Qobuz Hi-Rez Streaming Launches in the US

Qobuz, the French subscription hi-rez streaming and download service, finally launches in the US today, right before the start of CanJam NYC. Qobuz not only offers more than 40 million tracks, over two million of which are said to be hi-rez, but also includes liner notes for many albums. The service has also secured partnerships that enable it to position Qobuz as the "official" streaming service of CanJam and other US high-end audio shows.

"There aren't any big holes in our catalog right now," Qobuz's "Chief Hi-Res Music Evangelist" David Solomon explained by phone. "We're ingesting as fast as we can. The situation with Qobuz and Tidal is a bit like Netflix vs Amazon Prime, where if one doesn't have it, the other does. Most often, both do, but our amount of hi-rez classical dwarfs others."

After looking up some recent titles from Warner and Decca that are available on Tidal in 24/96 MQA, I confirmed that the same titles can be found on Qobuz in 24/96 FLAC. US subscribers can stream Qobuz hi-rez from the Qobuz app and Amarra, Audirvana, and Roon music playback software. However, since Qobuz's app works on iOS as well as Android and Windows-based platforms, while Tidal has yet to issue its own MQA hi-rez streaming app for iOS devices, the choice of service will likely be based on your sonic preferences and which devices and software/apps you prefer for playback.

Another basis for choice is price. Qobuz offers multiple subscription tiers:

• "Sublime +": $299.99/year for unlimited Hi-Rez streaming plus discounted downloads.
• "Studio": $24.99/month for unlimited Hi-Rez (24-bit /up to 192kHz) streaming ($249.99 if purchased on an annual basis).
• "Hi-Fi": $19.99/month for unlimited 16-bit CD quality streaming ($199.99 annually).
• "Premium": $9.99/month 320kbps MP3 quality streaming plan ($99.99 annually).

Note the download option. As Solomon puts it, "All streaming titles are for sale. If it will play, you can pay."

"Sublime +" level subscribers pay what Solomon terms "just about MP3 prices" for hi-rez downloads. Regular download prices for one recent full-price classical offering from Erato, Brahms Cello Sonatas, Hungarian Dances by Jean-Guiden Queyras and Alexandre Tharaud, are $12.99 for CD quality and $14.99 for 24/96 FLAC, ALAC, WMA, AIFF, and WAV. "Sublime +" subscribers, however, can get the same 24/96 files for $9.99.

I was told that Sublime + subscribers should be able to purchase all hi-rez downloads in all genres for the equivalent price of Apple Music's 256kbps downloads. Sublime+ subscribers who intend to download at least one hi-rez album per month will end up saving the $50 price difference between a "Studio" and "Sublime +" subscription in less than a year.

Photo: Anthony Collins

Qobuz's official US launch party took place Friday February 15 at the Devialet flagship store in SoHo, NYC. Execs from tech companies, labels, and Qobuz friends/audiophiles mingled, enjoying drinks and hor d'oeuvres, we were told. As well as Stereophile's Jim Austin, present were Qobuz USA's managing director Dan Mackta, marketing and operations manager Eric Benoit, chief Hi-Res evangelist David Solomon, and music merchandising manager Sujan Hong, along with the Sony Music Business development team, the Roon Labs team, including founder Danny Dulai, Alex Baskin of Warner Music Group, Paris Montoya of Elektra Records, and Angela Cardas and Josh Meredith of Cardas Audio.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Let me add that, although there are very few multichannel albums listed on the site now, Qobuz can stream/play multichannel quite well.

tonykaz's picture

I'm hoping that you write a few thousand words about how this new technology accessibility impacts or affects your Music Experience.

It would make a great As We See It lead-out feature article.

Music in the Round is probably the biggest and most important advancement we Audiophiles can anticipate.

And, You're da Man!

Tony in Michigan

Kal Rubinson's picture

It has not had a significant impact or effect on my life...........yet.

