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Apple Music review
2:10 pm | February 11, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Audio Audio Streaming Computers Gadgets | Tags: | Comments: Off

Apple Music: Two-minute review

Apple Music is the tech giant's music streaming service and our top choice if you love Apple products. Since its debut in 2015, Apple Music has rapidly expanded its catalogue to boast over 100 million tracks, aligning its library size with that of Spotify. Despite a smaller subscriber base than its streaming rival, Apple Music is a worthy competitor, brimming with features catering to music lovers.

Apple Music is geared toward helping you discover new tracks and artists, whether that’s through recommendations, curated playlists, music videos or its 24/7 digital radio stations. Granted, its playlists and social features aren't as fun to use as Spotify's, but suggested tracks and artists always hit the spot. Apple Music's advantage is its ability to integrate locally owned music with its streaming content, providing a unified listening experience.

Apple Music's offering includes Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos. Its catalogue is now also available to subscribers in Lossless Audio at no extra cost, and it sounds great as long as you have the right kit to listen to it. This commitment to high-quality sound positions Apple Music as a strong competitor against other services like Deezer, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Tidal, giving it a leg up over Spotify.

These days, many of the best music streaming services increasingly resemble each other. However, Apple Music still carves out its niche with unique features that affirm its status as an excellent Spotify alternative, especially for those deeply integrated into the Apple ecosystem. While you can use Apple Music on most devices, it's optimized for a seamless experience across all Apple devices and further enhanced by Siri’s compatibility, offering convenience and ease for Apple users.

Apple Music review: Pricing and subscription

(Image credit: TechRadar)
  • $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$12.99 a month
  • One-month free trial 
  • No free ad-based tier

There's no free ad-based tier for Apple Music like there is with Spotify. Instead, a subscription costs $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$12.99 per month for a standard user. However, this does come with a one month free trial to determine if it's right for you. This makes Apple Music the same price as Spotify Premium with access to the same amount of tracks.

Apple also offers a reduced student subscription for $5.99 / £5.99 / AU$6.99 and a family subscription for $16.99 / £16.99 / AU$19.99, which gives up to six people unlimited access and their own personalized music library and music recommendations. 

Whichever type of subscription you choose, you'll also get free access to Apple Music Classical, a separate app dedicated solely to classical music.

Apple Music review: Specs

Two iPhones on a red background showing the Apple Music Classical app

(Image credit: Future)

Apple Music review: Music library and content

An Apple Music promo image of the app on a smartphone and Mac showing lyrics.

(Image credit: Apple)
  • 100 million tracks
  • Integrated with iTunes purchases
  • Separate app for podcasts

There are more than 100 million tracks available to stream on Apple Music at the time of writing. This is the same amount as most major rivals, including Spotify and Tidal. You’ll also find three radio stations with actual DJs playing music, Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country. 

There are no podcasts on offer within Apple Music – you’ll need the separate Apple Podcasts app for those – but there are thousands of music videos. There’s also a 24/7 music video channel called Apple Music TV. It’s ad-free and mostly plays videos along with some interviews and live performances, think of it as MTV in your pocket.

One thing I didn’t know you could get on Apple Music until I was digging around in my most recent testing was standup comedy. You won’t find an exhaustive selection of comedians here, but some well-known ones have audio-only standup work on the platform, my favorite being Maria Bamford.

What sets the streaming service apart from some rivals is that Apple Music combines the music you already have locally and in iTunes, whether that's what you've bought or ripped from a CD. This is great for bringing all your music together in one place. There's similar functionality on offer from rivals, but it doesn’t work as seamlessly and some require a third-party app.

In 2023 Apple launched Apple Music Classical. This is a separate app, but it’s worth mentioning here considering it’s free for all Apple Music subscribers. Apple says that Apple Music Classical has more than five million tracks, making it “the world’s largest classical music catalog”. I like that search functionality is detailed, catering to different versions and recordings, but there are plenty of ways in for classical beginners, like playlists, guides and even biographies of composers.

