Tidal vs Qobuz: my (subjective) observations

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thedude

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I was wondering if I should make a switch to Qobuz after being with Tidal for over 2 years. With some feedback from fellow FMs, I got to testing...

**Please note my observations are subjective and the choice is dependant on the system and personal preference. If you are in similar shoes then try both services for yourself and decide what works best for you.

The comparison was done via Audirvana Plus on an upgraded MacMini (details in sigature). I added the same test tracks to favorites on both Tidal and Qobuz and these show up at one place on the A+ iOS app. I select a track on Qobuz and use the “Play Next” option to add the Tidal track to the queue. This way I could easily switch between tracks to do an AB test.

Test Playlist: About 100 tracks
Blues, Jazz, Vocal, Acoustic, Folk, New Age, Classic, Dance, Lounge, Country, Electronic, R&B, Instrumental, Rock, Metal, Orchestra, Pop, and Regional.

Catalog: Tidal
Transferred over 3000 tracks from Tidal to Qobuz with SongShift on iOS. Couldn’t find about 8% of the tracks on Qobuz. This is a bummer!

Album Art & Metadata: Tidal
Picked random tracks and checked for cover art & metadata against official artist websites/google. Tidal seemed to be more accurate. Qobuz rarely had the artist and album names mixed up, and dated or inaccurate cover art. Not a major issue.

Bitrate: Qobuz
Roughly about 10% of the time I came across tracks that were available at a higher bitrate on Qobuz. But I couldn’t hear any difference between a higher bitrate track on Qobuz vs the lower bitrate one on Tidal, so didn’t consider it as a differentiator.

Bass: Tidal
Just a tad bit tighter on Tidal. The difference is small but noticeable.

Vocals: Tidal
On Qobuz vocals are more forward (some folks may prefer it this way). I also felt they were a bit hazy around the edges. For me, vocals on Tidal made more sense. They were better defined. Weight, body, and openness, etc were the same though.

Control, Focus, and Separation: Tidal
Better control over bass resulted in better focus and separation with Tidal.

Cleanness: Tidal
It felt cleaner. Maybe because of better control over the bass.

I did not notice any difference in highs, resolution, dynamics, soundstage, tonality, imaging, detail, presence, presentation, and musicality.

For me, Tidal was a clear winner because it sounded cleaner with tighter bass, focus, and separation. I'm paying ₹100/month for Tidal whereas Qobuz would around ₹350 if shared. Qobuz had to sound better for me to make the switch, but that wasn't the case. So decided to stick with it. However, for others, the choice could be different based on the system and personal preference.

My system details are in the signature if anyone is interested.

In early 2019 I tried Tidal native app (and Roon) before getting Audirvana Plus. A+ sounds much better to me. I haven’t compared A+ with Qobuz native app, but I doubt Qobuz would win.

Some people mentioned they prefer Qobuz in another thread. So I’m assuming folks who prefer Qobuz have compared the native apps only?

If anyone tested via A+ or Roon…please share your thoughts.
 
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OM_2K19

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Still trying to get my hands on Qobuz (it only accepts US cards) :( . As far as Tidal is concerned, I find their Master tracks, sound a little better than 44.1/16 FLAC (although I could only get the first MQA layer unfolded via Roon).
 

thedude

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Still trying to get my hands on Qobuz (it only accepts US cards) :( . As far as Tidal is concerned, I find their Master tracks, sound a little better than 44.1/16 FLAC (although I could only get the first MQA layer unfolded via Roon).
I never bothered with MQA and my DAC doesn't support it either, so cant comment.

I was able to create a Qobuz login with VPN. But had to seek help from my brother in the US to add his card details to my US Apple ID. Then was able to signup for a trial.

I dont mind sharing the login as I'm done comparing. Plz feel free to DM if interested.
 

fLUX

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I was wondering if I should make a switch to Qobuz after being with Tidal for over 2 years. With some feedback from fellow FMs, I got to testing...

