Acquired and re-launched by the artist Jay-Z in 2015, Tidal was set to be the first service to offer Hi-Fi audio streaming online, something it accomplished in 2017. Fast forward four years, is it still true to its word?
Tidal Hi-Fi is definitely worth the money for those who love Hi-Fi music and have the equipment needed to enhance their listening experience. The service offers a massive music library from artists worldwide, but it charges a high fee. Therefore, Tidal Hi-Fi might not be worth it for casual listeners.
Let’s discuss Tidal’s Hi-Fi plan along with some special features and find out whether Tidal has what it takes to be the next mainstream music service for dedicated listeners.
Tidal: An Overview
Tidal is a music streaming service that caters to music lovers around the world. Unlike Spotify, which is best for casual listeners who enjoy music and podcasts on their commutes,
Tidal only has a paid subscription plan, but there’s a 30-day free trial for those who want to test the Hi-Fi streaming before making a commitment. It charges $9.99 per month for a premium plan and $19.99 per month for the Hi-Fi service. It also offers discounted rates for the military, first responders, and students.
The service offers over 70 million songs spanning all genres with more added each year. And there are Master Quality Authenticated albums, so you don’t have to worry about getting duped. You can save albums and tracks and download music for offline listening. Yet, despite these many features, what truly pushes Tidal above Spotify is the quality of its music.
The audio quality is remarkably better than what you’d get on YouTube and the standard Spotify plan, even if the track is re-mastered. So, for the serious music lover, Tidal changes the experience entirely because it allows you to listen to the track at a different level.
Over the years, Tidal has stayed true to its promise of offering premium quality music to its audiences. The company has also popularized Hi-Fi music streaming, offering entire libraries by famous artists throughout the years.
A Quick Review of Tidal’s Hi-Fi Service
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Tidal, let’s first discuss the main reason for the service’s popularity: Hi-Fi.
Hi-Fi is how Tidal sets itself apart from the rest and justifies its high-tier premium subscription. From a listener’s perspective, unless you’re an active audio lover who loves Hi-Fi quality, this service is not for you. That is because most casual listeners cannot distinguish between Hi-Fi and regular audio.
Hi-Fi suits those who take their music very seriously and already have great audio gear, such as Hi-Fi sound systems and high-quality headphones. Without a premium audio set-up, you can’t really enjoy lossless audio files.
Nevertheless, with so many good-quality headphones available, it shouldn’t take you much to upgrade your listening experience.
Start with the 30-day trial and test the music out for yourself. With the right headphones, you’ll recognize the difference and see how much you’ve been missing out on. Or not.
Tidal: A Deep Dive
So, let’s go beyond sound quality and see how Tidal measures up to the other music streaming service out there.
Thankfully, Tidal isn’t exclusive to one type of OS.
You can enjoy your music on Mac, Windows, and web players. Android and iOS users can also use Tidal. Additionally, Tidal works on Apple and Android TV apps, as well as Apple CarPlay. But that’s not all.
Tidal integrates with many Hi-Fi products such as Bluesound, DTS Play-Fi, Sonos, Cyrus, Naim, Linn, and the McIntosh streaming products. Google Chromecast also supports Tidal. And as for those products that do not directly support Tidal, Tidal Connect enables simple streaming to all compatible products.
Nevertheless, being that Tidal is still in the early stages of development, there are a few hiccups here and there.
Tidal is working to fix the issue. However, as stated above, unless you have the right equipment, it’ll be some time before the service gives you a completely seamless experience.
Tidal App and Interface
The Tidal app is clean, easy to use, and straightforward.
The app sticks to a minimal grey and black scheme, which some might say resembles Spotify’s theme. However, with Tidal, it’s the album artwork that catches your eye more than the background.
On the desktop app, the sidebar is on the left, with three tabs:
- The Home tab gives you auto-generated playlists based on your taste, new tracks, suggested albums, and trending music. And under “Tidal Rising,” you’ll find emerging artists whose style may be in tune with your mood and taste.
- The Explore tab lets you browse through different genres according to mood and events.
- My Collection tab is where you’ll find all the music you love, divided into different sections, including albums, playlists, mixes, videos, tracks, and artists.
