Music streaming

What is TIDAL? The audiophile music streaming service explained

If you’re a music fan, you can’t move online without going through a music streaming service. There are now plenty of choices, including TIDAL.

TIDAL as we know it started in 2014, and since its inception it’s had many owners with Jay-Z acting as the service’s figurehead and even Samsung was reportedly interested in an acquisition years ago.

TIDAL is now owned by mobile payments company Square, led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, which bought a majority share of the company in 2021. It continues to be a music streaming service that prioritizes to artists, with the aim of bringing fans closer together while delivering music in the highest possible quality.

What is TIDAL?

TIDAL is a global music streaming service that positions itself as the first music streaming service to offer high-fidelity audio and high-definition video. It claims to have a library of over 80 million songs, double the amount available when we last reviewed it in 2018, and features over 350,000 videos including original content and live streams. There’s a selection of podcasts available on the service, but not as many as you’ll find on Apple Music or Spotify.

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Tidal music curation in app

As a music service, it aims to put artists at the forefront of the experience by making royalty payments fairer and more equitable; its Direct Artist Payout program increases payments to artists each month by paying out up to 10% of a member’s subscription to the most-streamed musicians in a calendar month.

The music and video content is also complemented by editorial content, with interviews and reports that give fans of the musicians a better insight into their work and history.

How much does TIDAL music cost?

In North America, Tidal offers three pricing tiers, the lowest of which is its ad-supported free tier with limited downtime that launched in 2021.

In the UK there are only two levels: HiFi and HiFi Plus.

HiFi is ad-free, costs £9.99/month after a 30-day free trial, offers access to the full library of content and playlists and audio is supported up to CD quality (1411 kbps)

HiFi Plus is priced at £19.99/month after the 30 day free trial ends, and includes everything included in the HiFi tier, but takes the sound quality up to 9216kbps and adds the jack support for Tidal Masters, Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

This is also where initiatives such as direct artist payments and fan-centric royalties exist to channel a portion of your subscription to the most listened to musicians.

What is TIDAL Masters?

TIDAL Masters is an area of ​​the streaming service’s catalog that offers millions of tracks available in high-quality MQA streaming format.

MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated and claims to provide the original sound recording through TIDAL Masters streaming. It achieves this by folding and unfolding the data, using less bandwidth and therefore less data to stream high quality files.

Tidal MQA Albums

TIDAL Master supports audio up to 24-bit/96kHz and is only available with a HiFi Plus tier subscription. To play music in Master quality, the streaming settings in the app or on the desktop must be changed to “Master”.

You can spot authenticated Master-grade content by looking for the Master logo next to albums and tracks, or by searching curated MQA playlists. In the desktop app, you’ll find Master Quality Authenticated albums and playlists to browse on the home screen.

MQA rendering engine

In order to deliver MQA leads on a network, they are “folded” – it’s like folding a piece of paper into an origami shape – before leaving (you can read more about this in our explainer).

The TIDAL app can decode MQA streams on desktop, iOS and Android; performing the first ‘unfolding’ of the ‘folded’ file, and when paired with a compatible product (such as the THX Onyx), final unfolding can take place to deliver the full quality of the MQA file.

Some devices can do this without the need for additional help, such as Bluesound products, doing the full deployment themselves.

Where can I get TIDAL Music Streaming?

TIDAL is available on a wide range of devices such as those from Sonos, Naim, Denon, KEF, Yamaha, Cambridge Audio, Dynaudio, NAD and Technics to name a few.

It has also carved out a niche for itself with support for high-end devices such as Moon Audio, T+A, Esoteric, and Electrocompaniet.

You can use Chromecast with TIDAL (although Chromecast doesn’t seem to support MQA), and the service is supported on Roku devices (although Atmos and Masters streaming seems supported), Vizio TVs, TVs Samsung and Android (Sony and Philips).

Both Fire TV and Apple TV streaming devices support Tidal, and if you have a car from Mercedes-Benz, Lincoln, or Volkswagen, you can also stream directly from Tidal. Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto also offer music control and playback from the service.

DJ apps include VirtualDJ, Pioneer DJ and Serato, while iOS (from iOS 13), MacOS, Apple Watch, Android (Android 6 and above), Windows, Samsung Gear and Amazon Alexa are supported. You can find out which other brands support TIDAL by visiting the website.

What is TIDAL Connect?

TIDAL Connect is, according to the service itself, “the first and only HiFi streaming technology”. It lets users send music directly from the app to their connected devices (we’re sure Chromecast will want a word, though).

It works much the same as Spotify Connect, but allows higher quality formats like Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos.

To stream music, users need to open the “Now Playing” screen when a song is playing, click on the device switcher in the bottom left corner of the app, and choose a TIDAL Connect compatible device available to continue reading.

Brands that support TIDAL Connect include Bluesound, Cambridge Audio, DALI, KEF, iFi audio, Lyngdorf, Monitor, NAD and Naim Audio. StreamUnlimited is also a partner, acting as a gateway to high-end devices.

Is Tidal worth it?

If you want a more audiophile streaming experience on Spotify, then TIDAL fits the bill. It has a library that matches Spotify in scope, offers higher quality tracks, and covers much of the same ground in terms of features.

Standard tiers cost the same, but you get more for your money in audio quality from TIDAL. If you’re a music lover with a thirst for better quality streaming and want to make sure more of your money ends up in your favorite artist’s pocket, TIDAL is currently the service leading the charge on both fronts.

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