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Music streaming services haven’t traditionally focused on audio quality. Spotify and Google Play Music both boast maximum bitrates of 320 Kbps, while Apple Music comes in at just 256 Kbps.

This might sound like a lot, and for most users, it’s enough. However, when you compare the quality of most streaming services to CDs — which typically offer 1,411 Kbps — there’s no contest.

If you’re an audiophile Are You an Audiophile? These 10 Questions Will Reveal the Truth Are You an Audiophile? These 10 Questions Will Reveal the Truth You might think you are an audiophile, but in reality very few music lovers tick all of the necessary boxes. Are you really an audiophile? Or are you just a great pretender? Read More , this poses a problem. You don’t want poor-quality audio to sully your expensive Hi-Fi system. Because you demand the clearest and most refined music available. As such, your options are rather limited. Thankfully, there are a few options available to you.

1. Tidal

Tidal is the most well-known high-definition music streaming service around right now.

Operated by global rap star Jay-Z, the service’s entire reputation has been built on its high-quality audio offerings Tidal Ups the Ante to Appeal to Audiophiles Tidal Ups the Ante to Appeal to Audiophiles Not content with merely offering high-fidelity audio, Tidal is now adding what it calls "master-quality recordings". But will this be enough to tempt people to subscribe to Tidal? Read More (well, that, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade).

tidal

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Tidal offers users two different plans. The Premium plan costs $9.99 per month and provides a music bitrate of 320 Kbps. If you’re an audiophile, you need to focus on the Hi-Fi package. It offers lossless, CD-quality 1,411 Kbps music for a monthly fee of $19.99. Both packages have family plans available.

And just because Tidal doesn’t have the same allure as the big three — Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music: Which Is Best? Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music: Which Is Best? While there are lots of music streaming services around, there are three major ones that stand out above the others: Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music. But which is best? Read More — don’t worry about not being able to find something to listen to. At the time of writing, Tidal boasts 48.5 million tracks and 175,000 music videos.

2. Qobuz

Qobuz is often overlooked in people’s quest for a high-definition streaming service. Qobuz is based in France, with entrepreneur Yves Riesel having launched the service in 2007. In addition to streaming services, it also offers music downloads.

Unfortunately, the app does not have the international reach of some of its competitors. While Tidal is currently available in 52 countries worldwide, Qobuz operates in just nine: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Austria. Additionally, Italy, Spain, and Poland are due to come online in late-2017.

qobuz

In terms of subscription plans, four tiers are available. Audiophiles can gloss over the $9.99 per month, 320 Kbps entry-level package and focus on the other three. Which are:

  • Hi-Fi — Music offered in 16-bit 44.1 KHz FLAC format ($19.99 per month).
  • Sublime: Music offered in 16-bit 44.1 KHz FLAC format, downloads offered in 24-bit 192 KHz FLAC format ($219.99 per year).
  • Sublime Plus — Music and downloads offered in 24-bit 192 KHz FLAC format ($349.99 per year).

3. Deezer

If you live outside Qobuz’s supported countries but don’t want to subscribe to Tidal, Deezer might be exactly what you’re looking for.

The second French company on this list is a relative newcomer to the world of high-definition streaming. The $14.99-per-month Elite plan only went live in September 2014 thanks to the company’s collaboration with speaker manufacturer, Sonos.

Due to its connection with Sonos, the $14.99 Elite package is only available to users with a Sonos speaker. It offers 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps audio.

If you have a Sonos system and live in the United States, it’s a fantastic option. Deezer has been available in the country since mid-2013. In fact, at the time of writing, Deezer is available in 187 countries around the world.

4. Beatport

Beatport is the first non-streaming service to make the list. The site, which predominantly focuses on selling dance tracks and DJ mixes, lets users download content in three formats.

  • MP3 — All Beatport’s MP3 files are encoded at 320 Kbps.
  • AIFF — AIFF files can support album artwork and ID3 tags. The tracks themselves are offered in 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps quality.
  • WAV — Lastly, Beatport offers WAV files. They are the original master copies of the tracks and are the highest quality. If you download a lot of WAV files, be careful. Due to the quality, one minute of music equates to roughly 10 MB of disk space — so they’ll eat through your storage in no time.

beatport

It’s free to register on Beatport and browse the site, but you have to pay for downloads. The MP3 versions of most tracks are no more than a couple of dollars. However, if you want an AIFF or WAV version, you will have to pay a little more.

