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October 28, 2014
Streaming services are in their heyday. With so many great options available to consumers, it’s hard to know what makes one service different from another. Well, TIDAL prides itself on being an artist and quality-first platform. It now has social features to compete more directly with Spotify, and offers high-quality audio support from FLAC files and more.
Time to find out if this streaming service is worth all your pretty pennies.
Editor’s note: this TIDAL HiFi Plus review was updated on August 26, 2022, to clarify the changes TIDAL has made to its subscription tiers, update FAQs, and update formatting.
What is TIDAL HiFi Plus?
TIDAL is a music streaming service that promises to unite artists and fans. It distinguishes itself from other services by offering lossless streaming if you go all-in with a TIDAL HiFi Plus membership. While music content is the priority, users are also provided access to original video series, podcasts, and music journalists—though podcasts are extremely limited.
It promotes itself as the streaming service that puts the artist first. Various celebrities, like Jay Z and Beyoncé, own equity in it. While artist empowerment is a core tenant of the platform, so too is its commitment to benefiting fans. Artists provide members with exclusive digital content and experiences through the TIDAL X program.
As of August 20, 2019, TIDAL includes social features that make it easy for iOS and Android users to share music and video to their Instagram and Facebook stories. This is something we’ve seen with Spotify allowing users to post individual songs to a story. However, TIDAL lets users post individual tracks or whole playlists which appear as still images on either social platform.
How do you use TIDAL HiFi?
TIDAL offers two applications, one for mobile and one for desktop use, both of which are similar to competing platforms’ interfaces. The home screen presents a banner of featured content, some of which are platform exclusives. Just below the banner is your recently played media followed by suggested new tracks and albums. The curated and featured playlists suggestions continue for a few more thumb scrolls.
Tapping away from the home screen brings you to the explore tab. Here, you’ll find featured artists, different genres, and then suggestions based on your preferences. If you’re hosting a party or going to the gym, you can also select from the “Moods and Activities” curated playlists.
TIDAL Rising is an easy way to explore rising artists from around the globe.
One of my favorite features of the online streaming service is TIDAL Rising, which is under the “Explore” tab. This is where lesser-known, up-and-coming artists are featured. Much of my day-to-day consists of latently listening to music. Recommendations like this remove my myopic genre blinders. It introduced me to some excellent international artists whom I wouldn’t have otherwise found.
TIDAL’s December 19, 2019, update (v3.19.1) displays updates to the album credits page by including release dates and video information. It also improves image scaling, so no more disproportionate album displays. It also remedies the top result when searching for tracks, as some TIDAL users reported the display of irrelevant results.
On March 25, 2020, TIDAL released an update (v3.22.0) which includes a “date added” column in personal playlists. It also provides less intrusive update notifications and minor bug fixes.
Music playback, creating playlists, and more
Once you select a song to play, the playback display pops up. You get basic controls and options like shuffle and loop. You can also cast to connected devices like Sonos speakers. If you tap the three stacked circles located in the bottom-right corner of the display, a menu pops up whereby you can add the song to a playlist, your collection, share it with a friend, start a “Track Radio,” view the credits, and more.
The credits feature is the best I’ve seen. It’s quickly available via an “i” icon, whereas with Spotify it takes a bit of digging to access. Like the rest of the TIDAL app, the credits layout is attractive and easy to understand. Plus, by tapping on a contributor’s name, you can view other projects they’ve participated in. This is a great way to discover similar, yet different sounds.
Oftentimes, I’ll Google search an album’s producer and research their other projects. It’s great to see TIDAL simplifying that process, allowing members to conduct a similar inquiry without leaving the app.
TIDAL has great app design
This is one of the most attractive streaming apps available. The dark black and gray color palette with contrasting blue accents look great. Animations between menus and the playback module are smooth; I rarely experienced any lag. The biggest drawback to its interface is the lack of voice search capabilities. Hopefully, that’s updated sooner rather than later, but it’s a mild inconvenience.
What are the different streaming qualities of TIDAL HiFi Plus?
TIDAL HiFi Plus, the membership I used for this review, allows access to four streaming qualities: normal, high, HiFi, and Master. Normal reduces data usage and is good for anyone with limited bandwidth or a slow internet connection. High quality strikes a fine balance between data usage and sound quality by streaming at 320kbps over AAC. The most interesting qualities are HiFi and Master.
HiFi recordings are CD-quality lossless FLAC files, which essentially means that no data is lost when transmitting the audio to your ears. This means you’re benefiting from 44.1kHz/16bit audio files, which is plenty of data for our brains to decode. To take full advantage of this, you’ll want to equip your ears with some fine headphones rather than your cheap backup earbuds.
Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) is available with the $19.99/month subscription, however, its implementation has received quite a bit of criticism. This audio codec promises high-resolution (96kHz/24bit) audio delivered via FLAC or WAV file, but it’s unclear if the encoding offers any benefit beyond the extra data it uses. Any media labeled as MQA under TIDAL means that it was directly authenticated by the artist for use with this standard. Initially, MQA was only available on desktop but has since been made available on the mobile app, too.
Can you download music with TIDAL?
TIDAL allows you to download content for on-the-go listening, which is great if you want to prevent any overage charges from your service provider. Anything accessible from the service is also downloadable: adding a music video to a downloaded audio playlist will automatically download the music video, too. You can choose to download only over Wi-Fi via the settings menu. If you plan to download a lot of music—videos, in particular—be sure your phone’s internal storage can house that much data. If you have a phone with expandable storage, pick up a microSD card.
Does TIDAL support local audio files?
You can, however, transfer your music library and playlists from other music platforms to your TIDAL library. TIDAL enables this by employing third-party services which administer the transfer.
How does a TIDAL subscription work?
There are five subscription rates: standard, family, student, military, and first responder. And there are 3 types of subscriptions: TIDAL Free, TIDAL HiFi, and TIDAL HiFi Plus. No matter what rate you pay, you’re charged every 30 days. According to the company website, months containing more than 30 days may show charges twice in a month.
TIDAL offers discounted rates for students and military service members.
Family memberships allow for up to five members to be on a single account. TIDAL’s student membership requires users to enter their university and provide a valid university email address. This requires verification every 12 months. Military memberships, on the other hand, require users to select their current military status, denote what branch of service they’re in, and provide an applicable email. Both student and military membership types are limited to certain geographies.
Tidal HiFi Plus
What’s the difference between TIDAL Free, TIDAL HiFi, and TIDAL HiFi Plus?
On November 17, 2021, TIDAL announced its free and enhanced paid subscription tiers, effectively splitting what was once dubbed plainly as “TIDAL HiFi” into two separate tiers and adding a third free tier. TIDAL Free (US only) allows listeners to access the entire TIDAL library with limited interruptions that don’t include ads from third-parties. It works much like Spotify Free, limiting the number of track skips users can make on mobile. The maximum sound quality available through TIDAL Free is 160kbps.
The standard TIDAL HiFi membership costs $9.99/month. You get full access to the TIDAL catalog without interruption. You also get offline capabilities and access to TIDAL Connect and can stream music quality up to 1411kbps. This makes sense as a move to match Amazon Music and Apple Music’s lossless offers at no extra cost to the consumer.
TIDAL HiFi Plus, on the other hand, costs $19.99/month. You get all the same perks as HiFi members with the extra access to MQA files and immersive sound formats (Dolby Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio). Both memberships offer 30-day free trials, which may be canceled anytime.
How does TIDAL pay artists?
TIDAL claims to champion the artist but its payout is measly compared to Qobuz, another hi-res streaming service. That said, it still pays about double what either Google Play Music (now YouTube Music) or Apple Music pays per stream. The most effective way to directly support artists in the age of digital streaming is to attend their shows and buy their merchandise.
In 2022, the company adjusted its royalties model: royalties attributed to HiFI Plus listeners are no longer aggregated and instead are paid based on the individual activity of HiFi Plus subscribers. This allows fans to have a greater influence on their favorite artists’ successes. With TIDAL’s direct-to-artist payments, artists can access an additional payment stream, which allows them to benefit from their most frequent fans on the platform. Every month, up to 10% of HiFi Plus subscribers’ fees will go to their top-streamed artist.
|Digital Service Provider||$ Per Stream|
Amazon Music Unlimited
YouTube Music/Premium (formerly YouTube Red)
Amazon Prime Music
YouTube Content ID
Source: The Trichordist
What are the drawbacks of TIDAL HiFi?
A notable strike against TIDAL, and why I won’t switch to it from Spotify just yet, is its lack of social features. Again, it added Instagram and Facebook story integration but lacks native social features as seen on Spotify. I cherish Spotify’s “Friend Activity” column and frequently use it to discover new music. While I enjoy the TIDAL interface, I miss peering at my friends’ playlists. This tracks with TIDAL’s projected image: it’s not about the listener as an individual as much as it is about the artist-listener relationship. I know plenty of people who couldn’t care less for Spotify’s social features. If that resonates with you, then TIDAL is still a great platform.
Additionally, if you’re someone with a large personal library of locally stored files, or find yourself addicted to podcasts, this service isn’t for you. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed my TIDAL HiFi trial membership and would feel compelled to switch streaming services if I weren’t already knee-deep in Spotify playlists.
