Tidal – a review after two months of use

by Teodor Costăchioiu

A couple of months ago, I signed up for a 30-day trial account on Tidal. I wanted to see if I got along with it better than I did with Spotify, as I was unhappy with how the latter worked on the recommendation side of music to listen to. I was starting a playlist before I got to work. At some point, when the music on that playlist ended, Spotify was switching up to either a manea or some Ukrainian music, not considering that I mostly listen to rock and 80s-90s music.

Somehow, I think Spotify is looking around the area where I live and is making recommendations based on what other users nearby are listening to. Unfortunately, this behavior doesn’t do me any good because my taste in music doesn’t match most people’s.

When I started looking for alternatives to Spotify I ran into another problem: I have a Denon receiver that uses the HEOS app for streaming. The downside to HEOS is that the list of supported streaming services isn’t very long, and many of the streaming services it supports don’t have everything I need in Romania. I’ve tried Amazon Music, I’ve tried Spotify, and now I thought I’d give Tidal a chance.

I’ll keep TuneIn for listening to online radio stations; it’s an app that really works well and offers better sound quality than what I get from receiving radio stations over the air. TuneIn also has a mobile/tablet app, so when I go on holiday I can listen to radio stations in Bucharest via my hotel’s WiFi.

Coming back to Tidal, I liked it so much that I gave up Spotify for good and switched to the Tidal HiFi subscription, which costs me 19.99 RON/month. Even with the cheapest subscription, Tidal gives me sound quality far above Spotify; it streams FLAC at a max of 1411 kbps compared to AAC 320 kbps on Spotify Premium. These are not just numbers; the sound quality is way above any other streaming service, and you can feel this when you listen on good headphones or a powerful audio system.

Tidal also offers a more expensive subscription, called HiFi Plus, at 39.99 RON/month, with streaming up to 9216 kbps and some additional music formats: Master Quality Authenticated (MQA), Dolby Atmos, Sony 360 Reality Audio.

The problem is that Denon’s HEOS app doesn’t know how to decode these sound formats and can only listen in stereo mode. To be able to decode Dolby I would have to get an Apple TV 4k. For now, I’m in no hurry to spend money on yet another gadget, but I may have to in time because SONY no longer offers firmware upgrades for my TV, even though it’s only three years old. I don’t have the HBO Max app; I’m stuck with the old version, which is now no longer functional. I expect in time Netflix and YouTube won’t work either if the apps don’t get updates. When that happens I’ll switch to Apple TV and upgrade my Tidal subscription as well. What can I say, existential problems…

As for music, if Tidal had a modest collection a few years ago, now it has improved a lot and is up to around 90 million tracks. I found all the music I usually listen to on Tidal, besides a lot of new stuff. I like to listen to 80s-90s music when I’m working, and Tidal has pleasantly surprised me by recommending new albums by some artists I like. I was not aware of most of them, and some were released recently, two or three years at most. I later found some of these albums also on Spotify and YouTube Music. Neither of these streaming services ever recommended them to me, they kept them well hidden.

I’ve collected some of these albums and singles below to give you an idea of what can be found on Tidal, plus links to YouTube Music wherever possible.

If I haven’t convinced you by now, you should know that Tidal has a 30-day trial. Give it a chance, you might like it!

Update: Dolby Atmos on Apple TV 4K

I finally got my Apple TV 4k, version 2022, because the family has been asking for Disney+, and my wonderful SONY TV, which is only four years old, won’t allow new apps to be installed.

While I have Apple TV, I’ve upgraded to the HiFi Plus plan on Tidal. I now pay 39.99 lei monthly, double the standard plan. Now I can stream up to 9216 kbps and, what interests me most, music in Dolby Atmos format.

I have one thing that annoys me: when playing Dolby Atmos tracks the volume is very low. I have to turn the volume up to more than half for normal listening, considering I have an 80W/channel receiver. It’s even worse when I forget this and switch back to normal content. I don’t know how to get my hand on the remote faster to turn the volume down.

Another weirdness is that I have to keep the TV on Apple TV. If I turn the TV off or change the channel, the audio stops playing.

Photo by Dan Farrell on Unsplash

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