Review: one week with TIDAL, the superior audio corporate overlord


by Evan Burley, Opinion Editor

For years I’ve wanted to switch from Spotify, largely due to their poor treatment of the artists whose music is part of their libraries, but their stance regarding Joe Rogan of late has certainly been even more of a motivator. The problem was it seemed like my only other options for similar streaming platforms were Amazon, YouTube Music and Apple Music, none of which were appealing subscription options, either. Enter: TIDAL, probably the best bet in terms of alternatives.

Pro: TIDAL makes moving playlists a breeze. If you’re a heavy Spotify user and a meticulous playlist maker like I was, the switch isn’t so much difficult as it is a bit tedious. Seemingly anticipating one of the greatest plights of new converts, TIDAL offers two choices of websites for playlist transfer, both of which will each do so automatically. The playlists don’t even have to be yours; if you have Spotify-curated or other users’ playlists you want to transfer, that is also an available option.

Con: limitations will make the process a nightmare for heavy playlist-makers. Right off the bat, the biggest problem with the first website, Tune My Music, is you hit a paywall after your first 500 song transfers, which was problematic for me considering my song count was well into the thousands. After 500 transfers, you have to upgrade to premium to continue. The other option, Soundiiz, does let you transfer as many playlists as you want for free—provided you’re willing to transfer your playlists one by one, that is. The option to transfer all of your playlists at once does exist; you just have to pay a premium for that. 

Still, free is free, so I bit the bullet and went with Soundiiz. There may be alternative options available that are completely free, but considering Tune My Music and Soundiiz both require quite a bit of access to your Spotify account, and by extension personal details, I wasn’t confident enough to test the waters with anything other than what was endorsed by TIDAL.

Pro: in a lot of ways, TIDAL matches Spotify pace-for-pace, just significantly better. Like Spotify, TIDAL has a variety of plans available, though which seems most attractive to you might depend on how you like your music to sound. TIDAL offers three options: Normal (AAC Quality), HiFi (Lossless Quality) and Master (High-Res Quality). If you’re like me and are a music plebeian, on the surface this might mean absolutely nothing to you, but TIDAL has a positive reputation among audiophiles for a reason. I can tell you even from a local’s perspective TIDAL’s superior sound quality devastates that of Spotify’s. 

Even if you decide to stick with TIDAL’s initial premium plan, HiFi, which costs the same as Spotify’s at $9.99/month, you get way more bang for your buck due to its CD-like sound quality. Normal, which is great for those of us eternally damned to Simpson College internet, is free, though unlike HiFi and HiFi Plus you will get ads and will only be able to listen on shuffle a la Pandora or iHeart Radio.

HiFi Plus is TIDAL’s most expensive plan, coming in at a whopping $19.99/month. But, arguably, there is a good reason for this. TIDAL also has a reputation for prioritizing fair payment of its artists, unlike Spotify. Through this plan, not only do you get studio-like sound quality, but the artists you listen to get a cut, with up to 10% going to your most-listened-to artists depending on how frequently you stream their music. 

If you’re still on the fence, you can get a one-week free trial to find out for yourself which is right for you.

Con: students can kiss the complimentary subscriptions goodbye. Losing the promise of free Hulu and Showtime, which comes with Spotify’s student discount, could prove to be a dealbreaker for a lot of folks, and understandably so. As of writing this review, TIDAL does not have similar complimentary subscription deals. But, for the record, TIDAL does have more discounts than Spotify: family (starting at $14.99/month), student (50% off), military (40% off) and first responder (also 40% off). Be sure to read the fine print, though, as not all of these options will be available to everyone everywhere.

Pros: a library boasting over 80 million songs. Pretty self-explanatory. In transferring songs from my many, many playlists—like, we’re talking songs going into the triple digits—I can tell you that a strong majority survived the journey. I was pleasantly surprised to find my favorite international and indie artists who were on Spotify were also available on TIDAL. (And, yes, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell were both available, too.) TIDAL’s curated playlists are also much better than Spotify’s in that they feel like they’re made by real people who love music rather than an algorithm tossing TikTok songs wherever it can. Still, even with such an extensive library, it goes without saying you can anticipate some limitations. 

Cons: having workarounds on hand is inevitable. Corporations have a horrifying amount of control over access to art, especially with things like exclusivity—which is an editorial all on its own that I promise I won’t subject you to today. The point is, TIDAL, even with its massive library, is neither exempt from this problem nor is the problem unique to it. How much of a deal-breaker this will be for you will depend on 1) your willingness to use multiple audio platforms and 2) how much you really need immediate, all-encompassing access to media.

So, let’s say TIDAL sounds really appealing but its limitations blow entire holes in your playlists (sorry, lo-fi fans; RIP Vocaloid and drama OST listeners). If you decide to pay for a TIDAL subscription, you’re probably not keen on paying for another subscription. In this case, having Overcast and YouTube Music are going to be your best bet. 

Overcast is a platform made specifically for podcasts with a library far outmatching both Spotify and TIDAL. All you have to do is make an account and you’re good to go. Similarly, YouTube Music is a great option for those enamored with TIDAL’s superior sound quality and treatment of creators but also lament the loss of songs. Practically anything’s available there, and it’s convenient considering all you need is your YouTube account, no subscription required.