Qobuz review: A music streaming service on the verge of greatness

The service finally comes to the U.S. after being exclusive to Europe for the last 10 years.

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Michael Brown / IDG

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At a Glance

Qobuz (pronounced koh-buzz), an audiophile-oriented music-streaming service based in Paris, launched in the U.S. today after being exclusive to Europe for the past 10 years. I’ve been enrolled in the closed beta for the past few days, and I absolutely love it.

In addition to using the service, I also spoke with Qobuz USA’s managing director Dan Mackta at CES in January, so I’ll sprinkle some quotes from him throughout the review. There are lots of things about Qobuz that make it different from other streaming services, but the most important differentiator is that you can stream high-resolution FLAC files: Up to 24-bit resolution and sampling rates as high as 192kHz. The service validates such tracks with the familiar Hi-Res Audio logo from the Japan Audio Society.

That level of fidelity doesn’t come cheap, though, and I was surprised to find some albums bearing the logo that would only play in 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution. I’ll get into the four service tiers later.

At a Glance
  • Qobuz has the potential to become the best music-streaming service out there, but it needs to be available on all the hardware in the U.S. market that it already supports in Europe.

    Pros

    • Support for Hi Res Audio files renders it unique among streaming services
    • Superb editorial curation enables deep musical explorations
    • Strong tools for creating custom playlists

    Cons

    • Weak prefab genre-based playlists
    • Some tracks labeled Hi Res stream at only CD quality
    • U.S. version is not yet available on all the platforms that the European version supports
  
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