While brands like Spotify, iTunes, YouTube Music, and Amazon Prime Music are some of the most well-known in the music streaming industry, there is a certain niche of streaming services popular specifically among audiophiles.
Most people don’t notice much of a difference between the sound quality of the above-mentioned streaming services and higher resolution streaming apps. In fact, to most people, it all sounds the same.
However, audiophiles are a different breed. An audiophile is an enthusiast for hi-fi (high fidelity) sound.
They aim to reproduce the sound of live music in their own homes or on the go. While you may not notice the difference between Spotify and a streaming service like Qobuz, you can bet that an audiophile definitely does.
There are subtle differences in sound quality and frequency that only audiophiles pay attention to. The reality is that the sound you will get from Spotify or another streaming service will usually be at least slightly distorted.
Two high-fidelity streaming services are Quboz and TIDAL. They’re not that expensive, but their aim is to provide the best audio quality for streaming music so you can listen to music without experiencing any coloration or distortion.
Not everyone will notice the difference between an ultra high resolution and a slightly lower streaming service, but the difference is definitely there. If you pay attention, you can notice it, even if you are not an audiophile.
Today, I will be comparing Qobuz and TIDAL to help you figure out which one is the best for you. I will talk about features, pricing, and more.
Let us get into it.
Here, I’ll talk about the ease of the signup process with Qobuz and TIDAL.
Getting started with Qobuz is rather easy. When you sign up, you will be asked to select different genres you like so they can show you music you might be interested in.
However, I found that I wasn’t really interested in the music that popped up first. They show “New Releases” initially, but I just didn’t like the selection (though the curated playlists were not that bad).
When signing up for a free trial, Quboz makes it rather easy. Although there are a few plans available, all of them offer the same streaming quality.
TIDAL is also easy to sign up for. Overall, I liked the signup process with TIDAL a bit better.
Instead of selecting entire genres during the signup process, I was shown popular artists from many genres.
For example, under Country, I could select artists such as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and The Highwaymen. Under Latin, I could select artists like Bad Bunny and Becky G.
Not only that but I was actually shown suggestions related to those artists once I arrived at the homepage of the app. However, those suggestions did not stop there; I was also shown popular TIDAL mixes unrelated to the specific artists I chose.
Overall, I liked the TIDAL signup process better. However, when it comes to signing up for a free trial, it gets more complicated, as there are two main plans with different audio quality.
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Which app has a better layout? Is Quboz or TIDAL easier to navigate and use?
To be honest, I didn’t care much for the Qobuz app layout. I didn’t find it particularly intuitive, though it wasn’t too difficult to use either.
It has a white background, which I like, but overall, I found the layout somewhat limited and restrictive compared to TIDAL’s app layout (on both my Android phone and the desktop site).
Of course, you may prefer Quboz’s layout over TIDAL’s and find that TIDAL has too many options. Everyone is different.
TIDAL has a layout that is more similar to Spotify. It’s not exactly a copy of Spotify, but it is similar in many ways.
If you are switching from Spotify and would like to reduce your learning curve, TIDAL might be a better option.
Which app makes it easier to discover new music? If you’re on the lookout for new tracks in genres you adore, does TIDAL or Quboz make it easier to discover music?
Which has a better track selection?
In my opinion, Quboz does not make it that easy to discover new songs. On the homepage, you will be shown “New Releases” in your selected genres.
You can change those genres at any time, but it’s not obviously clear how to do so on the app.
Scrolling past “New Releases,” you will be shown Qobuz Playlists. These are playlists put together by Quboz for the genres you selected.
Those playlists are actually not bad, but I didn’t care for them that much. I just didn’t like the artists and track selections in those playlists, but perhaps others will.
Some of the playlists were not even connected to the genre I selected. For example, when I selected only “Latin,” it was showing me playlists with the 2021 Grammy awards, which included songs from the likes of Billie Eilish — not anything I cared for when I was in the mood of listening to some salsa or cumbia.
Under the playlists area, there are “Panoramas” and “News.” Panoramas are basically interesting overviews of artists and other music-related topics, while News covers news articles related to the music industry.
Personally, I felt those articles were a waste of space as all I wanted to do is find music I like and listen to it, but that’s more of a personal preference.
However, you can use the search function to find specific songs, tracks, or artists you like. I found this search function pretty good — by searching for my favorite artists, I was able to find songs that I never heard before.
I found the discovery features of TIDAL better than Qobuz. They displayed more songs that I was actually interested in, and it was overall easier to find songs in the genres I liked that I had not yet listened to.
Here are some of the sections I just saw when opening the app and going to the Home page:
- Recently Played
- Mixes For You
- Radio Stations For You
- Because You Added
- Suggested New Albums
- Suggested New Track
- Popular Playlists
- Trending Playlists
- Popular Albums
- The Charts
- TIDAL Rising
Everything until and including Because You Added was music I was interested in — TIDAL had a great selection of good tracks. Mixes For You combined different genres but was based on content I had listened to.