The amount of MCH on Qobuz is inconsequential at the moment and, until/unless it increases to become competitive with what I already have or can download, it will remain as a distant secondary resource for me.

tonykaz's picture


I'm hoping that you'll be ready to share something exciting and wonderful, when it arrives.

This is what Stereo was always trying to promise , wasn't it? : dimensionality !, immersiveness , a "you are there" living experience.

Our Mr.KR is our Trip-wire, our man in the Watchtower scanning the horizon for the first glimpse, as it appears.

We've been hoping for this since 4ch.

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

And of course FLAC is lossless, whereas MQA isn't.
And Qobus FLAC is up to 192, Whereas MQA only goes up to 96, the rest being 'fake' as it is merely upsampling.

Bandwidth? In Europe most of us can stream about fifteen 192/24 channels simultaneously so bandwidth is not a problem, and no doubt the USA will soon catch up.

So MQA is a solution to a problem that doesn't exist so will shortly disappear despite several magazine's efforts, mostly in the USA, to promote it. Excellent. We can all continue to use 'open' systems such as FLAC and WAV and discard proprietary systems such as the inferior MQA.

tonykaz's picture

It's dam hard to support MQA if you phrase it.

Of course, you've always said MQA was a bit of a scam.

Mr.Spacehound, you got this one right.

Is your work done?

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

Nothing Stuart has dreamed up has ever been much good. Meridian products have always been 'mediocre' at best. In its home country, the UK, it is vanishingly small (deservedly) and always has been, and MQA is no better.

As for Qobus, I use Tidal and am happy with it, and neither seek out MQA files nor avoid them. But it is good to have an alternative.

In the unlikely event I change from Tidal to Qobus it would be because I dislike the total dross 'performed' by Jay-Z and Beyoncé so vaguely resent giving then money, which of course a Tidal subscription does. But I don't feel strongly about it, though there are many products I don't buy simply because I dislike the 'celebrities' who advertise them.

tonykaz's picture

I've been a Fan of Meridian since the mid 1980s. I probably could still live successfully with a pair of M2s.

I've always owned superb Preamps and Koetsu that made those Meridians perform magic. I also owned the intense M10 and the smaller M3.

Meridian Loudspeakers are delightful and pricy.

I imported Meridian gear from around 1983-5.

I still love Meridian.

I wonder if Dave Wasserman at StereoExchange can find me a used pair in Excellent Cond.?

Tony in Michigan

ps. Mr. Spacehound should wash out his mouth with soap for dissing Meridian. So there!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

Tony, you just might wish to re-read Jim Austin's extremely detailed, deeply pondered series of articles on MQA, which do not support Spacehound's critique of the process.

Spacehound, I'm glad you enjoy Tidal regardless. I actually use both services. Now that there are portals for both on Roon, I look forward to the time, probably next week, when I can use the same pieces of music, at the same resolution, to compare their sound.

Sorry for the earlier errors in this post. I didn't get much sleep last night.

spacehound's picture

My criticisms of MQA are proven, both mathematically and by actual testing, by large numbers of fully qualified people.

Yes, I do like Tidal. But take care about comparing similar music. MQA reduces everything to 96K sample rate at something less than 24 bit resolution. Qobus is 192/24 capable.

That said, does it matter? Maybe not, I personally have difficulty in convincing myself that 'high res' is audibly superior to CD quality, though I would like it to be, I buy high res downloads 'just in case' :)

On downloads in general, I think streaming is severely impacting download sales, it certainly has done with me. And it will therefore impact the sale of 'players' such as JRiver (which I use, but am using less and less).

tonykaz's picture

Thanks for writing,

I'm not basing on Spacehound but rather Schiit guys Jason and Moffat.

I was hopeful for MQA, originally. I've been a Meridian Lover, Owner, Importer and all-round Fan of Boothroyd Stuart and still am, kinda.

However, the MQA Concept has been successfully examined and found insufficient to bend the already superb digital music format.

We have Bandwidth far beyond what is needed for Music Distribution in it's Highest Resolution. We have Bandwidth for 2k Video. Phew, we have scads of bandwidth. ( and we're launching 4k video )

So, MQA solves a bandwidth problem that we no longer have.

