Qobuz Hi-Rez Streaming Launches in the US

Qobuz Hi-Rez Streaming Launches in the US

Qobuz, the French subscription hi-rez streaming and download service, finally launches in the US today, right before the start of CanJam NYC. Qobuz not only offers more than 40 million tracks, over two million of which are said to be hi-rez, but also includes liner notes for many albums. The service has also secured partnerships that enable it to position Qobuz as the “official” streaming service of CanJam and other US high-end audio shows.

“There aren’t any big holes in our catalog right now,” Qobuz’s “Chief Hi-Res Music Evangelist” David Solomon explained by phone. “We’re ingesting as fast as we can. The situation with Qobuz and Tidal is a bit like Netflix vs Amazon Prime, where if one doesn’t have it, the other does. Most often, both do, but our amount of hi-rez classical dwarfs others.”

After looking up some recent titles from Warner and Decca that are available on Tidal in 24/96 MQA, I confirmed that the same titles can be found on Qobuz in 24/96 FLAC. US subscribers can stream Qobuz hi-rez from the Qobuz app and Amarra, Audirvana, and Roon music playback software. However, since Qobuz’s app works on iOS as well as Android and Windows-based platforms, while Tidal has yet to issue its own MQA hi-rez streaming app for iOS devices, the choice of service will likely be based on your sonic preferences and which devices and software/apps you prefer for playback.

Another basis for choice is price. Qobuz offers multiple subscription tiers:

• “Sublime +”: $299.99/year for unlimited Hi-Rez streaming plus discounted downloads.
• “Studio”: $24.99/month for unlimited Hi-Rez (24-bit /up to 192kHz) streaming
($249.99 if purchased on an annual basis).
• “Hi-Fi”: $19.99/month for unlimited 16-bit CD quality streaming ($199.99 annually).
• “Premium”: $9.99/month 320kbps MP3 quality streaming plan ($99.99 annually).

Note the download option. As Solomon puts it, “All streaming titles are for sale. If it will play, you can pay.”

“Sublime +” level subscribers pay what Solomon terms “just about MP3 prices” for hi-rez downloads. Regular download prices for one recent full-price classical offering from Erato, Brahms Cello Sonatas, Hungarian Dances by Jean-Guiden Queyras and Alexandre Tharaud, are $12.99 for CD quality and $14.99 for 24/96 FLAC, ALAC, WMA, AIFF, and WAV. “Sublime +” subscribers, however, can get the same 24/96 files for $9.99.

I was told that Sublime + subscribers should be able to purchase all hi-rez downloads in all genres for the equivalent price of Apple Music’s 256kbps downloads. Sublime+ subscribers who intend to download at least one hi-rez album per month will end up saving the $50 price difference between a “Studio” and “Sublime +” subscription in less than a year.

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