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With Tidal’s new pricing, it might be check-mate for Spotify HiFi

OPINION: Recent news about streaming has been mostly doom and gloom. People are railing about prices getting more expensive, although that was always going to be the case, and at some point the market won’t hold with so many options.

It won’t be an implosion, but it’s likely some consolidation will take place. The boost streaming services gained from the pandemic wasn’t permanent, and media companies across the world are having to adjust.

Which makes Tidal’s recent announcement so intriguing. Tidal were one of the first music streaming services to put the emphasis on quality and paying a premium for it. But now they’ve gone in a different direction, reducing the price from £19.99/month to £10.99/month in the UK, and re-organising their subscription tiers into one size that fits all.

From a consumer perspective it’s a smart move. It makes Tidal more accessible, you get the same good stuff you were getting for a less expensive price, making the service more attractive for new users as well retaining old ones.

And it’s a smart move for Tidal because it jabs a finger in the face of Spotify.

Looking back at the announcement article for Spotify HiFi, it mentioned that the service “will begin rolling out in select markets later this year, and we will have more details to share soon”. This was three years ago and since then it’s gone into hibernation.

Only a few morsels of information have leaked, but nothing through official channels. Whatever the reason behind its extended (indefinite?) delay, this dilly-dallying has provided impetus to Spotify’s rivals.

Apple Music is £10.99/month, Deezer is £11.99/month, the most you’ll pay for Qobuz is £12.99/month, while for Amazon Music it’s £9.99/month. All those offer CD quality and Hi-Res audio as part of the subscription.

Tidal new pricing subscription

Spotify, on the other hand, costs £10.99/month and the max quality you’re getting is 320kbps streaming. So while Spotify does offer a wide variety of content, if we’re looking at it from the just the audio purist perspective, it’s the weakest of all the services.

And Supremium/HiFi was meant to rectify that with lossless audio, and the rumour was that it’d be priced at £19.99 – $19.99/month. Well if Spotify HiFi ever does hit the market, it’s been snookered thanks the more affordable prices of other streaming services.

Like a game of chess, Spotify is taking too long to makes its moves, and the result is that it’s being outmanoeuvred and squeezed into check or even a check mate position. That could mean starting from scratch, which would be an embarrassing concession.

The market has changed, and audio quality is becoming one of the driving reasons behind a purchase of a premium headphone. The boosts in audio quality over Bluetooth – whether you can necessarily hear them or not is up for debate I suppose – is felt across streaming services, mobile devices, and headphone makers.

Snapdragon Sound is growing its presence in the market with premium earphones such as the Denon Perl Pro and Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 supporting it, down to the Earfun Free Pro 3 at an inexpensive £79.99. If that’s not the market demanding higher quality audio and responding to it, I’m not sure how much louder the message needs to be.

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 4 case open
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Who really knows whether the subscription prices will stick at their current level in the long term, but for the foreseeable future it seems they will. And in doing so Spotify has been handed a hot potato to deal with. Whatever angle you look at it, Spotify is going to take a hit if it hasn’t done so already, whether in terms of confidence from the music industry or from its subscribers.

Perhaps Supremium will launch and everything will be fine, but that sentence reads more like a fantasy than a reality. The fumbled “launch” of Spotify HiFi seems reflective of a company that seems indecisive about how it wants to proceed.

Every other service offers CD quality or higher audio for around the same price as Spotify offers MP3 level quality. So what’s holding Spotify back?

It’s becoming more of a mystery with each passing year.

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