**Please note my observations are subjective and the choice is dependant on the system and personal preference. If you are in similar shoes then try both services for yourself and decide what works best for you.

The comparison was done via Audirvana Plus on an upgraded MacMini (details in sigature). I added the same test tracks to favorites on both Tidal and Qobuz and these show up at one place on the A+ iOS app. I select a track on Qobuz and use the “Play Next” option to add the Tidal track to the queue. This way I could easily switch between tracks to do an AB test.

Test Playlist: About 100 tracks
Blues, Jazz, Vocal, Acoustic, Folk, New Age, Classic, Dance, Lounge, Country, Electronic, R&B, Instrumental, Rock, Metal, Orchestra, Pop, and Regional.

Catalog: Tidal
Transferred over 3000 tracks from Tidal to Qobuz with SongShift on iOS. Couldn’t find about 8% of the tracks on Qobuz. This is a bummer!

Album Art & Metadata: Tidal
Picked random tracks and checked for cover art & metadata against official artist websites/google. Tidal seemed to be more accurate. Qobuz rarely had the artist and album names mixed up, and dated or inaccurate cover art. Not a major issue.

Bitrate: Qobuz
Roughly about 10% of the time I came across tracks that were available at a higher bitrate on Qobuz. But I couldn’t hear any difference between a higher bitrate track on Qobuz vs the lower bitrate one on Tidal, so didn’t consider it as a differentiator.

Bass: Tidal
Just a tad bit tighter on Tidal. The difference is small but noticeable.

Vocals: Tidal
On Qobuz vocals are more forward (some folks may prefer it this way). I also felt they were a bit hazy around the edges. For me, vocals on Tidal made more sense. They were better defined. Weight, body, and openness, etc were the same though.

Control, Focus, and Separation: Tidal
Better control over bass resulted in better focus and separation with Tidal.

Cleanness: Tidal
It felt cleaner. Maybe because of better control over the bass.

I did not notice any difference in highs, resolution, dynamics, soundstage, tonality, imaging, detail, presence, presentation, and musicality.

For me, Tidal was a clear winner because it sounded cleaner with tighter bass, focus, and separation. I'm paying ₹100/month for Tidal whereas Qobuz would around ₹350 if shared. Qobuz had to sound better for me to make the switch, but that wasn't the case. So decided to stick with it. However, for others, the choice could be different based on the system and personal preference.

My system details are in the signature if anyone is interested.

In early 2019 I tried Tidal native app (and Roon) before getting Audirvana Plus. A+ sounds much better to me. I haven’t compared A+ with Qobuz native app, but I doubt Qobuz would win.

Some people mentioned they prefer Qobuz in another thread. So I’m assuming folks who prefer Qobuz have compared the native apps only?

If anyone tested via A+ or Roon…please share your thoughts.

Nicely articulated, I however feel the opposite when it comes to Bass where I feel Qobuz & Spotify seem better than Tidal. Y
 

thedude

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Nicely articulated, I however feel the opposite when it comes to Bass where I feel Qobuz & Spotify seem better than Tidal. Y
A fellow FM whom I trust...has a similar taste in music and ears...but has a better more refined system than mine...says that he noticed the exact same as what I did.

However, I think it's heavily system dependant and hence mileage will vary.
 

drkrack

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I was wondering if I should make a switch to Qobuz after being with Tidal for over 2 years. With some feedback from fellow FMs, I got to testing...

**Please note my observations are subjective and the choice is dependant on the system and personal preference. If you are in similar shoes then try both services for yourself and decide what works best for you.

The comparison was done via Audirvana Plus on an upgraded MacMini (details in sigature). I added the same test tracks to favorites on both Tidal and Qobuz and these show up at one place on the A+ iOS app. I select a track on Qobuz and use the “Play Next” option to add the Tidal track to the queue. This way I could easily switch between tracks to do an AB test.

