What Hi-Fi? spoke to Tidal chief technology officer, Rune Lending, about the updates as well as the plans to bring the student discount, and the option to buy gig tickets, to the UK. And he confirmed the newly-released Tidal desktop app would deliver the best audio quality from Tidal.
The desktop app, Lending says, offers "bit perfect playback". As he explains: "The native [dekstop] app means we're much closer to the OS on Windows and Mac, and much closer to the audio card.
"You can do gap detection a lot better [for gapless playback], you can control the resampling, the decoupling, the whole sequence of actually getting the stream from our servers in to the client. Cross-fading and playback - you control it a lot better with this implementation."
So, better sound quality? "Yes, absolutely. The play sequence we are now able to implement on the lossless [Tidal HiFi] playback, we are delivering bit perfect, exactly the same as the actual files."
And this is something that Lending says can't be matched if you're listening to Tidal in your web browser: "It is a lot harder [on the web app] because you don't have that same control of the audio card. The native app gives us more possibilities."
And what about high-res audio streaming? Back in March, Meridian and Tidal revealed they had successfully streamed high-res audio using Meridian's new MQA format.
On that subject, Tidal said: "It sounds great. Bear in mind, though, that this is not just implementing a codec only. It’s a whole eco-system that lies behind this. From the mastering suite to the listener experience. We are very curious to explore this eco-system and have been the first to demonstrate that the technology is working and good." Sounds like it's still very much at the work in progress stage, then...
He also confirmed that gapless playback, available on Tidal for the first time with the latest update, is only available on the desktop and Android apps, but would hopefully come to the other Tidal apps in due course. Similarly, offline playback for the desktop Tidal app was in the pipeline.
Elsewhere, Tidal has done a hefty upgrade to the search feature and also to make the whole app faster. "We have spent a lot of time building a new search platform on our back end servers to get better search results for the user'" Lending told What Hi-Fi?.
"That is something we are rolling out over the coming weeks. Better ordering, video search is coming - a whole new search engine. We are constantly doing performance improvements to make [the app] as quick as we can."
Despite offering the same £10 per month tier as the likes of Deezer, Rdio and Spotify for up to 320kbps streaming, Tidal has come in for some criticism over its pricing - the top tier Tidal HiFi lossless streaming option costs £20 per month, though again this is the same as Qobuz's lossless service.
Now, Tidal is introducing a discounted rate for college students in the US - $4.99 for Tidal Premium, $9.99 for Tidal HiFi. Pushed on whether that would come to the UK and Europe, Lending said: "US for now, we are looking into offering that elsewhere."
And it was a similar story on the subject of the tie-in with Ticketmaster, which allows you to buy concert tickets through Tidal. Launching in the US, would it be coming to the UK and Europe? "It is coming..."
Clearly, since Jay-Z acquired the service formerly known as WiMP, which was founded in Norway, and relaunched the Tidal service in the US, it seems the company will roll out some new features in the US first.
At least with the new desktop app, we can all hear the best Tidal sound quality possible...
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