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Is the Tidal music service worth it for Windows 10 users? Let's examine the pros and cons

Music streaming services aren't exactly uncommon, and Tidal may at first look like just another name to throw in the pile.

However, the big deal about Tidal is its lossless, high-fidelity music. Competitors like Spotify or Microsoft's Groove compress the music to make files smaller and easier to stream.

Tidal has compressed music, but it's not why you should consider subscribing. Here's what you need to know.

What you get from Tidal

Tidal

The headline feature is the HiFi subscription, offering lossless CD quality audio on demand for both streaming and offline listening.

A subscription to this will cost $19.99 a month and you're given a free 30-day trial to see if it's for you before you have to part with any cash. Offline access to your Tidal music is allowed on up to 4 devices at any one time.

The catalog contains over 48.5 million tracks and 175,000 high-resolution videos, all available on the HiFi plan.

There's also a family plan available for another $10 a month on top that includes up to 5 people. If you really don't want the HiFi plan, the regular plan with HD videos and regular quality, compressed music is available for $9.99 a month or $14.99 for a family plan.

You can pay for Tidal using a credit card or PayPal if you prefer.

Using it on Windows 10

There are two official ways to enjoy Tidal on a Windows PC. One of those is using the web player, but considering it asks you to enable Flash you might want to steer clear.

The second is the official desktop app which is basically the web player wrapped up into a win32 program. Every feature of Tidal is present and correct, including access to Masters.

TIDAL is delivering master-quality audio recordings directly from the source to HiFi members — an audio experience exactly as the artist intended — in partnership with MQA.

MQA stands for Master Quality Authenticated and has been developed with the purpose of bringing super-high quality audio to streaming services. Tidal's regular streams are lossless at CD quality or 44.1 kHz/16 bit. Masters are at 96 kHz/24 bit, the same as many popular FLAC audio files and also sometimes known as "Hi-Res Audio."

Masters are available currently only through the desktop app but are free to HiFi tier subscribers.

Assuming you're using the desktop app, you're getting the best music Tidal has to offer, but not necessarily the best experience.

Download Tidal Desktop for Windows

Tidal Unofficial for Windows 10

Tidal Unofficial

As is so often the case, the Windows developer community has done a better job at making an app than the people employed by the company to make an official one.

Tidal Unofficial is a UWP app, it's available for PC and importantly, Windows 10 Mobile, since Tidal doesn't have an app for Windows-based smartphones. Surprised? Didn't think so.

But no matter. Tidal Unofficial is excellent. Aside from access to Masters audio (at least for now), every single other feature of Tidal is accessible. Offline audio, lossless streams, videos, all of it.

It also looks nicer than the Tidal desktop app, following the Windows 10 design language and being generally an all round pleasure to use. If one person can do something this good, why on earth hasn't Tidal paid him to just make it an official app?!

The one slight niggle is that as with any unofficial apps you don't necessarily know what the future holds. Hopefully Tidal doesn't do anything to hinder it going forward because it really is an excellent experience that fills a gap the company itself doesn't want to.

Download Tidal Unofficial from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)

But does it actually sound better?

The $64,000 question. Yes, it does.

The technology alone dictates that. The audio provided by Tidal has a higher sample rate than on say, Spotify, contains more detail and has an all round better quality sound. Masters audio is even better.

The question isn't does it sound better, but more are you happy to pay the extra to get that extra quality?

Personally, I'm sold. But only after I spent literally days listening to tracks first on Tidal then on other services like Groove, Spotify and Apple Music to see what the difference was. Audio on Tidal just sounds better. Richer, more detailed, better volume all compared to a flatter, more stifled sound from competitors offering compressed music.

And that's what you should do: Try it for free and compare it to your current service of choice or one you're thinking of getting. Tidal is essentially double the price of the major competitors, you need to make sure your ears are happy with the results for the extra spend.

Don't take my word for it or anyone else's. Try it yourself first.

