April 18, 2024
Tidal's beta app for iOS showing a track in FLAC format.
Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

Tidal‘s Hello-Fi Plus subscription tier just lately turned the primary place within the streaming music world the place you may stream hi-res audio in each FLAC and MQA codecs in your smartphone. Sadly, there was no strategy to know which one you have been getting except you used an exterior digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Tidal is now on the verge of correcting that error, at the least partially: a brand new beta of the Tidal app for iOS now exhibits you the format of your at the moment enjoying observe, as a substitute of the primarily ineffective “Max” or “Hello-Fi” labels that non-beta customers nonetheless see.

Audiophiles initially greeted the information that Tidal can be including the open supply, lossless FLAC format to its Hello-Fi Plus tier with enthusiasm. Many members of that neighborhood have considerations over MQA — the format that had beforehand been Tidal’s unique decide for its better-than-CD high quality assortment (Max) tracks — and had been lobbying for FLAC for a while.

Nevertheless, when Tidal debuted the brand new FLAC variations, it got here with a number of disappointing caveats. You couldn’t filter your searches by your most popular format, and there was no strategy to even see which format (or its bit-depth/sampling price) you have been getting except you used an exterior DAC. Unsurprisingly, audiophiles in each FLAC and MQA camps have been annoyed.

With the brand new labeling follow, the visibility downside has been partially addressed — now you can see the format — however you continue to can’t see the bit-depth or sampling price. There’s nonetheless no strategy to filter by format (and even make one your most popular format), and there’s no strategy to know the format of a observe or album till you hit play it.

Ultimately, these considerations will turn out to be largely educational. Tidal’s new coverage is that when it provides a 24-bit FLAC model of a given observe, that tune will now not be accessible to stream in MQA. It might take some time, however there’ll come a time when your complete Max assortment can be completely accessible in FLAC. When that occurs, music followers may have one much less purpose to maintain paying Tidal Hello-Fi Plus’ month-to-month charge of $20 — nearly double what Apple Music and Amazon Music cost for his or her practically similar catalogs and format assist.

Tidal app for iOS on an iPhone 14 showing now playing screen with Max quality track.
When Tidal initially added FLAC, it solely displayed MAX. Simon Cohen / Digital Traits

It’s clear that Tidal is making an attempt to slowly divest itself of the MQA format, which carries licensing charges, in favor of the primarily royalty-free FLAC format. And but, doing it on this means — with a scorched earth strategy — feels clumsy. Plenty of music followers have spent cash to accumulate MQA-compatible {hardware} as a result of they imagine within the format. With out Tidal’s MQA streaming catalog, choices for accessing MQA are few and much between.

If Tidal saved its MQA catalog intact, and if it might negotiate a brand new licensing take care of MQA (yep, the format and the corporate that owns it share the identical title) whereby solely streams of MQA tracks set off a licensing charge, and if it gave Hello-Fi Plus members the flexibility to decide on which format they need, Tidal might turn out to be the most effective streaming selection for all audiophiles.

Sadly, that doesn’t appear like it’s going to occur.

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