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Tidal vs. Spotify [Definitive Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
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Originally posted 12/17/19

Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!

Before we get into a discussion on Tidal vs. Spotify, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because…

I’m Here to Help!

Table of Contents

Tidal vs. Spotify
Tidal Issues
File Formats, etc.
Recommendation & Final Word

Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!


What is it about music that enamors us as humans? There’s something to it for sure.

I think back a few years to when I was still working at Strawbridge Studios.

I had an exchange with one of the pressmen that I’ll never forget. His name was Danny.

He prefaced his stance on music by saying he wasn’t really the religious type.

I think he believed in God but had become somewhat detached over the years.

He had grown a bit cynical of religion in general, but what he said about music caught me completely off guard and on the verge of tears in the middle of a busy workday.

Mind you, this guy’s a consummate jokester, but I had really come to appreciate some of the deeper conversations we’d had during my time there.

He was specifically referring to Jazz during our conversation:

“There’s just something about Jazz, man. There’s something about an incredible Jazz song that almost transcends life itself. I think music, in general, is the one thing in the entire universe that proves there is a God. That it could completely disarm and break down a grown man, reducing him to a sobbing, weeping mess just says so much about its power.”

He was of course referring to himself crying, which I never in a million years thought he would actually admit to. It just wasn’t his personality.

It wasn’t until I listened to Miles Davis’ “Blue in Green” off of his 1959 album Kind of Blue, did I realize exactly where Danny was coming from.

It’s a song that most are familiar with, but the effect it can have on a person cannot be overstated.

Tidal vs. Spotify

If peeing in your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis.

I’m specifically referring to the power of Bill Evans’ keyboard at the end.

It’s delicate, melancholy, hopeful, gentle, subtle, vast, infinite, and yet fleeting all at once.

If you let it, it will break you down too. What’s so mind-blowing about it is that there are no words.

Oftentimes, we can relate to a song’s lyrics: They’re readily accessible, immediate, and always available for discernment.

But when an artist can completely disarm you and speak to your very soul using his instrument alone, that’s extraordinary.

There’s just something so spiritual about it.

Most religious people tend to look at God as if he were outside of you, in some far-off distant land, looking down at you as if you were a meager ant.

But God is everywhere, in everyone and in everything.

That’s why I’m reduced to tears when I hear a song like “Blue in Green.” I can feel the presence of God in it.

I believe this is what Danny was referring to.

Clare Torry’s immeasurably stunning performance on Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky” is another piece that has the power to stop you dead in your tracks and just listen.

Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide”, Grateful Dead’s “Terrapin Station”, Common’s “Little Chicago Boy”, and the list goes on.

The digital age has made it easier to access these classics, but there’s a certain charm that got lost in translation.

Collecting CDs, cassettes, vinyl, and crate-digging, in general, has almost become a lost art.

I still love going to the thrift store and buying records for .25c apiece.

Discovering forgotten sounds that can potentially be flipped into something fresh and new has always appealed to me (essentially beat-making).

It’s what Hip-Hop in particular was built on.

Check out some of my beats here!

I grew up right around the time Y2K was all the rage, and programs like Napster, Limewire, Morpheus, Kazaa, etc. were the go-to for music listening.

The Best Headphones for Jazz

The OG LCD-2 on a pile of old records.

Does anybody remember Limewire?

It seems strange to think about how our listening habits have changed and shifted with the passage of time and the evolution of technology.

I no longer have to even leave my apartment to find a piece of music, and in some ways that really depresses me.

One of the best things about listening to music was actually going somewhere and finding it, not sure if you were even going to find it.

Sure, you can still discover it, but the fact that it’s so easily accessible almost makes you not even want to bother.

Why would I go to the store and comb through hundreds of CDs when I can just type something into a search bar?

It’s a strange paradox for certain. It kind of makes you take music itself for granted, and that’s never a good thing.

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve stared into my Tidal dashboard, unsure of what to do or who to search for.

It’s almost as if I don’t really care anymore.

Even when the iPod first came out, there was still the sense that you were crafting something special (in the form of your playlists, etc.)

Comparing libraries, listening to a friend’s music, sharing artists you discovered, getting excited.

It’s all something that has morphed into this sort of empty void.

Making a mix CD for someone used to be an event.

Now it’s essentially looked at as an afterthought, a coda to a time long forgotten.

I remember making this girl who I really cared about a mix, and she loved it. It made me feel good.

I spent weeks and weeks coming up with the perfect songs and the perfect order to convey to her how I felt about her (as well as music in general).

I wanted her to feel what I felt listening to the songs. It mattered to me, much like her mixes to me probably mattered to her.

The fact that I can now just fire up Tidal or Spotify and listen to music is both a blessing and a curse.

I still love it, and I accept the fact that times have changed, but sometimes it’s good to reflect on the past and how it’s shaped our perceptions.

