How much does audio quality matter to you with your headphone music?

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I got Tidal because I was sick of not having Jay Z in my streaming libraries. Then I decided to test out the $20/mo for hifi/master to see if I can appreciate the difference.

I don’t know if either my ears or my headphones are capable of picking up the difference in quality, but I’ll continue to experiment with it.

I have the Bose QCII which are bluetooth (e.g. compression) so it's unclear to me whether I'm even benefitting from less compression in the streaming, but I got mixed answers when I researched this.


Do you go for highest quality with your hardware/software and if so, am I thinking about things the right way?

Opened ended chat about anything related to this is welcome and appreciated.

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As someone that is a musician and has tried mixing multi-track recordings, I feel like the energy of a song is 10x more important than clarity in most instances. The art of music is very subjective. You can spend as much as you want on music equipment but with decreasing ROI imho. Most adults can’t hear above 16k in the audio spectrum. So you can have speakers or headphones with extreme dynamic range but will you actually hear the upper harmonics of a hi-hat? Not to play down clarity (I remember the days of 22 kbps mp3s 😞) but I tend to value music that evokes emotion rather than music that is technically pristine. CD quality playback at 44k is a great middle ground for me.


I have Spotify Premium which has a Very High streaming quality setting and I can't tell the difference. Unless you have really good headphones that can actually produce bass frequencies, I don't think you can determine the difference between good and bad sound.


It's usually the very high frequencies that suffer with low sample rates, not the low (bass) frequencies. Same principles apply though, you need pretty decent headphones to notice.


I agree. Could never tell the difference when using tidal


Well at this moment I have both: Spotify and Tidal and I can assure you that quality is needed in music streaming, Spotify needs to release a FLAC version yer o yes.

Then in my personal preference I love a lot the Quality sound from Tidal because I have cleansed my audition and I can know when an audio has bad quality.

But there are 2 problems with Tidal over Spotify:

1.- The audio quality depends of the hardware. I code in two different PC's (work and personal), In my Personal PC I have a good audio chipset and I can get the great quality from Tidal, but in my work and can't hear the quality that I get in my home, so the quality depends from the HW.

2.- The music library from Spotify defeats Tidal. I usually consume a lot of gaming OST and Spotify have a lot of soundtracks that other services doesn't have.

In conclusion: Depends from Hardware and content, but I can assure you the quality from Tidal is superb.

PS: I listen music with a HyperX Cloud 2 (A little older)


Spotify is enough for me. I feel like if you're not using noise cancelling wired headphones there will always be noise and often background sound that negates the perfect audio quality that Tidal claims... Hardly noticable imperfections with Spotify are tolerable for me. Just a personal preference tho


I listen on noise cancelling wireless headphones. They do signal processing by design, so even if I was listening to super high quality audio, I wouldn't get close to the original recording.

I have Spotify premium because it's ad free. I can't make out a difference in quality.

This guy has a very nice comparison between services and paid tiers:

(Edit: oh god the typos)


Until you've listened to High-Quality music, you won't know what you're missing. And when you realise what you're missing, you'll also realise it's hard to hear everything you want in high-quality.

I find if I am listening to music, I want high-quality, good headphones and a good source. But if I'm working or using music as background noise, as long as it doesn't sound awful I'm fine.


I used to be big on FLAC but I got older and my ears tell me there's no difference.
Any music I buy is on Bandcamp where I get it in 320kbit, but I really appreciate that they have lossless options. For futureproofing and programmer reasons!


I have noise-canceling headphones and in my office, you REALLY need them (especially with a guy who is in your ear behind you coughing loudly, and complaining about how a piece of software doesn't work (mainly Microsoft Office)).

In the morning, I usually listen to some comedy show, and then usually listen to Yacht Rock or ChillHop on SiriusXM


"Some people have sound systems to listen to their music. Other have music to listen to their sound systems."

I'm a Spotify fan. I have premium, it works and I'm happy, good enough. I'm auditory and appreciate good sound, so I'll spend a little more on equipment, but can't say it's a huge issue.

Question: Anyone using YouTube music? Thoughts on it??


Google's Music service, when you select the high-quality option, is a data-gobbler, that's for sure. When I was still using it, I'd go through a several GiB/month on my cellular data-plan ...and I was only commuting 10mi each way and only commuting 2-3 days/week. That said, the streaming was via BT from my phone to my car's head-unit, so, the end result wasn't appreciably different than SoundCloud (especially compared to direct-streaming through my pre-amp → power-amp → speakers setup).


I have the Bose Soundlink Around-Ear Headphones II, and I definitely understand the feeling about sacrificing quality because of compression over BlueTooth and other factors … but I can hear the boards of the stage creak when members of the Punch Brothers are shifting their weight while they play. That doesn't happen in the car, with ear buds, or the super old Beats by Dr. Dre I had until they disintegrated (I loved those things, but they're obviously not for refined audiophiles).

In other words, I quit worrying about it so much. I stream at the highest quality available through my streaming service, and I'm happy with all the things I can notice in this headset that only came through in the audio gear I had in the Army.