Apple Music review: Apps and compatibility

Apple HomePod 2 with iPhone held nearby

(Image credit: Apple)
  • Great integration with Apple devices
  • Siri support
  • Minimal app design

I enjoy using the Apple Music app, especially on my iPhone, it looks good and much less cluttered than Spotify’s with a clean and simple UI. Album artwork is big and takes center stage and I also like that you can choose between light and dark modes. 

The Mac app is similar and looks nice with that extra screen real estate to make the artwork shine. You can use it on non-Apple devices, like a PC or Android phone. As you might expect, the experience feels a little less intuitive, but still works well.

Apple is constantly updating the app to make it more user-friendly. For example, you can now favorite tracks, which are added to a new Favorite Songs playlist in your Library. 

There are also several features that you won’t find in competing music streaming apps, like Apple Music Sing, which is more commonly known as Apple Music’s karaoke feature. This allows you to see lyrics for songs and adjust the volume of the vocals, meaning you can sing along while watching the lyrics as they’re highlighted. 

You can use Siri to operate the Apple Music app. This is why it’s a no-brainer for those who like Apple products and Apple’s smart assistant. You can ask Siri to play anything on Apple Music, which is great if you’re already used to using voice commands in your home.

A Listen Now section on the app – which works pretty much the same across all devices – is like a personalized dashboard filled with recommendations based on your tastes and listening history.

Browse is where you can find updated playlists, new releases, radio stations and trending songs. This feels somewhat personalized, but is more of a hub for all the fresh, new content you might miss if you only follow recommendations. Within Browse the service highlights its Spatial Audio tracks that also support Dolby Atmos, this is good news if you’re listening with headphones or speakers that’ll make the most of it, like the Airpods Pro. 

There’s also a tab dedicated Radio, which is where you’ll find the Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country stations. 

Next, you’ll find your Library. This is where all of the music you’ve downloaded and saved to your device is kept, as well as everything you’ve saved, added to a playlist and played. It’s all divided up by Playlists, Artists, Albums, Songs, Music Videos, Genres, Compilations, Composers and what you have Downloaded. 

The search bar works well for locating everything on Apple Music, as well as your own tracks. You can even type lyrics in here if that's all you remember.

Apple Music review: Playlists and recommendations

Apple Music Replay on a MacBook and iPhone

(Image credit: Apple)
  • Big focus on curation and recommendations
  • You can download tracks for offline listening
  • Spotify has the edge with discovery playlists

When you first sign up, Apple Music encourages you to select your favorite genres so it can better recommend music, and it gets started straight away. There’s a big focus on curation and recommendations. According to Apple, although an algorithm powers these recommendations, playlists are sometimes curated by a team of experts.

Top Picks For You sit at the top of your Listen Now homepage. This is a good recommendation source, featuring your Station, think of this as your own radio show based on artists you love, a Discovery Station, for only new music you haven’t listened to but Apple Music assumes you’ll like, and a Heavy Rotation Mix. There are also new releases here that the streaming service things you might like. You’ll find these mixes and stations will feature tracks from an artist, as well as similar artists and tracks you might not have listened to before. 

apple music review

Sign up for Apple Music via the desktop app and you’ll be asked to choose your favorite genres to get started. (Image credit: TechRadar / Apple)

Spotify might still have the edge with its super popular customized playlists – we love Daylist and Spotify Wrapped – but there’s a lot to love about Apple Music’s recommendations too. There’s also a Favorites Mix, which is always guaranteed to be packed with artists I love, as well as a Get Up! Mix, which I put on whenever I head to the gym. 

You can download tracks and playlists for offline listening. According to Apple Music you can download up to 10,000 songs, but obviously that will depend on how much storage space you have left on your device too. 

Apple Music review: Sound quality

An image of Apple Music being controlled with Siri

(Image credit: Apple)
  • Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio
  • Crisp and clear sound

Apple Music added lossless streaming and Spatial Audio a few years ago, as well as support for Dolby Atmos. Apple Music’s lossless music streams will top out at 24-bit/48KHz. The hi-res, lossless streams on offer top out at 24-bit/192KHz. It says that it streams at the highest quality by default and reduces it if you’re streaming on the move.

