Sonos doubles hi-fi streaming with Qobuz partnership

Illustration for the article titled Sonos is doubling down on hi-fi streaming

Photo: Adam Clark Estes / Gizmodo

After launching a paid high resolution radio level at the end of last year, Sonos is reinforcing your High fidelity transmission capabilities by partnering with Qobuz, making it the first streaming service to offer 24-bit / 48 kHz audio on the Sonos platform. Starting today, Sonos users can stream high-fidelity audio through Qobuz, as long as they have a subscription.

If you’ve never heard of Qobuz, it makes perfect sense. When it comes to lossless and CD-quality (or better) music streaming services, Tidal is probably the one you’ve really heard about. However, Qobuz has also been around for a hot minute. First offered 16-bit FLAC streaming on Sonos in 2013 and it launched as a service in the US in 2019. A monthly subscription costs $ 15. As for which Sonos speakers are supported, any speaker that is compatible with the S2 app should work, including the next Sonos roam.

In the field of music transmission, This is quite a clever move. Sonos is a popular brand when it comes to Wi-Fi speakers, butt is needs to diversify beyond hardware to remain relevant smart speakers don’t sound as bad as they used to. Meanwhile, Qobuz is more expensive than other streaming services and lacks the general recognition of other big-name music services. The association feels a lot like an “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” arrangement.

The timing also makes perfect sense, given that Spotify recently announced plan to launch your own level of hi-fi streaming later this year. Spotify is obviously the great music streaming kahuna, and launching a hifi service will likely have similar music streaming services on the edge. Right now, Spotify maxes out at 160 kbps for free users and 320 kbps for Premium users. Comparatively, standard CD-quality audio files are 1,411 kbps and the 24-bit / 48 kHz audio offered by Qobuz and Sonos equals 2,304 kbps. While it’s unclear what resolution Spotify HiFi will support, the company cryptically hinted that it was collaborating with the “world’s largest speaker manufacturers” to make sure its service can reach as many users as possible. We don’t know if Sonos is one of those speaker manufacturers, but even if it is, Sonos only benefits by opening up its hardware to as many third-party music services as possible.

What remains to be seen is how many people actually bite. Audiophiles have been clamoring for hi-fi streaming for years, but the average user with a typical pair of headphones probably doesn’t bother too much. Sonos users might be more willing to shell out for hi-res audio, but again, the desire for hi-fi audio could also come from a particularly vocal minority. In any case, it looks like 2021 could be significant for hi-fi music streaming.


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