For those of us not lucky enough to get in on the private beta running right now, Qobuz, the Hi-Res streaming service from Europe, has announced it will open to the public in the U.S. on Feb 14th, Valentine’s Day.
Up until now, Tidal was the only game in town for better than CD quality streaming, but now Qobuz will enter the U.S. market with the option to stream 24-bit FLAC files to your devices.
Native streaming of 24-bit FLAC is actually something many audiophiles have been waiting for since Tidal depends on MQA streaming to provide its better than CD quality content. MQA streams require sources with MQA decoders to get the highest quality playback, something a large segment of audiophiles frown upon, seeing it as a new form of DRM. That’s long been a dirty word amongst digital music fans.
The native FLAC streams from Qobuz are built on an open source format, something most playback sources today support without the need for licensed software like MQA requires. However, this will come at a cost, since the “studio” plan that includes 24-bit streaming will cost $24.99 compared to the $19.99 Tidal plan with MQA.
I personally can’t wait to try Qobuz and compare it to my Tidal service, if I like it, I may have a new (or an additional) music service to listen to this year.