The word disruption is overused in the tech business but one industry that was truly disrupted and never recovered was the music industry. The sale of physical music CDs continues to shrink as we move our listening habits online. With the exception of the heartwarming revival of vinyl records, the future of music is digital. There are more than a few of options for digital music in your home, on your phone or tablet. Apple Music and Spotify dominate the industry but so much of the headphone based, digital music we listen to sounds, well, just too digital. I don’t need access to all the music in the world, but I really want it to be crystal clear, sharp and sound more like music used to, hi-fi but in digital.
Tidal is a small company by comparison to the giants but with its strong artist shareholder influence, they are doing something cleverly different and I was keen to try what’s been called the Rolls-Royce of digital music.
There’s a standard version of Tidal but I opted for the Hi-Fi subscription to try the premium features. It’s a simple process to get the app up and running after downloading it from the App store for either iOS or Android. The app is minimal but functional and easy to navigate. I thought entering some basic personal info on age and gender would probably help my music discovery so I completed that and I was ready to listen.
Searching for music is easy but Tidal make discovery, that is finding new music, easy for you. Clicking on playlists reveals Tidal’s selection of what they think you might like. There are playlists for relaxing, parties, dinner and all manner of moods or activities. These are playlists of the best or most appropriate music in that category, and they’re good. As well as the Tidal created playlists, there are exclusive guest playlists created by artists themselves.
The My Music section of Tidal also works well and I created my own playlists for an evening at home and for exercising. I created them on my laptop, but they almost instantly showed up on my iPhone and I opted for Offline Mode, so I could listen to that playlist without using my phones data allowance while out walking. The offline mode is one of the most compelling features of Tidal is and using it is ideal for stocking up on things to listen to before traveling.
There are 40 million tracks in the Tidal catalog and around 130,000 HD videos. I’ve searched for acts I thought might be obscure, local or just too niche, but they’re all there including Irish traditionl music. As well as music and videos Tidal have broadened their appeal with interviews and exclusive shows in magazine style formats.
Earlier this month, Tidal announced they would be making a feature called Masters available. This isn’t just high quality digital music, it is music in a remarkable format that is reproduced like it sounded in the studio when the artist recorded it. Tidal have always had the edge with quality, but using this super high quality format called MQA, puts them ahead of the competition. Not all of the music on Tidal is in this format, but there’s plenty there to get started with.
As well as running on your iOS or Android phone, Tidal also runs on your PC and is integrated in various music players. If you own digital hi-fi devices like Sonos or Ixion Maestro, Tidal is integrated in to those devices and you can access your music and the rest of the catalog straight from their controls.
Price: €19.99 per month | More info: tidal.com
An edited version of this review appeared in The Irish Mail on Sunday, on 29-January-2017.