Apple didn't charge for this uplift in quality and now matches rivals like Amazon Music Unlimited, Qobuz, and Tidal with their hi-res audio offerings. So it enters the space of Spotify alternative streaming services for those who are sick of waiting around for Spotify to launch its HiFi service, which has been promised for years.

We've always been impressed with the sound quality on offer at Apple Music. More recent tests show that to still be true with crisp, clear and reliable audio. 

Without a good set of headphones or speakers it can be hard to tell the difference between Apple Music and a rival like Spotify, especially when you're listening via Bluetooth. But with wired and lossless, Apple Music is noticeably better – this highlights the importance of high-end equipment. You have to have a wired connection (for headphones or speakers) or be streaming over Wi-Fi for lossless, and the hi-res lossless tracks require an external DAC than can support 24-bit/192 kHz.

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Spotify review
2:06 pm | February 1, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Audio Audio Streaming Computers Gadgets Spotify | Comments: Off

Spotify: Two-minute review

Spotify is our favorite music streaming service. First launched in 2008, it has a library of more than 100 million tracks, 5 million podcasts and, thanks to a recent new update, more than 200,000 audiobooks. This extensive range of content has propelled Spotify to over 602 million users worldwide, including 236 million paying subscribers.

But Spotify's appeal extends beyond its vast library. The platform has an intuitive interface and an exceptional recommendation engine that tailors playlists to individual tastes. It's also constantly evolving, with new and innovative features being introduced regularly, alongside social tools that simplify content sharing. Plus, its compatibility across a broad range of devices ensures that users can enjoy Spotify virtually anywhere.

Despite its dominance, Spotify faces serious competition from the best music streaming services, particularly for those seeking audiophile-grade sound quality. Services like Tidal and Apple Music offer superior, lossless audio tracks, with Apple Music presenting a solid ecosystem for Apple lovers. Other contenders include Deezer, YouTube Music and Amazon Music Unlimited, as well as artist-centric platforms like Bandcamp and SoundCloud that give artists more control over their music.

But Spotify still stands out as one of the most popular streamers around. Its unique value proposition lies in its expansion into podcasts and audiobooks, continual platform enhancements, and personalized playlists that resonate deeply with users, affirming the Spotify’s knack for understanding user preferences. This evolution from a streaming service to a highly personalized entertainment hub makes Spotify an unmatched choice for most people. 

Spotify review: Pricing and subscription

A promo shot for Spotify showing lots of smartphones displaying different Spotify pages and features.

Spotify is constantly adding new features to its offering, like DJ, which knows your music tastes better than you do. (Image credit: Spotify)
  • Free plan has ads
  • Premium tier costs $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$12.99 a month
  • Specialized plans for families

Spotify has two main subscription offerings: Free or Premium. Spotify’s Free plan doesn’t cost you anything, but serves up ads between tracks as a trade-off. Users with the Free plan also have access to less features and restrictions on what they can play. For example, a Free subscription means you can only shuffle songs in an album, playlist or radio station when you’re using the Spotify app on your phone. You can’t pick a specific song and play it. You also won’t be able to save tracks to listen to offline. 

Spotify’s Premium subscription comes with a one month free trial. After that, it costs $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$12.99 per month. Premium subscribers enjoy unrestricted access to any song, album, playlist or radio station, in addition to the ability to add music to their library, create personalized playlists and download music for offline listening – all ad-free. Premium also upgrades the audio quality to 320Kbps, enhancing your listening experience.

Spotify offers several specialized Premium subscriptions, like Premium Duo ($14.99 / £14.99 / AU$17.99), which gives you two Premium accounts as long as you both live at the same address. There’s also Premium Family ($16.99 / £16.99 / AU$20.99), accommodating up to six Premium accounts with features tailored for family use, like kid-friendly content options.

Spotify review: Specs

A Spotify promo shot showing what Spotify Kids looks like.

Spotify Kids looks like Spotify, but is simpler, more fun, and colorful.  (Image credit: Spotify )

Spotify review: Music library and content

A promo shot of Spotify's audiobooks displayed on three smartphones.

