Tag Archives: tidal

Listening Report: 1975 Bill Evans Trio Concert, On A Friday Evening, 180-Gram Vinyl, Qobuz / Tidal Streams

There is often a great divide between “audiophiles” and “fans” when it comes to archival releases. The former want their music to sound as good as possible with the performance often being only of secondary importance while the latter appreciate the full performances delivered in any format possible, warts ’n all…

I really first came to understand this notion back in my days as active Dead Head and collector of their live concerts. It was always a joy to get new shows but when you got a tape of a great performance that also sounded amazing, well that was the heavenly crossroads everyone dreamed about.  

In recent years there have been some wonderful archival releases issued as producers and archival sleuths like Zev Feldman dig deep into the recesses  of private collections and other previously unknown or long-rumored archival treasures which have presented themselves to the universe. 

I’ve reviewed a number of them by no less than Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and Bill Evans. To read some of those reviews, click on the artists names to jump to the reviews I’ve done over the years.

Regarding the last name on that list, there happily seems to be a well spring of great recordings surfacing of late. Last year I wrote about the fabulous and rare 1968 set from Ronnie Scott’s club in London (click here for that) and there have been numerous others over the years.  In May, my associate Ken Micallef wrote about the new Bill Evans CD boxed set — Everybody Still Digs Bill Evans: A Career Retrospective (1956-1980) — which includes a 1975 live set of very high quality.  You can click here to read Ken’s review of the set but in short I concur with his perspective on the recording and performance. 

The good folks at Craft Recordings kindly sent me the new two-LP 180-gram vinyl version of that concert — recorded at Oil Can Harry’s in Vancouver, B.C. — which has been released separately, titled On A Friday Evening.  It is a wonderful recording which sounds to my ear like it was professionally engineered through a mixing board and onto analog tape (this was years before digital tape, folks). I can tell its not an audience recording because there is stereo panning on Evans’ piano apparent at times.  

However, part of the reason On A Friday Evening sounds as good as it does is because of a restoration step the producers wisely used from Plangent Processes.  This is a terrific technology and service that has been used by no less than Bruce Springsteen, The Grateful Dead and many others to correct issues — often significant issues — with the original tape due to motor speed fluctuations in the original recording, electrical variances (which can, again, affect motor speed) and other anomalies inherent to the tape and specific machines on which it was recorded. 

The result is a very tight sounding and in-tune recording that effectively brings the listener that much closer to what the original performance sounded like.  I have written about Plangent Processes before but if you want a fairly technical dive into it click here to read an article our former Editor Steven Stone wrote several years ago.

Kudos to Jamie Howarth at Plangent Processes for his work and to mastering engineer Paul Blakemore who clearly did an exemplary job on this nearly 50 year old recording. 

The whole set here is excellent but I particularly like “Saren Jurer,” “T.T.T. (Twelve Tone Tune)” and Miles Davis’ “Nardis” (Eddie Gomez’ bowed bass solo is wonderful!)

The 180-gram vinyl pressing made at RTI is dark, well centered and quiet, so no problems on that front either.

If you don’t have a turntable but are into the high resolution streaming experience and have both a DAC plus certain subscriptions, you can find On A Friday Evening streaming on Tidal in MQA format and on Qobuz Hi Res (both stream at 192 kHz, 24-bits). The music sounds exemplary there and very warm as digital streams go (click here to jump to it on Tidal and here for Qobuz).  

Both the streams and vinyl versions have their pluses and minuses so I’m not going to rank one over the other. But for a couple quick examples, on the streams the stereo separation seemed more distinct to where it becomes very apparent that Evans’ piano was likely mic’d in Stereo, allowing you to hear the pan of his playing across the keyboard (left to right across your speakers). However, I preferred how the drums sounded on the vinyl version, particularly how the cymbals decayed.  So, not surprisingly there is a give and take on different platforms and services. Use your ears and go with what ultimately feels best to you. 

All that said, On A Friday Evening  should be high on your must get list if you are fan of Evans’ music or if you are simply an audiophile seeking high quality live recordings to show off your system.  This one is a keeper. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Trying To Decide on a Streaming Service

I suppose, technically, streaming might be traced back as far as 1999 when the service Napster first arrived as a peer-to-peer service. History recalls Napster almost immediately being consumed in legal troubles over copyright infringement. Shortly after their inception, they were forced to suspend their services and were ultimately acquired by Rhapsody – although the service is now called Napster. Streaming hardly stopped there, however. 

