If you’re looking to get into music streaming, there are several ways you can go, but picking the right service depends heavily on what you want out of it. No two platforms are as different as Spotify and Tidal; where Spotify prioritizes social features and personalized algorithms, Tidal prioritizes sound quality and puts artists first.

Editor’s note: this Tidal vs. Spotify article was updated on June 22, 2021, to include a content menu and more information about Spotify HiFi.

Tidal vs. Spotify: Music discovery

A side-by-side of Spotify's interface and Tidal's interface on two smartphones used to illustrate the differences between Tidal vs Spotify.

Spotify and Tidal both have clean, dark-themed user interfaces.

Both Tidal and Spotify offer various music discovery features and enable browsing by genre, mood, activity and more. Additionally, whether you’re on Tidal or Spotify, you have access to a radio feature that makes it easy to discover music similar to what you’re already listening to. Both streaming services use algorithms to learn your music tastes and recommend songs, but the ways in which they do so differ.

Tidal creates up to eight playlists that focus on eight different genres that you listen to a lot and have saved to “My Collection,” called “My Mix”. If you only listen to three genres regularly, however, it only gives you three playlists. These update gradually, rather than on a weekly schedule like Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist. And, if you like the “My Mix” you’re listening to today, you can save it as a separate playlist that isn’t lost forever when the mix updates.

Spotify and Tidal share similar music discovery features, but Spotify takes it a step further with expansive playlist options that may be filtered by mood, genre, activity, and more.

Spotify’s algorithms create not only the “Discover Weekly” playlist, but a weekly “Release Radar” playlist, up to six “Daily Mix” playlists, and, every so often: special static playlists such as “Your Time Capsule.” The “Discover Weekly” feature collects data about your listening habits, and recommends songs from artists and genres that you like. “Release Radar” is a one-stop shop for newly released music from all the artists you follow on Spotify. “Daily Mix” playlists combine music you’ve been listening to a lot recently and similar songs, and is essentially the same feature as Tidal’s My Mix. Algorithmically designed static playlists are Spotify exclusives released every so often and not on a particular schedule. For example, “Your Time Capsule” was a playlist released for Spotify users in 2017, and it used recent listening data to create a playlist of music users would likely have listened to as a teenager.

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Spotify has a “Charts” tab, which organizes the top songs all over the world by which country they came from. These playlists tell you if the song is new, on the uptrend, or on the downtrend. Tidal also has charts playlists, but there are fewer of them. On the other hand, Tidal has “Tidal Rising” where you can discover artists rising in popularity who Tidal’s curators have selected to feature based on the potential they see in them. Tidal Rising is a great way to discover new artists that are just starting to make their mark in the music industry.

Spotify has pretty much everything Tidal has and more when it comes to music discovery. In addition to algorithm playlists, both Spotify and Tidal have a smorgasbord of editorial playlists that are frequently updated. However, Spotify simply has more playlists for every genre, mood, and activity so there are more options to choose from, and many of these playlists serve a similar function to Tidal Rising by creating exposure for less popular artists.

Tidal vs. Spotify: Content

A side-by-side of Spotify's interface and Tidal's interface on two smartphones used to illustrate the differences between Tidal vs Spotify.

Spotify and Tidal both have clean, dark-themed user interfaces.

Both services offer music, that’s a given, but let’s see where Tidal and Spotify’s content offerings diverge.

Tidal has a larger music catalog, but Spotify’s is more niche

Tidal offers over 60 million tracks whereas Spotify has about 50 million; clearly both have a considerable amount of music. Some artists opt to release exclusive music only to Tidal, sometimes for months, before it is released to the rest of the world. On the other hand, some lesser-known indie music that can be found on Spotify may not be found on Tidal.

Spotify accepts music submissions from anyone, whether it is submitted through a third party distributor such as CDBaby or submitted directly to Spotify. For an indie artist to submit to Tidal, however, they have to submit it through a select few music distributors. If you typically only listen to relatively popular artists, this shouldn’t count against Tidal, but if you’re a fan of true bedroom pop, you may want to go with Spotify.

Podcast fans can get their fix with Spotify, but Tidal has videos

Spotify podcasts screen on iPhone 11 Pro on top of books to demonstrate Tidal vs Spotify UI differences.

Spotify hosts a large selection of podcasts for all your educational and entertainment needs.

Tidal is focused on musical artists, and so it doesn’t offer many podcasts. With Spotify, you have access to a wide library of podcasts, and a few podcast-specific playback features such as a sleep timer and speed adjuster. However, Spotify doesn’t offer as many podcast-specific features as some of the best podcast apps out there.

Tidal offers over 250,000 videos, many of which are exclusive to Tidal users and which include music videos, filmed live performances, and movies and documentaries about music. Spotify doesn’t have videos, but some songs have short GIFs that display on the player screen during the song.

Tidal has a ton of exclusive artist content

Tidal is a streaming service for the artists. Not only does it pay its artists more per stream than Spotify, they also have in-depth credit pages which outline who contributed to the music and how.