One of the most recent new additions to Spotify has been audiobooks – there are currently 350,000 audiobooks on the platform. (Image credit: Spotify)
  • 100 million tracks, it's rare anything is missing
  • 5 million podcasts
  • 200,000 audiobooks

Spotify often updates its library size, and as of the latest count, it has over 100 million tracks. Despite a history of some artists pulling their music from the platform over various concerns – including dissatisfaction with compensation – the major have returned. It’s rare to search for a song on Spotify and not find it.

Reasons for removing their music have varied over the years, but criticism has often centered on the ways Spotify has unfairly compensated creators. Some make the argument that Spotify steers listeners away from piracy and towards legal music consumption, fostering new music and artist discovery in the process. But we get why people might prefer purchasing music directly or using platforms, like Tidal and Bandcamp, which are known for granting more control and higher royalties to artists.

In its quest to be the ultimate audio application, Spotify introduced podcasts in 2015 and has expanded that offering to host an impressive selection of over five million podcasts, which have become a central feature of the app. Unlike the traditional 'subscribe' model, Spotify users 'follow' podcasts, with new episodes appearing on your home screen. Spotify might be known for curating personalized music playlists, but it applies similar algorithmic ingenuity to suggest podcasts, too.

Spotify added audiobooks in late 2022 and now Premium subscribers have access to 200,000 titles through a dedicated section of the app, mirroring the music section's layout. Users can explore new and trending books, browse by genre or popular authors, and find selections suited to activities, like commuting. While dedicated book apps have their loyal users, Spotify's foray into podcasts has proven that it can successfully capture and satisfy audience preferences in new content domains, suggesting a promising future for audiobooks on Spotify.

Spotify review: Apps and compatibility

spotify

This is what Spotify looks like across all of your devices. (Image credit: Spotify)
  • Easy-to-use apps
  • Interface looks a little dated
  • Spotify Connect for seamless streaming

You can use Spotify through its apps on desktops, mobile phones, and tablets, as well as via a web player. Although the web player offers a decent experience, it lacks the polished feel of the apps, making some actions, like playlist creation, feel clunky.

Within the Spotify apps, users navigate through three primary sections: Home, Search, and Your Library. While there are slight variations across different platforms, the core experience is the same. The Home section primarily features personalized playlists and recently played tracks, alongside occasional podcast and audiobook suggestions and trending music. 

The Search function allows users to explore the vast Spotify catalogue, including tracks, albums, artists, playlists, podcasts, and audiobooks, with the option to filter by genre or activity, such as Chill or Workout. Your Library houses all saved content, including playlists, podcasts, audiobooks, albums, and artists, with sorting options like recent additions, listens, alphabetical order, or creator.

Spotify's apps on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone are known for their stability, user-friendliness, and regular updates aimed at enhancing intuitiveness. The interface, which is a grid-like design similar to other streaming platforms like Netflix, facilitates easy navigation amidst an extensive selection of media.

However, Spotify's design has remained unchanged for years, and may feel a little outdated to some users. I also find that sometimes I’ll log in and love the overwhelming amount of options at my fingertips and other times it all feels too cluttered. 

A significant advantage of Spotify over most of its rivals is in its broad compatibility with a range of devices and platforms, including sound systems, TVs, car stereos, game consoles, and wearables like the Apple Watch. 

Spotify Connect provides a seamless user experience by enabling streaming to speakers and other devices over Wi-Fi directly from the cloud. This feature is accessible by tapping the speaker icon within the app and allows playback on Spotify Connect-compatible devices, such as speakers and soundbars. Spotify's integration with smart assistants, like Alexa and Google Assistant, also works really well and more often than not delivers precise and efficient voice-controlled navigation.

Spotify review: Playlists and recommendations

Screenshots of Spotify Wrapped on three smartphones.

All Spotify users look forward to Spotify Wrapped at the end of each year, a social sharing event that's always fun. (Image credit: Spotify)
  • Incredibly fun and accurate playlists
  • Packed full of recommendations
  • Top social features to share personalized content

One of the biggest draws of Spotify is its personalized playlists and recommendations. You can easily make your own playlists but, interestingly, the playlists generated by Spotify dominate my listening habits. This speaks volumes about the platform's precise and engaging recommendation system.

