Slowly supplanting the mainstream’s thirst for digital downloads the march towards streaming service domination gathers pace this week with news that CD-quality streaming from WiMP off-shoot Tidal is coming to the US and UK this Fall/Autumn.
Tidal promises access to 25 million songs delivered in FLAC to its PC/Mac web player and Android app. iOS users get the same lossless quality but in ALAC format. 75000 high definition music videos will also be rolled into the monthly subscription fee: US$19.99. Eyebrows will no doubt be raised over the pond in the UK where this same service will be priced at £19.99/month.
As per rival streaming providers, content can be downloaded for offline listening within the confines of the Tidal smartphone app. Alternative streaming formats (AAC 320kbps and AAC+ 96kbps) are available for when bandwidth can’t support CD-quality streaming and/or when you near your ISP plan’s data limit.
My advice? You don’t have to stream everything all the time. Download lossless audio to your smartphone over wi-fi using your home internet connection before heading into the street, thus circumventing the need to tap your mobile carrier’s (usually smaller) data allowance.
“Streaming is normally 70% offlined so the interesting thing is distribution of music to your devices with one click, no cables and no hassle.”, says Tidal representative Pål Bråtelund.
Numerous European nations already enjoy lossless subscriptions from Qobuz and WiMP whilst residents of the USA currently can only look on in envy. Tidal’s launch will no doubt be welcomed with open arms by large swathes of (audiophile) music lovers. A promise of curated editorial content by “experienced music journalists” may well set Tidal apart from the competition in a space that, by its very nature, sees more similarity than it does difference.
It remains to be seen whether or not shifting more data down the inter pipes in the name of better sound quality is a sustainable business model; I sincerely hope it is! Qobuz’s recent financial stumble don’t augur well for its plans to also launch Stateside later this year.
A final thought: Tidal join the throng of providers using the phrase “as the artist intended” in promoting higher data rates, a trend kickstarted (literally!) by Pono. CD-quality streaming services have the potential to almost invisibly bring better sound quality to the man in the street, no additional hardware required. Tidal might be an additional $10/month over and above Spotify but it’s money well spent if you baulk at dropping $20ish on HRA downloads. In this sense, Tidal et al represent the middle ground, the pragmatist’s choice. Exciting times.