With that, let’s take a look at the 2 platforms.

Tidal vs. Spotify

I’ve been jotting notes down for quite a while in order to get some general impressions on how both programs behave, as well as any potential sound quality discrepancies between the two.

In general, Spotify seems to be more stable.

None of the issues I have in Tidal I experience in Spotify. Well, save for one: Sometimes when you’re listening, Spotify also skips ahead 5-10 seconds on the next song.

Note: This issue has since been rectified by Spotify and I haven’t experienced it in a couple of years.

Tidal runs 16-bit/44 or 48k files for all FLAC (lossless).

Their MQA files (Master Quality Authenticated) come in at 24-bit/88 or 96kHz, but according to many, aren’t actually lossless files.

Tidal MQA – Magenta

DSD256 – Dark Blue

DSD64/DSD128 – Light Blue

PCM 176/192/353/384 kHz – Yellow

PCM 44/48/88/96 – Green

In any event,

there are a whole host of Tidal issues (mostly minor) that get on my nerves.

Let’s take a look.

We’ll get into Spotify Paid vs. Tidal Paid in a bit, so sit back and chill out will ya?


Tidal Issues

Cut Off

Tidal cuts the first bit of the song at the start sometimes. Spotify does as well. This is actually kind of annoying.

You’re listening to a playlist or album, the next song comes on, and you’re like “wtf?”

You know something’s amiss, but don’t know what. Then you realize the song started like 5-10 seconds in.

Super frustrating. Just drag the play head back and shut up I guess. 😛

This usually remedies itself with a reboot of your PC.

No Playback

Sometimes Tidal will randomly stop playing the track for various reasons, one of which is “Could not connect to server.” or “Server Error.”

“Whattheheckyamean?!” says Jerry Lundegaard.

This usually requires a complete shutdown of Tidal and/or a reboot of the PC.

Almost a deal-breaker on a bad day. #firstworldproblems.

It’s important to mention that this type of error could be any number of issues outside of Tidal (my web server, etc.), but the fact that 1) my connection is always fine when it happens, 2) I have 100mbps internet, and 3) it never happens in Spotify, is telling.

Tidal vs. Spotify

Server Error my a**, you play that file this instant!

The track won’t play

Sometimes if you pause the track and step away from the PC, it will not resume once you come back and press play.

Huh? GFYS Tidal. Play my track you stupid effing program! XD Almost a deal-breaker.

Sometimes after a track is done, the next one plays but the album artwork doesn’t update to reflect the new song.

The play head also takes a while to scrub to the right spot. Minor annoyance.

When Tidal resumes playing after a pause, it takes a few seconds to resume.

This happens if you’ve been away from the PC to take a dump or something. Pretty irritating.

Sometimes the song cuts out intermittently while playing for a second and then resumes. This hasn’t been happening much lately but did before – and quite frequently. 

Spotify free actually does sound considerably worse with some songs.

You can clearly hear the distortion after making the switch back from Tidal.

Spotify Issues

Like Tidal, sometimes the song will cut out the first 5-10 seconds upon switching to the next track.

Note: This is no longer an issue.

I just dropped the kids off at the pool and came back. Pressed play and the song wouldn’t play. This happens in Tidal as well. Closing Spotify and re-opening it fixed the issue, but I shouldn’t have to do that.

Note: This is no longer an issue.

Now for the million-dollar question, does Spotify Paid sound as good as Tidal paid?

Great question home slice. Let’s dive in.

File Formats

Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis (basically an Alien, but a lossy Alien), vs. the FLAC (lossless) utilized by Tidal.

Normal quality files from Spotify come in at 160 kbps or 96 kbps on mobile devices.

If you upgrade, as I did with the Premium trial, you’re getting high-quality files coming in at 320kbps.

Tidal’s HiFi subscription boasts over 4x that at 1,411kbps.

From Tech Radar:

The difference between lossless and lossy formats stems from what is lost after the files are received by the user and uncompressed.
Lossy formats are very good at compressing data to a small size, such as audio, video, or images, so they can be easily transferred over the web via streaming, email, or downloads. Lossy files, such as MP3s (for audio) and JPEG (for images), are common on websites because they can load quickly without sucking up the user’s time or data plan.
However, in doing this, these formats “simplify” parts of those files to make transfers easier, resulting in a lower quality sound or picture when retrieved on the other end.
Lossless formats, on the other hand, are able to recover all the data from their compressed files, meaning no loss in quality in the transfer. Typically, these files don’t compress down to a size as small as their lossy brethren, making them more suitable for situations when the quality of the product matters more than the speed at which it downloads or the amount of memory it takes up.Tech Radar

This is likely in part why Tidal comes off as more buggy than its lower-quality competitor.

There’s so much more data clogging up the servers.