Can you stream Tidal OK over cellular?

Tidal

Whether you're using your phone to listen or as a hotspot for your laptop, Tidal HiFi will stream just fine over a solid LTE connection. However, you need to consider how much data you'll be using.

Lossless files are big. A lot bigger than the compressed files you'd get from something like Groove. If you're not on an unlimited plan you could easily burn through a Gigabyte without listening to more than a couple of albums.

Thankfully Tidal allows you to adjust the quality settings based on your own parameters. If you're on cellular, for example, it's a good idea to drop the quality of streams to high. They won't sound as good, but they won't kill your monthly allowance, either.

If you want to listen to the best quality all the time, load up on WiFi before you leave the house.

The bottom line

Tidal

The question is whether Tidal is worth it to Windows users? The answer is yes, so long as you're happy with the extra cost for the improved sound. If it doesn't feel like a big enough improvement to you, then don't part with your money.

There's not really much reason to recommend Tidal on over other services if you don't go for the HiFi plan. The catalog is on par, it's priced about the same and it has a family plan. If you're a Windows phone user in particular, you'd be better off with Groove Music.

But if you're in for better sounding streams, $19.99 a month might not be so bad, especially with Tidal Masters rolling out. Consider you'll pay about this for one album in FLAC format and it suddenly represents great value.

