It’s the time of year for saving money!
In my September 28 piece titled “Are We About To Have Streaming Wars,” I discussed the possibilities of what might happen once Qobuz, the European (French) streaming service finally, and for some at long last, reached US shores. While the popularity of streaming, even among audiophiles, is unassailable, it does not mean that any of us are happy with what amounts to only one service with a minimum of CD quality.
Qobuz utilizes a slightly different approach than does Tidal. For one, they have, at least for now, completely abandoned any notion of MQA. My guess is they are not willing to pay the presumed high cost of the licensing fees. Instead, they are able to conveniently stream high resolution files up to 192 / 24. One feature unique to Qobuz and not Tidal is a download service. Qobuz subscribers are able, at a separate cost, to download files up to 192 / 24.
Musical variety is something all audiophiles will be concerned about. I have heard presumed numbers of songs and some have stated that one is better than the other for certain music genres. There are those that feel the quality of sonics of one at CD level is better than the other and hi rez files on Qobuz sound better than the MQA files on Tidal. I have also heard it the other way around. This will be an endless question without a definitive answer. Why? Because it is simply a matter of opinion – and the system on which the streamed service is played. One may sound better than the other on any given system. So I think it quite presumptuous to categorically state that one is incontrovertibly superior to the other. Here is what I can undeniably report: Both services have millions of songs available right now with more being added every day. So much so, in fact, it would be hard to listen to everything available in one lifetime, perhaps several. My guess is that any music lover can be enthralled for hours on end with the amount of music offered by either service.
As far as pricing is concerned, there are similarities as well as, not surprisingly, differences in the tiered pricing structures offered by both. Like Tidal, Qobuz has a Mp3, 320 kbps service for $9.99 per month. Also, like Tidal, Qobuz has a 44.1 / 16, CD Quality service for $19.99 per month. Beyond that is where Qobuz begins to differentiate itself from Tidal. Whereas Tidal offers MQA at no additional cost, Qobuz plans to charge $24.99 per month, called their “Studio” level service, for unlimited standard and hi rez streaming up to 192 / 24. Downloads in Qobuz will be a separate cost structure and not included in the Studio pricing structure. Qobuz will also offer a “Sublime” package that costs a flat $299.99 per year that offers unlimited streaming and discounts on downloads of up to 60%. Depending on how much music one would ever plan to download, the extra $50.00 per year over the “Studio” level might be worth it.
So, is this new service worth the cost? On the one hand, Tidal offers MQA at no additional cost. Qobuz offers hi rez, supposedly at worst the equal of MQA, at a higher price, although for many the extra $5.00 per month will not even matter. One also offers downloads whereas the other does not. For anyone who likes to download this may completely obviate the need for a service like HD Tracks, whom I suppose is paying attention to all of this. I think a lot of this is, as I have steadfastly maintained, very dependent on the system. For some, hearing the difference between MQA and hi rez will be difficult because of system quality. For most of us, however, even a basic entry level system should capture the sonic upgrade over Red Book CD that is offered by both hi rez and MQA – if you believe in that sort of thing, of course. One big question as I see it is this – how much music is available from Tidal formatted as MQA as compared to hi rez music from Qobuz at a $5.00 per month higher price? And by this, I mean music I am interested in hearing. If my favorite music is available in hi rez from Qobuz and not from Tidal as MQA, then Qobuz might be the better choice. Having all these millions of songs is useless if I am not interested in any of them. It only matters if I want to listen to what is available. Qobuz claims to have over 40 million songs in total with over 2 million in a hi resolution format. Boil all this down to the lowest common denominator and I see the two significant questions being: One, which sounds better on your system and two, which is the better value based on your listening habits and preferences?
As for me, I will probably just subscribe to the Studio level and continue my Tidal subscription as well. Which I feel sure is what both services would very much like for me to do. If I had to choose one over the other, hmm, that is a difficult choice to make. If I was highly concerned with saving $5.00 per month I would probably pick Tidal. If musical availability and streamed quality mattered most, I suppose I would choose Qobuz.
Right now, Qobuz have only publicly announced an “early 2019” official launch date. So you have what is likely a few months to make up your mind. In order to help you make your decision, Qobuz is offering a free, 30-day trial service so any interested user can see firsthand what they have to offer.
Again, I ask the question posed in my earlier article – are we about to have a streaming war? It is still too early to say, but it should be fun to watch and see how this all develops.
«One also offers downloads whereas the other does not.»