It might be at least partially true that young kids with earbuds helped make streaming what it is today. With services like Pandora and Spotify, services who grew exponentially at the hands of mostly younger-ish, non-audiophile listeners, streaming became firmly entrenched as a means to listen to a song. 

Audiophiles, however, in the early days remained circumspect. We still used physical media. Then came Tidal

Now, suddenly, we had a way to stream a CD quality song from the Internet. We marveled at the availability of, what, an entire world of music right at our fingertips. Perhaps best of all, we could enjoy all this music each month for the cost of a standard CD purchased at a music store. As Tidal gained popularity, audiophiles signed on in droves. Suffice it to say today, streaming is the predominate method audiophiles employ for digital music. 

Tidal, for a while anyway, was about the only choice. While CD quality, presumably at a bitrate of 1411 kbps and the familiar 44.1 / 16, was initially offered, Tidal soon enough teamed up with the highly controversial format called MQA

Not long after Tidal and MQA partnered, the audiophile world suddenly heard about a new game, one from France called Qobuz. For US based audiophiles, we heard how marvelous this new European service was and our big question was simple – when would it find its way to the US?

From day one, the very instant Qobuz hit US shores, it made an impact in the choices audiophiles made for streaming services. And here is where it gets really fun, Qobuz has actual high-resolution music, all the way up to 192 / 24 or 9216 kbps. And Tidal? Remember MQA? Audiophiles suddenly had two platforms about which they could disagree. 

For my purposes, I signed on to Tidal at some point before the availability of Qobuz in the US. Here’s the rub, however – I am not especially a fan of streaming. I prefer a physical CD copied to my server. Why? Simple. On my system it sounds better than streaming. Noticeably better. Dramatically better. And to a point, I like owning my music. For whatever that’s worth these days. 

I was very content to continue to buy CDs, copy and enjoy them. I used Tidal for really one purpose, discovering new music I could then purchase. Peripherally, I could also play a song I did not have in my library if a visitor was in the audio room and made a specific request. 

I started thinking about streaming recently because of something I usually don’t even notice – the cost of Tidal. I have seen the monthly $19.99 charge to my account for who knows how long. It is just something to which I typically pay very little attention. When the July charge showed up in my financial information, I became curious about what the other services offered and their associated fees. I decided to start looking at alternatives. 

While I realize Amazon and now even Spotify offer higher than 320 kbps bitrates (Amazon even offers HD), I never really considered using either of them, or the other similar services. There’s also compatibility with my equipment issues. For my purposes, the decision was singular – Tidal or Qobuz?

For most listeners who plan to use streaming as their predominate way to play a song, having a variety of packages makes sense. Want to download music? Qobuz fully supports downloads. Tidal does as well but my sense is they are a little less convenient in the effort. 

Considering cost, Qobuz has multiple packages where Tidal has two main offerings – less than CD quality and CD Quality. As previously mentioned, Qobuz offers hi-rez up to 192 / 24 and Tidal has MQA. 

I’m not one to place a huge emphasis on two music plans that have, at their lowest common denominator, a difference of about $5.00 but that’s pretty much the bottom line. A monthly basic cost for Qobuz is $14.99 per month. That can be brought down to $12.49 if you pay yearly. Tidal is steadfastly $19.99 per month for CD quality. Qobuz offers other packages at higher yearly costs with increased features. Tidal has two plans however, they do have videos for those interested in a video aspect. Personally, I’m only concerned about music. 

So far, I see both services as pretty much even. Here is where we reach the fork in the road – deciding on a format. 

There are those who will champion MQA. They feel it is a superior format in every way, at least as compared to standard CD quality. I’m sorry but I’m not one of those believers. I have heard music played in MQA that sounded amazing. I’ve heard MQA sound okay, nothing to get really excited about. I’ve heard MQA sound positively dreadful. 

I can also say the exact same thing about CD quality and high-resolution quality. Face it, some recordings sound better than others regardless of the format. I said the exact same thing in the 1970’s when I first started buying albums. My guess is recording quality will always be variable. 

Because, however, I have always been leery of MQA, I decided full-fledged, if there is such a thing, high resolution recordings are a better mousetrap. So, the scales tip towards Qobuz. However, my DAC is not MQA capable so I’m not getting “Master Quality Authenticated” anyway. Theoretically, at best I’ll get 192 / 24 from Tidal but my guess is most often it will be at 96 / 24. Either way, still better than Red Book CD. 