Also, know you aren't alone! There was constant back and forth about the quality of signal in our bands' rigs, wireless vs wired, analog vs digital, etc. At the end of the day, the thing that really mattered is the energy coming from the stage. It's not the same argument (live music vs a closed environment around your face 🤣), but I think it's related enough.


I think a good digital to analog Dak converter is important. I have good wired headphones but I picked them after trying several. Sound is subjective and recordings make a big difference. Search for audiophile albums/songs to find music for trying different setups. Good luck.


I use an Apple AirPods Pro, the noise canceling is really awesome. Even if you use high quality streaming services, you won't be able to listen to it clearly if you were in noisy places. That point, head phones matter most.


Sometimes I wonder if my hearing sucks because of this question. Someone will give me their headphones and be all "check out the quality on these!". To me it just sounds like more bass?

I can't hear the small difference in quality.


I was a musician before I was a coder and continue to play music and record today. Jazz, blues, metal, etc. I played guitar, bass, drums, and other instruments. I also have exceptionally good hearing and can hear a wide range on the frequency spectrum. If the headphones basically aren't studio quality then I'd rather just listen to whatever noise there is around me.

TLDR; Real important.


I love my music, I always want the best sound quality but also for the best price. I like Sony headphones, the bass is perfect and it sounds great. I have a pair of wired headphones for work and a pair of wireless earpods for sport and other stuff. One thing I have noticed is that with Bluetooth, my connection sometimes cuts for a split second or has some static, that just annoys me so I prefer wired headphones/earpods.


If I can, I keep my music backup files in FLAC or the highest quality available. I use Air Pod Pros and Spotify and I think noise cancelling is better overall for an experience, I'm not willing to lug around more hardware for slight jump in quality.


There's a noticeable difference when using Spotify. I used 7digital back in the day to be able to get high-quality FLAC and high-quality MP3s because the Sennheiser headphones I have are really good and it's noticeable when you've increased the volume to drown out the background noise in a busy open office layout.

I think it mainly depends on the music you listen to, if it's just to get through a noisy day at the office, the medium/normal quality MP3s are good enough. If you want an adventure in psychedelic sounds, go for high quality MP3s and/or FLAC.


I buy the in-ear Panasonic buds for $10 a pair, and it is isolating enough that I don't find myself wanting to spend any extra money for anything nicer. Also, for the price-point, the audio quality can't be beat.


I use Apple Music, but mostly listen to podcasts.

I have poor hearing in general, so bad audio does not bug me as long as I can understand it. I also rarely get to zone eveything out.

When gaming at home, I use a nice Steel Series Arcits 5 / 7 (depending on what room) but I rarely get to put more than one ear on, since I have to listen for wife and kids.

At work, walking, when at the store, I use the new Apple AirPods pro. It’s nice. But I don’t know I would appreciate any better quality audio.



At the office, I use Sony XM3, they are okay, but nothing really fancy. Just – fine headphones for a decent price. I use Spotify or Qobuz as a source.

At home, there's a different talk. I listen to high quality sources (think 24bit music) and spent couple of months trying different pairs of headphones. So I got Focal Elegia, a DAC and a preamp for them. And I have to admit – there is a huge difference. I even have these stupid situations when I listen to something at home and loving it, and then listening to the same thing with a different hardware and it's all like "why is this so boring?" :D


It's all subjective. When buying headphones at a certain range, there is no "better" or "worse" models, there are just the ones that suits you.


I have Spotify and Pandora free tiers and some sub $100 Sony bluetooth over-ears. The quality doesn't bother me, and I'll tell you why. I'm listening to music for isolation and motivation while I'm doing more mentally intensive things. If you have the ability to focus on your music enough to be upset about the quality all while writing professional grade code then good for you, but I doubt anyone is paying that close attention. The important things are that the headphones are comfortable and noise cancelling, and whether the streaming has commercials and an adequate selection of what you want to listen to.


I think it depends on the amount of ear training you have. I tend to do a lot tinkering with audio/music from playing guitar to transcribing music as a hobby. Poor sounding headphones and audio quality really really bugs me unless it's intentional.


Also tends to depend on when shit was mastered. Since the rise of the iPod and, especially, autotune, mastering-quality has generally suffered.


For me I have studio quality reference headphones that can translate frequencies from 5Hz to 20,000kHz and use the highest quality streaming or 24-bit (or at least 16-bit) WAV files to listen to.

If you have high quality audio then it's worth getting high quality headphones for detail, however if you only listen to 320kbps mp3s, then there's no point having the high quality as the detail won't be in the recording.

Also if you can't tell the difference, and a lot of people can't, then go for the cheaper option!


God no. I am not an audiophile, by any stretch of the imagination.

I've got the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, only because they shut out everyone/everything and I can be in my own bubble.


the XM3s are straight from heaven. I wish I could keep them on without having things playing sometimes.


Full Disclosure: I have sat with headphones and an intense look on my face while there was nothing playing. It did cut down on distractions. :-O

Basic shooting-range/construction-site earmuffs are a cheap alternative for that use-case (plus, you can bring them to "no PEDs" work-sites).


