JAY-Z, realizing that Tidal is now good
Photo: Jed Jacobsohn (Getty Images)

You have already read the headline. I know that you do not want to hear this, and probably do not care, but I swear, it is appreciably and quantifiably better than any other streaming service. I say this as someone who was a fairly happy Spotify user for many years before finally switching to Apple Music earlier this year under some delusion that it might stream from my Apple TV better. I was wrong, and Apple TV is the worst thing on earth—finicky, slow, poorly organized, requiring five or six more steps than ever makes sense. It should be erased from the face of the earth. Do not even consider Apple Music.

But Apple Music’s real unforgivable sin for me came when I discovered how much worse its audio quality is than other streaming services. There are clear-cut numbers here—Apple Music’s streams tap out around 256 kbps, whereas Spotify and Tidal both stream “hi-fi” audio at 320 kbps—but you can also just listen to it. Tidal’s music is punchier and scuzzier and sweeter exactly when it should be. Put on something you’ve heard a thousand times and try it from a few different sources, and you’ll be able to hear the difference. The real selling point, though, if you want to nerd out about audio quality, is Tidal’s “master quality” tier, which is significantly better than CD-quality sound. The company says there are “over 1 million tracks” available at this tier, scattered throughout genres and eras, and they’re revelatory listening from a decent pair of headphones. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find new stuff like Deafheaven’s Ordinary Corrupt Human Love and Ariana Grande’s Sweetener in master quality, as well as a bunch of good older stuff by R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Stevie Wonder, and more. If you want hip-hop, you better like JAY-Z, but, fortunately, I like JAY-Z.

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And that interface! Lightning-quick, free from distraction, cleanly arranged by album, with a healthy dose of Spotify’s algorithmic recommendations built in. Maybe it’s just because I recently emerged from the hellish bramble of Apple Music’s user interface, but Tidal’s seems like the best out there. As someone who streams music for 50 hours or so a week, it’s become a source of enduring joy. It’s worth at least considering a switch, particularly if you’re interested in getting better sound quality in your ears.