Qobuz becomes the first music streaming service to ditch 'archaic' MP3s

Shawn Knight

TechSpot Staff
Staff member

Qobuz, the specialty music streaming outfit that launched in the US earlier this year, is going all-in on quality.

The company recently announced it has dropped its MP3 (lossy) streaming tier entirely and will instead focus on a single tier that affords access to its entire hi-res and CD lossless catalog. With the move, Qobuz (pronounced co-buzz) becomes the first streaming provider to fully abandon the “increasingly archaic MP3.”

Qobuz Managing Director Dan Mackta said MP3 is really bad for music, artists and listeners “so Qobuz is saying ‘no’ to MP3 and now offers only real studio quality in one accessible plan.”

Qobuz’s new plan commands $14.99 per month (or $149.99 annually) and grants unlimited access to more than 50 million tracks as well as in-depth editorial and metadata content. The company will still offer its Sublime+ plan which includes all streaming benefits as well as discounts when purchasing hi-res music from the Qobuz store. This plan now goes for just $249.99 per year, down from $299.99 when it debuted.

Oddly enough, Qobuz said this is a limited time offer for the first 100,000 subscribers until January 31, 2020. It’s unclear what happens after that date or if you aren’t among the first 100,000 – does the price go up or will Qobuz simply stop accepting subscriptions?

Masthead credit: Headphones by Antonio Gravante

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Bullwinkle M

TS Addict
"now offers only real studio quality in one accessible plan."
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You mean the "new" Studio Standard or one of the older "standards"

This years "standard" is 32bit - 384Khz or 32bit - 352Khz

The exact sampling rate will be determined by the "original" sampling rate

Brick wall filters for CD audio (44Khz) created digital grunge and a sterile sound by audibly affecting what we hear around 3Khz in the music

Doubling the original sample rate of 44Khz to 88Khz moves the digital grunge to a less audible area around 6Khz

Doubling again to 176Khz moves the grunge to around 12Khz

Doubling again to 352Khz moves the digital grunge to 24Khz which is completely inaudible

Converting an original 44Khz CD sample to 352Khz sampling rate does not improve the quality of the recording itself by adding information

Instead, converting a 44Khz sample to 352Khz simply removes the digital grunge from the entire human hearing range and makes the digital copy sound "Analog"

Converting a 16bit sample to 32 bit float or "padding" the file at the DAC itself simply makes the digital volume contol worthwhile because a 16bit digital volume control damages the music when attenuation is applied

You can see the damage being done to a 16 bit file by applying high attenuation to the file in Adobe Audition and then zooming in on the wafeform or normalyzing the file

The damage is not present when applying high degrees of attenuation to a 32bit file and it sounds better with high attenuation than the original 16bit file that it came from

This streaming service is starting with the same original 44Khz / 16bit CD audio files that we already have and is most likely upsampling them, the same as what we can do for FREE at home!

They do not have higher quality masters than we do and I do not see the point of paying for the same quality that we already have
 

ZedRM

TS Enthusiast
Interesting concept. However, most people can not tell the difference between a well mastered audio file and a 320kbps MP3 when using high quality home equipment to say nothing of use in a mobile environment.
 

Bullwinkle M

TS Addict
Interesting concept. However, most people can not tell the difference between a well mastered audio file and a 320kbps MP3 when using high quality home equipment to say nothing of use in a mobile environment.
Maybe they're doing it wrong

Using very good source material, ALL of my DAC's sound like crap and sound exactly the same when I plug them into a 30 year old headphone amp

However, even a freakin noob can easily tell the difference in sound quality of each DAC when I plug very efficient and good quality headphones directly into the DAC instead of a garbage amp

You will lose the damping factor of a good amp when connecting headphones directly to the DAC, and the bass will become limp and warm, but the detail in the mid and high frequencies (and the staging) are incredible on a good DAC and just Meh on an average DAC

Every component (source / amp / speakers) affects how good the DAC sounds
 
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Danny101

TS Guru
Just transcoding or ripping a CD to a PCM file should be good enough of a verbatim reproduction. Audiophiles like to hear things that aren't there so they can brag about how sophisticated they are. Lot of bloviation to me. I'm perfectly happy with the standard mp3 128Kbps bit rate or AAC. In the early days, I've driven it down to 88kbps mp3 transcodes so I could burn around 300 songs to a CD. I admit that I could hear robotic errors in some songs, but for the most part, I succeeded in that squeeze play. If I had to redo that again, I would go for 96kbps instead. Now it's either USB or online streaming and there's no need for all that work which I did in 2008. We've come a long way since then. Newer devices accept better codecs than mp3, but mp3 is still viable if one chooses that route.
 
