×

Hi-Res Streaming Service Qobuz Makes Inroads Six Months After U.S. Launch

You could be using the world’s greatest headphones, but if the quality of the sound going into them is mediocre, there’s only so much lipstick you can put on that pig. Audiophiles — or even people who just like their music to sound better than the usual trebly phone-into-earbuds situation — have had a tough go of it in the digital age, as high-quality solutions seem always to be on the horizon … and seem to remain on the horizon.

Yet the RIAA estimates that 1,000 albums per month are released in hi-resolution audio. And while Tidal and Deezer have long offered solid hi-fidelity options, and Apple Music launched one just a couple of weeks ago, the French-based company Qobuz, which launched in the U.S. six months ago this week after a decade of success in Europe, is one of the few companies that’s designed with the audiophile in mind, bringing hi-res music to a hybrid streaming and download platform.

The company says it has almost 200,000 customers across the 12 markets in which it operates, with over 25,000 in the U.S. already. While it doesn’t offer as deep a catalog as other streaming services, for many the sound quality may make up the difference.

“We’re not competing with the big guys,” says U.S. managing director Dan Mackta. “Our aspiration is to reach 1% of the market.”

The company launched in 2009 as a hi-res download service, with its streaming option rolling out gradually over 2014 and 2015. And while its catalog isn’t as complete as that of other streaming services, it offers up 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. It also offers playlists, exclusive editorial content and other standard streaming service amenities.

But whatever — anyone who’s read this far only cares about how it sounds. As we all know, music is an intensely personal experience, and sound quality is a big part of that (just ask any music head about their favorite headphones). And in this writer’s opinion — based on an A/B with Tidal’s formidable Hifi service, through an expensive pair of Beats Studio headphones — the win goes to Qobuz by a nose, although allowances must be made for the type of music one is listening to.

Specifically, whether listening to a song released this year or one released in 1980, Qobuz’s sound is bright and clear, with ample bottom and pristine definition. Its high end is often brighter than Tidal’s, although on some hip-hop tracks Tidal’s low frequencies were a bit beefier.

Both services costs $20 per month, so it all comes down to personal preference. But with Qobuz’s free trial period, what have you got to lose? After spending time with hi-res audio, you may never want to leave …

 

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Urges Gavin Newsom to Sign Law Punishing 'Deep Fake' Videos

    SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign legislation that institutes penalties for nonconsensual digital sexually explicit videos, also known as “deep fakes.” The legislation, Assembly Bill 602, targets companies and individuals who create and distribute the videos in California without the consent of the individual being depicted. “We urge Gov. [...]

  • Facebook Portal logo

    Facebook Is Launching a Portal TV Device: Here’s What We Know

    Facebook is getting ready to launch a TV streaming device in time for the holiday season, Variety has been able to confirm with multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans. The new streaming hardware will be part of the company’s Portal family of devices, featuring a camera, and combining video chatting with TV viewing and [...]

  • MoviePass card

    MoviePass Shuts Down, With Parent Company Citing Failure to Raise Funds

    MoviePass, the long-struggling theater subscription service, finally appears to be down for the count. On Friday, MoviePass notified remaining subscribers that it would be shutting down the service effective Sept. 14, 2019, because “its efforts to recapitalize MoviePass have not been successful to date,” parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics announced. “The company is continuing [...]

  • Disney Plus - Full Lineup

    How to Browse the Disney Plus Catalog the Company Is Testing in the Netherlands

    Disney began testing its Disney Plus streaming service in the Netherlands this week. Consumers in the U.S. will have to wait until November 12 to get access to the service, but European streaming aggregator JustWatch already makes it possible to browse the catalog available during this beta test. JustWatch is one of a number of [...]

  • JoJo Siwa'The Angry Birds Movie 2'

    Nickelodeon Star JoJo Siwa Gets Her Own Dance-Tour Mobile Game (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fans of JoJo Siwa will be able to join the teen influencer’s dance squad on stage — virtually — in a new mobile game. In “JoJo Siwa — Live to Dance,” players will become part of the Nickelodon and YouTube star’s worldwide tour on her professional dance team and experience what it’s like to be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content