Sierra Nevada
Audiophile Society

Our next meeting will be at the home of Patrick Buckingham in Fair Oaks at 1pm on Saturday August 12th. Members can log in for more detail. 

Sierra Nevada Audiophile Society provides support to Capital Public Radio-quality music for Northern California at 88.9 FM Sacramento, 91.7 FM Groveland/Sonora and 88.7 FM Sutter/Yuba City.

My first exposure to a music streaming service was MOG and I loved it. The library was huge and I discovered lots of new music as well as countless old favorites. The UI was simple and I could easily find what I wanted. However, it was compressed music so the sound was not as good as either a CD or music played via JRiver. Therefore, when I discovered something I really liked I would buy the CD. MOG was then bought out by Beats, the headphone company who, in turn, were acquired by iTunes. They changed MOG quite a bit, the UI was less user friendly, they used the "push" music method similar to Pandora which meant that I could not play a full album. As a result I moved to Spotify, very similar to MOG and for the same price i.e. $9.99 per month. I was happy again. I did have to rebuild my playlists but that wasn't a bad thing because it allowed me to clean them up e.g. get rid of a lot of stuff I didn't listen to. Again, if I found something exceptional I would buy the CD although this was getting rarer and rarer.

Thru all of this time I read about Lossless Streaming from several places, the most popular being Qobuz and Wimp. Qobuz is a French operation and Wimp originated in Norway. Neither were available in the US although both were promising to open shop here soon. Thru a little technical magic I could have subscribed to either (it would have meant providing a false IP address and paying in Euros) but I decided to wait and continued to use Spotify. By this time my listening habits had swung to 90% digital and 10% analog. Of the digital, 75% of that was via Spotify with the rest being JRiver.

A few months ago Qobuz announced a digital lossless download capability as a precursor to them providing streaming. I didn't go there for various reasons. Not long after, they announced that they were filing for bankruptcy and would reorganize, not a good sign for the streaming business. I'm not sure where they are at now with their streaming capability in the US.
Then TIDAL Hi Fi was announced. It's Wimp but for obvious reasons they rebranded when they launched here and in the UK. It's $19.99 per month but I jumped straight in after my 7 day free trial. Again I had to rebuild playlists but again that wasn't a bad thing because I cleared out a ton of stuff I no longer listened to. As an aside, TIDAL do offer a Spotify to TIDAL conversion tool which will rebuild your playlists in their system.

I have now been using TIDAL for about 3 months and I love it. There are 3 ways I can stream from their service. The first is via an Apple Airport Express using my iPad or iPhone as a remote, the second is via a desktop app on my laptop and the third is using their web site via Google. All 3 are very easy to use. I eventually settled on the Google method for several reasons. I got a lot of dropouts using the Airport Express which I put down to my wireless network because there is no such problem from my Laptop although it too is wireless. I read a few reviews of the service and in one it stated that the desktop app is not lossless i.e. it is compressed wheras the Google player is lossless. I couldn't hear a difference but I still went with Google. I do have an app (Jump Desktop) on my iPad which i can use to control the player so i do have a remote, sort of.
As to quality, I think that it's as good as playing a regular CD thru JRiver so I'm no longer buying CD's. Their library is enormous, 24 million tracks and growing daily. They also have music DVD's which can be streamed but I haven't tried this yet. They do create a lot of plalylists which you can use for various reasone e.g. they have several Christmas playlists which were useful during the holidays.

My listening habits are now something like 95% digital and 5% vinyl. Of the digital, it's mainly TIDAL although I do have a few high res files on JRiver which i will occasionally play. I have built several playlists although I have one which is over 10 hours long and growing. I build this playlist by regularly adding tracks from albums I find thru various means. I play it on shuffle and I can then sit back and listen for hours.

Overall I'm a happy camper. I probably spend 10-15 hours a week listening to TIDAL streaming and rarely have an issue, and, if I do it's usually something to do with my end e.g. my network. Is it worth $19.99 a month? It certainly is for me. Am I concerned that they might go away because of lack of demand? Sure, but something will replace it and I have already been thru two transitions (MOG to Spotify to TIDAL). Do I think owning the CD is important? Not any more. My personal opinion is that the quality of streaming will get better as wider bandwidths find themselves into more homes. Pretty soon I expect Hi Rez to be available for a price. However, I am not convinced that the general populations will move to lossless despite the best efforts of the likes of PONO. I think MP3, lossy or whatever you want to call it will dominate the listening market for a long time to come. Why? Because most people listen to music and not equipment. I appreciate that there is a contradiction here i.e. the quality of streaming will get better but most demand will be fulfilled via a compressed source. I don't have an answer to that contradiction other than to say that I am still a happy camper listening to a Roy Orbison track from the 60's ot the latest release from Shelby Lynne.