The mobile app looks similar to the desktop version. The menu bar is located along the bottom, as it is with many similar apps. You can share your music on different social media and also get to directly send it to Instagram and Facebook stories—which you can’t do on the desktop app.
Tidal Music Catalogue
Unlike many basic music streaming services, this is where Tidal exceeds. With more than 70 million tracks on offer, you’re spoilt for choice, barring the few regional restrictions on content.
Moreover, if you delve deeper, you’ll even find full-length shows and concerts, old and new. You’ll also find music and videos from every era. So, whether you’re looking for music from an obscure band or the Philharmonic, it’ll all be on Tidal.
For all the visual creatures out there, this gives you a great chance to enjoy your music fully, especially if you’re indulging in classical music and want to relive the glory days!
Spotify made a name for itself by providing perfectly curated playlists that appealed to individual listeners. Tidal has followed in those footsteps, using an algorithm to study the different music you like and provide suitable recommendations.
The process starts from the moment you sign up. The app asks you to pick three artists you love to create your Welcome Mix—your first mix.
Depending on those artists, the algorithm comes up with more songs you’d like and creates a playlist. As you continue listening to music on Tidal, the app will also continue making playlists. You’ll find them under the name “My Mix.” Each will be of a different genre or based on your listening.
Unlike Spotify, Tidal doesn’t provide customized playlists according to your mood or style as Spotify does. But who knows, it may not be too long before Tidal’s playlist recommendations overtake Spotify.
One caveat, though. Unlike Spotify or Deezer, Tidal, unfortunately, doesn’t allow you to add any local music to the app. But you can transfer tracks to your music library through third-party apps.
Tidal Audio Quality
Tidal Premium offers a large selection of music with a bit rate of around 320 kbps. So, the quality is similar to Spotify Premium if you choose the “Very High” option.
If you choose Tidal Hi-Fi, though, the streaming amps up to 1411 kbps and uses FLAC audio—an uncompressed format that doesn’t compromise on quality. So, you get higher quality music that doesn’t take up too much space.
Tidal’s use of FLAC sets it on top since most music streaming services use MP3 files, which remove certain aspects of the original tune to make the file size smaller.
The difference between lossless audio and regular 320 kbps MP3 is quite noticeable. So, whether you’re a casual or a serious listener, you’ll treasure the immersive experience of the Hi-Fi audio quality.
Aside from the two Tidal tiers, we have the Tidal Master, a partnership between Tidal and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), which offers a stream of around 9216 kbps. Tidal Masters offers mastered recordings of specific albums and tracks obtained from the source. So, you get the best music possible directly from the production studio.
Tidal Master, according to Tidal, has millions of tracks. But you won’t likely get a master track for every song there is on the app. All tracks in the Tidal Masters collection have an M or a gold Master label, so you will notice which ones to pick.
Like the rest of the titles, all Master tracks, playlists, and albums are downloadable, so you’ll have hi-res tracks in the palm of your hand.
For all the subscriptions, we recommend using premium audio equipment. The average earbuds won’t do your music justice. If possible, at least upgrade to a better headphone system to get the most from your Tidal account.
Should You or Shouldn’t You Subscribe to Tidal?
Overall, Tidal is an excellent subscription service that offers a premium selection of music and videos. Tidal’s audio quality trumps all other features you may get from cheaper music streaming services.
You should subscribe to Tidal if:
- You’re serious about audio. If you’re someone who loves music and wants to listen to improved hi-res tracks, a subscription to Tidal will genuinely improve your experience.
- You don’t want to select your music. If you’re someone who likes playlists and variety, Tidal will do a nice job of creating curated playlists to match your taste.
- You have an amped-up music system. Let’s say you have a surround sound system or a pair of audiophile headphones; Tidal Hi-FI would be the best option.
Even with all these advantages, Tidal may not appeal to you if you want a basic music service without all the bells and whistles. It may also be a bit over the top if you’re not big on music.
So, don’t subscribe to Tidal if:
- You don’t particularly care about Hi-Fi audio. Understandably, top-of-the-line audio may not appeal to everyone. If you don’t want Tidal’s Hi-Fi tier, use Tidal Premium or another streaming service.
- You don’t want to pay for music. Spotify offers a free, ad-supported subscription service. However, Tidal has a minimum of $9.99 per month for the Tidal Premium tier, which may not be helpful for the economic-minded.
