Tidal — a review after two months of use

I signed up for a 30-day trial account on Tidal a couple of months ago. I wanted to see if I got along with it better than I did with Spotify. I was unhappy with how music recommendations worked on Spotify. I’d put a playlist on before I got to work. At some point when the music on that playlist ended, I’d wake up to some Turkish or Middle Eastern-inspired music (manele) or some Ukrainian music, without considering that I mostly listen to rock and 80s-90s music.

I think Spotify is looking around where I live and is making recommendations based on what other users nearby are listening to. Unfortunately, this stuff 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 is short, and many streaming services don’t have all the music I listen to. I’ve tried Amazon Music and 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 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. I stream FLAC at 1411 kbps compared to AAC 320 kbps on Spotify Premium. It’s not just numbers, it’s way above any other streaming service, and it shows 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 cannot decode these sound formats and can only listen in stereo mode. I would have to get an Apple TV 4k to decode Dolby Atmos.

As for content, if Tidal had a modest collection a few years ago, now they’ve recovered a lot and are up to around 90 million tracks. I found all the music I usually listen to on Tidal and many other things. 

I like to listen to 80s-90s music when I’m working. Tidal has pleasantly surprised me by recommending albums by 80s-90s artists I didn’t know, some of which were released recently, two or three years ago 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.

If I have not convinced you, 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 my daughter was requesting Disney+ and my "wonderful" SONY TV won't allow new apps to be installed, despite being only four years old.

While I have the Apple TV, I've upgraded to the HiFi Plus plan on Tidal. I now pay 39.99 lei monthly, double the standard plan. With this new plan I got streaming up to 9216 kbps and, what interested me most, music in Dolby Atmos format.

I have one thing that annoys me to no end: on Dolby Atmos 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, so I don't know how to get my hand on the remote to turn it down faster.

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


Photo by Dan Farrell on Unsplash

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