I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to test Tidal – one of the newest kids on the streaming block. I used to love collecting music as a teenager, and had hundreds of LPs. But I dove wholeheartedly into digital music – after all the main thing was listening to music, not the paraphernalia attached. Streaming was a boon – on the merest of whims I could be listening to Orange Juice, The Replacements or Prefuse 73. We live in a magical time – albeit a time of compromise. Streaming is lossy by nature, and if you’re on a bad connection, with a default issue pair of headphones … you’re not listening to the same thing. There are countless great headphones on the market, but there aren’t that many high quality audio options – something Tidal is hoping to change.
Tidal is as multi-platform as possible – with iOS, Android and web-based clients. The web-client is excellent and looks as slick as the regular Spotify interface. The iOS client is easy to use, intuitive and has a really cool way of moving a track forward and back on the playhead. But more importantly it sounds fantastic. You’ll need the kit to appreciate it, but with a decent pair of headphones or speaker setup Tidal will breathe life into cloud-based music.
Tidal isn’t just a streaming service and also functions as some sort of cool club for music lovers to stroke each others beards. There are bios, playlists, featured articles, video, news and just about everything you’d want. If you make a music magazine from scratch in 2014, it would look like Tidal.
It’s not perfect. There are gaps in all streaming services, and whilst there’s a really big catalogue, it is always frustrating not being able to hear what you want. A bigger niggle is there are occasional buffering issues that can stop you mid-jam. That’s on a fast WiFi connection. On 4G I was able to use it without batting an eyelid. On 3G things became a lot more erratic. There’s an offline mode, but things can balloon quickly with lossless files.
It’s also a bit on the expensive side. £20 a month isn’t ridiculous, but it’s more than a spur of the moment purchase. But it sounds so good. And if you compare all the added extras – and they keep their magazine like offerings and detailed and informative, it may just become an essential purchase.
Tidal is out now.