Spotify curates many playlists that it then distributes to users based on their individual listening patterns. For instance, a playlist titled My Life is a Movie is currently featured in my Home section and has been recommended to me and shared with more than two million other users.

However, beyond these broader recommended playlists, Spotify offers uniquely personalized compilations that are for your eyes only. For example, Discover Weekly presents a new assortment of tracks every Monday, tailored to your tastes yet unexplored by you. The Daily Mix series adapts to your varying moods, and Your Time Capsule nostalgically predicts tracks you might have cherished during your teenage years. And there are so many more.

A recent addition that has captured my interest in a major way is Daylist. This dynamic playlist changes every few hours and is personalized to reflect your listening habits throughout the day, adding a layer of excitement to each login. Spotify also generates whimsical titles for these playlists based on the included tracks. For instance, my 'Sensational Rhythmic Tuesday Morning' playlist perfectly aligns with my usual gym routine, embracing party tunes, techno, and vibrant hip-hop. Daylist never fails to match my musical needs, meaning most of the times I open Spotify these days I’ll head right there.

A promo shot of Spotify's new DJ feature.

Spotify's DJ is a personalized AI guide that knows you and your music tastes better than you do. (Image credit: Spotify)

Finally, another new recommendation feature I think is worth mentioning is Spotify's AI DJ. Rather than a curated playlist, Spotify says it's best to think of it as your own AI DJ, which you start playing and it picks out tracks based on the time of day and listening habits, but shakes things up to keep the listening experience fun and exciting. For example, it'll play fresh new tunes you might like, old songs you haven't listened to in a while and much more, announcing its choices as it goes.

These personalized playlists have revolutionized music listening for many, encouraging exploration within Spotify's recommendations rather than seeking out specific tracks or artists. While there's a risk of becoming trapped in a particular music genre, by including new songs and creators in these playlists it keeps the experience fresh.

Spotify's vibrant graphics and tailored playlists are designed to encourage social sharing. The platform simplifies the process of sharing playlists on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Telegram, or directly with friends via WhatsApp or SMS. 

When Spotify lifts the lid on a big social campaign, like Spotify Wrapped (the details of all the tracks and genres you listened to over the past year), it even creates a personalized web experience that animates your listening stats and creates really great-looking social graphics for you to share and celebrate your musical journey over the past year. 

Spotify review: Sound quality

  • Better quality with premium
  • No lossless or high-res
  • Spotify HiFi promised but years late

Spotify Premium subscribers listening on desktop, mobile or tablet apps can choose between five sound quality levels: automatic (depends on your network connection), low, normal, high and very high. At the low setting, music streams at 24kbps. At the normal setting, music streams at 96kbps, which sounds a lot better than MP3 at 129kbps. Switch to the high-quality setting and the bit-rate bumps up to 160kbps. Most users will be happy at this level, since any compression trade-offs aren't obvious. 

The very high setting uses 320kbps, which is perceptually close to lossless. Spotify doesn't offer any lossless or hi-res streaming, which is one reason that audiophiles might want to look elsewhere. Deezer and Tidal are two other options for those who want the best quality available. Deezer's Premium hi-fi subscription costs $11.99 / £11.99 / AU$11.99 a month and lets you stream lossless 16-bit FLAC files. 

If you want more, go with Tidal. With a $9.99 / £9.99 / AU$11.99, Tidal HiFi subscription you can stream lossless 16-bit FLAC and ALAC audio, but there are also thousands (but not millions) of Tidal Masters files that stream at 24-bit. Tidal HiFi Plus is even better and for $19.99 / £19.99 / AU$23.99 a month you can stream up to 24-bit, including HiRes FLAC, Dolby Atmos, and more.

Spotify has clearly realized that in order to keep up with the competition, it needs to offer a way for people to upgrade their sound quality, which is the reason it’s been promising to launch Spotify HiFi for years now. This is Spotify’s answer to Deezer and Tidal’s high-quality offerings.