Test Playlist: About 100 tracks
Blues, Jazz, Vocal, Acoustic, Folk, New Age, Classic, Dance, Lounge, Country, Electronic, R&B, Instrumental, Rock, Metal, Orchestra, Pop, and Regional.

Catalog: Tidal
Transferred over 3000 tracks from Tidal to Qobuz with SongShift on iOS. Couldn’t find about 8% of the tracks on Qobuz. This is a bummer!

Album Art & Metadata: Tidal
Picked random tracks and checked for cover art & metadata against official artist websites/google. Tidal seemed to be more accurate. Qobuz rarely had the artist and album names mixed up, and dated or inaccurate cover art. Not a major issue.

Bitrate: Qobuz
Roughly about 10% of the time I came across tracks that were available at a higher bitrate on Qobuz. But I couldn’t hear any difference between a higher bitrate track on Qobuz vs the lower bitrate one on Tidal, so didn’t consider it as a differentiator.

Bass: Tidal
Just a tad bit tighter on Tidal. The difference is small but noticeable.

Vocals: Tidal
On Qobuz vocals are more forward (some folks may prefer it this way). I also felt they were a bit hazy around the edges. For me, vocals on Tidal made more sense. They were better defined. Weight, body, and openness, etc were the same though.

Control, Focus, and Separation: Tidal
Better control over bass resulted in better focus and separation with Tidal.

Cleanness: Tidal
It felt cleaner. Maybe because of better control over the bass.

I did not notice any difference in highs, resolution, dynamics, soundstage, tonality, imaging, detail, presence, presentation, and musicality.

For me, Tidal was a clear winner because it sounded cleaner with tighter bass, focus, and separation. I'm paying ₹100/month for Tidal whereas Qobuz would around ₹350 if shared. Qobuz had to sound better for me to make the switch, but that wasn't the case. So decided to stick with it. However, for others, the choice could be different based on the system and personal preference.

My system details are in the signature if anyone is interested.

In early 2019 I tried Tidal native app (and Roon) before getting Audirvana Plus. A+ sounds much better to me. I haven’t compared A+ with Qobuz native app, but I doubt Qobuz would win.

Some people mentioned they prefer Qobuz in another thread. So I’m assuming folks who prefer Qobuz have compared the native apps only?

If anyone tested via A+ or Roon…please share your thoughts.
Good Comparison, I am happy to see some honest observations.
Especially when whole lot of Internet is praising Qobuz over Tidal its quite a bit courageous one. There are ample of posts on Reddit, Agoners and Audiophile style etc.. where people have outrightly discarded Tidal over Qobuz.

Qobuz from its mission statement or its marketing strategy tries to portray itself as more Audiophile friendly and seems to have a proper future plan in place to differentiate themselves along with the Audiophile community. They claim to provide unaltered albums to the community with highest fidelity. That along with MQA Fiasco has tilted the balance in favor of Qobuz currently.

Using Qobuz over couple of Months, I have seen that there's a very (very very actually ) subtle difference in SQ between 2 Streaming services. Tidal is more Laid back, whereas Qobuz is bit More Forward in terms whole frequency range. You don't have Dig deep to listen to the same details, which are presented outright to your face in Qobuz. Other than that the 90s and South Indian movie album collection is bit better on Qobuz. Rest both services fare the same for my needs. Music discovery and curated Playlists are a bit better on Qobuz app (they seem to be copying the success of Roon Discovery features).

Personally speaking, I am tilting more towards Qobuz nowadays. I have the same Playlists in both sides and I have been preferring to listen to Qobuz most of the times , Only when some tracks are not available on the Qobuz I search for it in TIDAL. Having said that, Will I ditch Tidal and Move to Qobuz? Definitely No! I am currently subscribed to Both & its going to stay the Same for Couple of years at least.

Cost : Tidal is a No brainer from Indian perspective if you take Shared Tidal Turkey account costs. So, For new adapters difference with Qobuz is not VFM by any means.

