The streaming music wars have largely narrowed to a contest between Apple Music and Spotify. And yet, another entry, TIDAL, continues to hold appeal for select audiophiles. While price alone no doubt turns off many, TIDAL has a significant benefit going for it. Among the reasons to use TIDAL over Apple Music and Spotify is TIDAL’s HiFi and Masters content.
Depending on your situation or needs, this should be more than enough to convince you to switch. There are other reasons, as you’ll see below.
What is TIDAL?
First launched in 2014 by Norway’s Aspiro, TIDAL is now owned by Project Panther Bidco, which is owned by the rapper and businessman Jay Z. Other celebrity artists own a small slick of TIDAL, including Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Chris Martin, Calvin Harris, and many more. In 2017, Sprint Corporation purchased a 33% stake in the company. At the time of this writing, fintech company Square has been in talks to purchase TIDAL, although nothing has been finalized.
As of October 2020, TIDAL operates in 55 countries and offers 70 million songs in its catalog and over 225,000 high-quality videos. The music service doesn’t officially announce subscription numbers, although they are much smaller than Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, and many others.
TIDAL HiFi vs. TIDAL Premium
For average, everyday music listeners, there aren’t many differences between the many streaming music services. Within reason, each offers the same content on similar platforms with better features unlocked through a paid subscription. The ability to download music for offline use, for example, is one of the main reasons to pay, as is the ability to listen to everything without the occasional ad thrown in.
The differences between the streaming services in 2021 largely comes down to the extras each provides and whether those goodies are worth the price of admission. In deciding whether to switch to TIDAL, there’s also the cost factor. Unlike a switch between Apple Music and Spotify, choosing TIDAL over the others means spending more each month. And yes, the price difference is significant. And yet, the reason TIDAL charges more is the first reason you might want to use the service.
Like Apple Music, TIDAL doesn’t offer a free subscription plan, unlike Spotify, which does. In TIDAL’s case, there are premium and HiFi tiers.
The less expensive TIDAL Premium option limits audio tracks to 320kbps via AAC, a lossy file format. With this plan, you’ll receive all of TIDAL’s perks, including exclusive music, videos, and events. And yet, I wouldn’t recommend switching from Apple Music/Spotify to TIDAL Premium since the differences aren’t enough to make a difference.
It’s a different story with TIDAL HiFi. Double the premium plan price, membership here increases recordings to CD-quality lossless FLAC files from 44.1kHz/16bit. This means there’s no data loss during transmission to your ears.
TIDAL HiFi also adds Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) to the mix. You’ll find high-resolution (96kHz/24bit) audio delivered via FLAC or WAV file at this audio codec. Artist authentication is guaranteed with all MQA content.
Though once available only through the TIDAL desktop app, MQA content is now accessible on mobile. On both platforms, this content is clearly marked “Masters.”
Is $19.99 Worth It?
Subscriptions are a way of life when it comes to home entertainment. It seems everything requires paying a monthly fee, from streaming video and music services to software unlocks and download. At $20 for a regular monthly subscription, TIDAL HiFi is only a practical choice if you can afford it and have the equipment to experience the better sounds. This means going beyond $10 earbuds and buying speakers that support higher-resolution audio. Otherwise, no, TIDAL isn’t worth it.
A TIDAL subscription won’t sound nearly as expensive if you purchase a family plan. Family Premium, for example, is $15 per month and includes room for five additional users. You also can have up to six users in total with a $30 per month Family HiFi subscription.
Other Reasons to Use TIDAL
There are two other reasons to consider TIDAL over other services. These include its remarkable artist discovery and general functionality. TIDAL has always been committed to bringing artists closer to their followers. This is especially true for new and emerging artists that would otherwise not have a place to generate interest. From curated playlists to behind-the-scenes content, TIDAL makes it seamless to learn more about the artists you already love and the new ones you’re about to discover.
Along the way, the TIDAL interface works thanks to its ease of use and intuitive design. From the moment you begin using the service, the app’s home page is re-designed to match your interests better. The service’s dark black/gray color palette also adds to the intuitiveness.
What About Negatives?
So what are the reasons not to use TIDAL? Obviously, price is the No. 1 factor — at least for some. Its less-than-robust podcasts library could be another factor. Obviously, music is what defines streaming music services. And yet, Spotify has become one of the most popular places to go to listen to favorite podcasts.
Reasons to Use TIDAL: Conclusion
If you’re looking to listen to the highest quality music on your mobile device, computer, or supported speaker system, you can’t go wrong with TIDAL HiFi. Yes, it costs more, but the difference to the ears should make it worth it. If, however, you’ve been considering switching from Apple Music or Spotify to TIDAL Premium, I’d say the time and energy to switch won’t make it worth it. With TIDAL Premium, you’re getting the same sound quality found elsewhere for the same price. Plus, you’ll potentially lose access to your favorite podcasts.
Regardless, new users can try TIDAL free for 30 days by signing up on the official website. Give it a shot and see if you notice the difference and want to enjoy your music in a high-quality way.