It’s difficult to predict what Spotify HiFi will be like, how much it will cost or if it'll ever materialize as it's been promised for more than three years. Spotify initially said that HiFi would be available as an upgrade for premium subscribers and would offer CD-quality, lossless audio at upwards of 1411kbps. This is more than four times the amount of data you currently hear when streaming a song.

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Tidal review
2:58 pm | April 8, 2021

Author: admin | Category: Audio Audio Streaming Computers Gadgets Tidal | Comments: Off

Tidal review: Two-minute review

Tidal is our top streaming service recommendation if you're after the best possible audio experience. Since it launched in 2014, Tidal has positioned itself as a solid rival to other platforms, with a strong commitment to prioritizing both artists and sound quality. In recent years, it has expanded its offering to include over 100 million tracks, mirroring Spotify's library size, and enhanced both its user interface and social sharing capabilities.

Despite the fact it looks similar to Spotify, Tidal sets itself apart in two significant ways. First, it ensures artists receive fairer compensation per stream compared to many competitors. Second, it provides listeners with exceptional CD-quality audio.

Tidal isn’t for casual listeners. But for those who take their audio experience seriously, Tidal offers a sonic paradise. Particularly for anyone who owns high-quality audio gear, like the best noise cancelling headphones or the best surround sound system, Tidal's lossless and high-resolution audio files are designed to complement sophisticated setups, deliver a rich and immersive listening experience. Not sure if this applies to you? Start with the 30-day free trial. You might not notice a difference between Tidal and your music streaming service of choice, but you might notice the difference immediately and realize what you’ve been missing out on.

While Tidal is a leading choice for high-fidelity music streaming, it’s not without competition. Deezer also caters to the high-resolution audio market, and both Amazon Music Unlimited and Qobuz offer CD-quality streams. However, Tidal's combination of a user-friendly interface, exclusive content and commitment to audio excellence secures its position as a top pick for audiophiles who prioritize quality and artist connection above all else. 

Tidal review: Pricing and subscription

A promo shot for Tidal showing the app open on several devices.

Tidal might have the best design of all of the top music streaming services.  (Image credit: Tidal)
  • Two options: Tidal HiFi and Tidal HiFi Plus
  • Subscription starts at $10.99 / £10.99 / $11.99 for Tidal HiFi
  • A 30-day free trial

You have two subscription options with Tidal, Tidal HiFi and Tidal HiFi Plus. Tidal HiFi costs $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$11.99 a month, while Tidal HiFi Plus costs $19.99 / £19.99 / AU$23.99 a month. 

The difference between the two is that with Tidal HiFi you get great audio quality at 16-bit, 44.1 kHz in FLAC. But with Tidal HiFi Plus you get excellent audio quality up to 24-bit, 192 kHz, including HiRes FLAC, as well as immersive formats Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

Is there a free version of Tidal? That's a tricky question to answer. Sign-up for one of the two options above and you get a 30-day free trial before your subscription kicks in to check it's right for you.

Back in 2021, Tidal also announced it would be launching a Tidal Free plan in the US, a free version of the music streaming service. A number of people then signed up, but as far as we can tell, that option no longer exists and Tidal never made an official announcement saying it was no longer an option. Since then, users have posted to Reddit and other forums saying they were prompted to sign-up for a subscription after using Tidal Free.

Tidal review: Key specs

A promo image showing Tidal displayed on a smartphone.

(Image credit: Tidal)

Tidal review: Music library and content

A promo image for Tidal showing the app displayed on a smartphone

(Image credit: Tidal)
  • More than 100 million tracks
  • Over 650,000 videos
  • Limited number of podcasts

There are currently more than 100 million tracks on Tidal, which is the same amount you'll find on Spotify and Apple Music. There used to be a time when you’d need to check a music streaming service has your favorite artist before you sign up, but that’s no longer the case now. Although it’s worth mentioning you’re likely to find artists on Tidal who leave (or temporarily leave) Spotify over its various controversies.