The Charts, Trending Playlists, Popular Playlists, etc. show popular songs across all genres, while TIDAL Rising shows “rising stars” on TIDAL.
The “Explore” tab on TIDAL is better than Quboz’s as well. As soon as you click on the Explore tab, you will be shown a list of genres.
Clicking a genre such as hip-hop or rock will immediately bring up popular playlists for that genre.
In addition to genres, you will see “Moods” and “Activities,” such as:
- Mental Health Month
That allows you to find certain kinds of songs, not necessarily of a specific genre but for a certain mood or event. You can also search for TIDAL picks and “Clean Content.”
Of course, you can also search by artist or song to find specific tracks, albums, artists, and playlists.
What if you enjoy watching music videos instead of only listening to music? In that case, would Qobuz or TIDAL be a better choice?
Unfortunately, it does not seem like Qobuz has a selection of music videos to watch. Either it does not offer music videos at all or I am just having a hard time finding them on the app.
TIDAL, on the other hand, has an entire tab dedicated only to music videos for all genres, including country, hip-hop, rock, and so on.
The music videos are of great quality. Not only are specific tracks available with official music videos, but there are entire playlists of music videos from specific artists and in specific genres.
Also, you can browse the Video tab to discover new music videos (solos and playlists) that have recently come out.
Like audio tracks, you can download music videos to your offline library.
At this point, we have arrived at the big question: Which platform or app provides a better listening experience?
If you are choosing TIDAL or Qobuz over a more standard app like Spotify, it’s probably because you’re an audiophile or you are looking for a richer listening experience, with more texture and subtlety. But which one of these two apps is actually better at doing that?
Personally, I felt that Qobuz provided a better listening experience. I’m not an audiophile, but listening to the same songs on both Qobuz and TIDAL made me prefer Qobuz.
I listened to different segments of the same song on the two apps right after each other, and I just felt that Qobuz came out as a winner in terms of the listening experience.
Just to clarify, I was using the highest possible audio quality on both apps for smartphones. Both Qobuz and TIDAL have different audio qualities you can choose from, and TIDAL also offers two plans to choose from to allow for different audio resolutions.
Although I am not an audiophile, it does seem that many audio enthusiasts agree that Qobuz wins the audio quality war (although TIDAL has a better selection of tracks).
For example, Reddit user wolfkingofla claims on this thread that “Qobuz beats TIDAL on sound quality any day of the week…Qobuz wins hands down. There just seems to be a bit more dynamics in Qobuz.”
(Interestingly enough, Reddit users on that thread seemed to agree with me that the TIDAL app is overall a better app. There are comments implying that the Qobuz app is just inferior and that it is harder to find new music to listen to on Qobuz vs TIDAL, which has a better selection and a better app interface).
One writer on Medium claims that after moving to Qobuz, he has found that that music just sounds better and that TIDAL was noisier and had more distortions and crashes.
And, although Qobuz is not perfect, that writer did not experience stutters and distortions like they did on TIDAL.
Here is what some users on the Audiophile Style forum had to say about it:
- “From what I’ve read on the different forums, Qobuz has the better sound whereas TIDAL has the bigger catalog.”
- “However, I’m a few days into my Qobuz trial and to me, it sounds markedly better than TIDAL.”
- “Try TIDAL for yourself for a few weeks, then switch to Qobuz and you’ll instantly hear that Qobuz sounds better.”
All of these statements were made by three different audiophiles who were real users of both apps.
Here is what some people on the Audiogon forum had to say:
- “I have both TIDAL and Qobuz. I prefer the sonics of Qobuz – a bit more depth/saturated, and I don’t care for MQA.”
- “I have both. Quobuz sounds slightly better. You really have to listen, but it’s there.”
- “As far as Qobuz and TIDAL I subscribe to both but prefer Qobuz. Slightly and I do mean slightly better sound quality and I like their catalog better. I keep TIDAL for titles not on Qobuz.”
Overall, the consensus seems to be that Quboz has better sound quality, even if the difference is somewhat subtle. However, overall, readers have agreed that the title selection on TIDAL is better, and that has mirrored my own experience of finding tracks and playlists I liked on TIDAL.
So, here are the different sound quality levels available on Qobuz. Keep in mind that these options are available to all premium users.
- MP3 — 320 kbps
- CD — 16-bit/44.1 kHz
- 24-Bit Hi-Res (up to 96 kHz)
- 24 Bit Hi-Res (up to 192 kHz)
When playing a song, just select the audio quality you want. The audio quality you select will remain the default for new songs until you change it.
You can choose default audio quality levels for both mobile and Wifi networks. When you are on mobile, using higher-resolution audio quality will use up more data (keep in mind it may also drain your battery quicker).
