If you’re a movie and TV junkie, we’re betting that the Plex media server platform needs no introduction. For years now, it has been the go-to choice for people who want total control over their media library, and the ability to watch that content on every conceivable device.
But lately, Plex has been getting a lot more serious about other kinds of media as well. It has added podcasts, a capable photo organizer, and even a live TV plus DVR option. Today, the company is augmenting its music chops, in a big way, by adding Tidal to its list of supported services.
At first blush, this might not seem like a big deal, after all, you can already access Tidal on plenty of devices. For Plex users, however, this marks the first integration between the media server platform and a major music service. Plus, when you look at how Plex has integrated Tidal, it’s more than just a bolt-on, which is so often the case on other devices and platforms.
In this case, Plex essentially merges your personal music collection with that of Tidal, thus enabling a host of features that you could previously only find on services like Apple Music, and Google Play Music.
The big win for people who simply want to listen to a certain artist or song, without trying to guess where that music lives, is a universal search. It looks a lot like Sonos’ universal search, which we believe to be the industry standard. Matching results from Tidal and your personal collection are presented as a unified list, so you can get to the music you want faster. Playlists are similarly enhanced, and can contain tracks from any collection you have access to, including Tidal.
Perhaps the cleverest upgrade is the recommendation engine, which attempts to guess what Tidal content you’ll be interested in, based on your existing collection of songs. That same background process will show you albums that you don’t already own, from artists that you like. Plex’s artist radio feature which pulls together thematically tied music from your collection, and which debuted on the company’s Plexamp player, is now embedded in all of the Plex apps, and — you guessed it — now includes tracks from Tidal.
Just to show how serious it is about this whole music thing, Plex is using the Tidal integration to add a few new music-player features to its app, including gapless playback, and a more intelligent cross-fade option it calls “sweet fades.”
Of course none of this is free of charge, but Plex is offering some intriguing discounts for both Plex Pass subscribers and free users alike.
In addition to a 30-day free Tidal trial, you can choose two different plans: $10/month Tidal Premium, or the $20/month Tidal Hi-Fi.
These are the same prices for the same plans that Tidal charges directly, but buying them through Plex comes with some great benefits. With Tidal Premium, you get access to Plex’s premium music features — some of which are described above — that are not part of the free Plex experience. With Tidal Hi-Fi, you get a full monthly Plex Pass, which would cost $5/month on its own.
Existing Plex Pass subscribers get a $1/month discount on both plans, but savvy Plex Pass monthly subscribers will no doubt wonder why they should keep paying even $4/month if they can get their service for free with Tidal Hi-Fi. Plex is aware that some folks may indeed cancel and re-subscribe to do this, but it’s a risk it’s willing to take.
There’s just one, tiny catch: Tidal’s Hi-Fi plan not only provides lossless, CD-like streaming, it also offers a selection of tracks at better-than-CD quality 24-bit high-resolution, via the MQA codec. Trouble is, Plex does not support MQA on any of its apps yet, so listening to Tidal via Plex will not give you high-res audio. As a Hi-Fi subscriber, you still get access to these MQA tracks, but you’ll need to use the Tidal app on a high-res compatible device in order to get the full range MQA offers.
Here’s hoping that Tidal is just the first of many streaming music services offered through Plex, as the platform continues to evolve.
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