I have reached blog number 20 with this blog!!!
In the last in my series of Music Streaming Services reviews, I am reviewing a service that is very much geared towards delivering a quality listening experience, but does it deliver? Here is my TIDAL review.
TIDAL launched in 2014, by a Norwegian Company Aspiro. Now the name may not sound familiar but Aspiro was brought in 2015 by ‘Project Panther Bidco Ltd’. Again that name might not sound familiar either but its owner should, the artist Jay-Z. This makes TIDAL the first artist owned music streaming service in the world. It has agreements with all major and indie labels and provides access to over 60 million tracks and 240,000 music videos. The other thing that makes TIDAL stand out from the crowd is its passion for music quality – more on that later. The service is still quite new and not as well known as market leader Spotify, despite this it has over 3 million subscribers. Tidal has apps available for Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS and Android compatible devices, as well as being compatible with Apple TV, Roku, CarPlay, Android TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
Premium £9.99 a month TIDAL’s Premium tier gives users unlimited music across devices including smartphones, computers, and tablets, access to exclusive events and the ability to create playlists and download songs. All ad-free.
Hi Fi £14.99 a month TIDAL’s HiFi tier gives subscribers all the same great content and experiences as a Premium subscription, except music is delivered in lossless CD and Master Quality.
Family Premium £14.99 a month including up to 5 additional family members totaling 6 on the account. Standard sound quality, high definition music videos.
Family HiFi £29.99 a month including up to 5 additional family members totaling 6 on the account. Lossless High Fidelity sound quality, high definition music videos,
From a philanthropic perspective (if you’re into that level of detail) Tidal pays Artists more royalties for streamed music. More money = more productive artists, so we get more music- hopefully.
“Our artist-owners developed our model so that TIDAL pays the highest ratio of royalties vs. revenues to music creators of any streaming service, and equal rates are paid to artists regardless of whether they’re signed to a major label, an indie label, or not signed to a label at all.”
I suspect though, that the biggest thing you want to know about is the quality of the music . Well I can tell you that it is simply streets ahead of competitors. TIDAL call their basic subscription ‘Premium’ in reality this just ensures that all music is streamed at 320KBS. This is on par with rivals such as Amazon and Apple music. It sounds good but nothing special to talk about. its
the Hifi subscription tier that unlocks the magic and that’s the one worth shouting about.
Once you have a HIFI subscription the first thing that you notice is the tracks have tags allocated to them. Next to the track you will see HIFI or Master.
When a track is showing HIFI it means that Tidal will present the track in Hi Fidelity Sound. Streamed in an uncompressed format – FLAC– @ a rate of 16-Bit/44.1 kHz. To the non audio aficionados amongst us that means HiFi streaming delivers an uncompressed sound file,that you can hear every instrument and every note just as the artist intended. This is quite an achievement to produce music delivered over the internet at the same quality as physical CD’s. I listened to Pompeii (By Bastille) via TIDAL’s Android app and a pair of AKG Y50 headphones. The first thing I noticed is that the tone was different. Spotify has a tendency to sound tinny and a bit electronic. Amazon and Apple tend to sound a little base heavy, but Tidal sounded very full and detailed. You can literally hear the slightest of detail within the track, I swear I could make out the lead singer’s (Dan Smith) intake of breath between every verse.
If TIDAL was to stop there I would say its the best listening experience I have found but it doesn’t and it gets better!
TIDAL’s top level of music quality is called ‘Master’. Tidal have teamed up with a company called MQA (Master Quality Audio) this team up has enabled track to be
treamed at the same level of quality it was originally recorded at, often referred to as Studio quality. This level of audio is delivered at 1411 kbps instead of the usual 320 kbps for standard streaming.
