Lossless streaming versus lossless audio

The benefits of lossless audio are much more pronounced when considering locally stored music collections. But that doesn't mean we should decry TIDAL's offering of lossless streaming.

The recent high profile launch of TIDAL caused me to think about who benefits from lossless, and in which scenarios.

TIDAL offers lossless streaming in its HiFi plan, starting at $19.99 a month (or £19.99 in the UK. I think their currency converter must be buggy). This is a boon to those with high quality audio equipment - finally the benefits of lossless but without the hassle of local storage and maintenance!

At a difference of $10 per month compared to their standard plan, what are you getting extra?

Well, I've already answered that. The only real benefit you see from lossless when streaming is the higher audio quality. And even then, unless you have a half decent audio setup you may not even notice that. And make sure your Internet connection can handle the load (we don't all live in South Korea or California)!

In reality, lossless is far more of a selling point when archiving and storing your own music library. Because you are ensuring 100% of the original audio data stays in the resulting audio music file you are ensuring that you can perform all manner of subsequent operations of the audio; re-encoding, editing the audio, mixing, sampling and more and being assured of the subsequent audio quality.

These scenarios just aren't relevant to streaming. You might say you can never see an eventuality where you would need to do some audio editing, or your own mixing, or need to recover from a burglary, or whatever, but for some people these are important considerations.

This is an extension of the argument for the whole premise of TIDAL. I was pretty surprised to see the amount of cynicism on Twitter following the announcement. A lot of it, based on the awkward sight of millionaire music stars asking you to pay more to hear their music is kinda understandable. But a lot of it was also coming from what can only be described as, and I hate to use the word, fanboys of the existing streaming services.

See? Locally stored music collections serves one set of music lover. Lossless streaming serves another. And finally Spotify and the like serves yet another different set. And, of course, many people will use multiple different services and approaches to get their music.

The point is that what a lot of the tech community needs to be reminded of is that different markets exist because different people have different requirements. Armchair strategists love to paint with broad strokes, and the media lap it up.

But before spending $10 extra per month, consider which group you fall into and what you are getting!

Thanks to Adam Jones, Ph.D. - Global Photo Archive for the image above.
tags: streaming
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The Music Library Management blog

Dan Gravell

I'm Dan, the founder and programmer of bliss. I write bliss to solve my own problems with my digital music collection.