Tidal debuted in the streaming music market in 2014, with a comedically pretentious ad featuring Jay-Z and his artist buddies pushing the service as the future of streaming music. Tidal promised excellent sound quality, music-focused editorial, and generous artist royalties, and it has delivered. Indeed, the service is expected to upend artist payment by introducing fresh, more direct ways to pay your favorite musicians. In addition, a new free tier complements the service’s premium plans by providing a relaxed listening experience with minor commercial interruptions. Tidal is an Editors’ Choice pick for streaming music services because it offers unique features not found elsewhere in the industry.
Tidal has a variety of subscription options, including a new free streaming music plan. Free listening gives you access to over 80 million songs as well as unlimited skips (which is unusual in the world of free streaming music). The music quality is limited to 160kbps, and the listening pleasure is broken every 10-15 minutes or so by short advertisements. Unfortunately, Tidal’s free version excludes a few capabilities, including the ability to watch Tidal videos, read lyrics, save music for offline listening, and listen to high-quality audio.
For the price of an email address, a free YouTube Music subscription provides access to a comparably vast song archive, as well as video and lyrics. Unlimited skips, minimal ad interruption, and a massive selection of official music are also not to be sniffed at. Still, if you’re interested in Tidal, it’s probably not because of the free music; it’s because of the audio quality.
The HiFi plans on Tidal are the service’s meat-and-potatoes options. The sound quality in the lossless FLAC format improves to 1411kbps at $9.99 per month. You may also read lyrics while listening, see over 350,000 videos, listen offline, and avoid advertisements. Tidal provides HiFi Plus for $19.99 a month, which includes all of the above plus a large library of higher-fidelity Master-quality audio tracks that stream at an incredible 9216kbps. Although this is extremely high-quality audio, keep in mind that not every Tidal musical option is available in Hi-Res Audio. Remember that Amazon Music Unlimited offers HD and Ultra HD music for $9.99 a month, thereby making Tidal twice as pricey. However, Tidal has a number of advantages over Amazon Music Unlimited, which we’ll go into later in this review.
Similar to Apple Music and YouTube Music’s Family Plans, Tidal provides a Premium Family Plan ($14.99 per month) and a HiFi Family Plan ($29.99 per month) that cover up to six people. Students get a 50% discount, military personnel get a 40% discount, and first responders get a 40% discount (40 percent off). Tidal also offers a 30-day trial period, allowing you to try out the premium services before committing to either. However, you must still provide your debit or credit card information in order to participate in the trial.
Artist assistance is one of Tidal’s key tenets, and it will be increased in 2022. Currently, a HiFi Plus account allocates 10% of your monthly price to the artists you most frequently listen to. This will include fan-centered royalties, which compensate artists based on your streaming habits, starting in January.
With a premium price comes quality content. On Tidal’s magazine page, you’ll find amazing, original feature-length stories like “Jay-Blueprint Z’s for a City’s Rebirth” and “Requiem for Warped Tour.” These have audio embedded in them, so you may learn about the artists while listening to their music. Along with its musical offerings, the service offers a collection of music and art-related podcasts. We admire Tidal’s decision to embrace music’s faces and histories; LiveXLive’s informative Artist DNA stations do the same. It also includes exclusive video content that isn’t available anywhere else.
Music videos, music video outtakes, sneak peeks, and backstage concert footage are among Tidal’s exclusive video assets. Both HiFi and HiFi Plus users have access to video content, thus the lossless audio streams are what separate the two subscription categories. Tidal subscribers can also watch Tidal-only streaming concerts. This year’s concert lineup has been quite limited, though this could be due to the epidemic and lockdowns. We anticipate an increase in 2022.
Tidal does not allow you to record its audio streams. If you’re looking for a streaming audio service that focuses on live audio, look no further than SiriusXM Internet Radio, Editors’ Choice.