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captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
However, even a freakin noob can easily tell the difference in sound quality of each DAC when I plug very efficient and good quality headphones directly into the DAC instead of a garbage amp....[ ]....
The "transient response" of headphones is spectacular, but flatly unnatural. It comes from the simple fact that less energy is required to move the tiny diaphragm than the energy required to overcome a speaker cone's compliance.

Commonly, the harmonic distortion in the lower frequencies of any speaker system, is approaching 10%

Even so, harmonic distortion isn't unpleasant to the majority of humans, which is why we sit around listening to music recorded from clipping amplifiers, distortion boosters, and synthesizers with noise as one of the signal components.

Music, in it's origins and to the present, are varying sounds released into the atmosphere for purposes of worship, dancing, or just sitting back in an easy chair and being surrounded by it.

In short, what happens in the distance in throw between a source and the listener, along with the ambiance of the room, serves to mitigate the transient attack. Which tells me that headphones are a sonic fraud, and I'd rather listen to even a medium quality speaker system, than strap on a set of phones looking for problems, then bragging about it if I found any.

And BTW, I had a pair of JBL D-130s with 075 ring tweeters. Those old alnico drivers had a spectacular transient response. A friend of mine asked, "but where's the mid range"? After which he, "those are the best speakers I"ve ever heard.

I guess the digital garbage you're claiming happens @3 Khz just got lost in the translation, so to speak.
 

captaincranky

TechSpot Addict
Just transcoding or ripping a CD to a PCM file should be good enough of a verbatim reproduction. Audiophiles like to hear things that aren't there so they can brag about how sophisticated they are. Lot of bloviation to me....[ ]....
The quality of the recording, and the sound engineer's taste, abilities, sensibilities, and equipment available, are far more of a factor in the quality of sound which arrives, "first at the scene of the accident", (the listener's ear), than codecs, vinyl or CD, Mp3 or what have you.

Once you get to the point of having a speaker system that can deliver the majority of dynamic range and audio spectrum, it's the mistakes in production that form the majority of complaints.

If you'll take a few minutes and listen to this track from "Xandria", you might come to the same conclusion I have, that it's one of the most beautiful songs ever written, with one of the worst set of production values.

You'll notice that about 3:39, the singer is accompanied by solo acoustic piano and is almost perfect. But for the rest of the song, excess compression and poor mixing is swamping even the choir and orchestral parts with distortion from the guitars

 
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Bullwinkle M

TS Addict
Just transcoding or ripping a CD to a PCM file should be good enough of a verbatim reproduction. Audiophiles like to hear things that aren't there so they can brag about how sophisticated they are. Lot of bloviation to me. I'm perfectly happy with the standard mp3 128Kbps bit rate or AAC. In the early days, I've driven it down to 88kbps mp3 transcodes so I could burn around 300 songs to a CD. I admit that I could hear robotic errors in some songs, but for the most part, I succeeded in that squeeze play. If I had to redo that again, I would go for 96kbps instead. Now it's either USB or online streaming and there's no need for all that work which I did in 2008. We've come a long way since then. Newer devices accept better codecs than mp3, but mp3 is still viable if one chooses that route.
Exactly!
A 128Kbps MP3 is probably overkill for Best Buy speakers with $2 amps

That was my point

You will not hear any improvement with high sample rates or high bit rates on "your" system

A crappy amp will ruin any benefits of any good DAC and so will crappy speakers

If you cannot hear a difference, then 128Kbps MP3's are good enough for your system

Anything better requires a commitment to improving the entire signal chain

The weakest link determines the best sound you will get