My Return to Tidal Hi-Fi – No Strings Attached!

So i’m a week into my 12 day Free Tidal Preview Access, and I must say I have a new appreciation for their “Hi-Fi” CD Quality streaming. I signed up back in 2015, and it seemed like it was not quite ready for primetime.

At that time, when you listened to a selection, the service was set up to default to the lower quality 320 Kbps streams unless the service deemed your network capable of transmitting the 1411Kbps “Hi-Fi” stream.  The only way to rectify this was to change your settings to play the higher bitrate stream all the time, and even then, the app seemed to jump back over to the 320 Kbps stream at random times.

The CD-Quality streams also seemed to drop out a lot, which admittedly could be due to the limitations of residential internet back then, but in any case, I found it pretty harrowing to take advantage of the higher quality music I was paying for.

Aside from that, I also found the selection and quality of playlists on Tidal to be lacking, especially compared to Spotify. Because of this, I moved on from Tidal in 2016 and settled on a combination of Spotify for my streaming needs and lossless FLAC downloads for the music I found to be essential.

Now, fast-forward to Christmas 2017, when Tidal offered free preview accounts, which one could open without the need to provide a credit card for automatic billing once the trial was over. I thought this was the perfect time for me to try Tidal again, since I knew it had become the de-facto choice among audiophiles for streaming.

This is the part where I say I am completely bowled over by Tidal’s current offering. Not by the playlists, because they are still pretty bad, but the sound quality and stability of the “Hi-Fi” tier is greatly improved. Not only that, I am happy to see they are playing to their strengths by making the CD-Quality streams the default when you are connected to wi-fi, which is no-doubt buoyed by improved residential internet speeds.

Listening to the dynamic “A Tribute To Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers” EP by Drummer Tony Allen, via the Tidal Android App, installed on my LG V30 with ESS Quad Sabre DAC, and 1More Triple Driver In-Ear headphones, the detail and depth of sound was breathtaking.

I also listened to the same album via the Tidal Windows Desktop App using the AudioQuest Dragonfly Black USB DAC, & AudioQuest Nighthawk Headphones, and again I was taken aback by the detail, separation of instruments, and soundstage produced. I enjoyed the music so much more than the 320 Kbps “High-Quality” stream on Spotify.

Finally,  I switched over to the “Tidal Masters” Hi-Res better than CD quality version of the Tony Allen EP powered by MQA, a compression scheme which allows for streaming of data intensive high-resolution audio files. (More on MQA here) Again, I was entranced by an even higher level of separation, detail and soundstage facilitated by the MQA processing on the Dragonfly DAC.

Needless to say, after a week of having Tidal back in my life, i’m hooked. I will be signing up again once my free trial ends, and I suggest that all audiophiles out there check it out before the Free Preview ends on Jan 5. You may find yourself coughing up the $19.99 a month (cheaper if you pay for 6 months or a year upfront) like me.

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