Audiophile music service sound-off: Tidal HiFi and Amazon Music HD

Amazon Music HD

Best value

From $13 per month at Amazon

Pros

  • Millions of high bitrate songs
  • Great deal for Amazon Prime members
  • Fastest-growing music service

Cons

  • Number of Amazon Music options is confusing
  • Doesn't offer as many discount options for HD as Tidal HiFi does

Amazon Music HD offers millions of songs at up to 10 times the bitrate of standard-definition services and double that of other high-definition services like Tidal. Pair it with a high-end speaker like the Echo Studio, and special pricing for Prime members further sweetens the pot.

Tidal HiFi

The OG option

From $20 per month at Tidal

Pros

  • Artist exclusives and concert live streams
  • Discounts for military and first responders

Cons

  • Standard HiFi subscription is more than discounted Amazon Music HD

Tidal was one of the first, if not the first, music services to provide high-quality, lossless audio over streaming. While it may not technically have the highest bit rates per second for as many songs as Amazon Music HD, it does have an impressive catalog of lossless high fidelity music and high definition videos.

Tidal and Amazon offer a huge music catalog at a quality unmatched by the other top streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, or Pandora. Both of these high-quality services stream music at a high bitrate, and the higher the bitrate, the smoother and more natural sounding the music is said to be.

Now that we know where they stand versus the rest of the competition let's look at how Amazon Music HD and Tidal HiFi stack up against each other in terms of specs, options, and price.

Amazon Music HD vs Tidal HiFi spec comparison

Even though we're mainly concerned here with the higher-quality music plans, it is important to note that both Amazon Music and Tidal have cheaper, standard-definition options available as well. These plans may be perfect for you if you're not an audiophile or music nerd or if you don't want to pay more than you have to for a streaming music service.

Note that the Amazon Music plans are subsidized if you are a Prime member. Prime memberships run from $119 per year for a standard membership, though students, the elderly, and members of the military are offered lower rates. If you are not a Prime member, the prices of each of Amazon's music plans are closer to, if not the same, as Tidal's prices.

Amazon Music Tidal
Standard Audio Quality 320 kbps 320 kbps
Free Options Yes
Prime Music and ad-supported tiers
Yes
Tidal Access not ad-supported
Individual Plan From $8 per month $10 per month
Single-Device Plan* From $4 per month No
Student Plan From $1 per month $5 per month
Military Plan No $6 per month
First-Responder Plan No $6 per month
Family Plan $15 per month $15 per month

Amazon offers single device plans for its Music Unlimited service that are intended to be used on only one Echo device.

Now for the comparison, you came here for, let's take a look at the highest-quality music plans available from Amazon and Tidal.

While Amazon offers HD music plans for individuals and families, Tidal features these options, as well as hi-fi plans for students, military, and first responders.

Amazon Music HD Tidal HiFi
Number of Songs > 50 million in HD
Millions in Ultra HD
> 60 million
High Definition Audio Quality Up to 850 kbps for "HD"
Up to 3730 kbps for "Ultra HD"
Up to 1411 kbps for "HiFi"
From 2304-9216 for "Master"
Android App Yes Yes
Desktop App Yes, Mac and Windows Yes, Mac and Windows
Web Client Yes Yes
Alexa Compatible Yes Yes
Google Assistant Compatible Limited to play/pause controls Yes
Music Videos Yes Yes
Device Lyrics Yes Yes
Individual Plan From $13 per month $20 per month
Student Plan No $10 per month
Military Plan No $12 per month
First-Responder Plan No $12 per month
Family Plan From $18 per month $30 per month

Amazon Music HD vs. Tidal HiFi Prime package

Amazon Prime membership has its advantages, including subsidized pricing on premium services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Amazon Music HD. Not only can you save around six or seven bucks a month on an individual HD plan as compared to Tidal HiFi, but the family HD plan is over ten bucks cheaper. Not bad at all, especially if you plan on paying for Prime anyway. Amazon Music Unlimited is also the fastest-growing streaming music service around. With all of the options and pricing plans available, it's easy to understand why it's catching on so quickly.

