlists I made of mostly instrumental Frank Zappa music. This isn’t just a bunch of Zappa comic weirdness but skews toward his very melodic and accessible instrumental fusion material that might surprise some of you. When I was assembling the playlist, I jokingly called it “Frank Zappa Music For People Who Hate Frank Zappa.” Now it is just called simply: “frankly.” If you click on this image to the right here you should be able to see the full playlist enlarged on your computer screen.
And, frankly, I like this playlist which draws heavily from the late 1960s and into the ’70s, a period when Zappa was at the peak of his powers, arguably his musically most inventive period. There you’ll find tracks from his pioneering “jazz fusion” album called Hot Rats as well as the mostly-jazz flavored sequels: Wakajawaka and The Grand Wazoo. I have also cherry-picked deep cuts from albums like Uncle Meat, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Sleep Dirt, Orchestral Favorites and even Joe’s Garage!
Not surprisingly to this Zappa fan, there is remarkable conceptual continuity between all the tracks and they work nicely as an end to end listening experience. Try playing this music for the uninitiated — you, and they, may be surprised.
Setting up the Tidal playlist for offline streaming was super easy once you find the “download” button on your mobile version of the Tidal app. Probably my only beef is that it wasn’t super clear as to when the stream had fully downloaded on to my phone. I just left it in download mode overnight and that seemed to do the trick.
One of the nice things about the iPhone Xs was that the rental car I had on my recent trip back East — a 2019 Nissan Altima — came equipped with Apple’s Car Play software. Thus my phone connected quite seamlessly, playing my music effortlessly.
My Zappa playlist streamed smoothly offline via Tidal — no hiccups or glitches were apparent — and everything sounded clean and clear. The important thing to me was that the music sounded like the CDs I’ve heard a lot, without any significant anomalies hindering my enjoyment of the experience.
The only real curiosity I noticed was that the physical size of the stream I downloaded on my phone was significantly higher on Tidal than the Qobuz stream. I have written to Qobuz to see if they can explain this variation because the stream size — in theory — should be fairly identical since they are the same songs and performances.
We’ll dive into my Qobuz experience in part two of this exploration…