Tidal or Qobuz? Qobuz or Tidal? Two streaming services with hi-fi tiers that, through a 9:1 mix of CD-quality and hi-res audio, dominate the lossless conversation inside the audiophile bubble. I receive the occasional email asking why I don’t cover Amazon HD or Deezer? The answer is two-fold: 1) neither are integrated into Roon (per Tidal and Qobuz) and 2) I don’t have accounts with these services. We all have to make choices.
What streaming service choices have been made by the Darko.Audio YouTube channel’s viewership?
9200 people responded to a recent YouTube community poll asking about which lossless streaming service they use the most frequently, should they have made the leap from lossy. To put that number into a hi-fi world perspective: that’s just under half the number of people attending Munich High-End each year or two-thirds of those making the trip to Poland for Warsaw AV.
The results paint an interesting picture. Almost 45% of respondents are still doing it lossy, which points to plenty of ears and wallets left for the likes of Tidal and Qobuz to conquer. A battle into which Jay-Z’s Norwegians are clearly leading the charge with Qobuz, Deezer and Amazon working as rear gunners.
This question’s asking point moves us beyond the audiophile bubble to somewhere with a greater mainstream reach. A recent video from yours truly on Spotify and DACs saw its viewer numbers go far higher than any other, strongly suggesting that Spotify (and Apple Music) is the sugar needed to attract the curious. The poll results confirm as much.
However, with musicians pushing back on Spotify’s market dominance and its royalty rates, I find myself conflicted: if Spotify is how the hi-fi industry reaches new people, which must surely be its number one priority, how are we to view its deals with rights holders that have resulted in such poor per-stream compensation? A proper moral dilemma.
Whatever our personal stance, instantly hitting Spotify-entrenched newcomers with the hi-res message – one that bizarrely leapfrogs CD-quality streams to ignore its nine times more extensive library and asks them to change up the very streaming service that sparked the connection – is a sure-fire way to kill curiosity. If we want to talk to people outside of the audiophile bubble about how they too can realise better sound quality at home or on the go, Spotify (and its lossy compression) is the language we must speak until better hardware is in place. Hardware that is far more likely to realise the audible benefits of stepping up to a lossless service than a Bluetooth box or laptop speakers.