Sign up at Tidal

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

30 Comments
  • I didn't even know that somebody makes an unofficial UWP for Tidal! That's great! Hopefully that the company won't going to ban that app but rather just hire that developer and make that app official. They can make Tidal available not just on PC and phone, but also for Xbox which this service will shine most. It is expensive, but the value of this is really lossless quality audio, which is great especially owning some expensive audio gear to pair with. I kinda wish that Groove Music offers this, even not for streaming but to download. We need more services that offer lossless audio.
  • Tidal is useless in Canada and South Asian markets as it doesn't have our music selection.
  • I've been very satisfied with Tidal for a few months now. Especially after I also bought Dragonfly Black, which alone sounds a lot better than the integrated sound device my desktop has
  • Not sure you can criticize any 3rd party dev when Microsoft spends $26 billion on a company and can only produce a web wrapper app themselves....
  • It's more that Jay-Z and his Tidal cronies could shut it down. We just don't know. What they should do is hire the developer to make their own app less crap. Everytime I close the desktop client it throws me an error. And the web player requires Flash.
  • Universal Windows Platform is a failure. Not even Microsoft wants to use it. Its much easier to develop on Android and iOS.
  • Don't say that here. 'Fans' here will drown you in negative votes. Now..
  • Sadly, with Microsoft not even being bothered to produce UWP apps for their own products, it's not surprising to see very little support from other developers. While I do listen to a lot of music, I almost never listen over headphones or earbuds.  And I'm almost never in one place while listening.  So, for me, chasing down lossless music is pretty much a lost effort, since you can't really tell the difference while driving in the car or moving around the house cleaning, etc.  The Groove subscription is good enough for that.
  • If someone use groove and tidal, please tell which better?
  • You should read this post again. You'll probably find the information you're looking for.
  • I read before ask question.
    The only difference its quality sound? Thats it!?
  • If the quality matters to you, then it would mean more than you think
  • The whole point of Tidal HiFi is offering lossless audio streams. If you care about sound quality then it's more than just "that's it." It's huge. If you don't care and just want a cheap service with all your favorite songs, Groove will be just fine. But music on Tidal HiFi sounds better. If you don't consider this a priority, it is not for you.
  • What other difference could there be?
  • There's also mention of the elusive "family plan"
  • I use both and there are pluses and minuses to each. Tidal has superior sound quality, exclusive content for both music as well as some videos and shows. Depending on the artist you like they may release on Tidal first. That being said Tidals app offering for PC is not good and Xbox is non existent. I use the third party option mentioned in the article. Tidal also doesn't sync with your current music collection. Groove syncs music that you have saved on OneDrive and has better apps for PC and Xbox. Music selection is good but they never get exclusives.
  • It's a pity that streaming technology is not ubiuitously up to par with high fidelity audio files. It's still dependent on so many factors like availability of data bandwidth, if your device can actually output high fidelity audio, if your speakers or headphones can actually output the high fidelity lossless audio. Do we actually know if lumia and other windows 10 mobile devices and every windows pc, laptop or surface device can actually output high fidelity lossless audio?
  • It's easier on a PC because there is hardware you can add to your PC if need be. On mobile we're basically talking CD quality right now and I mean, it sounds good. Not quite as good as my iPhone but I don't personally see any drop in quality compared to a Galaxy S7. iPhones are traditionally very good though since, you know, Apple made music players for a while first. As I said in the post, you get it free for 30 days. So it's down to you to decide if it's worth it :) Try it on any device you can use it on and see what you think.
  • FYI, if you have a student email, you get 50% off....As a happy paying Tidal user, I support this post. I just wished other sites respected it more as a player in the game. Podcasts (new but growing everyday), TV Shows, Concerts, Live Concerts, Access to Presale tickets along with the regular music & videos. 
  • This would destroy my mobile phone data quota, I would also need to get new headphones for my phone (I use BackBeat Fit at the moment because I ride a bike a lot), and a pocket amp.
  • Compressed vs lossless is a no brainer. But 44/16 vs 96/24 is a much tougher nut to crack since technically there are pretty much no benefits to 96/24 over 44/16. I know this will infuriate many audiophiles but that is a fact. The only possible benefit is if the original recording and master was done in 96/24 then it *should* mean there was no conversion done between the mastering room and tidal servers (I think this is actually the case with tidal but I'm not sure). Other than that there is no physical added value to it, the audio content is the same.
  • I think that's what they're going for with the Masters audio collection. Unless I understood it wrong. Getting the original recordings done in 96/24. But you're right. And when it comes to a streaming service in particular, I'm personally happy to pay more for the 44/16. Especially since the Masters are included for the same price where available.
  • Does it really reproduce lossless audio on the device it is played on as a UWP app?
  • It doesn't reproduce anything. The streams are lossless, they come from Tidal that way. Listening to lossless audio isn't something new, devices have been able to do that for a long time. In Tidal's case, most of the streams are currently CD quality. If your PC can listen to CDs, for example, it can listen to Tidal.
  • I don't understand why the other services does not provide a hifi alternative. What else does it require than storing and streaming bigger files? I would pay more for higher quality audio.
  • No.  They're not officially supporting Windows 10 Mobile.  They're not even supporting Windows 10.  If it were a free service, like SoundCloud, then I might consider it.  At the very least, SoundCloud has an official app for Windows 10 desktop.  But Tidal isn't giving us anything and as others have suggested they could shut it down at any time and we'd be stuck ilstening to it on Android or iOS.  I appreciate what the deevloper is doing but I refuse to support Tidal.  I'd rather use a free service where my money or ad views go to support a developer, like the unofficial Jango app.  Its nothing personal against the developer though. As far as sound quality, if it means that much to me I'll get a CD and rip it. There isn't any music out there even worth going through that trouble for, IMHO, but I'm 44 and my tastes are different; I still like the new stuff but not enough that I have to listen to it lossless. Groove is just a better app, with what it offers.  Tidal offers lossless but I'd rather buy FLAC directly off the web.  
  • Tidal does support Windows with a desktop app. It's right there in the post.
  • Maybe the six month subscription because it's cheaper.  I still don't want to because I don't see why I should support someone that isn't putting in the work of making an app for mobile.  I don't want an old Win32 app.  I don't mind giving the developer my money but I don't want to give Tidal my money.   Lossless just isn't something I need for mobile at this point.  Music sounds really, really, good in my car as it is now.  
  • Yes Tidal is awsome!!
  • Why doesn't MS come with a HiFi option for Groove.....