Binaural Beats: Spotify vs. Tidal

After experiencing the most dreary winter of my life cooped up in my apartment, it is finally Spring! I’m outside a lot lately, and I’m taking my Spotify playlists with me. While it’s exhilarating to be outside again, I’ve noticed that the more time I spent listening to Spotify, the more I felt like something was missing. In fact I became so convinced that I was experiencing a quality issue, I decided to compare Spotify and Tidal using my own meditation music as a test subject. (I uploaded the same master to each service and they should sound the same.)

My unsurprising conclusion: Tidal’s lossless streaming is better than Spotify’s lossy streaming.

Based on how Spotify describes their quality settings here, I assumed the higher quality audio reserved for premium Spotify subscribers would be indistinguishable from a lossless format. It wasn’t. The differences in the perceived quality between Spotify and Tidal using the default settings were easy for me to distinguish: enough to convince me to switch from Spotify Premium to Tidal, in fact.

I ran a comparative listening test between lossless versions of a few of my albums, notably Illumination, which is notoriously difficult to compress due to it’s high frequency content and wide dynamic range, and Regenerate, which is built around some subtle but substantial stereo imaging and spectral gymnastics. I compared the master recording in my archives to the streaming versions of the albums on Spotify and Tidal. I was honestly surprised to discover just how much better the lossless streaming from Tidal actually is.

Here’s What I Noticed About Tidal

  • The stereo imaging was better on Tidal
  • The frequency response was better on Tidal
  • The audio seemed cleaner on Tidal (Perhaps related to aliasing)
  • The dynamic range seemed better on Tidal

So… once my trial period is over, I’m switching my paid subscription to Tidal. I’ve added direct links to my albums on my music pages and I’m so impressed by my subjective tests that I even separated out the links between Lossy and Lossless providers.

2 thoughts on “Binaural Beats: Spotify vs. Tidal

  1. Welllllllll … the thing about Tidal is … they got the lossless — and they even have a new (but very limited) MASTERS section of 96 kHz / 24 bit recordings — buttttt … it’s also kind of a mess in terms of the user interface. It just feels ugly compared to spotify — and REALLY UGLY compared to Apple Music. Another plus for Apple Music — I felt like their algorithms were really spot-on in determining songs, artists, and ESPECIALLY playlists that I’d be into. Selection with Tidal feels a little wonky, too — but, hey, they’ve got your stuff! It’s been a while since I’ve done the spotify thing — I did it first, then Google Play Music, then Apple Music, then Tidal — but if any of those services started offering lossless, I’ll be jumping ship.

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  2. I’ve had so many problems with iTunes and Apple Music that I switched to Spotify a few years ago and I have never looked back. I am highly satisfied with the interface, content, playlist features, and music matching algorithms. But when I compared the sound side by side, Tidal won. Period. Here’s the thing: I haven’t jumped ship.

    Speaking of algorithms, I think this is the true home of customer loyalty: since 2014, Spotify has been learning my ways and learning to navigate the murky waters of my weird musical tastes. Neither Tidal nor Apple Music have that much time invested in learning my preferences. Sure, I could train Tidal in the ways of my preferences, but I could also just wait for a lossless tier of Spotify to arrive and save myself the trouble. 😉

    I know my own music fairly well, and I can hear a difference. Regarding sound quality, lossless truly is better. But selecting a subscription service is about more than sound quality. Heck, even discovering that Tidal sounded better wasn’t enough to lure me away from Spotify, which is sonically inferior at this time.

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