Digital Service Provider$ Per Stream
Amazon Unlimited$0.01175
24/7 Entertainment GmbH$0.01050
YouTube Red$0.00948
Google Play$0.00543
Amazon Digital Services Inc. $0.00395
Yandex LLC$0.00051
YouTube Content ID$0.00028

Tidal also offers its members exclusive artist content. Tidal X is a program for Tidal users that includes exclusive access to live shows, meet and greets, livestreams, concert tickets, and more. Examples of Tidal X events were Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 and Season 4 fashion shows where over 500 Tidal members were allowed to attend and the events were live streamed for all other Tidal members around the world.

Tidal Rising is a program in which Tidal’s curators select artists rising in popularity who they feel have potential and offer them free support. Artists get professionally photographed, get their music placed on the front page of Tidal, are offered Tour Support, and more. Not only does this feature support musicians in a direct and tangible way, but it’s also a great way for Tidal users to discover new artists that are just starting to make their mark in the music industry.

Spotify has a few similar features such as artist playlists which an artist can make and then add to their profile’s home page, and the Concerts tab which lists the artist’s upcoming shows in your city. Additionally, artists can record exclusive Spotify Singles in Spotify’s studios.

Tidal vs. Spotify: Streaming quality

If you’re looking for HiFi audio, Tidal is your friend. The Tidal HiFi membership offers four settings for streaming quality: Normal, High, HiFi, and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA).

Aerial view of a Google Pixel 3 on a JBL Link bar. The Tidal HiFi app is open on the smartphone.

Tidal let’s you cast to smart devices.

The Normal setting is designed to limit the amount of Internet data being used because streaming high quality files takes up a lot of data. Some users choose only to use the HiFi and MQA settings while hooked up to Wi-Fi. The High setting tops out at 320kbps and uses AAC files. The HiFi setting offers CD-quality lossless FLAC files, meaning they are 44.1kHz/16bit. Master quality audio files are 96kHz/24bit FLAC or WAV files. If a song is labeled as MQA on Tidal, it means that the artist authenticated it themselves, but not all songs are available in this high quality format. Additionally, in order to benefit from HiFi or MQA audio, you need to have good studio headphones.

Spotify also offers different audio quality settings, but the maximum streaming quality is Ogg Vorbis at 320kbps, which is the same as Tidal’s High setting. On February 22, 2021, Spotify announced a lossless audio tier: Spotify HiFi. Little is known about the newfangled tier, except that it will offer CD-quality audio and is set to release sometime in 2021. It will compete directly with Tidal HiFi, Amazon Music HD, and, as of recently, Apple Music. All devices will support Spotify HiFi, including Spotify Connect smart speakers.

Streaming ServiceMax streaming qualitySupported Formats
Qobuz24bit / 192kHzAIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, WMA Lossless
Amazon Music HD24bit / 192kHzFLAC
Tidal HiFi24bit / 192kHzAAC, ALAC, FLAC, MQA
Deezer HiFi16bit / 44.1kHzFLAC
Google Play Music320kbpsAAC, ALAC, FLAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WMA
Deezer Premium320kbpsMP3
Spotify Premium320kbpsAAC, Ogg Vorbis
Apple Music24bit / 192kHzAAC
YouTube Music Premium256kbpsAAC
SoundCloud Go+256kbpsAAC
Slacker Radio320kbpsMP3
Spotify Free160kbpsAAC
Deezer Free128kbpsMP3

Tidal vs. Spotify: Pricing

Spotify and Tidal's app icons on an iPhone, used to juxtapose Tidal vs Spotify.

Tidal is more expensive than Spotify but has higher quality audio.

Tidal offers two tiers for subscriptions. The cheaper of the two is Tidal Premium, which offers maximum 320kbps audio quality via AAC, a lossy file format. With Tidal Premium, you can access exclusive music, videos, events and editorial playlists. The more expensive Tidal subscription is Tidal HiFi, which is the subscription this article of Tidal vs. Spotify focuses on. Tidal HiFi offers lossless, high bitrate audio files, Sony 360 Reality Audio, and Dolby Atmos Music in addition to everything Tidal Premium offers. Both Premium and HiFi offer family subscriptions which allow up to six accounts. A 30-day free trial is available for both Tidal Premium and Tidal HiFi. Tidal also has a free plan called Tidal Access but you can only access its live video channels and a few selected radios.

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Overall, Spotify’s pricing is cheaper, and there is a free version—something Tidal lacks. Spotify also has a 30-day free trial for Spotify Premium. If you want high bitrate lossless audio but don’t want to pay so much for Tidal, try Amazon Music HD.