As it stands, I am still riding the fence. I have subscribed to Qobuz and like Tidal, more or less struggle with making the app work seamlessly. Chalk that up to inexperience. It is also fair to say that manifestly, this has only succeeded in me spending an extra $15.00 per month with a not as yet declarative outcome. Here again, that is not a concern to me. 

What is a concern is sonic quality. While I find Tidal and Qobuz to be mostly equal in that regard (my opinion varies), here again, neither of them measures up to a CD copied to my server. Basically, I am right back where I started, just fifteen bucks a month poorer. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

Audiovector, Thrax, Frank Schröder, Tom Evans, Antipodes, Weiss Engineering, Hemingway Audio | T.H.E. SHOW 2021

After hearing Dave McNair rave about the Audiovector (website) loudspeakers (Dave’s review here), I knew a stop by their room was mandatory. Another dark room and a difficult photo-taking environment greeted me. A glorious sound [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Innuos Zen Mini Mk.3 Music Server with LPSU Power Supply | REVIEW

Do I really need a music server like the Innuos Zen Mini Mk. 3 at this point in my life? I’m still pretty old school when it comes to physical media. I have large CD and LP collections, and I’ve envisioned keeping them until the day I die—at least the LPs, anyway. The CD collection is starting to lose its charm because it has doubled or even tripled in size over the last few years thanks to my chores as a jazz reviewer. They’re all over the place. There is something incredibly appealing about putting my entire collection of digital music on a hard drive and accessing everything through an app on my iPhone. I think about it all the time, in fact. It goes back to my days as an import and distributor, when I’d see other exhibitors running the entire show from a seat in a corner in the back of the room. I was always the guy who had to float near the front of the room, next to the system and yet somehow out of the sound field to avoid distraction, swapping out CDs and LPs after nearly every track. No wonder my feet hurt so [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Spotify Hifi lossless streaming announced by Billie Eilish & Finneas

Spotify announced earlier today its new audiophile streaming tier that will be available in select markets later this year. Joining the ranks of streaming services like TIDAL and Qobuz, which pioneered hi-res streaming, and the more recent late comer Amazon Music HD. I’m going to go ahead and claim this as the biggest news in hi-fi for 2021. Yeah, I know. Mainstream acceptance, always late to the game. But with welcoming arms, we’re ready to embrace the new blood. Currently Spotify Hifi no pricing has been released for the “music in CD-quality lossless audio format” streaming tier. A far cry up from the current 320kbps. I’m going to turn it over to Billie and Finneas to explain the benefits of Spotify Hifi (and hi-fi stereo systems) as it concerns the artists’ intent for presenting the music the way it was meant to be heard.

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

High Resolution Streaming McCartney III on Qobuz and Tidal

Initially I wasn’t entirely sure about how to approach reviewing Sir Paul McCartney’s new album. But I realized recently that I had a little something to perhaps offer to my friends out there in music appreciation land: perspective

This was prompted by watching an interview with McCartney the other night on a popular talkshow.  Somewhat bemused, I got the sense that the host was unfamiliar with some of the artist’s history even though he did seem to try to come across as being a serious fan (of which I’m sure he is, no disrespect).

I’ve been a fan of Paul McCartney’s music for almost literally my entire life — one of the three earliest memories I have is The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, when I was maybe 3 years old!  So, there are fanboy details which I take for granted and assume everyone just knows. 

Clearly, many people don’t! It has indeed been interesting watching people’s comments on social media. I read one post by someone who was genuinely surprised to learn that McCartney could play all his own instruments… 

So before I get to the new album I’ll mention some things about his old albums which form a loose trilogy of sorts when taken together. For example, one underlying function of McCartney’s first solo album (simply titled McCartney) was to begin to blaze a path away from the universe of The Beatles. It was a bold statement at the time which even shocked some fans. 

There, McCartney showed the world that he could do pretty much everything from playing the drums and lead guitars to all the vocals and even the production. And he did it with fairly bare-bones equipment – – well, bare bones by Beatle standards!  Basic tracks for much of that album were made without a mixing board, he just plugged his microphones right into the back of a Studer four-track multi-track recorder. An unconventional approach for sure, but at the end of the day it accomplished his goal. And while there were some inevitable Beatle-worthy cuts — notably the brilliant instant classic “Maybe I’m Amazed” — much of the album didn’t sound like Beatle Paul McCartney.