As far as the interfaces are concerned, they look about the same in both, function in pretty much the same way, and are very user intuitive.

They use similar fonts for Album titles, Playlists, etc. The smaller text (song names) looks to be in the same font.

I’m a graphic designer so I notice these things. 😛

The playlist I made for someone special in Spotify. The title is one of her texts to me 🙂

Same playlist in Tidal.

You can save albums in both, manage and create playlists in both, and generally do the same things with regard to saving songs to your library and whatnot.

The only real differences come down to where buttons and other prompts are located, which almost doesn’t even deserve mention.

Hearts are on the left in Spotify, and on the right in Tidal.

I’m sure by now you’re probably skimming past this, so why am I even writing it?

Lol, whomp.

One thing I really do prefer in Spotify is the ability to quickly right-click a song and save it to a playlist.

In Tidal, you can’t do this which is super annoying.

Song Selection

I will say that I think for certain genres, Spotify has the edge.

In listening to stuff like Indie Pop, EDM, etc. I found the selection of music to be better.

This does come down to personal preference, but I nearly always find myself skipping around in Tidal, trying to find a good song, whereas with Spotify it seems like they’ll rifle off 8 in a row that I absolutely love.

Even with that said, If I’m looking for something specific, I can easily find it in both programs and have always found what I was looking for. Kind of like that song by U2, only not. 😛

Pretty amazing considering I’ve listened to some really esoteric music in the past.

Recommendation & Final Word

At the end of the day, I would go with Spotify due to a couple of things:

  1. The Tidal music selection is just okay. There are a lot more songs on Spotify due to the fact that it’s simply a more popular platform.
  2. You may not actually be getting the quality claimed by Tidal, but that’s a whole different can of worms. Related: What is MQA? [Is It Ultimately A SCAM?!]
  3. Spotify has fixed all of the issues I had since writing this article in 2019. 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve gotten some valuable information out of this Tidal vs. Spotify Comparison.

Which of these would you likely pay for? Be sure to let me know!!

If you have any other questions or feel I’ve missed the mark on something, leave a comment down below or contact me!

I very much look forward to speaking with you…

All the best and God bless,





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Luis Serrano March 19, 2023 - 8:39 pm

Hi Stu,

Great articles and videos you create. First of all, thanks to your reviews, I’m an owner of HD600 and K701 headphones, deciding my purchase based on your reviews, and it was a great desition.

Regarding Tidal vs Spotify, I have spent some hours comparing the services. Talking of interface and content, the king is Spotify. Its easy to use, has a more friendly interface, its easier to work with playlist as well.

Regarding audio quality I’m hesitant, there some mqa albums which sound great, but since the mqa is their top quality, it should be expected most of their mqa albums sound good, buut this is not true, I have found several mqa albums that the sound quality sucks, sounds horrible. Its unacceptable this sound quality as “master”.

Doing a side by side comparison, using my HD600 with a zen dac and a DragonFly Cobalt, both sound almost the same. I accept Tidal with the Hi-Fi quality (16/44) sounds little bit better sometimes, but I would say most of the time is just a placebo that you think you’re listening “lossless”.

I have found also albums in Spotify that sound amazing, you would think they are lossless and they are not, an example is “To my wonderful one” by Tonny Bennett.

I say it doesn’t worth to pay for Tidal, most of the content is a deceit.

Stuart Charles Black March 20, 2023 - 6:25 pm

Hey man!

Thank you so much! I totally agree and thanks for reminding me; I need to put that in the article.

I remember times when I was listening to an MQA album and thinking “This sounds like complete dog shit” lol.

I also agree with the other points. I still have a basic version of Tidal but canceled my Hi-Fi membership about a year or so ago.

And I never use the regular version. I’m always on Spotify but at this point, I have so many Playlists that I don’t really see myself ever using another app exclusively. For me it comes down to convenience.

As you mention, everything is super intuitive and I really enjoy the interface and how stuff runs.

And yeah, I also thought in my head Tidal sounded slightly better at times, but I do think a lot of this stuff is a placebo.

Anything above 16/44 isn’t all that necessary due to a variety of factors including the Nyquist Shannon Theorem, plus I don’t personaly believe our brains can perceive those super high sample rates even if, theoretically, they result in “better” sound.

I do think bit-depth (the amount of information sampled) is pretty important so I prefer 24-bit + when possible (i.e. the amount of information in 16-bit file vs. 24 is staggering), but outside of that, it’s been proven time and again that high sample rates and DSD are just about meaningless.

Again, for anyone else who reads this, it’s just my opinion but backed by a lot of data.

And yeah, Spotify tracks sound really good to me. I’m a firm believer that most of the quality concerns come down to the artist and how they recorded, mixed, and mastered the track. The headphones are second priority. So if you have the first 2 bases covered, and the artist did a great job in the studio, you’ll be getting amazing sound quality regardless.


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