Qobuz hits U.S. with Hi-Res Streaming Service Launch

Will it be a knock-out, drag-em-down, bare-knuckled fight for audiophile-grade music-streaming supremacy or has TIDAL solidified its base in North America enough to weather any body blows from the French high-res streaming company Qobuz?

Thursday, February 14 will see a love letter of a different kind being sent to woo U.S. account holders away from the Redbook-quality (and MQA-capable) TIDAL listening experience with the promise of 40 million titles available to stream or download in resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz.

Now that its integration with Roon is also complete, Qobuz is poised to offer up a real alternative in the niche high-res music streaming battleground for the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of North American audiophiles having already notched its belt with a successful conquest of the European Union.

I personally don’t think it will be an either/or proposition for any music lovers as I use both constantly and find that they tend to compliment each other with the strength of their differences rather than one diminishing the other – YMMV – but I can’t see anyone who is serious about digital/computer audio not wanting access to both clients.

I love TIDAL’s MQA offerings and I love certain Qobuz high-res versions of albums more than their 16/44 counterparts – and I love the difference in curated libraries both offer – but again, this is all down to personal taste and what I like about each service you may not, regardless, I think this level of high-quality alternatives for listening to music will only help secure the ability to access more music online for more people looking to up their sonic game with better-quality files for playback than the mp3 offerings from other existing music-streaming services that seem to permeate the mainstream on-demand market.

Pricing plans are below:

  • Sublime+: $299.99 USD/year for full Hi-Res streaming and substantial (40-60 per cent) discounts on purchases from the Qobuz Hi-Res (up to 24-bit / 192 kHz) download store.
  • Studio: $24.99 USD/month for unlimited Hi-Res (24-bit /up to 192 kHz) streaming ($249.99 USD annually).
  • Hi-Fi: $19.99 USD/month for streaming including 16-bit CD quality streaming ($199.99 USD annually).
  • Premium: $9.99 USD/month for 320 kbps MP3 quality streaming ($99.99 USD annually).

Press release below

Qobuz, the world’s first and only certified Hi-Res (24-bit/up to 192 kHz) streaming service, will launch in the US on February 14th. A hybrid streaming service and download store, Qobuz boasts approximately forty million CD-quality (16-bit) and millions of Hi-Res (24-bit/ 192 kHz) tracks, the largest available selection of Hi-Res streaming tracks anywhere.  

Since its launch in 2007 in Europe, where it is the streaming and download service of choice for true music connoisseurs looking for the highest possible quality, US audiophiles have been eagerly awaiting Qobuz’s arrival stateside.  

Qobuz is poised to capitalize on the modern developments making high quality audio available to a fast-widening audience looking for a higher-level listening experience. Improvements in bandwidth speed and Internet infrastructure and the introduction of affordable speakers and audio equipment represent an accessibility tipping point in the growing high-end audio market.  

Qobuz will be available on all app stores, and a summary of its features is below.

  • Streaming in up to 24-bit/192 kHz true Hi-Res FLAC (about 29x the audio quality of MP3) with compatible gear.
  • The option to stream and offline download an unlimited amount of music on all devices-including both mobile and desktop.
  • A parallel Hi-Res download store with files for purchase allowing for options that flow substantial revenues back to creators- premium pricing for Hi-Res masters is a growth area for record labels.
  • Exclusive, curated, and in-depth editorial content. Deep metadata, complete digital booklets, interactive articles, reviews, and playlists in-app on every platform.
  • Hard-to-find jazz and classical tracks featured.
  • No genre or artist pushing: Qobuz’s interface features only music of indicated interest to the user.
  • Full Roon version 1.6 integration available.

Owner and chairmain of Qobuz, Denis Thébaud, said "I am very proud of our United States launch. Our teams have been working brilliantly for over a year with our recording and publishing partners to get to this point. I am convinced that what we have to offer, on both the streaming and download markets, will be a success amongst American music lovers." Dan Mackta, Managing Director of Qobuz USA, added “I’m thrilled to be introducing Qobuz to the US, and I look forward to working with the music community to spread the word about streaming without sacrifice. It’s all about the quality!”


Founded in 2007, Qobuz is a Paris-based commercial online music streaming and downloading service that addresses the needs of curious and discerning music lovers across the globe. Live in eleven European markets and launching in the US on February 14th, 2019, Qobuz offers an exceptional range of music genres as well as exclusive editorial content independently curated by a team of experts. Qobuz offers subscription to streaming services with genuine 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. For more information: www.qobuz.com.

COMPANY INFO

COMMENTS
miguelito's picture

I am a longtime TIDAL user. I now subscribe to both TIDAL and Qobuz Sublime+. Using Soundiiz, there is zero barrier to switch over.

In summary:
1- Qobuz sounds amazing
2- There's more high res than there's MQA
3- I can purchase most of their catalog at 1/2 price (I buy what I really really like)
4- I can play high res on ANY device, no MQA blahbidiblah needed, including my mobile

What's not to like?