@thedude , Did you Use Spl meter for Volume Equalization before Comparisons? Because Audirvana Volume Varies across the Streaming services. It applies a replay gain correction to Tidal and None to Qobuz. Also Audirvana applies its own subtle processing to the final SQ so that the difference between Streaming Services is minimized further.
See attached picture where Audirvana adds RG reduction in TIDAL and none in Qobuz(Q-Qobuz & T-Tidal). So using Audirvana for comparison is quite easy but suffers from lots of inconsistencies.
 

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IndianEars

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I do recall a similar thread on this forum a few months ago ?

As I had mentioned then, to my ears and in my setup, Qobuz is WAY Ahead of Tidal in sound quality.

Tidal is too polite and sanitised... Makes for excellent elevator music but just lacks any Jump factor or excitement, which is Significantly higher in Qobuz.

Further, in my setup, neither Tidal or even Qobuz could match the music quality or excitement of a well ripped CD in wav.

As a result of the above, I don't care to subscribe to either of these 2 streaming services.

My music is restricted to Western Rock, Pop, Jazz & Electronic. My playback is via a Windows 10 PC running JRiver 26 and feeding my DAC via USB.
 

thedude

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Good Comparison, I am happy to see some honest observations.
Especially when whole lot of Internet is praising Qobuz over Tidal its quite a bit courageous one. There are ample of posts on Reddit, Agoners and Audiophile style etc.. where people have outrightly discarded Tidal over Qobuz.

Qobuz from its mission statement or its marketing strategy tries to portray itself as more Audiophile friendly and seems to have a proper future plan in place to differentiate themselves along with the Audiophile community. They claim to provide unaltered albums to the community with highest fidelity. That along with MQA Fiasco has tilted the balance in favor of Qobuz currently.

Using Qobuz over couple of Months, I have seen that there's a very (very very actually ) subtle difference in SQ between 2 Streaming services. Tidal is more Laid back, whereas Qobuz is bit More Forward in terms whole frequency range. You don't have Dig deep to listen to the same details, which are presented outright to your face in Qobuz. Other than that the 90s and South Indian movie album collection is bit better on Qobuz. Rest both services fare the same for my needs. Music discovery and curated Playlists are a bit better on Qobuz app (they seem to be copying the success of Roon Discovery features).

Personally speaking, I am tilting more towards Qobuz nowadays. I have the same Playlists in both sides and I have been preferring to listen to Qobuz most of the times , Only when some tracks are not available on the Qobuz I search for it in TIDAL. Having said that, Will I ditch Tidal and Move to Qobuz? Definitely No! I am currently subscribed to Both & its going to stay the Same for Couple of years at least.

Cost : Tidal is a No brainer from Indian perspective if you take Shared Tidal Turkey account costs. So, For new adapters difference with Qobuz is not VFM by any means.

@thedude , Did you Use Spl meter for Volume Equalization before Comparisons? Because Audirvana Volume Varies across the Streaming services. It applies a replay gain correction to Tidal and None to Qobuz. Also Audirvana applies its own subtle processing to the final SQ so that the difference between Streaming Services is minimized further.
See attached picture where Audirvana adds RG reduction in TIDAL and none in Qobuz(Q-Qobuz & T-Tidal). So using Audirvana for comparison is quite easy but suffers from lots of inconsistencies.
Thank you for pointing it out doc. But for now, I personally only care about how it sounds via Audirvana. So that’s what I compared for :) Hence my observations are very subjective.

I was pretty much prepared for Qobuz to sound better based on popular feedback and was mentally preparing to spend :p. But, guess I’m lucky in a way :D …will stick with Tidal until I upgrade from the Mini.
 
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rajeshv

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Thank you for pointing it out doc. But for now, I personally only care about how it sounds via Audirvana. So that’s what I compared for :) Hence my observations are very subjective.

