Changes at Tidal

by Teodor Costăchioiu

These changes were announced some time ago. I waited to see them implemented in my subscription plan so I could test them thoroughly before writing here..

Starting this April, the Tidal subscription structure changes. There are only two subscription plans left. The personal plan will cost 23.99 lei per month and will have all the features of the old HiFi Plus plan, including access to Dolby Atmos music.

The Family subscription, which allows up to six users, now costs 39.99 lei per month.

The price change is also accompanied by a radical change of the codecs used for streaming. Thus, the old MQA format is dropped and Tidal switches to the FLAC format.

MQA, or Master Quality Authenticated, is a format developed by the British company Meridian Audio to reproduce the sound of the original studio recording as faithfully as possible. MQA is a codec implementing lossy compression, but with a unique algorithm that preserves all the details of the original recording.

It’s a proprietary format that requires a license from Meridian Audio, and playback of these files requires MQA-compatible hardware and software.

All this was reflected in the price of Tidal subscriptions. Now, with the subscription price dropping, they are switching to FLAC or Free Lossless Audio Codec. This is a lossless audio codec, without any loss of sound quality. It is open source, so there are no license fees.

For a while we’ll still find MQA coded tracks on Tidal, but it seems like every day there are fewer of them.

I have already tested the new format enough to form an opinion. I haven’t felt a change in sound quality. Tidal remains superior to Spotify and is on par with Apple Music.

The only issue that requires a bit of attention from users concerns the fact that FLAC-encoded files are noticeably larger than the corresponding MQA version. This is reflected in more space taken up by downloaded tracks on mobile devices, but also in more Internet traffic for streaming.

If this doesn’t bother me locally, given that I have an unlimited data plan, it can become a problem when traveling abroad. That would be the only drawback I have noticed so far. Besides this, I can only rejoice at the fall in prices.

Photo by Dan Farrell on Unsplash

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