Tidal High Fidelity Music: Worth A Listen?

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Written by Ant Pruitt

The Tidal streaming service is decent, but it doesn’t offer anything different. Unless you want to shell out a ton of cash. Ant Pruitt commentary.

aNewDomain — The streaming music game continues to grow in popularity and competition, and team Tidal — the new music service pioneered by Jay-Z — has come onto the scene as yet another option. Should you subscribe to Tidal? Well, yes and no. Primarily, no. Why? Because the average Joe cannot and will not justify the lack of value presented in the new streaming service.

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What’s new here?

Sure, the online interface is clean and intuitive, and yes the music library is vast. But that’s not saying much when you consider that competitors, like Spotify, Google Play Music All-Access and Rdio, provide exactly the same thing. These features just aren’t enough to make anyone make the leap to Tidal. The monthly $9.99 price point for Tidal’s premium service is competitive, but again not enough to make people jump ship from their current music service.

But wait, there’s another subscription option.

It’s the Tidal HiFi subscription plan. This plan offers the same vast library with a higher bitrate, streaming FLAC lossless audio files. FLAC files are much larger than the MP3s you’re used to enjoying due to the lack of compression. These uncompressed files result in a much richer, fuller sound. When you hear a lossless audio file, your ears weep tears of joy. It’s that good. Tidal offers the HiFi streaming subscription at a rate of $19.99 per month.

tidal hifi pricing

No, that’s not a typo. With Tidal it will cost you roughly $20 per month to enjoy beautiful lossless audio, which you can stream to web-connected computers and mobile devices.

Can you handle the quality?

Is 1400kbps of lossless streaming audio worth paying double for the standard 96kbps audio? Yes! It’s easily worth it, based solely on how much better the sound quality is. Unfortunately, in a real-world scenario this is too expensive. Let me explain.

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What type of headphones do you own? Probably those “magical” iPhone earbuds that fit your ears comfortably, right? If so, then your earbuds are horrible for audio. Maybe you have a $20 set of headphones you picked up at the local strip mall. Yeah, those are pretty crappy when it comes to superior audio, too. And don’t get me started on the poor sound quality of Beats by Dre!

One point I’m trying to make is that the headphones most consumers use are not manufactured for high-end audio. These headphones are typically produced for convenience and appearance. Even if you listen to a FLAC file through these typical headphones your ears won’t hear the difference in quality. So keep that $20 in your pocket every month.

Let’s say you do have a quality set of headphones — like these balanced and robust Sennheiser HD 598‘s — and a digital audio converter (DAC). You will definitely hear a difference in the audio compression, but where exactly will you enjoy this high quality audio? Sitting at your desk via the Tidal website, with a solid Internet connection is about the only place. In your home, maybe.

But during your commute? On a morning jog? Definitely not. You may just have the best pair of headphones for enjoying these files on your computer or mobile device, but the second you want to leave your Wi-Fi there’s trouble.

You grab your mobile phone and dock it into your vehicle for your daily commute. You’re bobbing your head while you enjoy the high-quality tunes. All the while, your mobile carrier is raking in mounds of cash from your data usage overage. Believe me, at over 1400kbps per song, you will burn through your data package allotment very quickly! That additional fee, coupled with the $20 per month you’re paying to enjoy your tracks, is not a great value.

Tidal did a really nice job of offering up a music service that cares about the consumer and the artist. Artists have long complained about the low royalty money earned from streaming services. Tidal offers a significantly better option for the artist to make money. But I don’t believe it’s enough to draw consumers away from their current offering.

How long will Tidal last? Hopefully Jay-Z has something up his sleeve (other than a free 30-day trial) to lure consumers in. I don’t recommend jumping ship from your current service. Let’s see if the deal sweetens.

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