Times up, waits over, let the queuing begin! Qobuz (website), the European music streaming service, is finally here and is set to challenge Tidal on its home turf — sound quality. But unlike Tidal, Qobuz is all about high-resolution audio, up to and including streaming music at up to 192kHz without requiring MQA and the associated hardware and software.
Here’s the kicker: it sounds great.
Perhaps because Qobuz has been a long time to come, but to me, the platform seems very stable. Search functions work well and the available library of music is interesting and a bit different.
Someone once said that a streaming music service (in that case, Spotify) was like having the world’s greatest music store right there in your living room. The joy of that is hard to overstate. The temptation is to dig in and dig deep. But where to start?
After Tidal’s acquisition by JayZ, the Tidal interface was crowded with pop music recommendations I wasn’t interested in. The bad news is that Qobuz’ interface recommends the same music. The good news is that the Qobuz interface recommends a whole lot more. And that seems to be enough to tip me over — I’ve spent more time “engaging” with Qobuz than I have with Tidal, of late. Admittedly, access to hi-res streaming is a novelty that hasn’t worn off. But the real question is, hi-res or not, what will grab me?
I’ve been augmenting my jazz diet with classical side dishes. My feeling, flipping through both apps, is that Qobuz will have more (and more interesting) stuff for me to play with, and that the intereface will organize and present it better (I have some long-standing complaints with the way Tidal presents search results). Time will tell, but my pre-release explorations have been very affirming.
I’m particularly interested in what “Sublime” offers above and beyond — the idea of purchasing music for off-net playback has less and less appeal, but the fact is, it almost always sounds better streamed off my local harddrive than it does streamed off the Internet. Whether discounts on that music is worth the additional $50/year is completely unclear. But I will say that I am utterly unmoved by the argument that $250-$300/year is too much to lay out for music. Yes, Spotify and Pandora are cheaper (and even have a free tier). But so what? You want what they got, go for it. Both are awesome over Apple CarPlay.
But to my ear, and coming out of my Tidal Piano G2 loudspeakers, Spotify sounds “meh” and Pandora is no better.
At home, I’ve been using Tidal for my music streaming since … I can’t even remember. When it launched? I have some loyalty there. But Qobuz is interesting and its layout is pretty, the access is intuitive, and there’s all this world music that I’ve never even heard of before … yeah. I’m not gonna lie, Qobuz had me at their funny name.
The US Beta ends on Valentines Day. I’ll be playing some Chet Baker. How about you?
Press release about the launch after the buzzer.
Qobuz, the world’s first and only certified Hi-Res (24-bit/up to 192 kHz) streaming service, will launch in the US on February 14th. A hybrid streaming service and download store, Qobuz boasts approximately forty million CD-quality (16-bit) and millions of Hi-Res (24-bit/ 192 kHz) tracks, the largest available selection of Hi-Res streaming tracks anywhere.
Since its launch in 2007 in Europe, where it is the streaming and download service of choice for true music connoisseurs looking for the highest possible quality, US audiophiles have been eagerly awaiting Qobuz’s arrival stateside.
Qobuz is poised to capitalize on the modern developments making high-quality audio available to a fast-widening audience looking for a higher-level listening experience. Improvements in bandwidth speed and Internet infrastructure and the introduction of affordable speakers and audio equipment represent an accessibility tipping point in the growing high-end audio market.
Qobuz will be available on all app stores, and a summary of its features is below.
- Streaming in up to 24-bit/192 kHz true Hi-Res FLAC (about 29x the audio quality of MP3) with compatible gear.
- The option to stream and offline download an unlimited amount of music on all devices-including both mobile and desktop.
- A parallel Hi-Res download store with files for purchase allowing for options that flow substantial revenues back to creators- premium pricing for Hi-Res masters is a growth area for record labels.
- Exclusive, curated, and in-depth editorial content. Deep metadata, complete digital booklets, interactive articles, reviews, and playlists in-app on every platform.
- Hard-to-find jazz and classical tracks featured.
- No genre or artist pushing: Qobuz’s interface features only music of indicated interest to the user.
- Full Roon version 1.6 integration available.
Here’s what the audiophiles are saying:
- The LA Times called it “the greatest record store that has ever existed.”
- Sound & Vision said that Qobuz’s subscription fee is “a small price to pay for a high-quality aural buzz you’ll crave time and time again.”
- Audiophile site Darko Audio said “The big story this year is the arrival of Qobuz to American shores.”
- Stereophile said “When I compare Qobuz’ 44.1 sound to [lower-res] … I feel certain I will carry weapons and fight on the front lines to make sure Hi-Res streaming is here to stay.”
- Audiophile Review raved, “If musical availability and streamed quality mattered most … I would choose Qobuz.”
Owner and chairmain of Qobuz, Denis Thébaud, said “I am very proud of our United States launch. Our teams have been working brilliantly for over a year with our recording and publishing partners to get to this point. I am convinced that what we have to offer, on both the streaming and download markets, will be a success amongst American music lovers.” Dan Mackta, Managing Director of Qobuz USA, added “I’m thrilled to be introducing Qobuz to the US, and I look forward to working with the music community to spread the word about streaming without sacrifice. It’s all about the quality!”
Pricing plans are below:
- Sublime+: $299.99/year for full Hi-Res streaming and substantial (40-60%) discounts on purchases from the Qobuz Hi-Res (up to 24-bit / 192 kHz) download store.
- Studio: $24.99/month for unlimited Hi-Res (24-bit /up to 192 kHz) streaming ($249.99 annually).
- Hi-Fi: $19.99/month for streaming including 16-bit CD quality streaming ($199.99 annually).
- Premium: $9.99/month for 320 kbps MP3 quality streaming ($99.99 annually).
Founded in 2007, Qobuz is a Paris-based commercial online music streaming and downloading service that addresses the needs of curious and discerning music lovers across the globe. Live in eleven European markets and launching in the US on February 14th, 2019, Qobuz offers an exceptional range of music genres as well as exclusive editorial content independently curated by a team of experts. Qobuz offers subscription to streaming services with genuine CD quality audio of more than 40-million tracks and millions of Hi-Res tracks up to 24-bit/192 kHz resolution from all genres. For more information: www.qobuz.com.