When downloading a song to your library for offline listening, you can download in the following three resolutions:
- MP3 — 320 kbps
- CD — 16-bit/44.1 kHz
- 24-Bit Hi-Res (up to 96 kHz)
Overall, I found that the sound quality on TIDAL just did not match up to Qobuz, and I was listening to music on TIDAL using the more expensive plan, which promises higher resolution streaming.
One issue I have with TIDAL is that it has two plans, and you’ll need to sign up for the more expensive plan to get the most out of this hi-fi music streaming app.
The regular plan, which costs the same as Spotify Premium (in the US; Spotify has different prices around the world), only gives you streaming at up to 320 Kbps, similar to what you’ll get with Spotify Premium.
The second plan, which costs double that of the regular, standard plan, includes several options:
- Hi-fi audio at 1411 Kbps
- Master Quality audio at 24 bit/352kHz (up to 9,216 Kbps)
- Two immersive audio experience types called Dolby Atmos Music and 360 Reality Audio. 360 Reality Audio can be played on any smartphone, while Dolby Atmos Music is for Dolby Atmos compatible Android devices, soundbars, TVs, and the like.
Officially, TIDAL has better sound quality, but as I explained in the previous section, I just didn’t see it.
Can you use either TIDAL or Qobuz for free?
While Quboz does have a “free” version, it is not really free. I was only able to play samples from each track instead of entire songs.
The free version of Qobuz can allow you to test out the app layout and sound quality, but you can’t really enjoy music using it.
TIDAL didn’t even let me play samples on the free plan. I was immediately prompted to sign up for a premium plan, but I was able to get a sense of the app layout.
In this section, I will go over the pricing structures of TIDAL and Qobuz and examine which one gives you a better bang for your buck.
The good part about Qobuz is that it provides the same sound quality options to all premium users, regardless of the plan they are on. Here are the plans currently available on Qobuz and what they include (always check the Qobuz pricing page for updated pricing information):
- Individual Plans
- Studio Premier — $14.99/month or $149.99/year: 24-Bit (up to 192 kHz) audio streaming quality
- Studio Sublime — $20.83/month or $249.99/year: Get access to special discounts when purchasing hi-res audio for download to your device. Only a good option if you buy tracks or albums for download often
- Family Plans
- Studio Premier — $24.99/month or $269.99/year: All the benefits of the Studio Premier plan for up to six accounts
- Studio Sublime — $41.66 or $499.99/year: All the Studio Sublime benefits for up to six accounts
A free 30-day trial is available.
All in all, Qobuz is fairly priced. Yes, it is more expensive than Spotify, but it also offers much better sound quality.
A premium Spotify subscription in the US would usually be $9.99/month, although, in other countries, it may be cheaper. However, for an extra $5 you can get much higher sound quality.
The downside of Qobuz compared to Spotify is that there is a smaller selection of tracks and music. Also, the app layout kind of sucks compared to Spotify’s, which is more intuitive.
However, what you can do is keep the free Spotify version and sign up for a premium Qobuz subscription. Keep in mind that there are some limitations on the free Spotify version, such as frequent ads and a limited number of times you can skip a song in a playlist.
TIDAL is a bit more complicated, as sound quality can differ based on the plan you have. Here are the plans currently available (always check the TIDAL pricing page for updated information):
- Individual Plans
- Premium — $9.99/month: Standard sound quality of 320 Kbps
- Hi-fi — $19.99/month: Premium sound quality of up to 9,216 Kbps and immersive audio
- Family plans:
- Premium — $14.99/month: Up to six family members
- Hi-fi — $29.99/month: Up to six family members
If you are a student, you can get the individual plans at half price, and discounts are also offered to US military and first responders.
A 30-day free trial for either the Premium or Hi-Fi plan is available.
Keep in mind that pricing can vary based on the country you are in.
While 320 Kbps is better than standard Spotify audio quality, which only allows for up to 160 Kbps on mobile devices on the free Spotify plan, I don’t feel that the difference is large enough to justify an extra $9.99/month.
In addition, if you are paying $9.99/month, you might as well sign up for Spotify Premium, which allows for up to 320 kbps on mobile devices (the same as TIDAL Premium) and includes a larger selection of tracks.
As such, if you are going to pay extra for a hi-res experience, I’d opine that Qobuz offers a better deal. It is cheaper than TIDAL’s Hi-Fi plan and, in my opinion, the sound quality is better.
Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve discovered in this article:
|Better Discovery Features||✗||✓|
|Better Track Selection||✗||✓|
|Better App Layout||✗||✓|
|Better Sound Quality||✓||✗|
|Download for Offline||✓||✓|
|Better Value For Money||✓||✗|
If you had to choose one, I’d pick Qobuz. I just don’t see the justification of paying $9.99/month for something that isn’t much better than Spotify.
Overall, if you’re an audiophile, I think you will enjoy the sound quality on Qobuz more. It’s also less expensive (to get the full TIDAL experience, you’ll need the more expensive Hi-Fi plan).
However, since both apps offer free trials, feel free to sign up for a free trial on both and then stick with the one you enjoy better.