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Spotify vs. Tidal

Tidal Music Pop Life
Tidal Music Pop Life (Image credit: Android Central)

Spotify

Spotify Green Logo

Spotify has established itself as the music streaming service to beat thanks to its ad-supported free tier and various Premium plans. While Spotify has yet to launch its HiFi tier, its massive media library boasts more than 70 million songs, thousands of playlists, and more than two million podcast titles.

Spotify

The streaming standard

Intuitive UI
Huge podcast library
More social experience
Compatible with various devices
Lesser audio quality
Limited functions on free account

Tidal

Tidal official logo

Tidal sets itself apart from other streaming services by providing the highest-quality audio and lossless sound and a wide variety of subscription tiers. Tidal also boasts a selection of curated podcasts and exclusive music videos and promises higher artist payouts.

Tidal

High-quality sound

Higher quality audio
Pays artists better
Built-in audio search
Smaller podcast library
Songs take longer to load
Not all songs are available in HiFi/MQA

Spotify and Tidal provide users with an expansive selection of music and podcast content and use algorithms to learn your music tastes and recommend songs. While both platforms now offer free, ad-supported tiers with limited features, Spotify offers more podcast content. In comparison, Tidal offers more monthly subscription options, a larger music library, and higher quality audio at all levels.

Spotify vs. Tidal: Subscription options

While Spotify used to be the only music streaming service to offer a free tier, Tidal recently introduced a comparable Tidal Free tier in the United States, providing listeners with access to tons of music with limited ad interruptions. While the Tidal Free tier doesn't include the highest-quality audio offered on the platform, listeners can tune in to more than 80 million songs at up to 160 Kbps, which is the mid-level audio provided by Spotify.

With base plans, both Spotify's Individual plan and Tidal's HiFi plan start at $4.99 per month and give users ad-free access to each platform's entire media catalog. However, Tidal's starter plan edges out Spotify for audio quality by providing listening up to 1411 Kbps. Both platforms also offer Student and Family plans, but Tidal offers more subscription options overall, depending on how much you want to spend and how much you care about sound quality.

SpotifyTidal
Free tier✔️✔️
Student$4.99(HiFi) $4.99
Student (HiFi Plus)$9.99
Individual$9.99(HiFi) $9.99
Duo$12.99
Family$15.99(HiFi) $14.99
Family (HiFi Plus)$29.99
Military (HiFi)$5.99
Military (HiFi Plus)$11.99
Audio~96 Kbps, ~160 Kbps, and ~320 Kbps; ACC, Ogg Vorbis1411 Kbps to 9216 Kbps and immersive audio (360 Reality Audio, Dolby Atmos Music); AAC, ALAC, FLAC, MQA
Compatible devicesPS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Xbox One; iOS 12 or above devices; Android 5 or above devicesChromecast, Roku, Vizio, Apple TV, Fire TV, Samsung TV, Android TV; iOS 13 devices; Android 6 or above devices
Web browsersChrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera, SafariChrome, Firefox (for lossless sound)

Spotify's five subscription options have proved to be enough for casual listeners, but Tidal sets itself apart by allowing subscribers to better personalize their listening experiences from the jump. While Tidal's HiFi and Family HiFi plans are similar to Spotify's Individual and Family plans, all of Tidal's plans feature better quality audio than any of the Spotify tiers currently.

Tidal also offers HiFi Plus versions of each of its standard plans, which promise Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) audio up to 9216 Kbps and immersive audio that utilize 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos Music on compatible devices, as well as discounted rates for military personnel. Another perk for Tidal subscribers is the TIDAL X program, which offers exclusive access to live shows, meet and greets, live streams, and concert tickets, among other things.

However, it's worth pointing out that Tidal is only available in 60 countries as of February 2022. In comparison, Spotify is currently available in more than 180 countries.

Spotify vs. Tidal: The key differences

Spotify on the Pixel 4 XL

Source: Joe Maring / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Joe Maring / Android Central)

On the surface, the most significant difference between Spotify and Tidal is sound quality. And as mentioned above, Tidal easily wins that battle.

While Spotify announced plans to roll out a comparable Spotify HiFi tier more than a year ago, the platform announced in January 2022 it had postponed the launch indefinitely. If and when it eventually launches, the Spotify HiFi option will be available for an extra fee and is expected to expand your existing subscription to include lossless, CD-quality audio. In comparison, Tidal's HiFi Plus memberships currently offer four settings for streaming quality: Normal, High, HiFi, and MQA.

You'll also see some differences when comparing Spotify and Tidal's media libraries.

You'll also see some differences when comparing Spotify and Tidal's media libraries. Spotify and Tidal boast similar-sized music catalogs with roughly 70 million and 80 million songs. Still, Spotify edges out Tidal when it comes to opportunities for music discovery and its more extensive roster of mood-specific playlists.

Tidal also encourages music discovery through its TIDAL Rising program, which helps support and promote up-and-coming artists by getting their music placed on the front page of TIDAL so that it's easier for subscribers to discover. Additionally, some artists have been opting to make their music available exclusively on Tidal for a period of time before releasing it on other platforms, Spotify included.

Beyond music, Spotify boasts an impressive roster of more than 2.6 million podcast titles. Tidal may not be the right service for you if you're a big podcast listener, as it offers a small selection of curated titles. But where Tidal lacks in podcasts, it more than makes up for it in exclusive music video content. At this time, Tidal features more than 350,000 music videos, with a large portion exclusive to the platform.

Another tool that previously set Tidal apart was the ability to look up lyrics to the songs you're playing. Specifically, Tidal allows users to look up lyrics on the Now Playing screen of the app by simply tapping on the lyrics icon. A similar feature has now been available to Spotify subscribers since November 2021. So all you have to do is open the "Now Playing View" on a song, navigate to the right corner to the "Lyrics Button," and select if you want to "Enable Lyrics."

Spotify vs. Tidal: The best service for you

When comparing Spotify vs. Tidal, there are a few things you'll want to consider. If you're an audiophile who cares about having access to the highest-quality audio in your headphones, then Tidal is the best choice. This is especially true when Spotify has no definitive timeline for launching its HiFi option. It's worth noting, however, that you'll only benefit from Tidal's selection of HiFi or MQA audio if you're using studio-grade headphones.

Tidal is also the better option for music fans who want to better support the artists whose music they're streaming. While most major streaming services are criticized for how much — or how little — they pay artists for the right to stream their songs, Tidal made it a point to be more transparent and equitable when paying royalties.

As of January 2022, subscribers to Tidal's $19.99 per month HiFi Plus plan will see up to 10% of their monthly fee distributed to their most-listened-to artists. Tidal also confirmed that it has teamed up with more than 100 major and independent labels to develop and grow this new "user-centric payment system."

Keegan Prosser is a freelance contributor based in the PNW. When she's not writing about her favorite streaming apps and devices for Android Central, she's listening to a true-crime podcast, creating the perfect playlist for her next road trip, and trying to figure out which fitness tracker she should try next. You can follow her on Twitter @keeganprosser.