Wednesday
Dec172014

My Response to Tools and Toys' review of Tidal

This is my response to Tools and Toys' review of the new lossless streaming music service Tidal.

Tyler, thanks for a good overview. I have a few clarifications. I have been using and researching streaming services for a very long time, as I use them to discover and explore new music.

Rdio does not publish bit rates on their web site. They do however allow premium subscribers to select 320 Kbps in their apps. When I was using it, to my ears it was most often 128 Kbps; I left them for that reason when Beats Music debuted. Beats Music does publish bit rates: 128 and 320 Kbps - your choice. Google streams at 320 Kbps on fast connections, and I seem to always get that rate.

Apple encodes music in AAC; all others encode in MP3. There is a noticeable difference: a 192 Kbps AAC stream sounds to me like a 256 Kbps MP3 stream. 320 Kbps MP3 sounds as good to me as 256 Kbps AAC, which is acceptable to my ears most of the time.

There are different ways to encode a lossless master file into a compressed file. MP3 encoding algorithms have gotten noticeably better to my ears in the last fifteen years. Music encoded for iTunes varies in quality as well; sometimes I can hear compression artifacts, but most of the time I do not. If I do, and I care, I'll buy the CD and and rip it to Apple Lossless, or buy it from Bandcamp and download the lossless version.

As for my opinion of Tidal: I don't need a lossless streaming service. Most of the time I won't notice the difference. When I do, I listen to music I buy, and I stream it from my hard drive.

For discovery, Beats Music, Google Play, and Bandcamp are sufficient. They each have a good catalog of music that the other does not.

I don't buy CDs any more, and haven't for many years, unless the album I want isn't available from Bandcamp, iTunes, or the artist, publisher, or label, which is quite rare.

It's a good time to be a music lover.

*Update*: Tyler replied and pointed out that Rdio has recently allowed premium users to select 320 Kbps streams in their apps. Progress!

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