Classical Streaming Service Primephonic Enables Easy Offline Listening

Primephonic, one of the two music streaming services devoted exclusively to classical music, announced on May 1 that its iOS and Android customers can now use the Primephonic phone/pad app to download tracks to play offline without need of an internet connection or cellular data.

While there is a catch — the playback rate for the downloads is 160 kbps — the convenience of the feature for classical music streamers who want to listen to their favorite music 24/7 without paying for high quality downloads or extra data is undeniable.

For those dedicated to or curious about classical music, the advantages of both Primephonic and its competitor, Idagio, are manifold. Because both focus exclusively on classical music, their metadata, search functions, interviews, educational features, and opportunities to explore new works and compare interpretations are superior to those from multi-genre streaming services such as TIDAL and Qobuz. While neither Primephonic nor Idagio’s database is foolproof, the likelihood that you’ll find Jascha Heifetz listed as the composer of the Brahms Violin Concerto, or read that Johannes Brahms is a recording artist, are minimal.

The services differ in several crucial aspects, however. Of major importance, Primephonic now offers two streaming tiers, Premium ($7.99 USD/month or $79.00 USD/year) that is limited to an adaptive bit-rate of 320 kbps MP3, and Platinum ($14.99 USD/month or $149.99 USD/year) that streams full CD quality and, when available, hi-rez 24-bit FLAC in adaptive bit-rate. While Primephonic’s hi-rez offerings put it a step above Idagio, which does not offer hi-rez streaming and has no current plans to do so, Idagio users who subscribe to its lossless Redbook-quality tier can store tracks for future playback at full CD quality, which sure sounds better than a sampling rate of 160 kbps.

Curiously, however, while both services are available on iOS and Android devices, Primephonic does not have a desktop app for computer users. Instead, Primephonic subscribers who listen on computer can only access the site via their favorite web browser.

As with all streaming services, what titles one doesn’t have, the other one likely will. A case in point: In order to prepare for my review, for online publication Classical Voice North America, of Heiner Goebbels’ Surrogate Cities (1994), an astounding work of Mahlerian proportions that arrived at Seattle Symphony on April 25 with a newly-commissioned movement, I searched out the original recording on ECM New Series. That recording, issued in 2000, features the same vocalists who have worked with Goebbels since the premiere. Primephonic, TIDAL and Qobuz all have the recording in 16/44.1; Idagio, which lacks it entirely, only has other works by Goebbels.

When all is said and done, classical music lovers no longer have to ask the questions, “Shall I eat a peach?” and “Where can I eat it?” Thanks to good old fashioned capitalist competition, as long as they have sufficient funds to subscribe, they can consume all of the finest peaches they want, some of them from rare strains, at home, at the beach, or far from internet’s reach. And they may even have enough peaches to throw at least one at a writer whose article wrap is as hokey as this.