By the Way, I'm a happy camper with lowly Red Book, which modern DACs transform into dopamine inducing addictions. I could easily chase a High Rez Music System but haven't felt the need.

I do feel the need for better transducers, I'm searching for a transducer system able to exceed Sennheiser HD600 capabilities. Paul @ PS Audio is about to launch his and Arnie Neudell's latest IRS Loudspeakers. And, I'm kinda wondering if Steve G's delight with those Klipsch Forte 111s is contagious enough to excite me as well. I just called Hope Ark. factory to arrange something, hmm.

So, thanks for all the work you're doing. You are our West Coast Eyes and Ears.

Since you're planning to go low with those little loudspeakers, can you find it in your Singing Heart to do something with Bottlehead?

Tally Ho is being re-built near you, by Sampson Boat Co. it's a wonderful project if you feel like exploring.

Bon Vivant

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

….are taking the 'Donald Trump' approach.

They are ignoring both evidence and proof from multiple expert sources (see Nogales' crime rate as just one example) in favour of their own evidence-free pre-conceived ideas, which are mostly taken straight from MQA's promotional material.

Some, but I don't think Jason is guilty of this as he doesn't come over as an egotistical person, are going further. Their large egos are preventing them from stepping back from their initial acceptance of the MQA company's promotional falsities, both operational - 'Authentication' is not happening in most instances, if at all, and technical - MQA is limited to 96/"about 17" (in Stuart's own words when pressed, and Stuart has retracted his "lossless" falsity too) rather than the claimed 384/24. And there are more examples.

These are FACTS, and some of the press is ignoring them, possibly because some of the writers like to think of themselves as 'technically qualified'. In fact, from their writings, most of them don't seem to understand 'digital' at all, as their typical comments on "the slope of the leading edge" or "the accuracy of the reference voltage" are but two examples.

I further note that most of the world's audio press now hardly mention MQA at all, having stepped back from their initial enthusiasm. But there are a few holdouts still treading the false MQA path.

tonykaz's picture

what the hell are you referring to?

Nobody is still promoting MQA, are they??

MQA is another Music Format that hasn't caught traction, another DUD. It doesn't matter if the Science is good or defective.

Consumers aren't/wern't apathetic, they just didn't care!

MQA was an exciting Controversy, promising greatness to those iPod MP3 people ( in 2011 ) well before better digital personal Audio Gear filled the pockets of Savvy Audiophiles like our own JA presenting the wonderful Shure headphone System ( this month's Stereophile )

MQA's ideal Marketplace was the MP3 Marketplace, it inspired a wide range of useful journalism and commentary. It was the main controversy that kept us busy thru to Donald Trump, Criminal Clintons and Brexit. It did it's job of keeping us alert to forced Regime Change and Global Warming.

MQA is a fitting conclusion to the Successful Career of Sir Bob Stuart.

Now, can we Pllllleeeeeezzzzzzzzeeeee move on to the excitement behind going Solar and Green? Powering our beautiful Audio gear with Purrrrfectly pristine Clean Solar Electricity? NO more filthy/grainy/jittery COAL electricity ruining the lovely DA conversions.

Tony In Michigan

ps. and please stop trying to use FACTs to describe Emotional Music reproduction Gear.

spacehound's picture

From many walks of life, many income levels, and all ages, all of whom must listen to music now and aqain, as we all do, has ever heard of MQA.

Or Meridian :)
And they couldn't care less about either.

A few have heard of Spotify and one or two actually use it, but that's yer lot :)

tonykaz's picture

Hmm, well, that explains it.

You Brits live in ignorance.

No wonder Meridian is in the USA.

It was IVOR of Linn that introduced me to Meridian, he's a Scott I think. ( or he seems to talk like one )

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

Once upon a time there was a small Scottish turntable company called Ariston.
They made an excellent turntable and Ivor's daddy, just along the road, owned a small machining company, called 'Castle Precision' which made a few small parts under contract for Ariston.

