My Response to Tools and Toys' review of Tidal

This is my response to Tools and Toys' review of the new lossless streaming music service Tidal.

Tyler, thanks for a good overview. I have a few clarifications. I have been using and researching streaming services for a very long time, as I use them to discover and explore new music.

Rdio does not publish bit rates on their web site. They do however allow premium subscribers to select 320 Kbps in their apps. When I was using it, to my ears it was most often 128 Kbps; I left them for that reason when Beats Music debuted. Beats Music does publish bit rates: 128 and 320 Kbps - your choice. Google streams at 320 Kbps on fast connections, and I seem to always get that rate.

Apple encodes music in AAC; all others encode in MP3. There is a noticeable difference: a 192 Kbps AAC stream sounds to me like a 256 Kbps MP3 stream. 320 Kbps MP3 sounds as good to me as 256 Kbps AAC, which is acceptable to my ears most of the time.

There are different ways to encode a lossless master file into a compressed file. MP3 encoding algorithms have gotten noticeably better to my ears in the last fifteen years. Music encoded for iTunes varies in quality as well; sometimes I can hear compression artifacts, but most of the time I do not. If I do, and I care, I'll buy the CD and and rip it to Apple Lossless, or buy it from Bandcamp and download the lossless version.

As for my opinion of Tidal: I don't need a lossless streaming service. Most of the time I won't notice the difference. When I do, I listen to music I buy, and I stream it from my hard drive.

For discovery, Beats Music, Google Play, and Bandcamp are sufficient. They each have a good catalog of music that the other does not.

I don't buy CDs any more, and haven't for many years, unless the album I want isn't available from Bandcamp, iTunes, or the artist, publisher, or label, which is quite rare.

It's a good time to be a music lover.

*Update*: Tyler replied and pointed out that Rdio has recently allowed premium users to select 320 Kbps streams in their apps. Progress!


IMP Homework Episode 6: The five main modules of synthesis


This is episode six of my series on music production for my Coursera class Introduction to Music Production. I discuss the five main modules of synthesis.


To the reviewer

I used this week's lesson to become familiar with a synth in my collection I've not spent much time with previously: Diversion by Dmitry Sches. Great synth.

Production went rather smoothly. Because of the last couple episodes, I'm becoming quite comfortable with multitrack mixing in Logic. These solo podcast episodes with example mix-ins are quite different for me from my usual two-person podcast.

I'm quite happy with the outcome of this episode; I hope you enjoy it.

IMP Homework Episode 6: The five main modules of synthesis


IMP Homework Episode 5: Reverb: Convolution or algorithmic?


This is episode five of my series on music production for my Coursera class Introduction to Music Production. I discuss convolution and algorithmic reverb effects.


To the reviewer

This week was challenging for a few reasons. First, I'm not very familiar with reverb, possibly I'm not really fond of it. I find it very difficult to work with.

Second, adding example sounds into the podcast complicated the mix. This is the first time I've added sounds after the fact to a recording.

Preparing the sound samples was actually fun, since I love playing with drum machines and rhythms. I would have used a drum synth if I wasn't concerned I would have gotten lost in the synthesis process. I find drum synthesis sound design to be really enjoyable.

Finally, the time limit was impossible to meet this week. I was over by 1:18 in the final mix, but I was closer to five minutes before I inserted the samples.

Key terms

Algorithmic reverb: uses a mathematical model of a space to calculate the reverb sound of the modeled space.

Convolution reverb: uses an impulse response actually recorded in a space to create the reverb sound of that space.

Early reflections: the distinct echoes heard in a room immediately after a sound is made; they are usually the echoes bouncing off the nearby walls.

Reverb tail: the wash of indistinct echoes that blend together and linger in a room, bouncing back and forth long after a sound is gone until they dissipate and are absorbed by the room.

Impulse response: a recording of an impulse in a space (like a clap) that is used to re-create the reverb of that space in a convolution reverb.

Pre-delay: the time between the sound and its early reflections.


ValhallaDSP's ValhallaVintageVerb

2C Audio's B2

FXpansion Geist

FabFilter Saturn

Cytomic's The Glue

How to use convolution reverb for sound effects


Apple. Logic Studio Effects, 2009. Apple - Logic Pro 9 - Resources The effects manual from Logic's documentation; chapter 11 is on reverb effects.

Robinson, George. The Ultimate Guide to Reverb, First Edition, August 2012.

IMP Homework Episode 5: Reverb: Convolution or algorithmic?


Soundtrack for week 4 homework assignment prep


IMP Homework Episode 4: Dynamic range and the various ways to manipulate it.


This is episode four of my series on music production for my Coursera class Introduction to Music Production. I discuss the dynamic range of audio.


To the reviewer

This one was fun. I got to talk more about my podcast, and I was able to focus on how I managed dynamics. I struggled again with time limitations; I had more content than time to cover it, so I limited my discussion to dynamics within my podcast and one creative use of compression in music production. There's so much to explore and so little time.

Key terms

Dynamic range: In a medium (i.e. something that can store or carry an audio signal), the range of amplitude from the noise floor to the maximum level; that is, the full range of representable amplitudes. In a recording, the range of amplitudes from the lowest to the higest sample.

Noise floor: The lowest measurable amplitude in a signal. It defines the lowest detectable sound in an audio signal.

Nominal level: The level a DAW or a system was designed to ideally work with.

Signal-to-noise ratio: The ratio of amplitude of the nominal signal level to the noise floor.

Maximum level: The highest signal amplitude in the system that can be produced without distortion.

Headroom: The distance between the nominal level and the maximum level.

Gain stage: A point in an audio signal path where the gain (level, amplitude) of the signal can be adjusted.


Robinson, George. The Ultimate Guide to Compression, First Edition, January 2013.

Noise floor - Wikipedia
"The noise floor limits the smallest measurement that can be taken with certainty since any measured amplitude can on average be no less than the noise floor."

Nominal level - Wikipedia
"Nominal level is the operating level at which an electronic signal processing device is designed to operate."

Signal-to-noise ratio - Wikipedia

IMP Homework Episode 4: Dynamic range and the various ways to manipulate it.