Have you seen the recent news surrounding high-resolution streaming? In this blog, we give an overview of all of the platforms currently offering a hi-res subscription for music streaming, and detail some recent press releases from Apple and Spotify.
The State of High-Resolution Streaming
Digital audio streaming has been available to general consumers for some time now. While most services traditionally depended on lossy MP3 files in favor of increased storage, the audiophile community relied on niche streaming platforms with the goal of achieving the best possible audio quality. While platforms like TIDAL, Deezer, Qobuz, and others have been catering to a market wanting lossless streaming as early as 2007, Amazon Music launched an HD service in 2019 that carved the path for other industry giants to adopt similar offerings. Now, in the wake of Spotify announcing its CD-Quality “Spotify HIFI” service in February, Apple Music is the latest market contender to enter the hi-res streaming space.
Instead of opening up a big can of worms into source file quality and equipment, we decided we would just provide you with some resources to better wrap your head around these industry moves. After all, the listening experience varies from person to person, so we’ll spare the jargon and just give you what we know. What are your thoughts on brands like Spotify or Apple Music entering the high-resolution streaming market?
Apple Music - The rumors are true!
Apple confirms its move to lossless streaming with a launch date set for June. Apple has also confirmed that additional equipment will likely be needed to support this higher quality format. This announcement parallels the announcement for support of Dolby Atmos spatial audio, which will be compatible with new generation AirPods models. This higher-resolution service will come at no additional charge to current subscribers
Rumors of nods to lossless streaming found in new IOS code
A deeper dive into Apple’s plans with the rollout of the new generation of Airpods and Airpods Pro, as well as a notion of the rumor surrounding new IOS code that points at Apple looking to up its streaming quality on Apple Music.
Although this is just one section of many in audioXpress’s regular newsletter wrap-up, editor-in-chief Joao Martins gives a full rundown of Apple’s nudge to place the brand closer to high-end audio. Complete with plans for new Airpod offerings, and rumors of upgraded streaming formats, this is an interesting excerpt that describes how this product mix will change the consumer audio market over the coming months.
Launch Date: June 2021
File Type: ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec)
Quality: CD Quality - 16-bit//44.1kHz,
Hi-Res Lossless Audio - 24-bit//48kHz
An in-depth look at Spotify’s HIFI service press release from Audioholics, which explains the details of what the new service brings to the table for high-resolution streaming. Poking a bit of fun at the press release, this Audioholics blog aims to decipher what this new service from Spotify brings to the audiophile community.
Featuring a variety of popular musicians, Spotify’s “Stream On” event announced the goal of being more artist-focused in 2021. Along with a new focus on spotlighting both independent and contracted musicians, Spotify also used this virtual event to announce “Spotify HIFI,” which is an upgrade to CD-Quality FLAC files from traditional MP3.
A short article detailing the announcement for Spotify HIFI, and a brief comparison to market contenders in the hifi streaming space.
This article from The Verge details a price increase for certain regions of the world, with Europe receiving a price increase on all subscriptions, and the US seeing a price increase on its family subscriptions. This subtle price change is likely in preparation of its new HIFI service rolling out in June
Launch Date: June 2021
File Type: TBA
Quality: Lossless CD Quality (16-bit//44.1kHz)
Amazon Music HD
In the wake of Apple and Spotify announcing Hi-Fi streaming services, Apple announcing its service at no extra charge, Amazon confirms it will no longer charge a premium for its Amazon Music HD streaming service. Is this the introduction to hi-res streaming becoming more available to a general market? With key industry stakeholders shifting business models to accommodate for hi-res streaming, the price competition we are seeing around this topic will bode well for consumers wanting to explore a better streaming experience.
Launch Date: 2019
File Type: FLAC
Quality: Lossless CD Quality (16-bit//44.1kHz), Lossless HD Quality (24-bit//192kHz)
Tidal is considered a pioneer in bringing high-resolution streaming to a more mainstream market with an extensive catalog of music, most of which is offered in lossless FLAC formats. While the monthly price tag for a Tidal prescription is slightly more than mainstream competitors like Spotify or Apple Music, it is still a preferred service for audiophiles looking for lossless or hi-res streaming. This article showcases the pros and cons of the Tidal platform, and goes into depth around file qualities and formats.
Launch Date: 2014
File Type: FLAC, MQA
Quality: 16-bit//44.1 kHz, 24-bit//96kHz
Qobuz is a French streaming service that was started in 2007, and expanded to more of a global scope in recent years. Qobuz offers streaming from MP3 up to 24-bit/192kHz lossless FLAC files. Qobuz places an emphasis on the artist with its service providing the most royalties per stream to the artist across the industry. While its user interface isn’t as robust as Tidal and Spotify, it is still a go-to platform for those looking for higher quality than what Spotify or Apple Music is currently providing.
Read the full SoundGuys review here: https://www.soundguys.com/qobuz-review-50100/
Launch Date: 2007
File type: FLAC
Quality: 24-bit//up to 192kHz
While Deezer may not be a household name to many, it is actually the third most popular streaming service behind Apple Music and Spotify. Starting in 2007, the French-based streaming service is prominent in Europe and has been making its way to a global scale.
Launch Date: 2007
File Type: MP3, FLAC
Quality: 320kbps, 16-bit//44.1kHz
General Hi-Fi Streaming Articles
A listening test from NPR that aims to identify differences between 128kbps MP3, 320kbps MP3, and Uncompressed WAV files across a variety of genres.
An article from Wired explains the stipulations of higher-resolution audio streaming, noting that we need to pay attention to much more than just the quality of our audio source file.
A comparison feature from Gear Patrol gives us a side-by-side comparison of pros & cons of popular Hi-Fi streaming services. Browse through for a relaxed introduction to differences in quality and price between Tidal, Amazon Music HD, Deezer, Qobuz, and the upcoming Spotify HIFI.
The announcements from Spotify and Apple Music are exciting, especially given the two platforms’ extensive catalogs. It will be interesting to see how this affects the rest of the Hi-Fi streaming market, especially with variances in subscription premiums. What is your go-to music streaming platform?