As I noted in my post about MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) just a little bit ago, streaming is the way that the vast majority of people enjoy their music, and probably will be from this point forward.
So, what are the best streaming services for audiophiles, or people who just generally want to get the best quality? We’re going to get into a few options you’re probably familiar with, but also some you may not be.
The first service we are going to get into here is probably the one that you have heard the most about, and that is Tidal. Tidal is a service that is often talked about in the audiophile world to the array of high quality streaming options it provides listeners with.
A regular Tidal Premium plan is 9.99 per month and will provide standard definition music that streams at 320 kbps. For those who want to get into more serious audiophile territory, you can upgrade to the Tidal Hifi plan, which is 19.99 per month, which supports lossless CD quality at 1411 kbps - as well as Sony 360 reality audio, Dolby Atmos Music, and MQA.
Now, if you don’t know what MQA is, you can refer to an earlier video I did in depth on the subject, but basically it is a format that allows your device to decompress high res info that has been folded into a lossless file type, if it is MQA compatible.
These options make for a little more hassle on the consumer end. Also in this vein, I’ve heard from a lot of you guys that the algorithm and user interface is not quite as user friendly as it might be, and that often you are being pushed tracks the app is trying to market, rather than music more tailored to you - so this may be worth considering here.
The next service here is one that is also often lumped in with Tidal when doing comparisons, and that is Qobuz. This is a French based company that along with streaming, allows for downloads and high res music purchases.
Qobuz operates a huge library of CD quality music at 1411 kbps, much like Tidal. In addition to this, they also have music that goes beyond CD quality at 24 bit, and with higher sampling rates of 96 Khz and 192 khz. You can stream both types of files for 15.99 with the studio premier package, or you can upgrade to the Sublime plus package, which offers you the availability to purchase downloads at a price of $250 a year - but these can only be purchased on Qobuz. So, the utility of this big price jump - which must be paid in a lump sum, does sound a bit limited here.
The next service we are going to talk about is one of the newest ones that has become available, and has thrown a real wrench into the area of high quality audio streaming - this is Amazon Music HD.
This is a classic case of Amazon doing what Amazon does, and providing the same service as the competition at a slightly lower price.
It works like this Amazon Music HD has two tiers of quality. The first is HD, which streams 16bits/44.1 khz, which is your CD quality once again here. There are about 50 million songs available in this quality.
The second tier is Ultra HD, which streams 24 but/192 khz, which is high res quality. This is only supported on about 10 million songs.
But, the beauty of Amazon HD is that you get both of these with the subscription plan, so you can stream at both qualities for 14.99 a month.Or, if you are a prime user, that goes down to just 12.99 a month, which is a big difference when compared to something like the Hifi plan from Tidal - so this has become a really viable option for lots of audiophiles. It is also worth noting that CD quality is the minimum here - unlike Tidal and qobuz, the library will not stream anything at 320 kbps.
To take advantage, you will have to be sure your device supports 24 bit music, or you may need a digital player or DAC.
The final service I’m going to mention here is one that some of you may not be familiar with, and that is Deezer.
Deezer is another French company that boasts an impressive library of 56 million licensed and 30,000 different radio channels. A lot of its features and appearance pretty closely resemble Spotify, and I’ve heard them described as a kind of big and little brother situation.
However, one advantage that Deezer does have is the availability of its hifi tier. This offers streaming for tracks in your library at 1411 kbps FLAC CD quality, which Spotify just doesn’t offer.
Furthermore, it has an advantage in sheer availability. For example, while Qobuz offers a wide selection of high quality audio, it is only available in 12 countries. Conversely, Deezer is available in over 185 countries, with the plan to add more overtime. There is no high res streaming option - that is beyond CD - but as the company grows there is certainly potential for more options and more changes, so this may be a good service to investigate.
It is priced at 19.99, which is the same as Tidal - so it may seem like you’re getting less, but if you are not a particular fan of Tidal’s software - as some really object to it, this may be a solution that is more user friendly and does mimic something more like Spotify.
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