 PremiumFamilyStudentMilitaryFirst Responders
Tidal 30-day free trialFreeFreeFreeFreeFree
Tidal Premium$9.99/mo$14.99/mo$4.99/mo$5.99/mo$5.99/mo
Tidal HiFi$19.99/mo$29.99/mo$9.99/mo$11.99/mo$11.99/mo
Spotify FreeFree- Listen to music with ad interruptions
- Shuffle music
- On-demand playback from 15 Spotify-created playlists
Spotify Premium Student$4.99/mo- Listen to music ad-free
- Download music for offline listening
- On-demand playback
- SHOWTIME and ad-supported Hulu
Spotify Premium Individual$9.99/mo- Listen to music ad-free
- Download music for offline listening
- On-demand playback
Spotify Premium Duo$12.99/mo- 2 separate Premium accounts for a couple under one roof
- Duo Mix: a playlist algorithmically created and updated for both members
- Listen to music ad-free
- Download music for offline listening
- On-demand playback
Spotify Premium Family$14.99/mo- Up to 6 Premium accounts for family members living under one roof
- Family Mix: a playlist algorithmically created and updated for all members
- Can block explicit music
- Spotify Kids: app for kids 12 and under
- Listen to music ad-free
- Download music for offline listening
- On-demand playback

Tidal vs. Spotify: Social features

Spotify Home tab running on a Windows PC used to illustrate feature differences between Tidal vs Spotify.

The Friend Activity section on the right updates as your friends change the song they’re listening to.

If you want the ability to view your friends’ listening activity or playlists, Spotify is the way to go. Spotify has a Friend Activity section which displays the songs your friends are actively listening to along with the album or playlist they are listening from. Unfortunately, this section is only available on the desktop app for Spotify, not the mobile app. You can follow friends by searching their username or by linking your Spotify account with Facebook. However, if you don’t want people to be able to view your Spotify activity, you can always disable the feature that publishes your activity. You have the ability to save your friends’ playlists to your library and create collaborative playlists where multiple friends can add and remove songs. Spotify also has partnerships with Instagram and Tinder, so it’s easy to share your music tastes with people on these apps as well.

As for Tidal, the only semi-social feature is that you can share a song from the Tidal app to your social media profiles, which is also a feature in Spotify.

Tidal vs. Spotify: Extra features

Spotify Wrapped shows your end-of-year statistics

In December of every year Spotify releases Spotify Wrapped which is an animation of infographics outlining your listening statistics from the year. These stats include things like how many total minutes you spent listening to music, which artist you listened to most, and which countries your favorite artists are from. Once you’ve viewed your statistics, you can share a card with your top songs and artists to your Instagram Stories to prove to everyone that you have superior music taste.

Spotify allows you to play local files

If you still have MP3 files saved to your computer from the old days and want to be able to listen to them in the same media player as your streamed music, you should get Spotify. Tidal doesn’t allow any local file playback, which is a shame for listeners with vast libraries from the CD-ripping days.

You can, however, easily transfer your music library and playlists from a different music platform into Tidal. Tidal employs third-party services to complete this task.

On both Tidal and Spotify, you can download files for offline listening. Keep in mind that if you download a lossless FLAC file on Tidal, it’s probably going to take up a lot of storage space on your device.

Tidal and Spotify have easy car integration

Both Tidal and Spotify are compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto so long as your car has that functionality. These enable easier navigation of your music while in the car, but you shouldn’t use them while actively driving. Additionally, Spotify can be integrated with Google Maps and Waze, and Tidal can be integrated with Waze for local control of your music from within the navigation app.

Tidal vs. Spotify: Which streaming service should you subscribe to?

A Google Pixel 3 smartphone displays the Instagram stories feature song lyrics.

You can add Spotify songs to Instagram stories.

Both Tidal and Spotify are great music platforms, but the key differences between the two are as follows: Tidal is all about the artist-listener relationship whereas Spotify focuses on the listener as an individual who wants to discover new music and share it with their friends. Tidal offers high-fidelity audio whereas Spotify does not, or at least won’t until Spotify HiFi comes to fruition, but Tidal HiFi is more expensive than Spotify Premium. All in all, both streaming services are popular for good reason, but you’ll have to decide which is the one for you.

Next: Why I’m an avid Spotify user despite dubious audio quality

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Tidal publish how many times a track has been played? Spotify does, kinda I think?

You're correct that Spotify publishes the number of streams on popular songs on artist's profiles, and each track in an artist's album will display a tally mark of how popular that track is relative to the other tracks on the album. Tidal does not publish listening statistics in either of these ways, but each artist's profile will display what their most popular tracks are.

Can I download Tidal music to the microSD card in my Samsung Galaxy phone?

Yes, Tidal allows you to store downloaded files on an external microSD card so long as you're subscribed to the streaming service. To switch the download destination to an external microSD card, open Tidal on your Android or iPhone. Go to the "Settings" menu in the app. Tap "Music Playback" > "Download Destination" to toggle between download destinations. From there, you may select "Internal" or "Memory Card."

Does the Spotify family subscription not allow members of the family who live in a different location to use the subscription?

All members of a family plan must report the same address to Spotify to be able to join the subscription.

Can I search for songs by their lyrics on Spotify?

Yes, Spotify recently added this feature where you can type a song's lyrics into the search bar and the song will likely come up. The main reason it wouldn't come up would be if the artist has not uploaded and affiliated the lyrics to their song.