Is TIDAL is worth paying for?
TIDAL could be worth your money. It’s now set to compete with Apple Music and Amazon Music’s lossless tiers, though Amazon is still the cheapest of the bunch for existing Prime members. However, prices are constantly in flux and will likely change.
This is a widely used platform that has quickly expanded its artist library over the past few years. Its selection is just as competitive as Spotify’s, save for podcasts. If you enjoy the idea of exclusive and early-release and video content, TIDAL makes sense. What’s more, TIDAL Rising and credits functionality are both stellar, giving listeners the means of finding hidden gems with minimal effort.
Even if you don’t care much for sound quality and are wishy-washy on exclusive content, the TIDAL user experience is solid.
What other high-resolution streaming services should you consider?
Qobuz may not have the same clout as TIDAL or even Amazon Music HD, but it’s a great high-resolution streaming service, and the first one with 24-bit audio streaming on Sonos. It has a 70-million-plus catalog of tracks to choose from, though you’ll have a harder time finding niche indie artists on this platform compared to something like Spotify. What makes Qobuz unique is its online store (no subscription required) where you can purchase high-resolution digital audio files. You and your friends can even make collaborative playlists on Qobuz, something Apple Music has yet to offer. If you’re not sure whether this is the service for you, Qobuz offers a one-month free trial period to prospective subscribers.
Amazon’s high-resolution streaming service is a bargain for anyone who wants an expansive library of lossless FLAC audio. Over 50 million 16bit/44.1kHz songs are available, and Ultra HD can stream up to 3,730kbps. This high-resolution streaming requires a premium device to support it, so some users may need a DAC. Amazon’s streaming service supports music downloads and, unlike TIDAL, local file playback. A subscription costs $9.99/month for non-Prime members and $7.99/month for Prime members.
Apple Music rocked the streaming music industry with its lossless streaming, as well as supporting Dolby’s spatial audio. Of course, Android users might be reluctant to shell out for this service, and if you’re listening with a set of Bluetooth headphones because your smartphone ditched its headphone jack you’re not getting lossless quality—but it’s still a decent option.
How do you transfer playlists from one music service to another?
If you’re looking to make the jump to or from TIDAL and want to take your pre-existing playlists with you, you’ll need to use a third-party transfer service like Soundiiz or Tune My Music. All you have to do is assign a source and a destination, say from TIDAL to Apple Music. After that, you must select the playlists that you want to transfer from the source music service and the app does all the work.
Note, you do have to give Soundiiz permission to access your old and new streaming service accounts, but you can immediately revoke this after the process is complete.
Frequently asked questions about TIDAL
While a song is playing, look under the pause/play button and the audio quality will be published there.
If you go to the TIDAL website, you can log in to your account, go to your subscription settings, and cancel your subscription. You can also cancel your subscription from the app by going to My Collection, Settings, Edit Profile, Manage Subscription, Subscription, and Cancel Subscription.
Yes, on both mobile and desktop TIDAL you can view the lyrics of the song you’re listening to.
Kind of. You won’t be able to find his whole discography, but there are a few available songs. Unfortunately a lot of these traditional Chinese artists’ full discography are only available in physical form.
No. Downloading a song for offline listening on a streaming service like TIDAL is not the same thing as downloading a song you purchased through a digital music store. Once your subscription to the service ends, your downloads disappear.
Probably not. When compressing an audio file into a lossy format, data points are dropped from the file. You certainly can tell the difference between a high bitrate lossless file and a low bitrate lossy file, but the difference between TIDAL’s HiFi and Master qualities are mostly undetectable seeing as they are both high bitrate lossless files. Additionally, many people are perfectly content with the audio quality produced by a lossy AAC, which is the format you will find on Apple Music and Spotify. Particularly because lossless files take up more storage space or Internet data to store or stream, many people are fine opting for the lesser quality. Another thing that does differ between lossy files and lossless ones is that you can sometimes hear compression artifacts, which manifest as distortion, when you listen to lossy files at high volumes.
You can use 1 device in online mode and 5 devices in offline mode simultaneously when subscribed to the standard single-use TIDAL membership plan, Premium or HiFi. This makes for a total of 6 devices simultaneously in use. If you want to use more than one device at a time, you must upgrade to the TIDAL Family Plan, which supports up to 6 accounts.
Yes. TIDAL’s music library has works from Puccino, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, and more.
TIDAL’s free trial does include Master Quality files; however, not all songs and albums or available in Master Quality. Supported tracks will have greyed-out “M” next to them.