It's easy to understand why Amazon Music Unlimited is catching on so quickly.

Amazon Music HD (itself a premium version of Amazon Music Unlimited) technically has three tiers of music, including a catalog of 50 million songs available for playback at a standard compressed 320 kbps, or a high definition lossless audio up to 850 kbps (over twice the bitrate of most standard services). The final tier tops out at 3,730 kbps of lossless audio, though unlike Tidal's HiFi collection, this tier is limited to what Amazon says is "millions of songs."

Amazon Music HD was made to work well with its Alexa voice assistant and even helped to spawn the creation of an entirely new class of Echo in the Echo Studio smart speaker. As someone who has an Echo Studio in his home, I can vouch for how good music sounds on the device, though my colleagues and I remain a bit skeptical that most people would appreciate (or care about) the differences that the better speaker and higher bitrates bring.

Even though Amazon provides customers with a great deal of choice by offering so many pricing options and music quality tiers, this variety is also a critique for the growing service. As someone who covers Amazon products and services for a living, even I have trouble keeping up with all of the options Amazon Music offers.

Amazon Music HD vs. Tidal HiFi Tidal wave

Tidal music began life in Norway in 2014, where it started to build up a loyal fan following thanks to its commitment to high-quality, high-fidelity streaming music. Later that same year, media mogul and rapper Jay-Z paid over $50 million to acquire the service to promote high-quality music and provide a platform intended to give artists more control of their music and greater revenue opportunities. Tidal claims Rihanna and Alicia Keys as co-owners, and according to music media sources like Variety and Digital Music News, the service indeed does pay out more in royalties than most of the other big players in streaming music, including Amazon.

Until Amazon Music HD came on the scene, Tidal HiFi was the runaway leader when it came to high-definition lossless audio streaming.

Until Amazon Music HD came on the scene in mid-2019, Tidal HiFi was the runaway leader when it came to high-definition lossless audio streaming. At up to 1,411 kbps, its streams offer more than four times the average bitrate of the competition. Amazon has closed the gap, offering "HD" quality bitrates just under this level, and has even taken the lead with its "Ultra HD" tier, which more than doubles that of Tidal HiFi. However, with the introduction of the Master tier in partnership with MQA, Tidal HiFi subscribers can listen to even higher quality music than Amazon Music HD for millions of tracks (though even Tidal recommends using a digital audio converter, or DAC, to unlock the service's "true potential").

Tidal HiFi is not just about bitrates, however. One of the service's key selling points is the many exclusives, live performances, and other special events that it promises its artists and customers. It definitely has the "cool" factor thanks to its ownership and direct association with a variety of music artists, which is an area where Amazon is struggling to gain relevance.

Tidal also works on Amazon Echo, Sonos, and Google/Nest smart speakers, and it plays well with both Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. That's a level of compatibility that Amazon Music HD can't match, as it does not really work with Google products or services.

Even though Tidal HiFi offers a variety of pricing tiers for groups like students, the military, and first responders, it remains more expensive than Amazon's individual and family HD plans. Tidal now offers a free tier, called Tidal Access, that provides (ironically) limited access to its music catalog. Access is not ad-supported but rather aims to encourage paid upgrades from its users. This is ostensibly in service to supporting and paying artists more per song stream.

The best for most

I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that many of our readers are Amazon Prime members, and if so, the discounts available make Amazon Music HD tough to pass up. Even if you're not a Prime member, the price is still $5 per month cheaper than Tidal HiFi for an individual account and $10 per month cheaper for the family plan. That's $60-$120 per year! Tidal offers some nice plans for the military and first responders, but Amazon is the way to go for my money.

Amazon Music HD

Best value

From $13 per month at Amazon

If you're an Amazon Prime member, this makes the most sense

Not only is Amazon Music HD cheaper for Prime members, but it offers a higher ceiling for high-definition audiophiles to enjoy.

Tidal HiFi

OG for outstanding audio

The most options for high-def music

From $20 per month at Tidal

If you're someone who enjoys quality music, then you can't go wrong with Tidal for your music streaming needs. The service features over 60 million tracks while offering quite a few exclusive tracks and music videos.



Source: androidcentral

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