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And while a few of these services (Spotify, Amazon, Pandora) have a choke hold on the average listener, there are a number of services who are catering to the not-so-average listener. Each big streaming platform boasts its own enormous catalog of music, both mainstream and underground, but the quality is more than often sacrificed. Conversely, some lesser-known services like TIDAL, QoBuz, and HDTracks also have huge catalogs but seek to provide lossless quality audio to “picky” listeners. But since these streaming/download services are lesser-known, most users either aren’t aware of them at all, or simply aren’t aware of the differences between them. Let’s talk a little bit about all three services in hopes of bringing you the best possible listening experience in 2019!
TIDAL is a music streaming service offered to users on a subscription basis (much like Spotify in that regard). There are different levels of subscriptions based on the needs of the user or users. The most basic package offers standard quality audio for $9.99 per month (the same types of files you would find on every other streaming service), but they also offer a “HiFi” subscription at $19.99 per month which grants access to their huge library of FLAC and MQA (Master Quality Audio) audio files. TIDAL also offers many other pricing options that include family plans, student discounts, and military discounts.
Apart from offering higher quality files, TIDAL offers family plans, military discounts, and student discounts. They also do a great job of making sure artists are paid fair wages when their music is streamed. TIDAL even offers an offline mode wherein users can download certain songs/albums to their device and still have access to them when they have no internet connection.
Where TIDAL is primarily a streaming service, HDTracks is download-oriented. You would use HDTracks more similarly to how you would use iTunes, only HDTracks was designed by and for savvy listeners and audiophiles. HDTracks gives buyers the option to choose between AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, and WAV files for download. There is no monthly subscription; you simply pay per download—2000’s throwback! In keeping with HDTracks’ dedication to serious music lovers, they also provide liner notes and album artwork for the true full-package. These guys even go so far as to scrutinize their audio files to ensure they are a TRUE active 24 bits, rather than audio that has been upsampled from 16 to 24—that’s dedication!
QoBuz is somewhat similar to HDTracks in that they offer millions of digital booklets in an effort to stay true to the documentation of albums and their history. Initially launched in 2007 in only European countries, the application recently launched this May 2019. They currently offer four different plans in the US: MP3 quality streaming for $9.99/month, CD-quality streaming (FLAC 16-bit 44.1kHz) for $19.99/month, Hi-Res streaming (FLAC 24-bit 192kHz) for $24.99/month, and Sublime+ for a whopping $299.99/year, which offers an extended original music category along with hi-res streaming and downloading on all devices.
Among their already extensive music catalog, QoBuz also offers some top-notch editorial content that gives serious listeners that “next level” experience, and brings their following back to a point where reading about music and artists is exciting again. If there is a track you want to listen to in hi-res, and you notice it isn’t listed in QoBuz’s catalog, you can contact them and they will make an effort to source a file that will complement their selection. Pretty darn neat, right?
People are busy and as a result, we’ve prioritized convenience over depth of connection. These are three companies dedicated to shepherding all of us lost babes back to pastures of plenty. Go—get out there, and immerse yourself in a free trial!
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