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Which is the best music streaming service for you?

Tidal

Image Credit: Tidal

Tidal might have been almost unheard of when it launched in 2014, but its acquisition by Jay Z in 2015 transformed it into a major player in the music streaming market.

Tidal's main selling points are two-fold; it offers the highest-quality music streams out of all of the major streaming services, and it also pays the highest amount of royalties to its artists.

But if you want to enjoy a more ethical music service you'll have to put up with a couple of annoyances from Tidal's interface as well as an expensive monthly price to access the highest level of music quality.

Price

Like most of the other streaming services on this list, Tidal used to just offer two different pricing tiers, but now somehow offers 8 different options – but they're not all available in all regions.

For starters, you can either pay $9.99 (£9.99 / AU$14.99) for the basic Tidal service, called Premium, or else opt for the more expensive HiFi tier for $19.99 (£19.99 / AU$23.99).

There are also a range of different Premium and HiFi tiers for families, students and those in the military, take a look at the Subscription Types page on the Tidal website for a full – and detailed – breakdown.

The different between Premium and HiFi tiers is the quality of the music files streamed. The lower tier limits you to the same music quality as Spotify's Premium offering, whereas the HiFi tier will unlock CD-quality lossless music streams.

Exclusives

Tidal made waves back in 2016 when Beyonce's new 'visual album' Lemonade premiered on the service ahead of even its release for download platforms.

But Tidal's hold over exclusives seems to be waning a little. There was a time back in 2017 when Tidal exclusively had artists like Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Prince only available on its platform, thanks in part to the lack of a free option, but also likely due to the higher royalties offered by the service.

However, Kanye has since terminated his contract and Taylor ended her spat with Spotify. It's still the go-to service for Prince's back catalogue and an early look at Jay-Z and Beyonce's music, but it doesn't seem as special as it was at launch. 

Tidal

Image Credit: Tidal

User Interface and experience

On the face of it, Tidal's interface is similar to rival Spotify's. It has a section containing curated playlists, one to promote up and coming artists, one for music videos and finally a 'My Music' section which contains any music that you've favorited.

But compared to Spotify Tidal's interface just isn't as slick, especially when it comes to its mobile apps. Whereas Spotify allows you to build a play-queue by simply swiping a track to one side, Tidal requires you to enter a sub-menu which slows things down significantly when you're trying to quickly assemble a queue before putting your phone away.

There's no option to shuffle an artist's entire discography, and Tidal's comparatively smaller user-base means that an artist's top tracks tend to be more biased towards recent releases rather than the classics.

Most frustrating of all is the search functionality. Searching for 'This aint a scene' returns zero results, you have to be sure to at the apostrophe to allow you to find Fall Out Boy's pop-punk anthem 'This Ain't a Scene, it's an Arms Race".

Having to be that specific with searches is frustrating, especially when you're using your phone to listen to music while out and about, and if you're someone who has trouble remembering exact song names you may grow to hate Tidal's search functionality.

Tidal's user interface simply isn't as polished as Spotify's. It's harder to find the music you want quickly, and it's just not as simple to quickly build up a play queue.

Music Quality

Tidal's normal tier (confusingly called 'Premium') limits you to a maximum bitrate of 320kbps (the same as Spotify's Premium tier), while opting for the HiFi tier will give you access to lossless 1411kbps streams which are equivalent to the 16-bit/44.1kHz music stored on CDs.

Of course in order to stream at this high quality you'll need both a stable internet connection and enough data to cover the large files being streamed.

But if you're someone who lives in an area with good 4G reception then it's more than possible to stream CD-quality music while using Tidal mobile.

Down the line Tidal has also promised to introduce Meridian's MQA audio to make better than CD-quality music files available to stream. This functionality should be coming at some point in 2016 and the best news is that even non-MQA tracks played on a non-MQA device should still sound better than their counterparts which are 'only' CD-quality.

If you value high-quality music files then Tidal is the best music streaming service out there. The lossy compression offered by its competitors simply can't compete.

Curation

Tidal has several curated sections of its service. The Playlists section is split between playlists designed for specific circumstances like 'Workout', 'Relax' or 'Party' which are assembled by the Tidal team, and other playlists assembled by celebrity guests.

You can also sort these playlists by genre as well as listening circumstances.

In addition to its playlists, Tidal also has a section dedicated to promoting new artists and releases which tends to offer a good spread across different genres.

Tidal's curation might be comprehensive, but its main downside compared to something like Spotify's Discover Weekly is that it isn't tailored to your specific interests, which can make it difficult to find new music if your preferences don't sit neatly within certain genres.

One to go with if...

You want exclusives from specific artists that are only streaming their music on Tidal and lossless music streaming.