Tidal vs. Spotify: Which Is the Best Streaming Music Service?
Tidal and Spotify are two of the biggest music streaming services out there. Which means that you might be trying to decide between the two. Each have their own pros and cons in aspects such as music quality, price, and device availability.
In this article, we compare Tidal to Spotify to find out which one is better. So, without further ado, let the battle of Tidal vs. Spotify commence!
Tidal vs. Spotify: Music
Roughly speaking, Spotify boasts 50 million songs and Tidal boasts 60 million songs. However, these numbers continue to grow, with Spotify claiming to add 40,000 songs every day.
Of course, you’ll never be able to listen to all of those songs in your life. As such, the real question comes down to specifically what’s available.
When Jay-Z relaunched Tidal in 2015 , a number of high profile artists signed exclusivity deals with the platform. For example, Jay-Z pulled all of his music from Spotify, while new albums from Kanye West and Beyoncé were only available on Tidal.
Also, some artists have taken issue with music streaming services. In 2014, Taylor Swift pulled her music from Spotify (and others like Google Play and Amazon Music) because she believed “music should not be free”. She reversed this decision in 2017.
Nowadays, the music divide between Tidal and Spotify is slim. Artists and albums once exclusive to Tidal are now on Spotify. Even Kanye West, originally a key promoter of Tidal, left the company in 2017.
As such, it’s more likely that an artist won’t be available on any music streaming service, rather than only Spotify or Tidal.
Tidal vs. Spotify: Podcasts and Videos
While music is the main draw to Tidal and Spotify, they both offer extra content. Music aside, Spotify is all about podcasts and Tidal is all about videos.
Tidal has over 240,000 videos available. Many of these are music videos, but that’s not all. There are exclusive live performances, visual albums, documentaries, and interviews. Tidal also has a very slim selection of podcasts, but consider these as small bonuses rather than anything that you’d specifically sign up to the service for.
Spotify does have some videos, but it buries them. Instead, it offers over 500,000 podcasts. Not only does Spotify offer all your favorite podcasts, but it’s also pouring money into the podcast industry to buy networks and sign deals. Spotify has bought podcast companies Gimlet Media, Anchor, and The Ringer, and has signed exclusive agreements with the likes of Joe Rogan and Kim Kardashian West.
Obviously, if you care about videos then Tidal wins, while if you prefer podcasts then it’s Spotify. There’s a convenience to have music and podcasts (both primarily audio mediums) in a single place, but that’s irrelevant if you care more about videos.
Tidal vs. Spotify: Price
If you don’t want to pay, Spotify is the only service that offers a free membership. You can listen to the entire catalog, but there are limitations: adverts between every couple of tracks, no offline listening, no high quality music, and on mobile you can primarily only shuffle music rather than listening to what you want when you want.
If you want the real experience, Spotify Premium is the way to go .
The price plans are:
- Student: $4.99/month, one account.
- Individual: $9.99/month, one account.
- Duo: $12.99/month, two accounts in the same household.
- Family: $14.99/month, six accounts in the same household.
The service is basically the same whatever plan you choose, it just depends on how many accounts you need. If you can get six people together, the Family subscription is a steal, as it works out to just $2.50 each per month. And Spotify Premium Duo is good for music-loving couples .
Tidal doesn’t have a free option. Instead, it varies its subscription prices based upon audio quality, with discounts available to groups like students. The price plans are:
- Premium:$9.99/month, standard sound quality, one account.
- Family Premium: $14.99/month, standard sound quality, six accounts in the same household.
- HiFi: $19.99/month, high fidelity sound quality, one account.
- Family HiFi: $29.99/month, high fidelity sound quality, six accounts in the same household.
Students can get Premium for $4.99/month and HiFi for $9.99/month. First responders and those in the military can get Premium for $5.99/month and HiFi for $11.99/month.
Like Spotify, going for the Family subscription gives the best bang for your buck if you have enough people. An additional $10 for higher quality audio seems steep, but it’s your decision whether that’s worth it.
When it comes to cost, Spotify and Tidal are similar and both offer decent discounts. However, Spotify wins ever so slightly thanks to the free plan.
Tidal vs. Spotify: Interface and Discovery
Tidal and Spotify have very similar interfaces. A quick glance at both and you might not even notice the difference. On desktop, you navigate on the left, select content in the main pane, and use the audio controls at the bottom.
On artist pages you can view the albums, singles, and compilations, along with similar artists.
When it comes to finding music, both services have a great search function, along with the ability to browse by genre, mood, charts, and popularity.
In terms of the sheer number of playlists, Spotify wins here. The service is very keen to get you listening to its playlists, which are both curated and automatically created based upon your listening habits.
Spotify is well known for its “Discover Weekly” playlist, which is weirdly good at recommending songs that you’ll enjoy but probably haven’t heard before.
All of this is irrelevant if you know what you want to listen to anyway, but if you’re keen to discover some up-and-coming artists across the world, Spotify wins here.
Tidal vs. Spotify: Device Availability
Tidal and Spotify are both available on many devices. This includes Windows and macOS for desktop, Android and iOS for mobile, smart TVs and services like Chromecast and Roku, car entertainment systems, and speakers from the likes of Sonos.
The chances are, Tidal and Spotify are available on what you need them to be. However, Spotify does have the edge when it comes to the sheer number of devices that you can use it on—it also supports games consoles, smart displays, and has app integrations with Discord, Tinder, Waze, and more.
Tidal vs. Spotify: Audio Quality
Tidal and Spotify both offer varying levels of audio quality, depending on your subscription and settings.
Paid Spotify users can stream audio up to the equivalent of 320 kbps, which is going to be good enough for most people. For free users, the limit is 160 kbps.
However, audiophiles will want to use Tidal, if they’re willing to pay for it. While its standard subscription streams at the same rate as Spotify, the HiFi plan is where things get interesting. This plan streams music at 16 bit, in FLAC lossless format.
That boosts to 24 bit with Tidal Masters. Tidal have partnered with Master Quality Authenticated to “deliver guaranteed master-quality recordings directly from the master source”. This is an ultra-high resolution output that makes music sound like it does in the mastering suite. It’s available on thousands of albums; just look out for the “M” symbol.
To take advantage of that higher quality audio, you’ll need a good speaker setup or the best noise-canceling headphones to match. You won’t notice a difference listening through the earbuds that came free with your phone.
Tidal vs. Spotify: Which Is Best?
You can’t go too wrong with either Tidal or Spotify. Both are competitively priced, offer a huge amount of content, and work on lots of different devices. If you care more about audio quality and are willing to pay for the privelege, go for Tidal. Otherwise, Spotify is the better choice for most users.
If you want to know how Spotify stacks up against other streaming services, check out our article pitting Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music .
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