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Sprint Product Ambassadors: Tidal Music on the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active

Sprint Product Ambassador

Tidal - Sprint.JPG

There are many music streaming services available to consumers, and all have pros and cons.  I find that the music quality of Google Play Music and Amazon Prime Music are fine for most uses, and Google Play Music particularly when traveling in the car as it adapts to changing network conditions better than Amazon.  But if you want the best of both worlds, get Tidal.  You get lossless music when the network bandwidth allows it, and it will automatically adapt to a high-quality lossy format when traveling in the boonies.

But just what does lossless and lossy mean?  Well, take a document that you want to email to someone.  Let's say it's too large to attach to an email, so you use a compression application such as WinZip to save it to a zip file.  I won't go into the complex math involved, but compressing a data file in this method basically temporarily takes away the zeros in a file, or empty space and truncates the rest, but does so in a fashion that the file can be safely re-constructed when unzipped, with all the missing data replaced exactly where it was originally.  This is a safe and effective way to possibly cut the file size in half, and since nothing is really lost, it is called "lossless compression".
So, lossless compress is not too complex, and can reduce files sizes by maybe half or so, and everything ends up back where it should be.  There is no discernible difference in audio quality between the compressed file and the original file when using lossless audio compression.  Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise, because no audio difference is possible when using this method.

What's "lossy compression" then?  Lossy compression is based on "psychoacoustic modeling".  What the heck is that?  Well, it's based on the assumption that the human brain can really only hear one sound at a time, even if dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of sounds are being heard.  For instance, if you are listening to a loud outdoor rock concert in a park, could you hear birds chirping over the PA system?  Probably not, even though the sound of their tweeting is reaching your ear; your brain is ignoring the very quiet sound of the birds.  What if you are having a conversation in a car with the radio playing?  Can you hear the person talking to you and still hear the music from the radio?  Sure you can, but if you were to cut time into tiny slices a fraction of a second in length, you'd only hear your friend's voice or the radio at any given time.  To make it more complicated, the song you hear on the radio has a lead singer, guitarist, drummer, and bassist.  Can you discern all those unique instruments, notes, and pitch changes?  Sure, but assuming that your brain only focuses on the sound that is loudest at any given fraction of a second, then you would effectively be ignoring, or throwing away quieter sounds, just like that chirping bird in the park.  So, psychoacoustic modeling assumes that it is safe to throw away a lot of sound, and only record the loudest sounds for any given time-slice, therefore effectively losing what is presumed to be unimportant data, hence the name, "lossy".  Of course, there are instructions included in lossy files on how to reassemble the sounds so that on playback you hopefully won't notice what's missing.

Here's the thing, there are various degrees of lossy compression.  Let's say you are using the ubiquitous MP3 format.  If you are saving at 320 Kilobytes Per Second, then you end up with a very high quality file, and it should sound about the same as the original, even though some information has been lost forever.  Compress that file at a smaller size, perhaps at 256 Kilobytes Per Second, and you likely still won't notice a difference.  The ability for a music file to sound like the original is known as transparency.  Start to compress that file more by throwing away more data, say at 128Kbps, now you start to notice something missing.  It sounds duller; the bass is less impact full, and the three dimensional stereo image is collapsing before your very ears.  Not only have instruments been tossed away, but now entire frequencies are being cutoff, never to be heard from again.  It just gets even worse if you compress it more than that.  The music is no longer transparent.  On the other hand, a lossy MP3 file compressed at 128Kbps is only 1/10th the size of the original file, as opposed to our lossless file which is still 1/2 half the size.  So if you are trying to store all of your music on a tiny iPod Shuffle, then yeah, compress away.

But you don't have to store anything these days.  These are the days of Wi-Fi, 4G, and soon, 5G.  Why not stream your music, and if you have that much bandwidth, why not stream it losslessly?  When I'm at home relaxing, or working out at the gym, I'm listening to lossless music via Tidal music service.  If I'm in the car, the file quality may adapt from lossless to lossy, but there is road noise, engine noise, and my attention is on the road, so any reduction in music quality is slight and for all practical purposes, imperceptible.

Of course, having the best quality sound is also dependent on having excellent quality hardware to play it back on, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active is truly excellent.  There are various ways to use the equalizer, including one that adapts to your hearing and headphones. Also, you can re-sample the music to higher resolution, although I'm not hearing any difference doing this, and there is a filter to simulate a tube amplifier and one to add a headphone surround effect.

Samsung also generously provides a pair of premium AKG earbuds.  (I reviewed them here.).  So, you have the superior sound quality of Tidal, coupled with the superior audio hardware from Samsung and AKG, and you have a triple-threat which can't be beat.

You can try Tidal for free for six months if you are Sprint subscriber.  If you aren't already a Sprint subscriber, now is a great time to upgrade your phone and your network, and save tons of money in the process.  You can get more information on your free Tidal trial from here: Sprint Tidal Free Six Month TrialTidal SPrint.JPG



Disclaimer: The Product Ambassadors are Sprint employees from many different parts of the company that love technology. They volunteer to test out all sorts of Sprint devices and offer opinions freely to the Community. Each Product Ambassador shares their own opinions of these devices, therefore the information in this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprint. The PA's do not represent the company in an official way, and should not be expected to respond to Community members in an official capacity. #sprintemployee