Both Tidal and Qobuz offers downloads. Tidal has its Tidal Store where you can buy downloads in both MP3 and CD quality flac.
perhaps he meant ‘Hi Rez’ downloads …
Based on an earlier search for music that I listen to, I’ll be switching from Tidal Hi-Fi to Qobuz Sublime. I plan on making use of the deep discounts for hi-res downloads from Qobuz. My Auralic Aries G2 streamer has a 2 TB SSD that needs filling up! 🙂
For my casual listening while working I’ll continue to use Spotify. I’d use Tidal, but my laptop is connected to the company’s VPN (I work from home) and Tidal has connectivity issues.
Nice article, but why is only Tidal mentioned. Deezer also streams at cd quality FLAC. I switched from Tidal to Deezer long ago and love it. Admittedly there is no MQA, but I prefer the interface selection (Varies by taste, of course).
Thanks Ian, hope you liked the piece. I only mentioned Tidal for several reasons. For one, space. Were I to use every streaming service available, or even a couple beyond Tidal, the article would have run way too long. Secondly, in my view, Tidal is a very popular choice among audiophiles and for the most part, the one against which Qobuz will chiefly compete for subscribers. I feel sure that for any audiophile using something beyond Tidal, the decision regarding Qobuz will be the same. Either way, Qobuz is going to be a new game in town. Some will like it and subscribe. Some will not. The fun part is watching to see what happens.
In the UK I’ve been on Q Sublime for a couple of years. The thing I love is the French angle on music choice, huge amounts of Jazz, Classical and World music which fits my taste, plus a lot of great albums from the 50s and 60s. The CD streaming quality is very good, even on my iPhone and I have bought a lot of hi-res downloads for my main system at the really advantageous prices Sublime offers (music you own can be streamed at hi-res) A pleasant surprise is how readable the newsletters and profile on musicians are.
Dump the rest and go Qobuz is my suggestion. Cheers Robert
PS Sounds even better on Mac/PC using the Audirvarna app, which totally integrates Qobuz.
Thanks Robert. I appreciate the comparison since you have experience with Qobuz that us here in the States do not.
I’m positively sure that I’ll be ordering neither!!!
I’m with you. $0 a month is my preferred level of payment. (Though I am slightly curious to maybe try one of them some day just to see what everybody has gotten so worked up about.)
Not me, my 2000+ records, 150+ CDs, and old Sansui tuner work just fine for me!!! —–Original Message—–
I think it’s pretty funny when people proudly say they won’t spend a penny on streaming because they own 2000 records, etc. How did you amass 2000 records? Were they given to you? But paying $20 a month to stream better-than-CD quality is just over the top! Heresy! Me, I love Tidal and Roon integration.
The other thing to consider which Paul didn’t mention is what kind of effect this might have on HDTracks? I purchase downloads from them on a regular basis but now having an option to stream and purchase in one discounted package would be more cost effective I would think.
Two words….Roon Integration. Qobuz looks very nice, but I dont want to have to swtich between my Auralic LDS for Qobuz, and Roon for Tidal. I really prefer Roon over Lightning DS, so in order for me to subscribe to Qobuz, it needs to integrate with Roon…which I suspect it will, and why it has been delayed in releasing in the US.
I agree that Roon integration is something that Qobuz needs to be able to do to succeed…
Why so hostile Bob Baby, you funny guy??? I never said I was proud about anything, only that what I have is good enough for me. You think that’s pretty funny??? Just for YOUR information, I did buy most of what I own. Some new, some used, some on sale, some for being cheap, some just because!!! And some were gifts. As for the $20 a month “BETTER-THAN-CD-QUALITY-BULLSHIT”, I don’t think “CD QUALITY” is that thrilling anyway or I wouldn’t own that many more RECORDS than CDs??? The CDs and a cheaper TUNER are for my bedroom HEADPHONE SYSTEM. Anyway Bob, I’m glad for you that you like your $20 STREAMING as you should be for me liking my RECORDS??? With Great Respect, I am Joe E. P.S. What the hell is Hersey???
I’ve been on Tidal since the first week they were in the USA – and I’ve often said, that the $20 per month that I spend on Tidal is the best $20 per month I spend anywhere. I like MQA. That being said, I signed up for Qobuz today on the 30 day free trial, and A/B tested this afternoon – and while I think that Qobuz is slightly better SQ – I really like their interface. BTW – perfect integration with Roon. I cancelled by Tidal subscription today, to the dismay of my 15 year old step-son who likes the Jay-Z music that is only available on Tidal. So far, Qobuz has won my vote – but I think that Tidal is absolutely great.