Unlike many other music streaming services, Tidal also has a section specially for videos. Right now there are more than 650,000 videos on the platform. You can watch many full length shows and concerts, exclusive content, as well as some classic videos, either within the app or cast them to your TV. This is a cool addition, but you won’t find videos from all of your favorite artists here.

Tidal has added podcasts to its offering. Tidal says it has “curated a selection of podcast series that focus on intimate storytelling”, which means you’ll find a small library of shows that tend to focus on music, creativity and culture. This is a nice addition, but don’t expect the huge selection you’ll find on Spotify covering a range of subjects.

Tidal review: Apps and compatibility

A promo shot for Tidal, showing the Tidal app displayed on a range of devices.

(Image credit: Tidal)
  • Mobile and desktop app
  • Nice and slick experience
  • Tidal Connect for seamless streaming 

Tidal has a mobile app and a desktop app, but you can also listen via a web player too. There are a few key sections in both apps. Home is where you’ll find lots of suggested mixes, artists and albums based on what you’ve listened to before. In Videos you’ll have access to video playlists, documentaries and live content. Go to Explore to search by genre, moods and activities or by quality categories, like HiRes and Dolby Atmos. My Activity is where your most streamed and played artists appear and Your Account is where you can access your collection of mixes, radio stations, playlists, albums, tracks, videos and artists. 

In the desktop app the larger screen the menu is displayed down the left hand side and there you’ll also find all of your playlists. There are standard sharing features too, to Facebook, X and you can copy the track link or even an embed code. In the mobile app, you can share directly to Facebook Stories or Instagram Stories. Some people won’t care about this feature, others will love the Stories-worthy image Tidal creates for you out of the artwork for the track you’re listening to, which you can then share instantly. 

The Tidal apps might be the nicest to use and best-looking compared to its rivals. The design is very similar to Spotify with a grid-like layout, but it feels a little cleaner and less cluttered to scroll through your options. I also like the simple black and gray color palette with bright turquoise accents, as well as the neat font.

Like Spotify, Tidal has a feature called Spotify Connect, which allows you to stream tracks straight from the cloud to a range of other devices, including Cambridge Audio and KEF sound systems, as well as within some cars thanks to Apple’s AirPlay and Android Auto. Simply find the little icon that looks like a speaker in the top right hand corner of whatever you’re playing and compatible devices will appear. 

Tidal review: Playlists and recommendations

A promo shot for Tidal showing the app open on a smartphone showing playlists.

(Image credit: Tidal)
  • Great recommendations
  • Mixes are spot on
  • Tidal Rising is fun

Spotify is considered the king of playlists perfectly crafted for you, but Tidal clearly has a powerful algorithm working behind-the-scenes to make solid recommendations too. When you first sign up for the service, you’re encouraged to pick three of your favorite artists. This informs your first mix, called your Welcome Mix. Based on only three artists, I wasn't holding out much hope with this playlist, but it was spot on taste-wise and I listened to nothing else for the first morning I signed up.

The more you like and listen to music, the more Tidal will learn about your tastes and generate different playlists called mixes. Each is based on your listening and focuses on a different genre. These don’t update as regularly as Spotify’s, but tend to do a great job at predicting what users will like. Make sure to hit save if you like a particular mix, this way you can save it as a separate playlist before it gets refreshed. 

The mix of playlist recommendations and updates doesn’t feel as expansive as what Spotify offers, there also aren’t as many fun themed playlists, like Spotify's Wrapped or Daylist, but it’s not too far off. And if you're the kind of person who just wants quality music and doesn't need the themed playlists, then you'll love it here at Tidal.

When it comes to recommendations, a great feature of Tidal’s service is Tidal Rising, which you can find in the explore tab. This is where Tidal spotlights up-and-coming artists from all over the world. It’s a fun way to stay ahead of trends and discover new talent. If you’re at all worried that services like Spotify might serve up the same kind of music and the same kind of artists over and over, Tidal Rising is a good antidote.

Unfortunately, you can’t add local music files to Tidal. This is a bit of a shame but shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for most people. If it is, look at Spotify or Deezer instead. However, you can transfer your music library and your playlists from other music streaming services to your Tidal library via third-party apps. 