I was pretty much prepared for Qobuz to sound better based on popular feedback and was mentally preparing to spend :p. But, guess I’m lucky in a way :D …will stick with Tidal until I upgrade from the Mini.
from 16th may 2021 onwards audirvana studio is subscription based. 70 Euro per year as per John Darko .


However, the biggest change brought by Audirvāna Studio relates not to its name or feature set but to pricing. The new version does not come with a fixed price. It will be sold as a subscription service: €69.99 (tax included) per year, or €6.99 (tax included) per month.

:rolleyes:
 

Miany

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I too am using both Tidal and Qobuz. SQ wise, for the same track in same quality, i am really hard-pressed to tell a difference. Qobuz Hi-Res is a completely different story; then again, i cannot compare that to Tidal MQA since my DAC does not support it.

One other thing i observed is that, with my streamer, the qobuz tracks just wont start playing if at all there are some glitches in the network, however small they might be. Tidal tracks wont mind that much and gets loaded much easier. I have verified this behavior so many times. Not sure if this is due to the implementation of respective streaming services in my streamer. Anyway, its a pain with qobuz sometimes.

I am also planning to use both Tidal and Qobuz for the time being.
 

rajeshv

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you are right .i guess it will affect new comers.
but then the comparison will be between roon and audirvana due to the higher recurring annual cost
 

thedude

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you are right .i guess it will affect new comers.
but then the comparison will be between roon and audirvana due to the higher recurring annual cost
Yes. I prefer Audirvana.

One feature that I miss from roon is the track recommendations. It’s awesome…almost as good as Pandora’s music genome project
 

OM_2K19

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For, last two days, I was playing with Qobuz. Thanks to @thedude for lending me his account. Yup, in a nutshell, my conclusion is, it all depends on the master, the track is sourced from. 'Summer of 69' probably a good example. It sounded equally good on Spotify/Tidal/Qobuz even at different bit/sampling rates. If the Master has higher information, a high bit/sampling rate did make noticeable a difference with tracks like 'Blinding Lights'.
 

rrunner

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I have done a little bit of A/B comparison with Tidal and Qobuzz using the windows desktop app. I find the bass is significantly better and well defined in Qobuzz.
The difference is not much apparent while listening on budget headphones.
It is the tower speakers that make listening to it enjoyable. I feel like a phantom sub is present in the room.
I have also tried playing through audirvana but I feel it is coloring the sound of Qobuzz a tad bit making it sound more like the Tidal app.
The bass notes of Tidal feel a bit blunt in certain passages making it uncomfortable for my ears.
Overall I am very happy with trying out Qobuzz I think I have met my audio Nirvana with a modest setup.
Note: No fancy cables or DAC was used. HTPC with Nvidia HDMI audio out>Yamaha RXV2700 receiver> Infinity primus 363 Tower speakers.
 
D

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Tidal sounds thickish or smeared to me. Probably it compensate for the lean/etched sound of hifi systems and hence sounds good on them. It also is distinctly softer on the transients, reducing the musicality. The samples I heard in Qobuz store (I am nlt subscribed to the streaming service) sounded better on these counts and approached CD sound more than Tidal. It might be faulted with being a bit lean though.

I have Primephonic lossless subscription, and I found Tidal suffering similarly in comparison with it as with the Qobuz samples. Am waiting for Apple Lossless and hope it sounds more like Qobuz/Primephonic than Tidal.
 
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chander

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My experience on various devices MQA capable and otherwise were that Qobuz had a clear advantage in terms of details, perhaps due to the forward nature and definitely in terms of clarity - perhaps due to more central over bass. BTW - great write up @thedude.

+1 for primephonic - anyone who loves classical music, please get it - it is fairly cheap too. I am waiting for the Spotify HiFi - I really hope they do a good job, that UI and music discovery for me is really hard to beat. The only one that has been more successful is YouTube.
 

rrunner

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Yes, Spotify and youtube music for casual listening and Qobuzz for a Serious listening session would work well for me.
 