Perspective may help the unfamiliar with understanding the shock of that album. Consider that it came out right after The Beatles’ pinnacle that was Abbey Road — still considered to this day by many as one of the best produced albums ever — and right before the super glossy Phil Spector over-produced version of Let It Be. Basically Paul McCartney created the D.I.Y. indie rock album on that first solo album in 1970. It was panned at the time by many critics, but it still became a big hit (#1 US, #2 UK)

Ten years later he put out his McCartney II album which again came at a point where he needed to rethink and reinvent himself, especially after his second band (Wings) had run its course.

While there were some classic Macca melodies — such as the beautiful song “Waterfalls,” the big hit “Coming Up” and the still fresh computer-vibe of “Temporary Secretary” — in general the album didn’t sound like anything that Paul had done in the past. And, yet it somehow fit in and felt right for the times.  Despite negative reviews it did make it to #3 on the charts at one point (for five weeks according to the wiki!)

Fast forward to the end of 2020 and the release of McCartney III, it makes sense that Sir Paul might want to do another album like this especially given the circumstances with the current pandemic. I mean, why not?! He had the time, the songs and recording studio at his fingertips.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on a vinyl copy of it yet but I have been listening to McCartney III on two of the high resolution streaming music services at 96 kHz and 24 bit resolution. It is sounding pretty great all things considered as modern Paul McCartney records go — don’t expect to feel a lot of rich analog warmth to it but that doesn’t make it any less listenable… its just a different texture.

In keeping with the tradition of its predecessors, parts of McCartney III sounds like he is working on reinventing himself. Parts of it sound like things he’s been doing on recent albums like Egypt Station.

To that, Sir Paul has been reinventing himself over his last several albums made with his band and other producers. His album called New was a lot of fun and it boasted some different textures and production styles. I reviewed it when it came out and later when it was reissued (click here). I also reviewed his last album Egypt Station  twice, once for the CD (click here) and later when the vinyl became available (click here).  And if you haven’t heard his collaborations with producer Youth as The Fireman (a project which started in the ‘90s), you might be in for some surprises.  

The point is, Macca has always been pushing his musical envelope and reinventing himself!

If you haven’t heard those more recent McCartney albums you should listen as it will put McCartney III into some perspective and continuum. Either way at the end of the day it’s great that we have a new Paul McCartney album to enjoy as we wrap up this quite awful year.

Some of my favorite tracks thus far include the Beatles-meets-Bowie “Seize The Day” with its lovely mashup of descending chord ideas and Mick Ronson-flavored glam guitar hook ala Macca’s “Hello Goodbye” as well as Bowie’s “Oh You Pretty Things”’ and “All The Young Dudes.”  The opening and closing numbers which book end in the album revolve around a quirky King Crimson-esque acoustic guitar riff. I like the nearly nine minute long excursion that is “Deep Deep Feeling.” 

There are some good rockers that will be cool to hear once Paul can play out again with his great band.  Current McCartney band members Abe Laboriel Jr. and Rusty Anderson add slammin’ drums and rawk guitar (respectively) on “Slidin’.

“Lavatory Lil” is a surprisingly fun one too! 

“Kiss of Venus” is a nice acoustic folk piece which starts off with a finger-picked acoustic guitar figure that reminds me of the kind of back porch blues Hot Tuna’s Jorma Kaukonen lives and breathes, yet he mixes it up with a nifty Harpsichord solo toward the end.  

The album’s initial single “Find My Way” is catchy fun too (again with Harpsichord!)

I have been listening to versions of McCartney III on Tidal (click here) and Qobuz (click here).  Both are streaming at 96 kHz, 24-bit resolution and both sound about the same. As modern (likely) digital recordings go, especially one that was self produced during a pandemic lockdown, this sounds really quite good. But the album is a bit raw, a warts ’n all scenario and that is one of the hallmarks of these Macca solo albums.  It is what it is. 

You can get McCartney III on vinyl, CD, cassette, and even in a special CD songbook package. And of course there are innumerable colored vinyl variants, all of which seem to have sold out so I won’t even bother you with that stuff here. I’ll be sure to do an update for this review as soon as I get my hands on a physical version of McCartney III. But for now, if you like Paul McCartney’s music you’ll probably want to make some time to listen to this new one.

McCartney III is a nice way to end the year. 

