Qobuz US Opens Public Beta for 192 kHz Hi-Res Streaming

January 10 2019, 00:10
It’s been a year since Qobuz announced at CES 2018 its impending entry into the US marketplace, with the ambition of becoming a heavy player in the hi-res music streaming market. Qobuz has the US audiophile set squarely in its sights, and it intends to deliver higher quality streams and a more complete experience than its competitors. Though there have been a few delays, as the fall 2018 release didn’t materialize, and the timeline was later pushed to early 2019, Qobuz confirmed it is now available for registration to US users as an open beta, and published the finalized pricing.

Qobuz has been strengthening its leadership team this past year, with the addition of Yann Miossec as Global CEO in April of 2018, and Dan Mackta as Managing Director of Qobuz US last summer. Both offer impressive credentials in the world of music marketing and streaming. 

Mackta says that the strengths of Qobuz include “the largest available library of streaming hi-res music, focus on quality of metadata, and context including digital booklets.” And Qobuz is putting its full weight behind those claims: since this time last year, Qobuz’s hi-res catalog has doubled in size from one million to two million tracks, far surpassing Tidal’s hi-res catalog.

Qobuz’s editorial content is more complete and investigative than any other streaming service. Its Panoramas offer a journey of musical discovery across the development of genres and the evolving sounds of notable historical and present day musicians. Additionally, Qobuz awards albums of historical significance with its Ideal Discography, and the Qobuzissime helps you find notably unique and adventurous albums by new artists across all genres. The Qobuz interface directly links you to the digital booklet for millions of albums, giving the user direct access to lyrics and additional photography and imagery.

It was a bold move for Qobuz to set its sights on hi-res streaming when all it offered a year ago was CD quality streaming and a separate store for hi-res downloads. Bolder still to be the first to do so in North America via FLAC, without the server-side storage and bandwidth benefits of MQA compression. Fortunately, this has been a major win for Qobuz: you can stream music up to 192 kHz / 24-bit not only from the Windows and Mac desktop app, but also from its Android and iOS apps, and even its web player. Unlike Tidal, Qobuz hi-res streaming is not restricted to a software MQA-decode, and it doesn’t require an MQA-compatible DAC to reach all the way to 192 kHz. However, the observant reader wouldn’t be wrong in fearing this requires a lot more Internet bandwidth compared to Tidal, and that libraries for offline listening grow in size quickly.

As of CES 2019, Qobuz announced an open-beta for its US music streaming service. Anyone can join the waitlist at this link: http://on.qobuz.com/RH. There are four tiers of Qobuz service offered in the US. The most affordable is the Premium tier at $9.99/month for 320 kbps MP3 quality streaming. Next is the Hi-Fi tier at $19.99/month for CD quality streaming using the lossless FLAC codec. A bump to the Studio tier costs $24.99/month for FLAC streaming of 24-bit files with sample rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz, when available. Each of these three tiers offer annual pricing at the cost of ten months subscription instead of twelve months. The ultimate Qobuz tier is Sublime+, offering the maximum streaming quality of the Studio tier coupled with 40-60% discounts off of hi-res album purchases through the Qobuz music store. However, Sublime+ is not available by the month, with an annual price tag of $299.99.

As a bonus, PC and Mac fans of the advanced playback software Audirvana Plus are able to stream hi-res music from a Qobuz account right away. Amarra Luxe also offers hi-res Qobuz playback on Mac, with PC support anticipated shortly. And Qobuz already features hardware support for hi-res playback by partnering with 39 audio brands, including hi-fi brands Devialet and Mark Levinson, and consumer brands Yamaha and Sony.
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