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Tidal begins its rollout of hi-res lossless audio

Smart phone with the Tidal logo

Tidal has said that starting today, select subscribers will be able to access its catalog of music in hi-res lossless audio that uses the open-source FLAC format. The announcement was made via a Reddit post in which CEO Jesse Dorogusker said that hi-res FLAC tracks, in up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution, are now available to the company’s Early Access Program (EAP) users on iOS. Dorogusker says the company wants feedback from this smaller group of listeners before rolling out the format more broadly. All HiFi Plus subscribers are expected to get access to the new format by August.

If you’re an EAP member, you can access the new hi-res lossless content by updating your beta app and selecting “Max” quality in the new Audio & Playback settings screen.

When Dorogusker first announced in April 2023 that hi-res lossless tracks were coming to Tidal, there was speculation about what this meant for the MQA format, which has historically been the only format on Tidal that goes beyond CD quality. Today’s announcement doesn’t settle this open question either, with Dorogusker saying that “we’ll continue to support multiple formats to make sure we have as much hi-res content as possible.”

However, in the same sentence, he indicates that Tidal has chosen FLAC as its preferred format for high-resolution audio, which won’t provide MQA fans a lot of confidence in the format’s longevity on the streaming audio service. He also seemed to indicate a strong preference for FLAC’s open-source technology (MQA is a licensed, proprietary audio format), saying, “It’s open source, allowing greater access for artists and fans, and aligns with Tidal’s support for open platforms. Pairing accessibility with best-in-class audio quality directly aligns with our purpose of empowering artists to run thriving businesses in the economy.”

Starting today, EAP users will have access to over 6 million tracks in hi-res, lossless FLAC and Tidal indicates that it is actively working with distributors, labels, and artists to add more content in this format every day.

Apple Music and Amazon Music already offer much of their music catalog in hi-res lossless format, as does relative newcomer to the U.S. streaming landscape, Qobuz. Amazon Music uses the FLAC format, however, Apple Music uses ALAC, its own version of lossless audio encoding.

Spotify remains an outlier, as the one major streaming service that doesn’t offer a lossless audio option, though that may change soon.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
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