Tidal Hi-Fi Music Streaming service – pros and cons

Tidal Hi-Fi Music Streaming service costs £19.95 per month so it better be worth paying twice as much as other streaming services. For those not sure or haven’t heard of Tidal it streams music at 3 different bit rates. See below.

– Normal quality: 96 kbps (AAC +)

– High quality: 320 kbps (AAC)

– HiFi: Flac 1411 kbps – Lossless (16 bit/44.1 khz)

Google All Access streams at 320mp3 at its highest and Apple at 256 AAC. As you can see Tidal streams at an even higher bitrate called Flac.  This digital file is higher than that of CDs.  It normally is an uncompressed recording of the actual performance.  Tidal also offers HQ video but this is only available via a PC and not using their mobile apps.

So I downloaded their app on to my Note 4.  Signed up for free 7 day trial.  You do need to give them your credit card details. And started streaming.  My setup was Tidal app playing the music,  in to my HiFiMeDIY Sabre Android USB DAC and then into my Cayin C5 Portable Headphone amplifier.  This sounded amazing.  You could plug your headphones straight into the Note 4 itself which still offers a remarkable improvement.  The change in dynamics, clarity, instruments and nuances of each song was so much better.  After 4 hours of streaming music I thought to myself it really cannot be that much better than that of say Google All Access music.  So I selected a jazz album on Tidal played one track,  switch to Google Music and played the same track.  Nightmare scenario. Google Music now sounded distorted and muddy and lacking everything.  The difference was stark and greater than expected.

But here’s the thing.  Flac music files are huge in size.  A typical album will be in gb’s not mb’s. Fortunately,  Tidal offers offline mode and the option to store tracks to the micro SD card if you have one.  Due to Flac’s storage requirements I never bothered using them as the extra storage required was crazy.  I have a vast music collection and if it was all flac files my house would be full of hard drives.  But this is why I like Tidal.  As it streams the space issue is overcome. 

So after 2 days in to my 7 day trial I am nearly convinced to pay the monthly payment.  But not everything is rosy.  The app is not the best for finding music.  It’s buggy too.  In my offline downloads it shows I’ve downloaded 3 albums but in the queue are 5 tracks showing still to be downloaded, which they have been already.  Mid way through listening to music it sometimes just stops.  Some of the offline downloaded tracks when playing them back skip in places.  This might be down to the track not downloading properly with my wifi speed maybe being the cause. Whatever the reason it’s annoying.  And offline mode means you still need large storage if you want to hold several albums on your device.

The other aspect of Tidal is the music catalogue is not as large as say iTunes but it is broader than I imagined.  I’m listening to Imagine Dragons as I type this. One other point is Tidal only allows 3 authorised devices which should be enough. 

If there is one reason why I don’t subscribe it is due to the tracks skipping mid song.  Totally ruins the enjoyment of otherwise a special music streaming service. 

 

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3 thoughts on “Tidal Hi-Fi Music Streaming service – pros and cons

  1. I love TIdal. I’ve been using it for 3 months. The app does have some issues with offline but i have never suffered track skipping. But i tend to download before listening. For me the quality on my Note Edge with a Wolfson DAC is compelling.

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  2. “As you can see Tidal streams at an even higher bitrate called Flac. This digital file is higher than that of CDs. It normally is an uncompressed recording of the actual performance.”

    FLAC is not about bitrate. It’s wrong to compare it to lossless formats in this regard. The good thing about it is how it compresses the audio; its compression algorithm is completely lossless – and is fast and system friendly as well. There are other formats out there that do exactly the same thing. FLAC it’s just about saving space and bandwidth without sacrificing sound quality. It’s just an compressed WAV file, really. There’s nothing spectacular about it.

    FLAC is not normally better than CDs on Tidal. Tidal uses 16 bit/44.1 kHz for all their streams. This is the same resolution as the CD format uses. If the sound quality should be better on Tidal than on a CD, Tidal must have access to a better/different master than the one used for the CD recording. The FLAC format itself is capable of compressing hi-resolution audio files, but that’s a different story.

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