Neil K's picture

Rafe, any word on when Qobuz will be available in Canada for those of us who aren’t audiostream reviewers?

oldominion's picture

and a huge fan of Tidal, both of which I access through Roon. Spent a few hours last night searching every obscure classical title I could. Was surprised to learn that Tidal's classical selection was just as good as that of Qobuz. In fact, Tidal had *more* classical selections that I searched than Qobuz. Had heard that Qobuz was more robust for classical users--I did not find that to be the case. Tidal, for one non-obscure example, had tonloads of Jordi Savall's releases going back to the 80's. I literally could not find a title that Qobuz had that Tidal didn't. Interested to see where this goes, if Tidal's supposedly inferior classical collection...is actually not that inferior. I could tell no difference in quality. Tidal sounds great on my system.

goon525's picture

And when you listen to a classical album, do you get gapless playback, and access to notes, texts and translations? This is a big differentiator for Qobuz. Incidentally, in the UK I have access to dozens of Jordi Savall albums via Qobuz (including the amazing accompanying books); I think it’s taking a while to populate the US selections.

wdw's picture

Know you’re based in Canada so wondering if you have any news of a Canadian release. Perhaps you have access to Qobuz personnel that could comment.
Thanks

Rafe Arnott's picture
I've pinged Qobuz rep David Solomon about this because I have no issues accessing Qobuz from Canada via my press account, but I don't know if that makes my IP address a non-issue with the software. As soon as I hear back, I'll let you know.
wdw's picture

looking forward to it

Neil K's picture

Hi Rafe, managed to signup for a month’s free trial of Qobuz at the Studio level here in Canada. Don’t know if I will maintain it though, as it is priced at CAD$46.99/month, which is quite a premium over the American price quoted in your post (more than US$10 at today’s exchange rate.). It’s also more than twice what I pay for Tidal’s top tier of streaming.

Any idea why they are charging Canadians so much more?

Rafe Arnott's picture
I'm still waiting to hear from Solomon, when I do, I'll ask about the pricing differential for sure.
Neil K's picture

It will be interesting to see what he says. It sounds at least as good as Tidal masters cuts, but the price does make a difference.

Have to explore the catalogue.

stradivarius's picture

Hi Neil,
How did you manage to subscribe ?
I tried multiple times, from different entry points, to no avail...

Neil K's picture

I had created an account on the Qobuz Anglophone website a couple of weeks ago after reading Rafe’s and other’s reports of its impending release In (North) America. It would not let me subscribe, but it did let me create an account.
When I read this article, I downloaded the Qobuz app to my iPhone, signed into my account, and it offered me 3 qualities of streaming levels with prices in CAD$. I think the prices must have been converted from Sterling or € as they were much higher than the US$ prices quoted in this article. I think the US market is getting a bit of a deal right now.
I signed up for the HiRez free trial offer. Then I went into my BluOS app and signed in to Qobuz through that and began streaming through my Vault 2. This took about 5 minutes.
To the best of my knowledge I am not spoofing Qobuz with a VPN, which supports me being offered prices in CAD$ on the iPhone app.
I am enjoying the music, but the quality of sound does not seem significantly higher than Tidal’s Masters MQA rendered through my 2Qute DAC. The Tidal subscription is less than 1/2 the price for Canadians.

stradivarius's picture

... this is the answer I received from Qobuz customer support.

Rafe Arnott's picture
According to Solomon, press accounts are border agnostic, not so for the general populace Qobuz want to court here in Canada who, according to Solomon, need to use a VPN.

I just heard back on that, waiting for a pricing confirmation still.

wdw's picture

Hi ...,

It is actively being worked on but we do not know when we will be able to open.

--------------- Original Message ---------------
From........
Sent: 2/15/2019 1:00 PM
To: support-help@qobuz.com
Subject: Re: Qobuz USA Customer Service Request [00049304] [ ref:_00D58JmCx._5001t69NK5:ref ]

Hello,

Thanks for your reply…"sometime during” is a long span of time. Are you currently working on this or is the US open taking all of your energy at the moment?

Best

Rafe Arnott's picture
Solomon is unsure how the pricing was configured as that's not his bailiwick.

Seems Qobuz customer service would be able to sort this out best. Sorry I couldn't help more, but they just launched in the US and Canada seems to be a grey area still. Hopefully in the coming weeks they'll have firmed something up.

Paddy's picture

I signed up for Qobus during there BETA testing period, which I believe they are still in. I knew what I was getting into, mostly a limited library. I mistakeningly thought that would be resolved within 30 days before billing would begin. So far that has not happened and I am past their 30 day trial period. I've experienced mid-track freezing, still occurs, and segments of a track sounding like a record skipping,and distortion. The skipping and distortion no longer occur however the freezing, which seldom happens, is still a problem. Let me be clear, the support I have received from Qobus has been prompt and outstanding. They are aware of some issues with some Windows 10 users and I have shared a wealth of info about the totality of my system with them to assist in resolving the issue. Now, how does Qobus sound versus Tidal? I much prefer Qobuz in direct comparison. In listening tests which involves listening to the whole track on Tidal then on Qobuz I find Tidal to sound veiled, even with MQA, not only versus Qobuz but even when compared against a CD. Not that Tidal is unlistenable, I just prefer Qobuz or a CD. On a side note: Tidal has really stepped up their game with personal mixes and auto play after playing what you selected prior. Very nice additions. I also prefer the Tidal layout over Qobuz. I have a very resolving system so ultimately it comes down to sound reproduction and I will not spend an extra $240 for an extra streaming service. I intend to keep both for a while, one, to see what Qobuz is like after Beta testing and to see how Tidal responds to Qobuz.

feastofnoise's picture

Judging from that tweet I just saw, it looks like we shouldn't hold our breath for an imminent launch in Canada. That's too bad, I was really excited to try it. Oh well, I'll try to be patient haha.

https://twitter.com/qobuz/status/1098254551105310722?s=21

v1m's picture

Honestly, all things being equal, I’d consider dumping Tidal if Qobuz served up better search and library organization. Tidal is certainly enjoyable in listening, but its UI is a mess and functionality is bare bones. With digital libraries, less is not more.

All this may be a moot point, though, as we see whether anyone can actually turn a buck in this space.

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