Tidal quietly deploys a slightly perfect Android application

Android smartphone users looking to get on the high-resolution audio train via Tidal, Qobuz, or Apple Music should be careful: Android OS resamples digital audio out of its 48kHz USB port. A 192 kHz stream will be down-sampled to 48 kHz. The same will be true for a 96 kHz stream. A 48 kHz stream is not transmitted without modification but (instead) resampled to 48 kHz. Android resampling anneals even CD quality (44.1kHz) streams, at the topsample them at 48 kHz. In digital audiophile parlance, this means that the Android operating system is not “perfect” with USB DACs.

A common workaround is the third-party USB Audio Player Pro (UAPP) music player app which loads its own USB driver to communicate directly with the connected USB DAC, thus bypassing Android’s resampling engine. UAPP integrates Tidal and Qobuz but unlike native Qobuz and Tidal apps, it does not support offline content. Blame the record companies for this call.

Seeing this problem and (finally) tackling it head-on is Tidal. The Norway-based streaming service has started rolling out an update to its Android app that allows it to communicate seamlessly with any connected USB DACs, bypassing the host operating system’s resampling code.

We know because “Authorize Tidal to access HELM MQA?” “ appears on this commenter’s LG V40 (RIP) when the HELM Bolt is connected. By clicking OK and entering an MQA stream, the HELM Bolt DAC LED turns purple (where it was blue previously) for visual confirmation that the 48 kHz (or 44.1 kHz) stream has traveled from the Tidal app. to Bolt without interference from the Android operating system so that the DAC can deploy at will. Hi high resolution *!

Tidal’s Perfect Playback also works with the LG V40 and THX Onyx but – oddly enough – not with the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt. Tidal doesn’t even show up to ask if we want to allow him access to Cobalt. Maybe the DragonTail USB-C to USB-A interceding adapter is preventing the Tidal app from correctly identifying Cobalt?

Or maybe this wrinkle is specific to the LG V40 because by switching to an Essential PH-1 (RIP) smartphone, we do ask if we want to allow Tidal access to the DragonFly DAC and we do see his LED glow purple when we walk into a Tidal’s Masters track. Go figure it out.

Of course, today’s story isn’t just about high-resolution audio. Tidal’s bit-perfect app also means CD-quality audio leaves the Android phone’s USB jack at 44.1kHz. At Dsee, resampling. Whether this goodbye makes an obvious audible difference to CD-quality audio remains debatable, but sweating the little things is part of hifi play for many enthusiasts. Isn’t that exactly why some are So Determined to get high resolution audio working in their system?

It is not yet clear how far this update to the Tidal app has traveled, to which devices, or how long users can expect to wait to refuel. It’s also unclear when (or if) Qobuz or Apple Music will follow suit. (When they do, we’ll cover it). We also don’t know if Tidal plans to introduce Perfect Playback to Android TV OS. This post is simply a warning that Tidal’s perfect game is underway.

More information: Tide

* Footnote # 1: Based on the assumption that anything other than a perfect bitstream would not turn on the MQA authentication light.

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