An entire generation of youth has been raised on the inferior portable music formats that swept across the music industry when the first iPod arrived in 2001. Music became an intangible experience of compressed audio playing from portable hard drives that fit in one’s pockets or streamed from the confines of mythical terrestrial clouds that magically directed sound into sweaty ear through plastic ear buds.
Their parents’ experience was completely different. Music was accompanied by a packaged collection of liner notes, track listings, lyrics, and cover art. Music was a more tangible form of personal expression and often part of a collection that was displayed proudly in one’s room, as if the owner had somehow taken part in its creation. It was also a complete experience that is unmatched in the digital age. Furthermore, the music quality of CDs and vinyl was much better than the quality of the MP3 and AAC formats that have dominated the last fifteen years.
Since the dawn of the iPod, music aficionados have begged for a truly lossless format for purchasing digital music. Since the file sizes of CDs are quite large, it was decided very early on that the desire to hold more music in our portable devices warranted the required sacrifice in music quality. With the cheesy throw-away earbuds that most MP3 players came packaged with, device manufacturers hoped that nobody would tell the difference between a 128kbps MP3 file and a 1400kbps CD file. They were wrong.
It doesn’t take a highly trained ear to notice the deterioration in quality of the gentle highs and the rumbling lows when listening to music on current portable devices when compared to said older formats. MP3s have reverted the quality of our music listening experience, producing sound that is “good enough” for those who don’t know any better and “acceptable enough” among those who want to carry around six months worth of music with them at all times. For many, the convenience of portable music has overshadowed the deficiencies of the audio quality.
Recently, some companies have proposed releasing new high-resolution, CD-quality digital music players. The new 64 GB Hi-Res Sony Walkman starts at $299.00 and nearly doubles in price for the video version. The reviews for the new Walkman have been fantastic, but for many, the price tag is simply too high. And then there is the highly anticipated Pono from Neil Young, which is set to be released in early 2015, with equally high pre-order price of $399.00. And price aside, the clunky, uninspiring design of the Pono leaves much to be desired next to the sleek worlds of Apple and Sony. Apple too appears likely to enter the high resolution audio market in the future, but nothing has been announced officially.
If you want to experience portable high resolution music, then be prepared to shell out some serious money for both the device and the musical content. So, what is the alternative?
TIDAL is a revolution in digital music. It will stream high resolution music directly to your smartphone or tablet, allowing you to listen to HiFi while using your WiFi. You’ll also be able to download playlists and albums directly to your device, so you can listen to the best quality music while traveling or on-the-go.
TIDAL uses a truly lossless 1400kbps format, immersing you in crystal clear, CD quality music. Whether you are using high end headphones or even a mid range stereo system, you will hear the difference. While listing to classical music, you will feel every note, putting you in the center of the concert hall. When listening to jazz, you will hear the spit on John Coltrane’s tenor reed and experience the true silence of a lengthy Miles Davis pause before the shrill stratospheric flurry of his trumpet and harmon mute. When listening to rock and roll, you will be in the studio, like a fly on the wall where the acoustics are pure and the drums have tonal depth that is unmatched by other inferior formats. Although this is CD quality music, the lows sound deeper, the highs are unfettered, and the music sounds better than ever before.
With TIDAL, the “good enough” garbage of the MP3 days will be exposed for what it is, and a new generation of music lovers will finally enjoy a whole new level of musical clarity and depth.
We had an opportunity to sample the service and we were genuinely blown away by the audio quality. We also had the opportunity to field some questions to Andy Chen, CEO.
1. Do you have plans to combat piracy with your service?
“The very nature of streaming music business is a stance against piracy – that is no different with TIDAL. That said, TIDAL’s core focus is more about combatting piracy through increasing awareness of quality in music streaming. Quality is something people always are willing to pay for. With TIDAL you can get all the music you want in the best quality with an exclusive listening experience.
TIDAL’s role is to make available high quality music streaming with the convenience to play it on all the great systems of choice. Experience in the advanced Nordic markets show that piracy has more than dropped in half after the introduction of streaming services, simply because there’s no need for it anymore.”
2. Do you have any plans to make hardware of your own or embed the software into high end audio equipment from companies like Harman/Kardon or Denon?
“TIDAL already has integration agreements made with 34 of the world’s most respected audio brands, including: Anthem, Airable by Tune In Media, Astell & Kern, Audeze, Audiovector, AudioQuest, Auralic, Aurender, Bel Canto, Bluesound & NAD, Dan D’Agostino, Definitive Technology, Denon HEOS, DTS Play-Fi, Dynaudio, Electrocompaniet, Harman Omni, HiFiAkademie, ickStream, JH Audio, Linn, McIntosh, Meridian, MartinLogan, Paradigm, Polk, Pro-ject, PS Audio, Raumfeld, Simple Audio, Sonos, Steinway Lyngdorf, Wren Sound Systems with more to come.”
3. It is rumored that Beats Music is going to have a price drop and many may find the 320kb quality of beats to be “good enough”. With the monthly fee of twenty dollars a month, is it your intention to market this service to those with high end equipment?
“Whether a service is “good enough” is a reflection of a person’s expectations and choice. I personally believe “good enough” is an euphemism of settling for less, when I may aspire to have the best. Quality matters – otherwise, let’s all go for the cheapest and there will be no premium products in the world. TIDAL will be marketing our service to anyone with an ear for quality – of course those who already invested in high quality equipment will benefit substantially from TIDAL’s high fidelity service.
We are currently developing various tailored marketing initiatives with our partners to further promote the awareness of how music listening should be. We will inform our users about the products available and how to get the best sound quality with them using TIDAL.”
4. How do you intend to market to the youth? An entire generation of music fans have been raised on sub-par MP3 and AAC music. They do not realize the music listening experience can be better than it is.
“Youth today are much more knowledgeable and informed than people think. Knowledge is the new cool and either you are in the know or you are not. We are not worried about “youth” not knowing about our high quality music streaming service, we are more concerned when people don’t know they have a choice in music streaming quality.
TIDAL will absolutely play a role advancing the awareness of quality sound and music streaming service. It’s about expediting the evolution of music entertainment standards as well as the expectations of what those standards should be.”
5. What is your position of royalties for the artists? Do you feel they need better compensation for their labor? Will part of the monthly fee go to an increased percentage for the artists?
“TIDAL pays out approximately 75% of our revenues to labels and rights holders organization, who in turn distribute the money to artists, songwriters, composers etc. Since our service is double the price of regular market standard streaming services, payouts per user will also be double.”
6. Clearly, the level of available content during our trial experience is incomparable to services like iTunes. Being a fledgling music service, this is entirely understandable. Are there plans to obtain more music in the near future? What is the timeline for the expansion of your music catalog?
“We have licensed 25 million tracks – and the vast majority of the full library will be available by launch. We are completing the final stages of inserting US catalog from the major labels to the service. This process may also go into the first couple of weeks after the launch. On an ongoing basis we will be adding catalogs from additional US independent labels currently not available on our service. We will of course also add new tracks, albums and videos as they are released by the labels on a daily basis.”
TIDAL shows serious promise. For the audiophiles, this is a no-brainer. This is the service you have been waiting for. Once the average music-listening world understands there are better, higher quality options available to them, chances are they’ll come around too. Many already understand quality. The high and mid-range headphone markets have done tremendously well in the past couple of years.
Experience it for yourself. TIDAL is the future of high resolution digital music.