No longer is master-quality hi-res playback solely the preserve of the recording studio or even home hi-fi. Having launched its partnership with MQA a number of years ago, music streaming service Tidal now has thousands of hi-res albums available to stream through its Android and iOS apps, compatible hi-fi components (either natively or via Tidal Connect) and software platforms like Roon. That means subscribers to the service's top tier, Tidal HiFi Plus, can hear music in its intended glory wherever they may be.
Of course, Tidal isn't alone in its offering of hi-res streaming – Apple Music, Amazon Music and Qobuz are also on the battlefield – but it's one of the most established services; one of the best-sounding (and priciest!) too.
The good news is that the number of hi-res albums on Tidal is always on the rise and rise, as it is the service's discovery functionality. So, where do you start? That's where we come in...
We listen to Tidal every single working day, whether through our desktop system or phone, our reference hi-fi system, or the product we're currently putting through its paces, and always jot down Masters albums we believe sound exceptional. Here are some of our favourites to get you started and prove just what Tidal Masters (and hi-res streaming, generally) is capable of. Naturally, if you'd like to help us grow our playlist, please drop your own preferred Tidal Masters in the comments.
2X1=4 by F.S. Blumm and Nils Frahm
Released last year under Nil Frahm's new co-created label Leiter, 2X1=4 is the fourth collaborative work by the two experimental German composers, in which they channel their shared fondness for dub and flex their creative dexterity in ambient sound to produce seven magnetic – often arousing, sometimes hypnotic – tracks that intriguingly plait several music genres with dubby, echoic elements. The soundscapes are superb, the production equally so.
Orphée by Jóhann Jóhannsson
Jóhann Jóhannsson is a composer who almost alone could prove the necessity of hearing recorded music at master quality. Orphée (opens in new tab) is the final solo album released before the Icelandic musician’s sudden passing in 2018; at times hauntingly melancholic, its marriage of orchestral movements and light-handed electronics is permanently beautiful.
Listen to Orphée by Jóhann Jóhannsson on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Entertainment! by Gang Of Four
The near antithesis of Jóhannsson’s oft-ethereal arrangements, Gang Of Four’s debut album of 1979 as good as defines the word angular as a musical descriptor. Andy Gill’s guitar lines jut through Entertainment! (opens in new tab)’s schizophrenic phrasing like broken glass and benefit infinitely from having their lines this finely drawn.
Listen to Entertainment! by Gang Of Four on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Daddy's Home by St. Vincent
Partly inspired by the father of frontman Annie Clark's release from prison and a gushing love letter to ’70s rock’n’roll, Daddy's Home (opens in new tab) is a stomping follow-up to the band's highly acclaimed 2017 album MASSEDUCTION – a family affair full of groove and funk and personality that deserves to be heard with all its punch and sparkle intact.
Listen to Daddy's Home by St Vincent on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Nina Simone: The Montreux Years by Nina Simone
A Nina Simone fan must-have, The Montreux Years (opens in new tab) is a newly released, career-spanning collection of recordings from her five legendary Montreux Jazz Festival concerts, from the first time she ever took the stage in the summer of 1968, to the last time 22 years later, and of course including her legendary 1976 appearance which is widely regarded as the festival's best ever. It's a beautifully edited collection and the audio quality is truly excellent. What's more, from track 16 onwards, we get to hear the debut show in its entirety for the first time ever.
Listen to The Montreux Years by Nina Simone on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Young, Gifted and Black by Aretha Franklin
I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Soul '69, Aretha Now, Lady Soul – we're blessed that all of them are Tidal Masters on the service. Quite frankly, a third of this list could be made up of Franklin albums, such is the strength of their content and production quality. 1972's Young, Gifted & Black is always worth revisiting when you can muster the emotional capacity for Franklin's peak-Black-Power-era intensity and passion. The Master of Rock Steady grooves away with all the spunk and spirit, while the joyous Nina Simone-penned titular track sparkles with crisp detail.
