Skip to main content

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

Image used with permission by copyright holder

If you’re a fan of high-quality digital audio, you now have another option when it comes to streaming music services. French company Qobuz, long known for its excellent collection of hi-res tracks, launched in the U.S. with four different price plans:

  • Premium: $10 per month, or $100 per year, for MP3-quality streaming at 320 kbps
  • Hi-Fi: $20 per month, or $200 per year, for CD-quality streaming using FLAC 16-bit at 44.1 KHz
  • Studio: $25 per month, or $250 per year, for hi-res quality streaming using FLAC 24-bit at up to 192 KHz
  • Sublime+: $300 per year, for all of the benefits of Studio, and discounted prices on hi-res purchases from the online store

Tidal subscribers will be the obvious market for Qobuz as it looks to get a toe-hold in the U.S. market, because of that service’s previous exclusivity in the hi-res streaming game. Not only does Qobuz boast 170,000 albums in hi-res format (Tidal has not disclosed the size of its hi-res catalog), all of those tracks are available for streaming or purchase, something Tidal does not offer. Whether or not music lovers will be willing to spend the extra $5 per month for access to all of those tracks is something we’ll have to wait and see. Tidal’s $20 per month Hi-Fi plan is all you need to access its Masters hi-res collection, but the same quality costs $25 per month on Qobuz for its Studio plan.

Another difference is the technology used. Tidal provides all of its hi-res music in MQA format, which greatly reduces the file sizes (and thus the bandwidth) needed to reproduce music in 24-bit detail. Qobuz uses the older FLAC format, which uses considerably larger files to achieve the same quality. When using Wi-Fi — especially if you don’t have to worry about data caps — the difference is largely meaningless. Mobile users may feel differently.

Speaking of mobile users, it’s worth noting that even though Qobuz delivers hi-res audio with its Studio and Sublime+ plans, you still need a compatible device to actually hear the improved quality. Using the Qobuz app on an iPhone (whether using AirPods or wired earphones) will down-convert hi-res files to 16-bit/44.1 KHz, unless you’re using a dedicated, external DAC via the lightning port. Support for hi-res FLAC files on Android devices vary by manufacturer and model, but many of them can do it.

But even Qobuz’s entry price may be enough to woo Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music subscribers. A standard component of the Qobuz offering is access to digital booklets for each album, from within the Qobuz app — something Apple offers, but only within the iTunes app on a PC or Mac. The service curates custom playlists, has artists interviews, and an interactive feature format it calls Panorama. Qobuz claims it has a catalog of over 40 million tracks. That is 5 million more than Spotify’s claimed library, but 5 million less than Apple’s.

If you’re curious to try it out, Qobuz offers an industry-standard 30-day free trial period on all of its plans except Sublime+.

Editors' Recommendations

Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
LG’s 2022 soundbars start at $400, pump out hi-res audio and 3D sound
LG S95QR soundbar seen in front of a TV.

After giving us a sneak peek at its new 2022 soundbar lineup at CES, LG has finally released these home theater speakers. The prices start at $400 for the entry level LG S65Q 3.1-channel model, and then head sharply upward, topping out at $1,800 for its LG S95QR flagship soundbar -- a 9.1.5-channel, Dolby Atmos-capable multi-speaker beast. All six new models, (S95QR, S90QY, S80QR, S80QY, S75Q, and S65Q) are available now on, as well as from select retailers like

All of the new models offer a different set of features, but regardless of how much you spend, LG has included some common characteristics. Hi-res audio, with tuning by Meridian, is the key feature that unites these speakers. Soundbars tend to place an emphasis on delivering good TV sound, but LG has decided to put an equal emphasis on how these speakers work with music.

Read more
Sony updates its Signature Series hi-res Walkman with new features, higher prices
Sony WM1AM2 Signature Series Walkman being held in a hand.

Apple's iPod may be officially dead and gone now that the company has discontinued the last device to bear that name, but Sony's Walkman brand is apparently alive and well. The company has released two new Walkman models: The $1,400 NW-WM1AM2 and its gold-colored sibling, the $3,700 NW-WMZM2, both of which are updates to its original Signature Series Walkman models, geared toward the hi-res audiophile market.

The first versions of these Walkman models debuted in 2016 for $1,200 and $3,200, respectively. So how is Sony justifying the extra cash you'll need for the new models? There are a number of updates for those with a taste for fine portable audio.

Read more
KEF LS60 bring wireless hi-res audio to floor-standing speakers
KEF LS60 Wireless Speakers seen in Titanium Grey.

KEF's LS50 Wireless and LS50 Wireless II speakers set a very high bar for what you can expect from a set of powered, wireless speakers, and now the British audio brand has its sights set on doing the same thing for larger-format floor-standing speakers with the LS60 Wireless. Priced at $7,000 per pair, they come in three distinct colors: Royal Blue, Mineral White, and Titanium Grey. They're available for pre-order starting May 12, with shipping beginning in June 2022.

Many of the same integrated capabilities that made the LS50/LS50 II so popular are also found in the LS60 Wireless, like KEF's signature Uni-Q drivers, as well as support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HDMI eARC, and optical, coaxial, and RCA connections. There's also app- and remote-based control that includes easy access to subscription streaming services like Amazon Music, Qobuz, and Deezer.

Read more