Qobuz and Tidal - The New Battle of the Hi-Rez Streaming Services

For the past couple of years United States Audiophiles have had one choice if they wanted full-resolution or higher multiple-genre digital music streams - Tidal. That will soon be changing as Qobuz enters the U.S. marketplace. And while some well-healed audiophiles (and reviewers) may subscribe to both, most audiophiles who want high-resolution streaming are probably going to choose one or the other. The big multi-million (or billion) dollar question is which one. 

AR-QoTI1a copy.jpgI have had a Tidal subscription for several years now and have a rather extensive library of both albums and single tracks as well as several self-curated playlists. The first big question I had was, "How can I easily duplicate this in Qobuz?" The answer is a separate stand-alone application by the name of Soundiiz. It's either free (a stripped down version that will not do much besides lure you to pay), or $3 a month. I'll let them have a couple of months, and if I never use it again, then I'll cancel. It took it quite a while to "copy" my entire on-line Tidal library over to Qobuz, and it generated quite a few "can't locate" error messages along the way, but in many cases even though it generated an error message Soundiiz still duplicated 99% of my Tidal library in Qobuz successfully. 

So, if the only thing that concerns you about switching from Tidal to Qobuz is loss of library data, Soundiiz makes that part easy. Now, what are the primary differences between the two services I've discovered, so far? 

AR-Qoti3a.jpgQobuz and Tidal's opening, or landing pages are very similar - you are presented with various playback choices from different categories. Aside from small design differences, graphically these pages don't show much differentiation from one another. But Qobuz has less U.S. Pop and hip-hop-centric material in the forefront, unlike Tidal. Qobuz seems to be more egalitarian, but as I found after a couple of weeks of digging around, it is less deep in some musical genres that matter to me. 

As of today, July 31, 2018, Qobuz seems to have less Americana, roots, bluegrass, and old-time music in its libraries than Tidal. Here are two examples of bands that were available in Tidal but not Qobuz - the Cleverlys are a bluegrass band that does covers of rap, heavy metal and hip-hop material - their one album was on Tidal but in Qobuz. Another example is the Irish roots band, I Draw Slow. Tidal had four albums, Qobuz had none. Conversely, Tidal had nothing by the '70's British band Unicorn while Qobuz had their new compilation album on Omnivore Records. It may be that to have a "complete" on-line library, you'll need both...

AR-Qoti8a.png

Occasionally the information in Qobuz shows signs of under-curatorship. One egregious example is the Taj Mahal album Giant Step instead of being attributed correctly to Taj Mahal, Qobuz lists "Interpretes Divers" as the performing artists with a link to their other tracks, which weren't exactly the blues... 

One area where Qobuz does have more to offer than Tidal is in the area of liner notes and background information on an album. Qobuz has an "about" section for each album that in some cases has almost as much information as Roon regularly supplies in their application. And then there are downloads - Qobuz offers them (and charges for them) while Tidal does not. If high-resolution download availability is important to you Qobuz will be your preference. 

Speaking of Roon, as of today they are bested by Audirvana+ as far as integrating Qobuz. Audirvana offers connections and playback functions for both Tidal and Qobuz while Roon only has Tidal. I expect Roon to add Qobuz soon, but I'm wondering if Roon will combine the two libraries together as they do with my home and Tidal libraries or keep them separate. I hope that users can have a choice...

AR-Qoti5a.png

On the subject of choice, so far the only portable player in my possession that supports Qobuz is the Sony NW-ZX2. If your portable player is Android-based you should be able to obtain the Qobuz app thorugh the playstore. As of today, none of Astell & Kern's players support Qobuz. A&K's position is "We are evaluating Qobuz, but have no ETA on when or if we may implement it on our players." Of course anyone with a smartphone can get the Qobuz app and stream and download to their heart's content, just like they can with Tidal.

One last obvious difference between Qobuz and Tidal is their newsletter and email approaches. Qobuz email is more general and covers many different types of music while most of Tidal's missives are to pimp one particular exclusive release. In this regard Qobuz projects a less urban-centric musical image with less au-courant hype. 

So, if forced to choose one over the other, as of right now I would choose Tidal because it has more of "my music" and it already integrates with Roon and Sonos, but given a bit of time, my preferences could change...Coke or Pepsi...VHS or Beta...Yankees or Mets...or both...only time will tell who wins this one...

comments powered by Disqus

Audiophile Review Sponsors