Original Resource is Audiophile Review

TIDAL for BUGATTI | Announcements

COLOGNE, GERMANY (PTA) — The comparison made between these two brands has existed among the high-end audio press for some time now. Potentially it was myself who first published the linking of these two brands in an analogous metaphor back in 2018 (here). Bugatti became the first supercar manufacturer to break the 300mph barrier when a modified version of their Chiron (hypercar) set a track record of 305mph. Likewise, TIDAL Audio has been designing and manufacturing ultra-high-end masterpieces, and in similar fashion to Bugatti — chasing the dragon, and perfection. Press Release Below TIDAL for BUGATTI More than two decades after founding TIDAL-Audio in the year 1999 we start herewith a new chapter in our successful journey. We are proud to share our newly established partnership with one of the most prestigious brands in the luxury and technology segment in the market – worldwide famous for performance and exclusivity in its own stratospheric heights: BUGATTI. Both companies are united in a shared philosophy – to strive for perfection without limits in order to perform with exceptional effort and uncompromising spirit. This cooperation and project are a significant quantum step up from everything we have built before, designed to establish in [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Product of The Year | 2020

Product of The Year 2020 Publisher’s Note: Someone told me that hanging a Product of the Year 2020 ribbon would be odd. Maybe this year was not the year to do “congratulations”, and any award, other than “Congrats, we made it” (to those of us that actually did make it), would be out of place. I hear that. To a very large extent, I completely agree–to say that “this year was not a typical year” will probably end up in some dictionary under the heading “blithe understatement”. This was a year that started with a bang followed by a long whimper. We lost so much, and the hits just kept coming. And yet. And yet, with that said, some remarkable things still happened. Like these products, collected here. Acknowledging them seems like the least we could do. It also feels a bit weird to say that 2020 was, in spite of it all, a banner year at Part-Time Audiophile. We have new writers, a new editorial structure, and perhaps surprising given that for most of the year the world was on fire during a time of plague–and that was just the election season–we saw our readership and reach expand explosively. To all of [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Bowers and Wilkins Formation Duo Loudspeakers | Review

The availability of streaming devices is endless, offering convenience and friction-free listening. We have become accustomed to a quick tap or voice command and the tunes start flowing. Although I am blessed with an incredible reference listening setup, it’s complicated. A mass of components, platforms, and cables working together to create a symphony. I’ve been on the hunt to find something simpler. Something that I could recommend to friends and family who are looking to build a small engaging setup that is available at a fraction of the cost of my reference room.  When Bowers & Wilkins announced the Formation Duo Bookshelf system (website) taking cues from the 705 D2 and 805 D3 series, it got my attention. B&W Formation Duo Series The Formation Series was the first major project after B&W was purchased by Eva Automation in 2016. As they embarked on the B&W Formation series, the Eva team focused on the wireless voodoo and the B&W crew in the UK focused on the speaker design. Crushing Wireless Latency The Formation Series products are completely wireless. No cables required outside of a power cable. When Eva got started on the development, the best wireless technology they could find was hindered by [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

AvidPlay App Adds DIY Dolby Atmos Music Distribution

Artists can post tracks in Dolby Atmos format to streaming services Amazon Music and Tidal using the AvidPlay distribution platform.
Artists can post tracks in Dolby Atmos format to streaming services Amazon Music and Tidal using the AvidPlay distribution platform.

Burlington, MA (July 29, 2020)—Avid and Dolby Laboratories have partnered to enable independent artists, producers and record labels to self-distribute their music in the immersive Dolby Atmos format to streaming services Amazon Music and Tidal using the AvidPlay distribution platform.

To get started, artists and labels can subscribe to an AvidPlay distribution plan that matches their needs through the free AvidLink app for mobile or desktop, and then upload their completed Dolby Atmos Music tracks and artwork. Subscribers then create songs and albums using any compatible Dolby Atmos-enabled digital audio workstation (DAW), including Avid Pro Tools, and upload their music to the AvidPlay dashboard to manage their tracks and albums and monitor their earnings.

AvidPlay is a DIY music distribution service designed to assist artists and labels in expanding their opportunities and getting discovered. The Avid Link app, which has more than 775,000 users, enables community members to connect with other artists, producers, mixers, composers, editors, videographers, and moviemakers.

Reason Rack Comes to Pro Tools

AvidPlay provides a new opportunity for independent labels to support artists interested in creating new music or reimagining existing stereo tracks in Dolby Atmos, using Dolby’s set of Dolby Atmos creative tools already on the market.

“Dolby Atmos has changed how we think about music and it allows us to create things that were previously not possible. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard,” says Arno Kammermeier, co-founder of the Berlin-based electronic duo Booka Shade. “And most importantly, with AvidPlay, we can now share this elevated experience with our fans. It’s mind-blowing and the ultimate way to experience our music.”

Avid • www.avid.com

Dolby Laboratories • www.dolby.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

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