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(Pocket-lint) - Tidal is a digital music streaming service that gives you access to over 80 million songs, and 350,000 videos from music artists all over the world, similar to Spotify and Apple Music. 

Tidal has historically been all about righting the wrongs of the music industry and ensuring artists get paid directly and fully for their art. In return, you get music exceeding CD quality and hopefully a warm feeling in your tummy about paying for HD tunes.

Tidal offers an unprecedented level of insight into how it's subscribers are directly supporting artists. It promises to deliver 10 per cent of a monthly HiFi Plus subscription directly to your most streamed artist.

In addition, Tidal HiFi Plus subscribers can also see how their cumulative streams add up to artist revenue in their activity feed.

Tidal has a large focus on audio quality and offers three tiers of subscription allowing you to access lossless FLACs and even 9216Kbps Master quality audio on the HiFi Plus plan. This is something not yet offered by Spotify, though it has been announced that Spotify HiFi should be launching in 2021.

To help you decide if Tidal is worth your money and time, especially when pitted against the competition, we've explained how Tidal works and what makes it supposedly better.

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How does Tidal work?

Tidal offers a free tier in the US, but that is yet to launch in the UK. There's still a free 30-day trial for new subscribers, so it's easy enough to give it a whirl and see if it's the platform for you. The Tidal app works with over 95 platforms, including Android, iOS and desktops as well as some cars and HiFi equipment.

Upon first launching the app, the service gives you a very intuitive way to select artists you like and with each one you select, more artists appear. It's a very slick experience and only takes a few minutes.

Tidal then uses this data to curate playlists and suggest songs and artists you might enjoy, right from the get-go. Of course, you can search for music the old fashioned way too. Tidal allows you to save your favourite playlists, albums and tracks, as well as download them for offline listening. 

How much does Tidal cost?

You can see how much Tidal costs here. There are two plans available, called HiFi and HiFi Plus.


The HiFi plan offers CD quality audio at up to 1411Kbps. It also gives you access to Tidal Connect, offline listening and is, of course, ad free. The HiFi plan costs $/£9.99 per month.

HiFi Plus

HiFi Plus gives you everything HiFi offers, as well as access to Master Quality Audio recordings and innovative spatial formats like Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 reality audio. In addition it will pay out 10 per cent of your subscription to your most listened to artist and let you track how your listening habits fund your favourite artists. HiFi plus costs $/£19.99 per month.

Rival service Spotify, only offers 320Kbps playback with its $9.99 subscription and is yet to launch a HiFi offering. Comparatively, Amazon Music Unlimited also offers high definition and Spatial Audio listening albeit with a smaller library and no MQA options. Amazon's service is priced at $12.99 (£7.99) for Prime members and $14.99 (£9.99) for non-members.

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Which devices support Tidal?

The Tidal music service has a wide range of support on third-party sound systems, such as Sonos and Denon Home. Tidal can be added as a streaming music source within the dedicated apps for these systems, ensuring that audiophiles get the best possible codecs pumping through their speakers.

Tidal also has a feature similar to Chromecast and AirPlay, called Tidal Connect. Using the Tidal app as a controller, you can select supported speakers for playback and it will send the highest-quality stream possible, whether it's FLAC, Master audio, or even Sony 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos.

A full list of almost 100 supported devices can be found here.  

Where is Tidal available?

Tidal is currently available in 61 countries and it plans to continue increasing this number. Most of Europe, North and South America and Australia are covered but if you want to check the full list, it can be found here

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How do you navigate Tidal?

Once you download the Tidal app and sign up, you will go through a tailoring process, which will ask you to select artists that you like. After you've moved through the simple process, you'll find yourself on the home screen. Here you will be presented with a selection of music Tidal thinks you will enjoy based on your earlier selections, and after using the app for a while, based on your listening habits too.

There is a menu bar at the bottom of the screen for navigation (on the mobile app) to different sections of Tidal. There are five screen tabs in the menu bar:

Home: This page is loaded with suggestions of music that Tidal thinks you'll like, in the form of playlists, radio stations, new tracks and charts.

Videos: Presents you with featured videos from Tidal's network as well as video playlists catered to your tastes. You can also access Album experiences here, which are essentially Director's Commentary but for albums. There's even some full length movies here, mostly of the music documentary variety.

Explore: The explore tab allows you to search for a specific song, artist or genre. It also allows you to browse music that's suited to moods, activities, events and more.

My Activity: Listing your top artist and what you're contributing to that artist from your HiFi Plus subsciption.

My Collection: Every time you favourite a song, album, video or playlist, it gets added to your collection under Mixes, Playlists, Artists, Albums or Tracks. You can also find your downloaded tracks and recent activity here, as well as access to the settings.

These sections are generally reflected in the desktop app too, based around a left-hand menu.

There are a couple of additional buttons to pay attention to. The first tells you the quality of the stream. It will normally say "Normal" or "Master" (depending on your subsciption), but click on this and you can change the quality. The mobile app also has options to change the quality for Wi-Fi and cellular data - to save being hit with a huge streaming bill.  

The second interesting button is the output Tidal is using. This is a speaker icon and on a desktop device will let you select from outputs you have at your disposal on your system - this might include your PC speakers, an external DAC or various headphone sockets. It also include casting to send to a Google Cast compatible device - this option is also in the mobile app.

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How do you change or cancel your Tidal subscription?

If you decide to upgrade or that you no longer want to be a Tidal subscriber, the process is pretty straightforward.

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In your browser:

  • Log in at my.TIDAL.com.
  • Click on Subscription.
  • Select Upgrade, Downgrade or Cancel.
  • Confirm your selection.

In the Tidal app:

  • Click on My Collection, Settings, Edit Profile, then Manage Subscription.
  • Click on Subscription.
  • Select Upgrade, Downgrade or Cancel.
  • Confirm your selection.

If you are using Apple Pay:

  • Go to Settings.
  • Click on Apple ID.
  • Click on Subscriptions.
  • Confirm your selection.

Are there any alternatives?

Alternatives include: Spotify, YouTube Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Deezer and Apple Music. Each of these services allow you to not only stream music but also download and listen offline.

None of the rival services offer such insight into how your subscription helps the artists you love, so if that's high on your priorities, Tidal is a very compelling choice. It must be said that none offer quite the same audio fidelity as Tidal's Master recordings either, Amazon Music Unlimited and Deezer come pretty close though. 

You can learn more about all these services by checking out the following Pocket-lint round-ups:

Writing by Luke Baker. Editing by Chris Hall.