Tidal review: Audio quality

Screenshots of the Tidal music app

See the little yellow labels under the tracks? That's how you'll know which format you're listening in. (Image credit: Tidal)
  • Tidal HiFi offers 1411kbps or 16-bit/44.1kHz sound quality with FLAC
  • Tidal HiFi Plus offers up to 9,216kbps or 24-bit/192kHz with HiRes FLAC
  • You'll need good audio tech to make the most of Tidal HiFi Plus

You’ll get a great audio experience with Tidal. But there are a couple of things to note about differences between the quality of the two price plans and some of the audio technologies and terminology Tidal has changed since it first launched. 

So the first thing to note is with Tidal HiFi you’ll get streaming at 1411kbps or 16-bit/44.1kHz sound quality with FLAC. FLAC is an audio format that offers a better way to stream music compared to most other streaming services, which use MP3 or other formats that remove aspects of the original recording to compress the file. This, as you might expect, means they don’t have the same high-res sound performance. Therefore, Tidal HiFi actually offers a similar listening experience to Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited. 

Tidal HiFi Plus pushes things up a notch and offers music at a higher quality and fidelity streaming with a bitrate of up to 9,216kbps or 24-bit/192kHz with HiRes FLAC. 

When you have Tidal HiFi Plus, you have three sound quality options to choose from, which you can manually select. Max is up to 9,216kbps or 24-bit/192kHz, which Tidal says is HiRes Free Lossless Audio Codec (HiRes FLAC). This is best if you’re on 5G or WiFi. High is up to 1411kbps or 16-bit/441.kHz, which Tidal calls “studio quality” in a FLAC format. And finally, Low 320kbps, which Tidal recommends if you have a weak signal. Low actually matches the bitrate on offer from Spotify. With Tidal HiFi, you’ll only get access to High and Low.

I spent a lot of time trialling both Tidal HiFi and Tidal HiFi Plus. With the right audio equipment (more on that soon), I could definitely tell a difference between the two options. In summary, Max was just so much better. With Max, tracks sounded clearer, more detailed and more expansive. This means if you really care about audiophile-grade sound, you’re going to love Tidal and you’d be better off choosing Tidal HiFi Plus.

A promo shot of Tidal on an Android device.

(Image credit: Tidal)

However, the quality of the sound you hear will depend on a couple of factors. The first is the format and quality of the track you’re playing. In 2023, Tidal made some changes to its service. Before then, it was really its Masters tracks. These had an MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) format. This claims to be a superior format, but not everyone is a fan and not all audio devices support MQA decoding. This could be why Tidal has since moved its focus away from MQA, and no longer seems to refer to tracks as Masters. It now instead calls these higher quality tracks Max tracks or just HiRes tracks.

Tidal says it now offers the best quality version of these tracks, which might be FLAC, or it might be MQA. These tracks are now labelled as HiRes in the Tidal app. Go to Explore and scroll down to HiRes to see them. What seems to be happening here is Tidal is migrating tracks to lossless hi-res audio in the open-source FLAC format. So now you’ll play a HiRes track and it might be MQA or not. Take a look at the image above and you’ll see that Water by Tyla has a small MQA label. Whereas Back on 74 by Jungle has a 24-bit, 44.1Hz FLAC label.

It’s also worth mentioning FLAC will never sound quite as good through an average mobile device's headphone jack as it does from a device with more competent audio hardware. That means you might want to upgrade your headphones or sound system to really make the most of Tidal HiFi Plus if you don’t have compatible tech already. If you don’t want to do that, definitely consider saving your money and settling for Tidal HiFi, or even opting for a cheaper streaming option instead, like Spotify.

With Tidal HiFi Plus, you’ll also get Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio. These are spatial sound formats that place sounds around, creating a more immersive experience. However, this isn’t new or unique to Tidal. Apple Music actually offers a similar experience and during testing I couldn’t tell that much of a difference between them in terms of how immersive they are – then again I’m not a huge fan of spatial sound and don’t think it always adds to the experience. That could be a personal preference, but it’s worth considering if you’re agonizing over whether to pick HiFi or HiFi Plus.

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