Tidal, MQA and Streaming HiFi

(logo taken from google.com search for Tidal)

Streaming

Personally, I still have the urge to want to own my own music, by buying it online for the MP3, or buying the CD to play anytime I want, in high quality sound. I didn’t have the urge to stream, necessarily. I did stream at one point, through the likes of Pandora or Spotify, but that didn’t satisfy. They didn’t sound as good as having an original, be it in MP3 on the Hard Drive or in CD format, or in any other format. I liked the idea of having a whole lot of songs that I can listen to anytime, albeit a few advertisements because they were “free”. More than that streaming was at first, in instant source of new songs. I didn’t have to go back home to look for a new song to buy and download, before I can play and enjoy listening to. You find a good song on the radio, and you can just stream it from the app so you can listen to it again. If you’re so fortunate as to subscribe to one of these streaming services, you can even repeat them as much as you want without the ads. Other than that, it can also serve as an update to the new songs that comes out. It can let you know that other songs are out there that you might like, and as they have it now, you can also know what’s topping the charts through their playlists/radios.

All that, and it didn’t satisfy me. It sacrifices good sound quality for the portability and anywhere access. It was flawed in a major way for me as an audiophile. (Interesting story about streaming, I got into audiophile partly because of streaming as I listened back and forth from my dad’s system and my V-moda LP played from my phone, and realized how good a proper sound system can sound. It urged me to want more.) Up until one point, somewhere after completing my system and starting my blog, I had heard of a new streaming service, called Tidal, which will stream High quality music, just like Spotify.

Prices

It could be more expensive however. On the website, streaming services with the HiFi lossless options are $19.99/month, Premium (basically without ads, but also no HiFi) is $9.99/month. If you’re a student of military they do offer discounts, and this is where it gets interesting. If you’re a student, you get basically half off for both services, making it $9.99/month for HiFi and $4.99/month for Premium. For military, $11.99 for HiFi and $5.99 for Premium. Basically as this is for one person only. If someone else uses elsewhere it you stop playing immediately. The borrowed account we had was a HiFi account not with features for the Family services, which is $29.99 for HiFi and $14.99 for Premium for up to 5 family members. Comparatively, Spotify’s subscription is $9.99 for premium as well, with unlimited skips and no ads (same thing), and they do have 50% off for students, as well as a family subscription option for $14.99. Pretty expensive if you aren’t a student of Military overall, but they weren’t lying about CD-quality streaming, which may make the extra cost well worth it. You be the judge.

My Experience

I first got to try Tidal through my dad’s review opportunities (as with everything I’ve had an opportunity to try with). They gave us an account to try with directly connected with the company that made Tidal, and that gave us the full access to Tidal for reviewing a component we had gotten (it was the NAD C368 Hybrid DAC Amplifier), which could play a new format that Tidal had also released recently, the MQA format (more on the format in a later post) that will stream music in a high-bit rate than CD quality, but below FLAC in terms of lossless. When we were trying it out, there weren’t much choices in MQA formated music as it was just released, but there were some familiar music that we could compare to, such as Bruno Mars’ Album Unorthodox Jukebox, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade (surprisingly).

The quality difference was noticeable. Bass response was tighter compared to CD-quality streams on the service, and sound stage was slightly wider, deeper and the imaging was clearer, and more focused. It was good enough they had CD-quality streaming, but MQA made it all the more worth it for an audiophile like me to want to get subscription. But I’m a broke college student who needs time to study, still gets allowances from my parents and don’t work, so that’s not be happening anytime soon (I realize the impression is me being sheltered, but I can’t help it).

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