I recently ditched Spotify in favour of Tidal.
I’ve had a few trials over the years as well as a brief dalliance with Apple Music but I’ve always crawled back to the big green Swedish machine. It’s not hard to see why.
They have an unrivalled selection of music. Their recommendations engine hasn’t locked me into any kind of filter bubble. Their discover playlists have opened up access to new stuff I haven’t heard before. What’s not to love?
Well, the sound quality. It’s crap. I’m not sure if it’s always been shocking but I’m certain that in the last 12 months it’s got worse.
I don’t wanna go too far into this cos it’s all a bit subjective but I have a premium account that is Spotifys top offering. For whatever reason, it doesn’t cut it anymore. Have Spotify done something with their streams? Have I become suddenly mush fussier? Who knows but once I started to notice I couldn’t un-notice.
So I went for my 6th tidal trial with another new email address.
The pitch for Tidal is that they stream higher quality tracks, and I’ve experienced the difference before but this time the leap seemed astonishing. Nobody could listen to the same track on both platforms and not immediately recognise the improvement. It was like night and day.
So I gave it a proper go, put my card details in to subscribe and tried to help it out by importing 10 years of last.fm & Spotify data. That was about six weeks ago and I haven’t opened Spotify since.
It is not quite yet as good at discovery, but its curated playlists are great. I love the video playlists. The UI is obviously pretty similar to every other music service but with a couple of bits I really like.
The maximised view is great for album artwork, I never felt that Spotify did enough in this regard and I’ve found myself seeing way more music videos thanks to video playlists. I leave them running and watch it uncover new weirdness I haven’t seen before.
All my playlists and albums came over in the import. I used Soundiiz to do that and I had to pay a fiver to hook it all up but it felt like money well spent. It was super simple and comprehensive. I believe if you subscribe it can do lots of clever real-time sync stuff with other services but I only used it once.
NB – I recently found out that Tidal has an import feature that’ll cover your history for you. So that was a fiver I maybe didn’t need to spend.
I delved into some of the technical details of Spotify vs Tidal.
Spotify Premium streams at 320Kbs, for that they charge £10 a month. Tidal do Premium too and it’s the same bitrate and price but I always chose something they call HiFi during my trials which is a tier above Premium. It’s twice the cost.
Turns out, this is lossless steaming which I sort of knew, but to put it in context I found out it has a bitrate of 1411Kbs, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that it sounds so much better. It doesn’t explain why the gap between the two services has seemed particularly large of late.. what was the trigger that made me check out Tidal for the sixth time?
Bitrate isn’t the whole story when it comes to quality. You need to consider sample rate too. Tidal state that they encode & stream at 44.1khz/16bit which is what you’d expect, and I know Spotify used to do the same but have they changed it? Who knows. Pure speculation.
On the HiFi plan, Tidal have loads of albums at what they call “Master” quality. These are streamed at the same lossless bitrate but the sample rate is much higher, 96Khz/24bit so closer (or as close) as the studio should have it.
I don’t know if I can tell the difference in quality between Master and HiFi.. maybe there’s more resolution on Master tracks, but it’ so subjective. Both sound great. My setup is just a MacBook 12, jack to phono cable and a pair of Rokit5 G2s… so I dunno.
Anyway. I’m very pleased with Tidal and I think quality is making a comeback. Across everything we do.
Buying stuff once and having it last forever, throwing less stuff away, having greater appreciation for things that people have put time into. Connecting with fewer people in a higher quality way. Lower quantities of better stuff.
But that’s probably for another blog. Peace x.