Not too many miles down the street from me in the Atlanta burbs lives David Solomon, one of the nicest guys in audio. Lately, however, I am starting to see how he may be one of the most effective guys in audio. Fresh off some success at Tidal, David has been working round the clock the past year or so at Qobuz, the French high-resolution music streaming service. I’ve been enjoying this service the past few months on a trial subscription and I have to tell you, it’s really, really good. Recently, David invited me to his house and we discussed the state of the hirez business and got to listen to two amazing sets of speakers, the new Gayle Sanders Eikon speakers and MartinLogan Impressions. The Eikons sit in David’s main rig and the Impressions constitute a truly remarkable desktop system. If you sit at David’s large desk, you can see his drum kit through the transparent panels on the Impressions. David is a very good drummer and I like how that ties his audio work to the sound of real instruments. But perhaps the most fun system is his gorgeous Eikon loudspeakers which have a truly natural sound to them whether David plays the VPI Prime table or streams digital. We listened to Qobuz files in both 16/44 and 24 bit. They all sounded wonderful just like they do on my main rig at home and my desktop rig. We played some deep Van Morrison cuts as well as my usual Yello tracks. And, of course, David (ask anyone!) is one of the best “demo artists” out there so a trip to his house would not be complete without a wonderful track selection of lesser-known tracks that really are special. If you get a chance to grab a playlist from the man, do it and dive into the music. You won’t be disappointed. David’s out here at AXPONA doing Qobuz demos on a wide selection of premium systems including a favorite combination at Bending Wave USA consisting of TechDas analog, CH Precision digital and Gobel speakers.
The Qobuz service is making quite a splash since it’s recent launch but I was curious what specific things we could see from the service in the future. I met up again yesterday with David for breakfast at Sam & Harry’s, the hotel restaurant at AXPONA. We covered a wide range of things but here are the highlights of what I learned…
A growing user base.
AXPONA is the first show for Qobuz after going live but they have been the “Official Streaming Service” of the past few shows like Rocky Mountain and AXPONA. It seems to be raising awareness. So far the launch is a huge success that is actually 30% above plan! It seems the hirez market is taking off in terms of streaming.
David’s background has set him up perfectly for this.
David started one of the first custom shops in 1984 that was then acquired by HiFibuys, a store I affectionately call the “Harvard Business School of audio retailers”, because many successful audio guys were employees there at one point or another. David stayed there a long time and he established the high end “Sound Gallery” in the Buckhead store that I lived by and I met him back in the 90s there for the first time. From there, David brought Monitor Audio into the U.S. then he did the same for Musical Fidelity, and he eventually co-founded Peachtree Audio and created one of the first integrated amps with a quality DAC and a living room-worthy finish. He then spent some time at Audioquest before joining Tidal and helped launch Tidal in the U.S. From there, David joined Qobuz and has played a central role in the launch.
Building a community at Qobuz.
David has some great ideas for Qobuz and the top theme involves building up the community around Qobuz including users, dealers, manufacturers, and artists. David feels that the hirez music community needs to be more available for people who want to try it. So his emphasis is a more modern marketing angle with a focus on social interaction and web pages. He wants to support his dealers. He wants to support his business partners. So he is focusing on three things:
- The Qobuz Society. I love this idea. Imagine a map with pins on it all over the U.S. Each pin represents a place where you as a music enthusiast can go to listen to Qobuz and get some genuine 24-bit music. You click on the pin and a dealer with Qobuz ability pops up and you then have dealer contact information, a web page, and even better still a short video from the dealer warmly inviting you to the store. Fantastic. David talks about all the noise in marketing now and says, “it’s all noise until it gets personal.” This hyper-personalization trend is something that I work on in my day job and it’s something that the high-end community needs to embrace more.
- The Qobuz Partner Program. Qobuz has some top brands in its partner portfolio…Aurender, Auralic, JM Lab, B&W, etc. David is building a showcase of these partners with videos to share the devices that support Qobuz and provide a pathway to solid hardware supporting the streaming service.
- Demo Events. As mentioned earlier, David is setting up events at shows in top rooms like Legacy, Gobel, etc. and playing the service for show-goers. Nothing beats the experience of hearing the actual music in a fidelity that is high quality. And it creates some excitement in the manufacturer’s room.
David and I also discussed what he feels makes Qobuz worth a look over Tidal. While Qobuz is slightly more money at $25 per month, David feels the catalog is where they differentiate well. Qobuz has 2 million (!) 24-bit tracks compared to roughly a million tracks at Tidal.
Finally, I asked David what is on the horizon. He mentioned some huge news in that they signed up with Orchard, an aggregator of content from medium-sized and smaller labels. This will be coming online soon and David also mentioned that the majors continue to prepare hirez for the service. But perhaps coolest of all involves my friend Cookie Marenco. Cookie runs Blue Coast Music which makes some of the best-sounding music presently. If she feels Qobuz is worthy for her music, then that is a very good sign!
Thanks, David for taking the time to talk to me and even more so for playing a big role in bringing better music to more people. The future is bright. Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go back and listen to some Qobuz files on the Red Dragonfly with my Periodic Audio earbuds. Oh yeah!