Tidal to stream HiFi quality audio

TidalThere’s a new music streaming service in town, it’s called Tidal and it’s packing a secret weapon – Instead of dishing out the usual MP3, AAC or OGG files, Tidal streams lossless FLAC files that offer several times the bitrate of most other music services.

Tidal, the new audio streaming service from WiMP HiFi, will be delivering “High Fidelity Music Streaming” as opposed to the 320 kbps .ogg files used by Spotify at their max quality level or iTunes’ AAC format at 256 kbps.

The company boasts more than 25 million tracks at 44.1 kHz/16-bits, which have been encoded as FLAC files.

The music catalogue consists of standard resolution CD rips, which have a bandwidth of 1411 kbps (the FLAC files will be less than that by about 10-20%). No remastering or new analogue transfers are being done. I suppose that they may well be sourcing the same “High-Resolution” CD-rips that Omnifone will be offering through PonoMusic.

Tidal will work on a subscription basis like most of the other streaming and download services. A £19.99 monthly subscription will give you access to those 25 million HiFi tracks as well as 75,000 HD music videos. That’s more than twice the cost of a Spotify Premium sub of £9.99. The quality should be good but is it twice the cost good?

tidal bit rateTidal’s website states:

No compression. No compromise. With our lossless audio experience, you can enjoy your music the way the artist intended. Unlimited access to over 25 million tracks.

OK, I’m not usually one for picking the bones out of marketing material, I know what it’s there for and the job it has to do, but FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is still a form of compression and saying that the music is not compressed is a bit (pun intended) awkward. It is a ‘lossless’ compression technology, granted, but it’s still getting in there amongst the file in order to do it’s thing. There are some audiophiles that will insist whole-heartily that FLAC files still suffer under this format when compared with the likes of wav files.

The Tidal catalogue will be available for download as well as stream and this stands to reason as that’s what the Swedish WiMP service does for Denmark, Norway, Poland, Germany and, of course, Sweden. I would also assume that they might have several levels of quality as WiMP does as it’s all part of the same company.

Tidal will be available on mobiles in the form of iOS or Android apps as well as on PCs and Macs as a browser-based web player – so expect it to function similarly to existing services.

I do find it encouraging that people seem to be demanding higher quality from their digital audio and that formats such as Pure Audio are coming through. I guess that it also helps that our devices are now coming with the storage capacity to allow these chunky files on-board.

Neil Young’s PonoPlayer and soon to be open PonoMusic service looks to be the one that Tidal has to battle with at the moment.

Which will win? Will either of them prove the need for real HiFi for streaming?

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Go to the Tidal website to register your interest.

TIDAL music streaming experience at a glance:
 More than 25 million music tracks in lossless quality (FLAC/ALAC 44.1kHz / 16 bit - 1411 kbps)
 More than 75,000 HD music videos
 Tailor made editorial provided by experienced music journalists
 Dedicated apps available for iOS and Android devices
 Web player for PC/MAC
 Support for a wide range of home music network players