I had to see what all the fuss was about.
Back in March, Jay Z’s big streaming music service launched, he calls it “Tidal.”
Jay Z spent $US56 million to buy Aspiro, the Swedish company behind the WiMP and Tidal streaming sites. Since then he and his team have made it their own.
Enough. It was time for me to find out for myself. I downloaded the app, buried my Spotify icon deep within my iPhone, and got to work.
Here's the first thing you see when you open the app. This is honestly the most useless part for me. It mostly focuses on exclusive content and I've noticed an aim towards hip hop (despite Jason Aldean being featured here). That goes against my personal tastes, but I suppose it could appeal to some.
While that's not super helpful, the rest of this app is fantastic. Here's the sidebar you see inside the app which is, in my opinion, much more useful than Spotify's sidebar. It's especially easier here to navigate to the songs you save offline and get to specific genres of music.
There is a lot of focus on curated playlists here which is a great feature for Tidal to have. As you can see they split playlists up into categories based on where you might be or what you might be doing. It's a clean, fun interface.
I wasn't as crazy about the playlists themselves, though. The selection was less helpful and smaller than you can find on Spotify. Also, some of the playlists were extremely small.
Spotify has a ton of music videos available as well, including plenty of exclusive stuff. I think I clicked and watched 10 seconds of a single video once. This isn't a feature I'm interested in with streaming music apps.
Genre selection is awesome in Tidal. Again, I have to praise the app for its one great quality that sets it apart from the competition: A clean and appealing user interface that I would argue is the best among streaming apps I've tried.
Once you're in a genre there's all sorts of easy-to-digest stuff to tap. You can push the big play button at the top for a selection, select a playlist, go to some curated albums, it's very good.
Artist pages are also incredibly helpful. There's a play button over a high quality picture of the artist on top, click that for a solid shuffle play of all of their stuff. Top songs and albums are neatly arranged below.
Then'now playing' screen is my favourite thing. It's so clean and aesthetically pleasing. I also enjoy the subtle difference of having the song timeline in a circle instead of a moving bar. It's the little things.
There are also two sections I wasn't interested in which seem to be promoting new music, 'Tidal Rising,' and 'Tidal Discovery.' I never used them, but I can see the value.
As the settings here show, sound quality is a huge issue for Tidal. This has been a big part of the marketing push for the app. I tried both high and normal qualities, and never heard enough of a difference to sway me.
This leads to one of the classically most difficult to swallow parts of Tidal: The price.
Tidal technically costs $US9.99. That's the same as Spotify and the upcoming Apple Music. BUT if you sign up through the iOS app the lowest cost you can get is $US12.99. The Verge reports that Tidal charges extra to make up for the Apple subscription free. So you're much better off signing up at Tidal.com.
But if you want their 'HiFi' experience with better sound quality, it's a big jump up to $US19.99. I don't know anyone that would pay that (again, it's more than that if you buy it through the app, $US25.99).
From the website:
TIDAL costs either $US9.99 or $US19.99 a month. Both pricing levels come with the same access to exclusive content and experiences, and the $US19.99 tier has the added benefit of high-fidelity sound.
Below is an overview of some of the different prices for some countries. Please check the local price when you register for your account.
$US19.99 in the US
$US19.99 CAD in Canada
£19.99 in the UK
€19.99 in Europe
199 Nordic Countries (DK, NO)
$US23.99 AUD in Australia
$US96 HKD in Hong Kong
39.99 PLN in Poland
$US9.99 in the US
$US9.99 CAD in Canada
£9.99 in the UK
€9.99 in Europe
99 Nordic Countries (DK, NO)
$US11.99 AUD in Australia
$US48 HKD in Hong Kong
19.99 PLN in Poland
At the end of the day, I would definitely recommend Tidal. I like the user interface much more than the competitors and if you're into hip hop, there's a lot of exclusive content here. The app seems sort of tailored to that taste right now.
If I wasn't so reliant on curated playlists I would switch to Tidal right now from Spotify. It's a better user interface, similarly large music catalogue, and an easy app to navigate.
The playlists, though, are a little confused and too small right now. I can rarely find exactly the playlist that hits the post in that moment. Spotify always kills that. That's probably enough to get me to stay with them, or see what Apple's new service has to offer.
But if you're interested in the app after reading this, I would definitely do the 30-day trial. It's a great app, and you're probably going to really enjoy your experience.