After a few years Ivor founded Linn with his daddy's help and engineering facilities and made EXACT copies of the Ariston turntable, selling it as the Linn Sondek. The Sondek was an identical copy in every respect, even the transparent plastic lid, except they put decorative flutes around the sides of the wooden base.

Ariston took them to court but neither side had the money to pursue it fully. Ariston, previously quite successful, gradually faded away, its owner not being a loudmouth like Ivor and having no connections to the powerful Linn-Naim axis and its intensive advertising. Ivor eventually cheated on the agreement with Naim too.

As a result I have never purchased any Linn product and never will.

tonykaz's picture

I was Ariston's USA Importer. ( 1980s ) The RD40 was the hot seller.

The Linn LP12 was a Copy of the AR turntable, not the RD11 Ariston.
AR relaunched it's near identical version of the LP12 to some success but CD arrived and LPs died r.i.p.

The LP12 is beautiful ART compared to the clunky RD80 and RD11s.

The Linn LP12 was a Smash hit compared to the entire Ariston Line, we were bringing in 50 LP12s per Week. phew. We stocked all plinth wood types, Afromosia was always the best seller.

Linn make wonderful HiFi today, I have a Local Dealer still stocking Linn's entire Range. ( in Ann Arbor Mi. )

Geez, I'm an old Russian Sweede that likes Brit. gear more than the Brits. 4godsake!

I could go all-in for CHORD but I'm on a LOCAL USA only kick lately.

Screw the chinesiums !!!

Tony in Michigan

ps. I'm not a racist bigot, dammit

ps.2 oh, I almost forgot, thanks for writing

ps. 3 Since we're on quirky record players, I also Imported the Systemdek, Pink Triangle, still beautiful Michell Gyrodek and one other that seems to be escaping me for the moment. ( definitely not the Solid Base Rega ) All things considered, the VPI jr was the superior table of all I stocked! you can quote me on that!

spacehound's picture

While the Ariston was loosely based on the AR turntable it was not a copy - AR has established the 'general principles', but AR was quickly overtaken by Ariston and others. I had an AR, it replaced the Garrard SP25 I owned previously and was much lower cost than the Ariston or Linn, both of which were beyond my means at the time.
However, as a 'older' teenager I took so little care of my records that the differences would not have mattered :)

But the Linn WAS an exact copy of the Ariston. So much so that all the parts were interchangeable except for a small difference in the diameter of the spindle. I think Linn used the nearest 'round number' metric size for the spindle and bearing so they were only interchangeable as a pair. Despite Linn's claimed originality of their spindle/bearing both turntables used a common design taken from standard Swiss clockmaking processes.

The Ariston turntables you mention were a later, and rather poor, effort by a new company that the Ariston owner sold the company name to. They are unrelated to the earlier and superior turntable that Linn copied.

The history of the UK hi-fi industry was very complicated and interesting. Not so nowadays as there isn't much of it left.

Meridian rose out of the disastrous 'Lecson' (an earlier Stuart effort) and was 100% funded by Stuart's wealthy wife, presumably as a plaything to keep him out of the kitchen.
A couple of years ago she got fee up with this never profitable company and sold the whole operation to Richemont, the Swiss watch and 'luxury goods' conglomerate.

Meridian and MQA are not truly separate companies as they share both owner and premises. I suspect Richemont has told Stuart that it is his 'last chance saloon', failure of MQA would probably mean the end of both.

PS: I'm not racist either. Or I wasn't until assorted do-gooders told us we should think about such things. Which of course I then did :)

tonykaz's picture

Quite possible.

My B&K imports was more a Buyer of all things British than a Company interested in DNA origins.

We here in the States had the great sounding but crappy built AR Turntable that Ivor claimed to have based his concepts on. So, one way or another, the LP12 was a refinement of an existing design. My interest was in weekly Turnover not genetics and we were buying everything we could get our hands on, even the EAR Tube Amps which were horrible/duds/losers.

