Blind Apple Music vs Spotify vs Tidal stream quality test shows you shouldn't care

Blind Apple Music vs Spotify vs Tidal stream quality test shows you shouldn't care
"People do stupid things," started one Vonage commercial, following up on that claim with jackass-style stunts ending badly. Nowhere is that wisdom more visible than in paying more for theoretical higher streaming music quality, while using a headset and phone combi, or the way that millions of typical users listen to music every day. 

The revamped Apple Music app arrived as part of the fresh iOS 8.4 update, and comes accompanied by the new Beats 1 curated radio station, the Connect music social network, and other audiophile accouterments. The latest entrant in the hot subscription streamers field, however, gushes tunes out with a 256kbps bitrate, which on paper is lower quality than Spotify's 320kbps maximums, not to mention Jay Z's Tidal, whose whole premise is that is streams in veritable CD quality, at 1.4Mbps. Apple Music, however, uses a higher quality encoder, AAC, compared to Spotify's Ogg Vorbis, for instance. 

How much of that audiophile mumbo-jumbo is of actual matter to the average, and even the not-so-average music listener out there? Well, a blind test can settle all things related to user preferences once and for all, right? That's exactly what's been done to compare the streaming quality of Apple Music vs Spotify vs Tidal. The listeners were given one ordinary getup that millions of listeners around the globe use to consume said services every day - a midrange Sony MDR-7506 headset that won't break the bank, but is still able to emit some quality tunes, and an iPhone 6 Plus, which is one of the better handsets when it comes to music output out there.

The results? Well, as you can see in the video below, they are all over the place for one the same song streamed to a few different people over the three competing services. Tidal's whopping bitrate definitely didn't make a dent in the listener's perception, while the 256kbps "only" of Apple Music didn't put it dead last, either. Thus, for all practical purposes, it seems that your monthly tenner or so more for Tidal's quality would be wasted, unless you are an ear-sensitive audiophile with really expensive equipment at home. What do you think?

source: TheVerge



1. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

Well only taytay fans care

12. waddup121 unregistered

not even surprised.

18. engineer-1701d unregistered

i love how the verge is apple but they would not tell u best and worst hahaha

2. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Not surprised IMO there's no noticeable difference between 256 kbps AAC and 320 kbps MP3 and CD, unless you have high end headphones, DAC and amp Once you go over 128 kbps there's almost no difference between the various codecs Under 128 kbps there's small differences, being: Opus > HE AACv2 > HE AAC > LC AAC > Vorbis > LAME

4. TylerGrunter

Posts: 1544; Member since: Feb 16, 2012

I remember I used to encode at 192 kbps to save some space because over that I could not find any differenece in sound. 256 should be more than enough unless your equiment is top noch and you play in an orchestra...

10. vincelongman

Posts: 5677; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

I use 64 kbps HE AAC since my Nexus 5 is 16GB The audio quality loss is actually very small Its actually basically not noticeable on my Nexus 5 since it uses the 800's DAC which isn't as high end as in the M9, S6 or iPhone 6

15. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

You just need 80$ senheiser headset and a good mobile amp or a good phone for music like the M9. On an iphone or most others phones you wont really see the difference i agree you need good equipement.

14. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Using 80$ senheiser headphone on the HTC M9 i can easily spot the difference between loseless and lossy music. But yeah when you use a cheap iphone or samsung phone you have a cheap mobile amp and end up with crappy sound quality. But there is hope there is portative mobile amp thats you can take with you i had one when i was using the Sony Z1 and its was making the music sound much better.

3. hound.master

Posts: 1044; Member since: Feb 27, 2015

I don't think if the mono speaker of iPhone 6 plus have higher quality than a stereo one so is there no phablet with dual speaker or it's because it's iPhone?

16. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Nexus 6 has dual speaker.

5. mixedfish

Posts: 1552; Member since: Nov 17, 2013

"Sony MDR-7506 headset ...and an iPhone 6 Plus," The test already failed before it even began. The MDR-7506 is a high impedance monitoring headphone that's designed to crush music transparency and together with a phone incapable of driving such headphone properly, you've just gimped the chances of anyone picking up the differences. But then again, this is The Verge we're talking about.

7. hafini_27

Posts: 949; Member since: Oct 31, 2013

The Verge is Apple favouritism. Should have chosen something like the Meizu MX4 pro or Z4

8. Awalker

Posts: 1973; Member since: Aug 15, 2013

It's the kind of setup most people would have - an iPhone with a midrange headset. I personally use a Moto X 2014 with a pair of $50 bluetooth earbuds. I have no problem with the sound.

11. avalon2105

Posts: 352; Member since: Jul 12, 2014

The issue isn't headphones being mid range. Problem is that they are using high impedance ones that require high voltage to drive properly. If they have used regular earbuds that come with the phone results would be different. That being said, the results still seem like BS to me. I did similar test with some of my friends. They played the same song on my phone in mp3 and flac and I was able to recognize which one was playing 9 times out of 10. I used LG G2 and Sony MDR-V55 which is my usual listening setup.

17. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Been using a 80$ senheiser headset with my M9 and i can spot the difference between losseless and lossy music. Those headphone are so good they beter than 300$ beat crap as well.

6. Beats118

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 08, 2015

Hey, you can listen to Beats1 for free without having a Computer with iTunes 12 on it or an iOS Device with iOS version 8.4 on it: Please all share this link so everybody can listen to it. Beats1 is for everybody, and that's how it should be. Thx!

9. Jonahsdad

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 08, 2015

If you care enough about sound quality to buy better equipment, you should care enough to feed it better material. With better equipment, there is a clear difference between CD quality and better quality AAC or Ogg Vorbis or MP3. In other words, if you don't care, you won't care.

13. yoosufmuneer

Posts: 1518; Member since: Feb 14, 2015

Very Confusing, Who is #1,#2 and #3?

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