After launch a paid high definition radio resolution late last year, Sonos is its strength HiFi streaming features by partnering with Qobuz, making it the first streaming service to deliver 24-bit / 48 kHz audio on Sonos’ platform. As of today, Sonos users can stream HiFi audio via Qobuz – provided they have a subscription.
If you’ve never heard of Qobuz, it makes sense. As far as loss steps, CD quality (or better) music streaming services are concerned, Tidal is probably the one you’ve actually heard of. However, Qobuz has also existed in a hot minute. It first offered 16-bit FLAC streaming on Sonos in 2013 and launched as a service in the U.S. in 2019. A monthly subscription costs $ 15. As for which Sonos speakers are compatible, all speakers compatible with the S2 app should work, including the upcoming Sonos Roam.
In the realm of music streaming, This is a pretty smart move. Sonos is a popular brand when it comes to wifi speakers, bunot that need to diversify beyond hardware to be relevant so many Smart speakers do not sound as crappy as they used to. Meanwhile, Qobuz is more expensive than other streaming services and lacks the usual recognition of other big name services. The partnership feels very much like a scheme like “I scratch my back if you scratch me”.
The timing also makes a lot of sense, given that Spotify recently announced plans to launch its own HiFi streaming level later this year. Spotify is obviously the big music streaming kahuna, and whoever launches a hifi service probably has similar music streaming services on the edge. Right now, Spotify is maximizing 160 kbps for free users and 320 kbps for Premium users. In comparison, standard CD-quality audio files are 1411 kbps, and 24-bit / 48 kHz audio Qobuz and Sonos offer is equivalent to 2,304 kbps. Although it is unclear which resolution Spotify HiFi will ultimately support, the company cryptically indicated that it was partnering with “the world’s largest speaker manufacturers” to ensure that the service can reach as many users as possible. We do not know if Sonos is one of these manufacturers of speakers, but even if it is, Sonos only has the benefits of opening up the hardware to as many third-party music services as possible.
What remains to be seen is how many actually bite. Audiophiles have been streaming HiFi for years, but the average user of a typical pair of earbuds is probably not that bothered. Sonos users may be more receptive to high-definition sound protection, but again, the desire for HiFi sound may also come from a particularly loud minority. In any case, it looks like 2021 may be shaping up to be a meaningful one for HiFi music streaming.