Despite Vinyl being dead for these 30+ years, the Linn LP12 still exists and seems to be selling ( for more than $10,000+ ) but certainly not to me.

Even the Gyrodek seems available, still.

Vinyl people tend to be collector/hoarders, a sad diagnosis for families to cope with. oh-well!!

I shouldn't talk because I collect wristwatches and pricy German bracelet bands which I lose interest in and give away to my Children & Grandchildren. ( I'd like to find/locate a Cuckoo Clock necklace to wear, how crazy is that? )

Tony in Michigan

spacehound's picture

But as I play only one record at about yearly intervals and it is always the same one, Boney M's 'Night Flight to Venus' LP, (which is the only unscratched record I have) I can't justify it.

It sounds real nice on my SL1200, the SME series IV arm, bought because it is silver colored so is a better match for the SL1200 than the series V, which is black, and a Koetsu Black cartridge. All a bit of a waste really :)

Re watches, I've got a Rolex Datejust, purchased in 1984 to test my new credit card, the first credit card I ever had.
I never wear it as I'm a keen fisherman and a fisherman friend said the 'flash' in the sunlight might frighten the fish. So I wear a ten dollar black plastic Casio one instead :)

rschryer's picture

A Yogi Berra quote, right? :-)

tonykaz's picture

"apathetic" should've caught a Net Full, naw, only a friendly Canadian. This ain't "Catch & Release", so, I'm keep'n y'all.

At least untill you explain how Stereophile is reviewing Mono Phono Cartridges retailing for over $15,000US? It's kinda like Joe Bussard
writing for Stereophile. ( with an unlimited budget )

It's not only bizarre 1950ish but "State of Art" Stereophile Leading off with Mono Phono Cartridge reviews??? for gods sake!

One of em delivers a "dimensional" soundstage ( if I'm reading correctly ).

Another delivers a piano image that "floats" . ( an illusion, delusion or maybe a hallucination ?)

I'd thought Stereophile's New Owners would do a bit of housekeeping, maybe they think ( justifiably ) that Audiophile Readers need a bit of Entertaining when thinking about Outrageous Gear that the Planet World is filled to overflowing with it.

Very much on the other hand, Mr.HR attempts to vividly describe the many personalities of Chords cute little DAC. I'm betting that his phrasings will make your head spin with curiosity.

The Shure Review is another "Show em how to do it" gift to the sensible Audiophile Reviewing World. ( I gotta get one of those little things. )

Steve G., Today, has profound insight, puts Light on all things Reviewing. Steve is my very first Patreon donation which I'll increase the amount every month till I saturate. I intend on supporting my intellectual sources, just like I'll keep doing with Bernie Sanders.

Thoughtfully ur's

Tony in Michigan

ps. pen pals R fun

rschryer's picture

I guess they just didn't care!

"...naw, only a friendly Canadian."

Up your nose with a rubber hose, Tony.

tonykaz's picture

I'll be working to support Bernie, so I'm removing the appliance from my nose that needs to get close to the Grindstone.

Thanks for trying,

Tony in Michigan

rschryer's picture

I hope you didn't actually stick a rubber hose up your nose. I just borrowed this silly phrase from "Welcome Back, Kotter" that John Travolta's character, Vinnie Barbarino, used to insult people. (I hope you knew my rubber hose comment was a reference to WBK. I worried you might not.)

It was meant as a jokey counterpoint to your "friendly Canadian" comment.

As for Bernie, I think his heart is in the right place. Best of luck in your efforts to support him.

tonykaz's picture

want the stuff you Canadians don't even know you have.

We ( in the USA ) have a deep seated love and Envy of our "friendly Canadians" to the North who live without the intense pressures of serving a "grab it all" Capitalist Master Class.

Bernie is our version of Thomas Paine.

We are entering a Social, Environmental, Political, Solar Power & Economic Class Revolution.

Stand at the Ready.