- You like podcasts. Unfortunately, Tidal doesn’t carry podcasts, so Tidal isn’t the best choice if that’s your requirement.
Is Tidal Worth it?
What makes Tidal unique is its quality Hi-Fi music and mastered tracks that you definitely won’t find easily online.
Sure, many experts argue that Tidal is trying to win a losing battle. After all, Apple is set to launch a music streaming service with an impressive roster of musicians and artists, and Spotify is upgrading their system each year to appeal to more customers, not to mention other tech giants like Google entering the market with their own offerings—YouTube Music.
Yet, none of the platforms above, apart from Tidal, offer the true Hi-Fi music that music fanatics so desperately seek.
It may seem strange, but Apple, Spotify, and YouTube don’t offer lossless quality music at the moment. Tidal is a perfect tool for critical listeners. And whether you want to listen to old music or new, the Tidal experience gives the app a better edge over other streaming services.
For anyone who wants to listen to perfect sound, I would recommend using Tidal Master, since it was the first service that popularized Hi-Fi music. But even then, if you’re a simple listener, Tidal has the power to turn you into a music aficionado.
Tidal takes music directly from the artist, giving you the chance to have the first look at what your favorite musicians have to offer. And that’s an offer you’d be silly to pass.
Is Tidal Better Than YouTube Music?
Considering that YouTube Music does offer audio and music videos for free, you’ll wonder why anyone would even bother paying for their tunes.
The truth is that YouTube does not rank well in terms of music streaming or sound quality, and it’s understandable why. Tidal’s music service has around 1,411 kbps bit rate of music quality and with FLAC files. There’s no lag, no interruption, no music distortion, or quality loss.
YouTube music, on the other hand, does not have an upgraded speed quality, and streams music at 320 kbps bitrate, clearly making Tidal a superior choice.
How Do I Get the Most From Tidal?
While Tidal may not have every track known to man in its archives, it may get near the mark within the near future.
If you love music, sign up for Tidal’s free trial, so you can test drive the Hi-Fi experience. Note that you need high-quality headphones or a good speaker system to enjoy the crystal clear audio.
Tidal may initially seem expensive, but it’s only when you start using it that you realize the reason behind its dedicated fan following.
A Tidal subscription allows you to find and listen to Master Quality tracks. Once you become used to the system and decide on a playlist, Tidal gives you the opportunity to import your dedicated playlists to the app from other streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify.
You can even download the tracks you want onto an SD card and free up some space on your Smartphone if needed.
Tidal doesn’t lend you the music the way other streaming services do. Instead, it provides you complete ownership of the tracks you want, and in high-resolution audio that you won’t find through your typical service.
Aside from audio, Tidal also offers a massive library of documentaries, movies, events, live shows, and live concerts. So, if you ever get into the mood for something else, all it takes is a swipe into your personalized recommendations and you get the world of entertainment at your fingertips.
Can I Use Tidal as an Artist?
Tidal is perhaps one of the best services you can use as an artist.
The initial goal of the service was to put the artist first, so they could showcase their work in the best way possible. So, if you’re a budding artist, Tidal offers you plenty of benefits. There are numerous social features allowing you to promote your music. The service’s audio quality also makes your music a more appealing choice than what you’ll find via a YouTube video.
Tidal frequently promotes and pays more to its up-and-coming musicians. In addition, it allows you to create a more immersive experience for your listeners by pulling in subscribers to exclusive concerts and experiences.
None of this is exclusive to musicians who are signed with a label. Indie artists can publish their music on Tidal using a number of options such as Record Union, Tunecore, Indigoboom, and DistroKid to do so.
As for the revenue model, Tidal actually offers the largest ratio of royalties and revenues to artists, so you’ll be getting “equal rates” to that of label-signed musicians.
Tidal’s A-star ownership, large selection of music, and Hi-Fi premium streaming service make it a tempting offer for all music lovers out there. So, if you’re someone who’s addicted to music and wants to get into the depth of music, I would highly recommend Tidal.
You’ll get wonderful music, good audio, and personalized playlists that will suit your taste and mood. And that’s not something we can say for the many Spotify and YouTube playlists that plague the online realm.