As someone who collects headphones and has a Spotify and Apple Music subscription (I listen to a lot of music daily) I can tell the difference in quality. It really depends on the cans and your preference in music.

My AKG k240 headphones are cheap and sound as such. I also have the Audio Technica M50s, the Audio Technica ATHMSR7BK (what the f kind of name is that?), and just recently bought the beyerdynamic DT 990s, all of which sound markedly different from one another.

I'm not an audiophile. Far from it. But I like music and like to hear different parts of a song I would have never caught without decent headphones. YMMV


Spotify is sufficient for me. Since I'm going back to school, I have the student plan that gives me Hulu as well. As far as the audio goes, I can't tell the difference. I'm definitely not an audiophile and I don't pay that much attention to music whether I'm at my desk or working out. I use a $20 pair of JLab Bluetooth earbuds.


On most things I don't notice enough of a difference to care at the levels I casually listen to things.

So a true audiophile will obviously prefer hardwired through a DAC with nice headphones. I find that a good pair of bluetooth headphones are just as good for most cases. (it's also why I don't get the need to have a headphone jack on a cellphone. With USB-C you can charge headphones in 5 minutes to last for a few hours, and audio quality is good enough for most casual listening aka: everything you'd be using the phone for)

at home, I go between the nest minis for convenience and my desktop speakers which are klipsch.

There's a world of a difference between $5-10 headphones and $60 headphones, A Decent amount of difference from 60 to 100, and after 100 it's all kinda just "i dont ever NEED this quality"


Go to a Hi-Fi store and listen to some high fidelity headphones, Bose is not one of them and you will/should notice the difference.

I got Sennheiser 6XX and I can tell you the dynamic-range on this headset is really amazing and you can hear things not noticeable on normal headphones. Also better to use wired headphones, the general run-of-the-mill bluetooth audio is of low quality.

Also don't listen to MP3 files if you want high-definition losses music, listen to FLAC audio on a good headset and you'll see what you're really missing out on.

For the longest time I was listening to music on YouTube and didn't really know or appreciate high quality FLAC audio and I'll just say I was blown-away with what the Sennheiser 6XX were capable off :-D

I started listening to Amazon music (last week) which is of higher quality (higher bit-rate) than Spotify/Tilda but unfortunately Amazon Music HD which is lossless is much better, but only available in the US not Canada.


There is a nice hearing test I did a while ago:

I can always identify the low quality MP3, but finding the uncompressed WAV is just guessing for me. I listen with Sennheiser HD6XX, so it's probably not a hardware limitation.


I have some HD 6XX Sennheiser and a pair of Audio Technica M50s. I can most definitely notice a difference when playing my piano (Yamaha P125) and listening to HD streaming on Spotify. The Sennheisers are reference headphones, designed for studio monitoring. They provide more realistic sound quality. Having open-backed headphones with HD sound in a relatively quiet place makes for a very immersive listening experience, I've found. Closed-backed headphones are great for sound-isolation while lacking the same fidelity of the open-backed counterparts.

Of course, that's all subjective. ¯\(ツ)


I'm a Spotify user.
IMO the most important thing is the right hardware based on what you listen to. Nowadays many headphones have a lot of bass boost which is good, but the problem is when you don't have an option to adjust it without playing with Equalizers. At the end of the day, if you have a headphone you like its sound quality and software that suits your musical tastes, you'll enjoy it!


I got Spotify Premium. I do notice the difference in quality from when I stream vs when I download (I pick high quality, not very high...bc space).

The quality, imo, sounds better when I'm wired vs BT, but it all sounds bangin in my car and on my home speakers, so that's that.

Also, fwiw, Jay-Z threw his discography on Spotify for his birthday this past December.


I have Spotify Premium and I always stream in max quality possible. I also bought a RHA earphones. And now i have been using them for about a year i really can tell a difference when i use a normal earphones which has different sound profile.


Go for the highest quality of hardware and software but don't get a wireless headphone if your aiming for quality sound. Bluetooth headphones automatically compresses sound and will lessen the quality of the music you're listening to.

But if you don't hear the difference, it doesn't matter. It takes a lot of studio time to train your ears to hear and distinguish different frequencies in songs 😅


My only headphone requirements are they feel comfortable and aren't completely devoid of quality 😅


I've switched from itunes to spotify, to tidal, to amazon music, back to itunes. In my opinion the so called tidal "superior" quality does not pays off as much as switching speakers or headphones.


I don’t think it is worth it unless you are using wired headphones with an outboard DA converter. As you noted, Bluetooth is compressed and if you add noise canceling it is just more processing.


I’d recommend beats x headphones. Very good sound quality and long battery life.

On a side note, I’m very impressed with the sound quality on my new MacBook Air. Fantastic for such a slim laptop.


I just have spotify premium and old airpods. the ear gadget that im looking for is small can fit into my pocket and wireless. hihihi. just wanted to share.


If Bluetooth is anywhere in your listening-chain, you may as well just stick with standard streams: BT is a sound-killer.

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