Tidal distinguishes itself from competing music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora with hi-fi audio and HD video, as well as exclusive albums, behind-the-scenes footage, and editorial recommendations and content.
Exclusive content: From Taylor Swift's catalog, which was recently pulled from Spotify, to behind-the-scenes video to book excerpts, Tidal offers content that you won't find anywhere else.
Backed by big artists: Jay Z is only one of Tidal's 16 owners -- other stakeholders include Rihanna, Kanye West, Daft Punk, and Madonna. Jay Z has pulled an album off Spotify, and if his fellow heavy hitters choose to remove their music from other streaming services or to release tracks only on Tidal, a subscription to the service could become a necessity for fans.
High-quality sound: Tidal's high-fidelity audio -- ripped at 1,411 kbps for FLAC and Apple's Lossless format -- crushes Spotify and Rdio's 320 kbps and Pandora's 192 kbps.
HD video: Watch over 75,000 music videos in crystal-clear HD.
More money to artists: Tidal pays more royalties to artists than its competitors do, according to company spokespeople.
Curated editorial: Recommendations and album presentations come not from Tidal's staff, as with other streaming services, but from credible music journalists. Relevant articles and interviews round out the discovery experience.
Multiplatform: You can enjoy Tidal on your iOS device, as well as on your computer, through Tidal's Web Player. However, to experience its high-fidelity playback in your browser, you must use Google Chrome.
Audio Search: The integrated Audio Search feature replaces the popular Shazam app, identifying songs that are playing in the background. During our tests, it properly recognized every track we played, from today's top 40 to yesteryear's more obscure tracks.
No audible difference on standard headphones: During testing, we could not detect a noticeable sound difference between Tidal and Spotify on standard-issue iPhone headphones. However, when we tested tracks with sound-enhancing Happy Plugs ear buds, we noticed a marked difference.
Expensive: Tidal's Premium streaming is $9.99, but Hifi is $19.99, which is pricey compared to competitors like Spotify ($9.99), Rdio ($9.99), and Pandora ($4.99). You'd have to care about high-fidelity sound quality to pay that markup.
Static homepage content: On several tries over several days, we did not see any major changes to the home screen content. This is particularly troubling for a music discovery service.
Difficult to navigate: During testing, the small fonts and images were difficult to see, making the UI hard to navigate.
Tidal delivers on its promises, but to take advantage of its standout feature -- hi-fi sound quality -- you need to pay $20 a month and invest in premium hardware like Happy Plugs, Bose, or Beats headphones or Yamaha, Bose, or Pioneer speakers. Only true audiophiles will care enough to do that.