Listen to Young, Gifted and Black by Aretha Franklin on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
The Road by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
While we mourn the fact that Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' 2021 triumphant Carnage album has not been released as a Tidal Master, we find consolation in one of their previous collaborative efforts, the soundtrack to John Hillcoat's The Road (opens in new tab) – which was. An achingly beautiful, yet suitably sombre, accompaniment to the 2009 post-apocalyptic drama, where Ellis' wistful violins and Cave's low piano create an ambience that's captivating and, despite the film's overriding theme, never bleak.
Listen to The Road by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Toto IV by Toto
It should come as no surprise that an entry from our best-produced recordings list has found its way into this one. If any musicianship and engineering, and indeed its resulting collection of recordings, deserves to be heard in studio quality, it's this one. Toto's six-Grammy-winning album is accomplished in every way, from its hugely dynamic, infectiously melodic compositions to its tight, gleaming production.
Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order
Power, Corruption and Lies (opens in new tab) was arguably the record that defined New Order as being a band apart from Joy Division. Its use of synthesizers is far broader than on Movement, but still intelligently intertwined with guitars and acoustic percussion for a sound that is at once texturally dense and refreshingly spacious.
Listen to Power, Corruption and Lies by New Order on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Speaking In Tongues (Deluxe Version) by Talking Heads
That you’ll find a number of Talking Heads records on Tidal Masters is undoubtedly one of the tier’s fortes as far as we’re concerned. Speaking In Tongues (opens in new tab) makes most of the higher resolution with its idiosyncratic grooves and playful instrumentation, not to mention two of the band’s finest moments in Burning Down The House and This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody). The Deluxe Version adds a cracking alternative recording of the former, plus an unfinished outtake of Two Note Swivel.
To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar
Few hip-hop albums have influences so sprawling as To Pimp A Butterfly (opens in new tab). From dub to free-form jazz, the backdrop to Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus is ever changing and laced with subtleties despite its often abrasive delivery; this is an album deserving of the deeper listening the master files facilitate.
Listen to To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME by The Twilight Sad
The Twilight Sad have never been shy of making a racket, and, despite its peppering of 80s-infused synth lines, IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME (opens in new tab) still revels in the kind of noise and cavernous reverb it’s difficult to bend your mind around with a compressed reproduction. The beauty remains in James Graham’s effusive vocal and near-gothic melodies, but the added insight here is invaluable.
Lust For Life by Iggy Pop
You won’t be lost for David Bowie’s work on Tidal Masters, but many of his finest hours were spent the other side of the mixing desk – including on this, his second production credit for Iggy Pop. Songs such as the title track and The Passenger made this Iggy’s most commercially successful album to date, and Lust For Life (opens in new tab) retains the garage rock aesthetic of The Stooges while treading a path that is unmistakably his own.
Listen to Lust For Life by Iggy Pop on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Pink Moon by Nick Drake
If the idea of this improved sound is to bring the artist closer to the listener, then there can be few better examples of its importance than a suite as intimate as Nick Drake’s Pink Moon (opens in new tab). As much as you can hear fingers shuffling between the strings and live in the body of Drake’s guitar, it is said intimacy that here helps foster an even more tender relationship between the listener and the music.
Listen to Pink Moon by Nick Drake on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Kaya by Bob Marley
There were those critical of Kaya (opens in new tab) upon its release for being overly laid-back and concerned more with songs about love and marijuana than making political statement, but few could argue against its ten sun-drenched melodies or the fact they could be penned only by a talent as singular as Bob Marley’s. This 40th Anniversary Edition allows us to hear every element recorded at Island Studios in its full resplendent glory.
Listen to Kaya by Bob Marley on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
Tutu by Miles Davis
To another titanic genius of the 20th century who with this work fell somewhat foul of critics. Miles Davis’s Tutu (opens in new tab) is admittedly not an entirely cohesive listen, but it is no less intriguing a listen for it. Inescapably a product of the 1980s, its combination of synthesizers and drum machines that make a bed for Davis’s far-reaching trumpet lines perhaps shouldn’t work, but they photograph a creative mind that simply refused to be limited by genre.
Listen to Tutu by Miles Davis on Tidal Masters (opens in new tab)
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