D

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SQ Comparison (with Tidal and CD) based on Qobuz Trial

I had made my previous comment based on 30 second samples from Qobuz store. That’s always dicey. But over the last two days I got to listen to the regular Qobuz stream in my system thanks to the kind offer by Sree (@thedude). It was natively played on CXN, just like Tidal. It gave me a fair idea of its strengths and limitations. Of course these views are based on subjective listening and in my budget system. YMMV. So let’s head straight into the comparison:

In short, my previous opinion that Qobuz is better than Tidal in the sound quality was confirmed over this prolonged listening to wide variety of tracks. My comparisons have been between the FLAC versions (but I have given my views on hi-res stream towards the end of this post).

To me, Tidal has always felt like it has thick and smeared voices. It feels like it has more body but in reality that thickness washes out the textures and affects the tonality. In comparison, Qobuz not just sounded more focused and tonally right, it also brings out the textures and nuances well. The bass also felt better resolved. Some might feel that Qobuz sound is a bit on the thinner side, especially if the rest of their rig is analytical/hifi-ish. With my system though the weight felt right.

So, does that mean Qobuz is all good? No! That’s where the comparison with CD comes in. Qobuz closely approaches CD in the virtues explained above (focus, tone, texture, tightness of bass). However, I still couldn’t get the ‘musical magic’ of the CD in the Qobuz streams. In terms of transients and emotions, both of which contribute to immersive experience, Qobuz was short of the CD. And this is a major consideration for me. (Is Tidal better at this? No. But it’s thickness creates an illusion which might unconsciously compensate for some).

Now, are these limitations of Qobuz or my streamer (CXN), or ‘streaming’ as a mode itself? I can’t say for sure. But probably not the streamer. Because from the DAC downstream my chain for streaming and CD is the same. And my CD transport (CXC) and streaming transport (CXN) are from the same manufacturer and the same series. So I tend to believe it’s a function of streaming as a mode of musical reproduction. (I am open to revising this view if I listen to higher/better streaming transports). The least I can conclude is that a CD transport playing your discs should give better musical experience than streamer transport in the same price bracket playing FLAC streams from the internet.

Where does that leave me then? Firstly, at least for now I see that I have to depend on CDs (or local files) for serious attentive/immersive listening. Luckily I have a largish CD collection that I can depend upon.

Secondly, my choice of streaming app would then be more a function of availability, convenience, UI, features such as music exploration etc - as I’d continue to use streaming primarily for spontaneous/casual listening and music exploration. As long as it’s lossless, I won’t go by SQ as a further consideration over the above factors. I’d now wait for Apple Lossless, which clearly scores on the above factors over Tidal as well as Qobuz. And if in the future Spotify lossless is introduced, that could be a serious contender for my subscription fee as well.

Ok, but what about the hi-res (beyond FLAC resolution) streaming? That’s where it gets interesting. Before Qobuz I havs been streaming hi-res in Primephonic - a western classical streaming app. Hi-Res clearly adds a different dimension to the listening experience - somehow the tracks become calmer/more composed and of course detailed. But details never interested me as much, what I like about hi-Res is that it seems to take away most of the glare that still exists in CD/FLAC.

Plus one for both Qobuz as well as Primephonic for venturing into real hi-Res. I don’t have MQA decoding DAC, so can’t comment on or compare with Tidal MQA - something that at the logical level I’ve not felt convinced about.

I hope streamers (and internet) keep improving too… and overcome whatever digital disturbances/compromises they are currently facing. I’ve read about some FMs reporting improvements by connecting streamer directly to fibre optic broadband. I imagine over the next 2-3 years this space of streamers and hi-res streaming would undergo significant transformation to emerge as a serious contender (or even death knell) to CDs, and a respectable alternative to vinyl. Hi-Res streaming, I think, will be the future of music consumption. Till then, lossless streaming will continue to be my source of music exploration while CDs continue to bring me my musical nirvana.
 
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