This is a series that surveys popular streaming services from a Linux perspective. We are not reviewing any of the streaming services themselves although we may make subjective comments along the way.
TIDAL is a global music streaming platform. It was the first streaming service to offer hi-res audio thanks to its adoption of MQA technology. Its competition has caught up in the hi-res player stakes with Amazon Music HD, Apple Music and Qobuz also offering better-than-CD streams – and at a cheaper price point. We tested “Tidal HiFi” which offers audio at up to 1411kbps (i.e. CD quality) from a Linux perspective.
There are Windows and Mac desktop apps, web player and Android and iOS mobile apps. But we’re running Linux. There’s no official or even semi-official client for Linux from TIDAL. Instead, the only choices are to use the web player or install TIDAL Hi-Fi, a third-party client. Let’s examine the web player.
When we covered Amazon Music Unlimited we lamented that Linux users didn’t have access to lossless streaming. Instead with that streaming service we’re restricted to lossy compression at ‘Standard Definition’. Fortunately, TIDAL’s web player offers lossless CD quality playback.
From a UI perspective, there are definitely good points with TIDAL’s web interface. Its layout is top notch. The majority of content is conveniently grouped under the ‘Home’ section.
The ‘Explore’ section’s design is also sublime and a real time-saver. The service really helps you to discover new music specific to your tastes. Within a few weeks of streaming, we received some really interesting recommendations.
However, there is an elephant in the room. TIDAL’s web player doesn’t support gapless playback1. We reached out to their support service to enquire if they are going to add gapless support making it clear we are streaming under Linux. They responded within 6 hours (lightning fast) with the response:
“We don’t offer gapless playback currently, but we’ll be sure your request gets in the right hands. Your feedback helps us improve and we appreciate your thoughts!”
For a service that targets audiophiles, the absence of gapless playback is mindbogglingly. To say it’s a disappointment is a massive understatement. Their prompt response is probably an indication they have been asked this question thousands of times. Yet nothing has changed.
tidal-hifi is a third-party client. This client is the web version running in Electron. It offers hifi support using widevine. It warrants its own article, which will be published shortly.
We love TIDAL in many respects. It’s arguably the finest streaming service for audiophiles. Whether you’re listening to CD-quality or hi-res streams, Tidal is better than its rivals. But Linux music lovers who need gapless playback will be bitterly disappointed.
The service itself ticks so many boxes. There’s a very wide catalogue of music to stream, the user interface is excellent, their support is extremely good. Yet the whole thing falls down without gapless playback.
1Gapless playback is the uninterrupted playback of consecutive audio tracks, such that relative time distances in the original audio source are preserved over track boundaries on playback. It’s essential if you listen to classical, electronic music, concept albums, and progressive rock.
All articles in this series:
|Streaming with Linux
|Amazon Music Unlimited
|Music subscription service with 90 million song catalogue
|Bills itself as a Spotify alternative for Linux
|Pioneer in music streaming and still the best-known service
|Streaming service serving up FLAC files
|Music subscription service targeted at audiophiles