Tidal charm at RMAF ’14, ready lossless streaming in US/UK


rmaf_2014UPDATE 28th October 2014: Tidal’s lossless streaming service has now launched in the USA and UK. Click to getlossless.com.

You might recognise the chap on the far right in the above picture. That’s the eminently affable David Solomon. Having founded Peachtree Audio in the mid-noughties, Solomon has stepping-stoned via Audioquest to become Tidal’s Director of Sales and Marketing in the USA. To his left, Pål (“Paul”) Bråtelund, Product Developer at WiMP.

Tidal, if you recall, is the half-brother of WiMP, a lossless streaming service coming soon to the USA and – yes, confirmed – Australia.

Files are stored on Tidal servers in FLAC format from which Apple Lossless files are derived on-the-fly when streaming to iOS-powered devices. I’m assuming FLAC is the format used for streaming to Android, Windows and OS X clients but this is yet to be 100% confirmed.

Bråtelund was understandably a little frustrated that Tidal had yet to launch by the time he touched down at RMAF. He lamented that songs required for the launch proper were still being ingested by the database and that he was obliged to keep tight-lipped on the specifics of a revised date. I pressed Bråtelund on the issue but he wouldn’t budge beyond “Soon – weeks not months”.

With nothing concrete to show attendees Solomon and Bråtelund instead drew attention to already-inked partnerships with hardware manufacturers like AURALiC, Sonos, Denon HEOS, Bluesound and NAD, Meridian, and Dynaudio. With their roots in Norway, Tidal’s most prominent collaboration at RMAF was with fellow countrymen Electrocompaniet whose ECM 2 streamer could be witnessed streaming from Tidal most of the weekend.

Partnerships like these might get fleshed out in boardrooms and over international conference calls but they’re often ignited by chance encounters. Distributor X introduces manufacturer A to manufacturer B over a beer at the bar. That’s how business often goes down at show likes these – never assume that everyone knows everybody else.

David Solomon and Pål (“Paul”) Bråtelund on the charm offensive at RMAF '14
David Solomon and Pål (“Paul”) Bråtelund on the charm offensive at RMAF ’14

Solomon and Bråtelund no doubt enjoyed introductions like this behind the scenes, thus making the most of bringing an almost omnipresent, personable company profile to both RMAF and CanJam. The entire Tidal team present at the Marriott reminds us that people and their associated relationships are just as pivotal as the hardware itself.

And Tidal aren’t messing around. They know that collaboration is key and that said hardware must provide near-seamless connectivity to the Tidal cloud service. It’s no longer sufficient to only offer local storage capabilities, especially on portable devices.

Owners of smartphones and Apple TVs see this on a daily basis and likely think nothing of it but configuring audiophile-grade products to authenticate users and communicate via the Tidal API is another matter entirely.

The Sony NWZ-ZX1 Walkman runs a lightly modified version of the Android operating system onto which any Google Play store app can be installed; it’s already cloud-connected, capable of running WiMP, Spotify, and Pandora but it’s the exception rather than the rule…

…but imagine if your next Astell&Kern player came pre-installed with a bespoke Tidal app into which you only needed to type your username and password to access 25m songs for lossless streaming over WiFi or, more usefully, offline listening. Just imagine.

With the subscription fee for Tidal’s “Hifi” service expected to come in at US$20/month lossless streaming threatens a profound effect on the way we consume music. If their business model proves viable we can perhaps expect to see ownership of music slide into a niche pursuit.

Further information: Tidal Hifi

Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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