The best music streaming services of 2018 - reviewed


Troubled waters

Although it quietly arrived as a Nordic Spotify rival in 2014, it was Tidal’s noisy 2015 relaunch that grabbed column inches. Jay Z paraded rich music chums on stage, and somehow suggested this was the start of a revolution for everyday artists. A year later and Jay Z was reported as preparing to sue Tidal’s former owners, due to them allegedly exaggerating the service’s user base. This after a CEO noisily quit and an ill-advised spat occurred with Apple over a Drake live-stream being pulled. Because you don’t mess with the former star of Nickelodeon’s Degrassi.

Glamour and politics is fine for popcorn scarfing, but distracts from Tidal actually being pretty great. From the off, it had a clear, serious desire to promote content beyond vapid mood/genre playlists (although those still make it in), and it optionally streams in FLAC, rather than the comparatively low-fi options offered by its rivals. Nor is it resting on its laurels on this front: a recent update added support for hi-res 96kHz/24-bit MQA streaming on the desktop version.

Arguably, both Spotify and Apple have eaten into Tidal’s lead on the ‘curation’ side of things, and Spotify is supposedly readying its own Hi-Fi tier, but Tidal’s still fighting the good fight. Tidal Discovery gets unsigned bands out to a wider audience, and Tidal Rising flags artists on the verge of making it big. At the other end of the scale, Tidal enjoys streaming exclusives such as Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade, Jay Z’s Blueprint trilogy, and the bulk of the Prince catalogue. (Although much of the purple one's output has now made its way elsewhere too).