Spotify vs Tidal – what’s better?

Streaming services like Spotify and Tidal are now one of the more popular ways to listen to music online. Both services are growing in popularity and offer different experiences and catalogs that we can choose from. Spotify and Tidal also differ in the price that comes with the subscription. It is known that every zloty per month is still cheaper than buying a CD of your favorite artist, but after a few months of using these two services alternately, you finally see the advantages and disadvantages of both solutions. So who is it worth leaving your money to? Should I follow the crowd and choose Spotify or Tidal?

Appearance and navigation

Spotify has been designed in such a way that after a few minutes everyone can immediately “know what it’s all about”. The application itself, especially the one for computers, is based on a simple interface that does not spread any aura of mystery. You can see what your friends are listening to, on the left side you will find your saved playlists, as well as bookmarks that will allow you to discover music and listen to other lists created by users or developers.

There are not too many settings, but everything we need is here: setting the destination directory for our music files on disk, streaming in higher quality or even the ability to indicate the device with which we will control the program away from the computer or phone. Spotify takes care of updating itself, so it is always up to date.

If you’ve been using Spotify a lot, you won’t have any problem with Tidal: this doesn’t mean, of course, that there are no differences here. However, the differences are so minimal that it only takes a little getting used to and everything will be fine. On the main page you will find news, recommended songs and videos, as well as a search engine.

In terms of options, Tidal is even more limited than Spotify, but it has a significant advantage over it: music in Hi-Fi quality (just like straight from the CD) can also be listened to from the browser version, regardless of where you are and what equipment you are using. It’s a brilliant solution that makes things easier when you’re not using your own equipment. Tidal, just like Spotify, updates itself and always asks you for permission to install updates and newer version of the program.

Sound quality – Spotify vs Tidal

This is actually the crux of the matter and one of the most important things to look at when choosing Spotify or Tidal. The streaming services have been struggling with the quality of the music they play, but it’s actually getting better every month and there’s less to complain about in this regard. Spotify in the free version plays music through the use of Ogg Vorbis codec in the quality of 160 kb/s. You can immediately hear that it’s not what you’re looking for – tracks are a bit flattened and you can hear that compression cuts some frequencies without extracting enough energy and proper sound. In the Premium version, which requires a subscription, Spotify shows what it can do, but it’s still far from perfect.

The higher version uses the Vorbis codec, but it does it with a quality of 320 kbps, which is a standard “empetroika”, like many on the Internet. It turns out, however, that in this case it’s much better: surprisingly, some CDs ripped to lossless FLAC (at least those from my library) sound very similar and it’s hard to feel the difference between them. Spotify Premium offers satisfactory quality for its price: there are no fireworks here, but also the creators have nothing to be ashamed of. The music is easily suitable for home hi-fi equipment or more budget solutions. Only better quality headphones will show some shortcomings, which are clearly the fault of compression. So if you listen to music in the office or at home during work or other activities, and you do not focus on it 100 percent, then Spotify Premium should easily suffice and give you what you need.

When it comes to Tidal, there are a few options to choose from. First and foremost, unlike Spotify, Tidal doesn’t give you the option to choose free listening interrupted by ads – we can use the trial period for 30 days and see what exactly this platform can do. The first paid option is Tidal Premium, which offers music in mp3 standard using AAC 320kb/s for the PC and browser version, and 96 kb/s for the mobile version (this is supposed to allow for lower consumption of the package). However, I decided to choose the Hi-Fi package, the highest possible one, to see what exactly Tidal can offer in terms of quality and FLAC streaming promoted so much by the service. Here we are dealing with files created in 44.1 kHz and 16-bit quality, which is almost identical to the way we would listen to music from a CD.

After a few minutes of switching from Spotify, I can only make out one big: wow. With the headphones and integrated, dedicated amplifier, you can immediately hear an electrifying difference in sound quality: songs are much more vivid, have more “meaty” bass and wider space. Also on cheap speakers the separation in tracks is not lame, and music seems to be “cleaned” of all shortcomings. It is worth testing this solution on your favorite bands and tracks that you know by heart. If there is no difference, I guarantee that artists such as Depeche Mode or Pink Floyd will definitely knock your socks off. With Hi-Fi playback, Tidal definitely kills Spotify in terms of quality. I would recommend this type of subscription to people who like perfect sound quality from the web and enjoy small listening sessions in the evenings with a glass of alcohol or just sitting in a comfortable chair. It will come in handy, really.
Track database

The second important thing after quality, and maybe even as important as the sound quality offered by the services, is the database and catalog of songs. And here it varies.

It’s hard to describe what’s there and what’s missing, because everyone listens to different music, but after a few months of using Spotify and Tidal alternately, I have to say that both programs perfectly… complement each other. That’s right, what’s on Spotify doesn’t exist on Tidal, and what I find on Tidal doesn’t exist on Spotify – now what? It’s best if you check for yourself what exactly is missing and decide which option to choose based on that. After all, nobody likes the frustration of seeing an empty search box, right?

However, there’s no need to worry. Tidal has just as huge a library as Spotify and there is definitely something to listen to: in every genre of music.

Price

Spotify and Tidal’s prices start from a dozen or so and end at a few tens of zlotys.

In the case of Spotify, for a standard Premium account you will have to pay 19.99 PLN per month. However, it is worth to check family and group promotions, because then the service can be cheaper by several PLN.

Tidal Premium, the one with high quality mp3, costs exactly the same as Spotify, that is PLN 19.99 per month. The difference is visible only when you want to listen to music in high quality. For Tidal Hi-Fi you have to pay much more, 39.99 PLN per month. But believe me it is worth to spend those few zlotys.
Verdict?

I know that in this place should be a winner, but in fact there is no winner and I suspect that for a long time will not be. Each of the programs, both Spotify and Tidal, has its drawbacks, which come to light sooner or later and depend mainly on your needs and taste. However, the creators of both platforms are working hard to provide you with the greatest comfort so there is nothing to worry about.

As I mentioned earlier, Spotify has what Tidal has, and Tidal has what Spotify has: the differences can be listed on the fingers of one hand.

So who is it worth leaving money to? If you care about sound quality, I would definitely choose Tidal – and for the long term. However, if music is just an addition to your day, and listening to it becomes its background, then spending 10 USD on Spotify shouldn’t hurt.

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