Tony in Michigan

ps. Middle of Jan.2019, 70,000 Mexican Auto Workers went on a Wildcat strike that's costing the Transportation Industry $100,000,000 per week. ( the Unions are in bed with Managements to break the Strike )

miguelito's picture

In the vast number of cases, I would deem the high res Qobuz file to sound better than the MQA-decoded TIDAL version. I don't think that in all cases the masters are the same, so I can imagine cases where a better remastering done for MQA might make that sound better. But I have yet to find such a case.

FWIW, I run Roon>dCS Rossini+Clock>Kondo Ongaku>AvantGarde Duo Mezzo

flatmap's picture

I frequently get the message that "The rights-holders have not made the purchase of this release possible." I see this across multiple labels.

PAR's picture

After 3 years of subscribing to Qobuz UK I have never seen that particular message though it may exist for pre-releases and for other reasons (see below). However it is not uncommon for me to see streaming rights withheld or the resolution of the file being lower from what becomes available ultimately. These are normally only temporary measures with some new releases where the licensor wishes to maximise sales over the initial few weeks at the expense of streaming royalties (streaming being regarded as substitutional for purchase). Reduced resolution and track duration occurs for pre-release tracks where only a taster is made available by the record label during the weeks leading up to the actual release.

All exploitation of recordings that is not a direct sale is viewed by the labels as a potential form of marketing and streaming services are subject to what the labels allow. So the "windowing" of tracks by some is something that is not likely to go away. In any case at present this seems to only affect a minority of releases usually from independent specialist labels.

The availability of tracks for downloading as purchases can depend upon the original contract with the artist which may date back to a time when such a thing was never envisaged and therefore the record label may not own the rights. This can affect back catalogue in particular.

flatmap's picture

I get the message on regular releases, not pre-release items. It happens pretty often with the items I stream.

I've signed up for the service still in Beta; I do hope to see less of this in the future. Or it may be that rights issues have been worked through more completely in the UK.

Overall I am very satisfied with the streaming quality on Qobuz. It's enchanting.

mrpeeve55's picture

With Tidal, I can download any of my favorites onto my DAP at no charge; can't figure out a way to do that with qobuz.

flatmap's picture

@mrpeeve55, if you are using the qobuz app on your device, then you can click on "..." (the icon consisting of three dots) and then sub-select "Import in Quality". That gives you a choice to copy the tracks as various resolutions.

miguelito's picture

First thing I will say is there are many instances when decoded MQA sounds better than the redbook version. Obviously there's more resolution so it should. I have enjoyed many MQA albums on TIDAL.

After listening to MQA for over a year (fully decoded via a dCS Rossini) I can't help but feel that MQA adds some spice to the music - that makes it sound a little better. I can't put my finger on it, but I recognize a common treatment in many MQA files, a bit like adding MSG or salt to food. I don't think it's a frequency response thing, it's something else. Nothing wrong with this you say? Well, yes, except it is the same flavor spice across the board, like if you put sriracha on everything you eat.

By comparison, I find high res from Qobuz to sound more neutral.

spacehound's picture

I suspect it is MQA's 'weak' filters allowing 'reflections' (the often used 'aliasing' is not the correct terminology as mansr, among others, has pointed out) to come back from the inaudiblle range into the 12-20KHz range. It is possible to calculate exactly where this happens, which depends on the instrument(s) playing.

And as you say, there is a 'sameness' about it. To me it comes across as a false 'liveliness', which some people seem to like. But it should not be there.

alhidell's picture

I was a Qobuz beta tester. I left early because I found the user interface to be limited and confusing (in my experience, Spotify and Tidal are much easier to use.) Also, the search functionality was lacking. For example, there is no breakdown by artist/song/album. Browsing was limited to a few generic genres, and I couldn't find any way to discover new music. I know we audiophiles are primarily interested in sound quality, but that matters little if a service's UI and usability is bad. Hopefully, some of these things will be addressed as the site develops.

otaku's picture

Were you using the web interface or one of the applications?
I tried running the app on Windows 10 and it won't talk to my Dragonfly.

alhidell's picture

I used the web interface in Windows 7, and additionally I used it with my Bluesound Node.