We report the layer structure and composition in recently discovered TiN/SiN(001) superlattices deposited by dual-reactive magnetron sputtering on MgO(001) substrates. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy combined with Z-contrast scanning transmission electron microscopy, x-ray reflection, diffraction, and reciprocal-space mapping shows the formation of high-quality superlattices with coherently strained cubic TiN and SiN layers for SiN thickness below 7–10 Å. For increasing SiN layer thicknesses, a transformation from epitaxial to amorphous SiNx (x ⩾ 1) occurs during growth. Elastic recoil detection analysis revealed an increase in nitrogen and argon content in SiNx layers during the phase transformation. The oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen contents in the multilayers were around the detection limit (∼0.1 at.%) with no indication of segregation to the layer interfaces. Nanoindentation experiments confirmed superlattice hardening in the films. The highest hardness of 40.4 ± 0.8 GPa was obtained for 20-Å TiN with 5-Å-thick SiN(001) interlayers, compared to monolithic TiN at 20.2 ± 0.9 GPa.