It might only have a few million subscribers compared to Spotify's staggering 180+ million members, but Tidal styles itself as the hi-fi fan’s music streaming service and offers up tons of CD-quality ‘lossless’ and beyond-CD-quality ‘hi-res’ streams, the latter of which it labels Tidal Masters. Historically, high-quality audio has often been difficult or cumbersome to transmit wirelessly.
Tidal relies on MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) technology to package its hi-res audio into reasonable file sizes that can then be decoded (or, rather, unfolded) – but until now, playback has been limited to the Tidal app. Tidal Connect offers an easier way to stream hi-res (or any quality) audio directly to Tidal Connect-compatible hardware, instead of streaming audio from the Tidal app on a phone or tablet to an audio device.
Similar to Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect lets you stream your Tidal catalogue to any Tidal Connect-enabled device over wi-fi and – importantly – directly from Tidal’s servers to your audio device. You won’t need third-party apps or ever have to worry about interrupting playback by opening a video on your phone again. In fact, it’s similar to how Google Chromecast works, only Tidal Connect supports the service’s hi-res MQA Masters and Dolby Atmos music too. In other words, it lets Tidal subscribers stream music more conveniently at top-quality.
But how does Tidal Connect actually work? What devices support it? And do you have to set it up?
What is Tidal Connect?
Tidal Connect is an easy way to wirelessly stream Tidal’s catalogue to other devices, such as a wireless speaker or music streamer. It’s essentially Tidal’s version of Spotify Connect, and both technologies work over wi-fi.
It’s not the only way to wirelessly stream music on Tidal, though. Tidal’s catalogue can also be streamed over Bluetooth, AirPlay and Google Chromecast to devices that support those technologies. However, Tidal Connect comes with some unique features, like the ability to stream hi-res-quality Masters and even Dolby Atmos music, which those alternatives cannot.
In terms of both audio quality and convenience, if you can use Tidal Connect, you’ll probably want to. It guarantees you the best wireless audio quality, and you won’t have to worry about stuff like the strength or range of your Bluetooth connection or having your music interrupted by phone a call.
To actually use Tidal Connect, you’ll need a) a phone, tablet or computer with the Tidal app installed, and b) a compatible Tidal Connect device…
How does Tidal Connect work, and what devices support it?
As mentioned above, Tidal Connect relies on wi-fi. To use Tidal Connect, you’ll need two wi-fi devices with Tidal Connect support connected to the same wireless network. First, this means a phone, tablet, or computer with the Tidal app. You’ll also need a Tidal subscription.
Tidal offers two major subscription tiers, Tidal HiFi and Tidal HiFi Plus, and either tier will allow you to use Tidal Connect. However, MQA streams and Dolby Atmos music are both exclusive to the Tidal HiFi Plus tier, meaning that if you want to use Tidal Connect to wirelessly stream Master Quality Audio, you will need Tidal HiFi Plus.
Then, you’re going to need the right audio device. These come in many forms from soundbars to receivers to speakers to every audio device inbetween. Tidal has a handy searchable page that lists all the Tidal Connect-enabled devices out there, so you can just search for your device on the site to confirm it supports the tech.
An alternative way to check whether a recieving device supports Tidal Connect is to open the Tidal app on your phone, tablet or computer, and ensure it is is connected to the same wi-fi network as the device you’re trying to stream to. If it supports Tidal Connect, you’ll be able to see and select it much the same way you would choose a Bluetooth or AirPlay device with Tidal (more on this below).
Tidal Connect support isn’t as prevalent as Spotify Connect support, which makes sense considering the subscriber differential between the two services and the fact Tidal Connect hasn’t been around that long, but Tidal Connect support is becoming more and more of a standard feature on AV and hi-fi kit. You’ll find Tidal Connect support across many networked products from major brands like Cambridge Audio, Dali, McIntosh, and many more.
Naturally, you'll have to do some searching to figure out if your particular kit works with Tidal Connect, but What Hi-Fi? Awards winners like the Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation support Tidal Connect alongside five-star products from legendary brands like Cambridge Audio, including the Edge NQ, CXN (V2), 851N, CXN (V1) and StreamMagic 6 (V2). Suffice it to say you'll have no trouble finding excellent kit out there with Tidal Connect support.
Currently, Tidal Connect works on one device at a time. This is similar to Spotify Connect’s setup, but Spotify Connect supports multiroom systems like Sonos, which Tidal Connect does not. Though, you can stream your Tidal library to a Sonos device, you just can’t use Tidal Connect to do it.
How to set up Tidal Connect
First, download the latest version of the Tidal app onto your phone, tablet, or computer. Once installed and you’ve signed into your Tidal account, make sure both your device with the Tidal app as well as whatever you’re trying to stream to are connected to the same wi-fi network.
Then, open up the Tidal app, and play a song. On desktop, select the speaker icon at the bottom-right of your screen, while on iOS or Android, tap the speaker icon at the top-right corner of the ‘Now Playing’ screen. From here, your Tidal Connect-enabled devices will appear. Simply select one and your music will begin playing on your chosen device.
Regardless of what device you’re using the Tidal app on, once connected with Tidal Connect, you’ll have a truly hands-free experience. If you’re streaming from your phone, even if you get a phone call or need to quickly watch a video, your music won’t be interrupted. From the Tidal app, feel free to browse around, play, pause, skip, and shuffle to your heart’s content.
There are, however, a few limitations to Tidal Connect. Naturally, you won’t be able to use Tidal Connect when you’re away from home, as you’ll need to be on the same wi-fi network, and in the same vein, you can’t use Tidal Connect to play your offline Tidal content.
How is Tidal Connect different from Bluetooth or AirPlay?
Tidal Connect allows you to stream your Tidal library directly from a server to whatever device you want to listen to, as opposed to connecting, say, your phone directly to your speaker to play music. With Tidal Connect, your phone, tablet, or computer becomes a simple controller.
This means that you’re free to watch videos, play a game, take a phone call or do anything else on your phone while you’re using Tidal Connect to wirelessly stream audio. You won’t ever have to worry about interrupting your music like you do with AirPlay or Bluetooth. Plus, you won’t have to deal with the range limitations of a technology like Bluetooth, where if you move far enough away from your Bluetooth speaker connections may become unstable.
Plus, on mobile, when using Tidal Connect you’ll save battery power over using Bluetooth or AirPlay without having to actually stream anything from your phone or tablet. You only need the Tidal app for choosing tracks and controlling music playback, none of which require all that much power.
In terms of ease of use, though, Tidal Connect works a lot like Bluetooth and AirPlay. Simply open up the Tidal app, and where you’re given options for Bluetooth and AirPlay devices, you’ll see your Tidal Connect-enabled devices pop up, too. Just like other wireless audio streaming technologies, actually using Tidal Connect to play music only requires a couple of clicks or taps.
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