Playlists and the Catalog
Tidal’s user interface is similar to those of other music streaming services. You can browse the latest tracks and albums in the Explore section, which is controlled by a panel, such as Aurora’s Midas Touch or David Bowie’s Master-quality compilation album, Brilliant Adventure. There’s no shortage of recommended listening, though; the “Discover” tab is jam-packed with rising Tidal stars from all genres, while “Hits and Classics” is chock-full of timeless classics.
Tidal offers a variety of themed playlists organized by moods, time of day, and events such as the holidays. It reminds me of Songza, a defunct playlist-based music service that spawned a slew of knockoffs, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Tidal’s playlists may not be as eccentric as LiveXLive’s “Yacht Rock” or “55 Songs You Think Suck,” but “Denim & Leather” will transport metal fans back to the 1970s and 1980s heavy metal craze.
Other areas feature new albums, single tracks, and the previously stated video content. You can find music by exploring genre categories (which Pandora does not have) or using the search box. Audio Search, a Shazam-like feature that analyzes music playing in your environment and provides song information, appears to be no longer available, which is a pity. You may cache music for offline playback in Tidal’s Android and iOS apps.
Overall, the service’s music library is impressive. Tidal has signed deals with Sony, Universal, and Warner, as well as a number of independent labels. Popular musicians like Arcade Fire, Michael Jackson, and Led Zeppelin, as well as indie favorites like The Dirtbombs and Harlem, have all been discovered. You can even chill out to Vangelis’ “Blade Runner Blues” in Master-quality on Tidal, which has a good selection of film and video game soundtracks.
Of course, you can construct a radio station based on your favorite songs and artists. Tidal, unlike Spotify, does not support collaborative playlists, thus you won’t be able to have friends change your playlists with their suggestions.
The Tidal Streaming Service
FLAC is used by Tidal HiFi to deliver over 70 million lossless (16-bit, 44.1kHz audio files) recordings, which are much higher quality than standard definition MP3s or most competitors’ basic, compressed streams. Only Amazon Music Unlimited‘s HD-quality streams come close to matching Tidal’s.
In testing, Steely Dan’s “Black Cow” sounded exceptionally clean, making it easier to distinguish and appreciate the individual instruments at work, particularly during cymbal crashes. In Kavinsky’s “Nightcall,” however, there was little audible enhancement. Although the video quality was good, there was no discernible audible improvement over LiveXLive’s “Nightcall” stream.
D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel?)” was the song that got us hooked on Tidal: a streamed song had never sounded so good. The song had a new vitality to it that was so addictive that it was played multiple times. Some listeners may find the lossless sound strange at first when compared to the compressed muddiness of an MP3, but after spending time with Tidal HiFi, it’s difficult to go back to normal streaming.
Similarly, Tidal’s HiFi Plus streams are fantastic. When played back in Master-quality sound, Jon Bonham’s hi-hat technique in Led Zeppelin’s “The Lemon Song” is exquisite. Amazon Music Unlimited also has a collection of Ultra HD audio, which doesn’t quite match Tidal’s Master recordings in terms of bitrates, but is twice as good as Tidal’s HiFi, making it a good alternative, especially if you’re an Amazon Prime member.
Tidal offers millions of Master-quality tracks in a variety of genres. You may listen to legendary albums like Abbey Road by the Beatles, Young Americans by David Bowie, Rumours by Fleetwood Mac, American Gangster by Jay Z, and Core by Stone Temple Pilots. The list is always growing, with new tunes from artists and labels being added regularly.
Tidal is the gold medalist when it comes to outstanding audio quality. However, Tidal isn’t the best service for casual listeners; real music quality necessitates serious audio equipment. Your listening experience is incomplete without good headphones. The sound quality improves with enhanced sound reproduction.
Wave of the Tide
Despite the hefty cost of entry, Tidal provides an outstanding listening experience. Audiophiles will like the service’s curated playlists, unique albums, video material, and, of course, Master-quality audio. In conclusion, for streaming music services, it’s an easy Editors’ Choice. Check out Qobuz if you want Hi-Res Audio with album-style line notes and the possibility to buy music files. Apple Music also supports Hi-Res Audio, but adds Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio to the mix.
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