The difference in the sound performance between standard and master is like switching on a lightbulb in a dark room. Instantly you experience things that you could not locate before. It could be strings embedded deep within the background of a track, the gasps for breath as the artist sings or the reverberations caused by a drumstick, it’s like listening to someone performing right there in front of you. The sound revolution does not stop there. TIDAL has recently introduced 3D sound. You may be thinking that this sounds like a gimmick from the 1980’s and you would be wrong. 3D spatial sound is the latest technology in moving sound. Brand names are Sony 360 and Dolby Atmos. To achieve this the tracks have to be streamed at the highest possible quality and as TIDAL have nailed this, it’s only natural that they include this within their service.
Sony 360 uses technology to move sounds around you, I get the feeling it’s geared towards wearing headphones and performances that have been recorded live. It’s supposed to provide a sense of being in the audience, although I just found it to be a bit echoey and couldn’t get into the experience.
Dolby Atmos is the jewel in the crown. Atmos has been around for several years in Movies. It enables a very high quality soundtrack to not only move around you but also in any other direction such as overhead. It’s exciting to experience in the cinema and now Dolby have figured out a way to convert tracks and albums to this format. The opportunity to experience tracks in the new ways this represents is incredible. TIDAL have curated several playlists for Atmos and although it’s quite a new format they have a wide variety of tracks.
I listened to ‘When Doves Cry ‘Atmos edition (Prince). This was played through an Apple 4KTV running the TIDAL app connected to a Yamaha amp, 5 surround speakers, 1 base speaker and 2 upfiring Atmos speakers (these speakers bounce sound off the ceiling to give a sense of height).
What I experienced was phenomenal. First the sound was crystal clear, just like listening to Master audio mentioned above, 2nd the use of the direction sound blew me away. At one point Prince’s voice moved around me and I had instruments and additional vocals playing seemingly overhead. It gives a totally different dimension to listening to music. It’s not only exciting listeners it’s also got the attention of artists, in fact only this week has it been announced that a John Williams concert has been recorded and released in Atmos.
Aside from the music quality TIDAL have worked on the Android app too. It works mostly like any other app, select your favorite artists and it will provide mixes to listen to. You are also provided video playlists (in HD quality) podcast and offline capability. I quite liked the fact that it’s easy to add tracks to your favorites list.
It’s easy to create your own playlist and add tracks that you like. If you play your favorite music once you reach the end of the list TIDAL will start to play tracks that are similar. I found this to be a good way to discover new artists and music that I had not come across before and its choices are spot on. It’s the same with the automated playlists that TIDAL puts together. On other streaming platforms I have found their recommendations not to be to my taste but TIDAL was pretty accurate. What kind of sorcery is this.
Ok let’s get the elephant out the room, yep it’s the price. At £9.99 the ‘Premium’ package is on par with every other service and is simply OK. The benefits being the HD video and playlists that seem to be a tad better than other services, but if you’re well embedded into using another service it’s not enough to warrant changing. The HI-Fi plan is the one that offers all that TIDAL can offer, but at between £14.99 to £29.99 a month it’s a lot to pay out just for music. So unless you are an audiophile or have cash to burn it’s probably not going to be the service for you.
The second negative point I have is very subjective. I found the choice of music too urban for my tastes. When I first loaded the service, the music presented was mostly American, and came from the urban and rap scenes (this is not surprising given who owns it) I felt it took a long time to find tracks I like. This is something I have noticed that is echoed by others across social media.
Third is Android Auto integration. I am pleased to say the app works fine and sounds great, but it is very limited. Spotify provides a like for like mirror of the app and Tidal relies on a more minimalist approach with greater emphasis on voice searches. This means you really need to know what you want to listen to or you get the urbanised standard playlists of artists you’ve never heard of.
The Silver Hedgehog Final Thoughts:
Tidal is like the Harrod’s of the music streaming services. It offers the same music as its rivals presented in a more premium high quality way. The way the music is presented is simply a revelation. It’s a shame that the pricing is on the expensive side. I guess you get what you pay for. It’s definitely worth trying a free trial.
This gives Tidal