5. Bandcamp

Bandcamp is well-known among people who enjoy discovering new music by indie bands 7 Websites to Discover New Music by Indie Artists 7 Websites to Discover New Music by Indie Artists If mainstream music doesn't appeal, you should check out indie artists online. Here are seven websites to help you discover new music by indie artists from around the world. Read More . The service has allowed many artists to become famous without the backing of a major record label. In some cases, artists have even dumped their label to work with fans directly on the platform.

bandcamp

The company doesn’t allow any MP3 files on its service. If you’re an artist who wants to upload your work, you can only add AIFF, WAV, or FLAC files. The good news is that, as a user, you know you’re going to get higher quality audio when you hit the Buy button.

Like Beatport, Bandcamp isn’t designed to be a streaming service, though you can use it to listen to some tracks for free.

Because Bandcamp has a mobile app, it’s one of the best ways to listen to high-definition audio on-the-go. It can stream all the music you’ve purchased through the site.

6. Primephonic

Primephonic recently launched its new streaming service for classical music fans Primephonic Review: The Spotify for Classical Music Primephonic Review: The Spotify for Classical Music Primephonic is a new streaming music service aimed at classical music lovers. What does it offer? And how does it compare to Spotify? Read More . It’s made quite a splash. Users have praised the app for its reimagined approach to cataloging tracks, its impressive artist biographies, and its ease-of-use.

Classical music-loving audiophiles will be delighted to learn that Primephonic streams all its content in 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps CD-quality. The service will cost you $14.99 per month. No other plan is available.

primephonic

Primephonic also lets you buy music. Again, all of your purchases will downloaded in high-definition audio.

The use of FLAC audio for classical music makes sense. It’s the music genre that has the most to gain from high-definition audio. After all, you don’t want your Mozart masterpieces to sound like something your school orchestra has thrown together.

7. HDtracks

We end the list with HDtracks. If you’re not willing to subscribe to an expensive streaming service, check out HDtracks instead.

As the name suggests, the online shop focuses exclusively on high-definition content. In fact, it boasts the largest library of downloadable studio-quality high-resolution music anywhere on the web.

hdtracks

It covers the full range of music genres. So you’ll find everything from the latest music release The 8 Best Websites To Check Out New Music Releases First The 8 Best Websites To Check Out New Music Releases First There are plenty of ways to keep up-to-date with your favorite artists. Here are eight websites to check out new music releases as they happen. Read More to the iconic albums of the 1960s. You can purchase full albums or individual tracks.

When you click on an album, you will see its audio quality at the top of the page. Make sure it meets your needs before you confirm your purchase.

Spotify Makes a Play for Audiophiles

Lastly, it’s also worth mentioning Spotify. In early-2017, news broke that the world’s most popular streaming service was planning to enter the world of high-definition audio streaming.

Branded as Spotify Hi-Fi, the company is A/B testing the price on users around the world. Some are being asked to pay $5 per month extra, while others are being asked to pay $10 per month extra.

spotify hi-fi

You’ll have noticed throughout this article that the streaming services currently offering high-quality audio generally charge about $20 per month. If Spotify enters the fray at $15 per month, it could be a serious player in the world of high-definition streaming.

Which Sites and Services Do You Use?

These seven music sites should be more than enough to keep all but the pickiest audiophile satisfied. Whether you prefer to stream music or download it onto your hard drive, you’ll be able to find something to suit your needs.

If you’re an audiophile, we’d love to gather your input. Which sites do you visit when you want to listen to something beyond the 320 Kbps standard? Do you subscribe to Tidal or one of the other streaming services offering HD audio?

As always, you can leave your comments and suggestions below. Or why not share this article with the audiophile in your life to see what they think.

Image Credit: OHoHO via Shutterstock.com

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  1. AngryGinger
    July 25, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Hi-Def/Resolution tracks are useless and pointless when you're listening to them on a pair of Beats (or something similar) headphones as well.

  2. BeedleTheBard
    July 20, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    "Apple Music comes in at just 256 Kbps"? Apple uses AAC which is superior to MP3 used by Google Play and 256 kbps AAC is equivalent to 320 kbps MP3 in terms of quality. I thought makeuseof writers would know that.

  3. SnowFlake816
    July 20, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    7Digital also offers downloads of 16 bit and 24 bit FLAC versions for some albums

  4. likefunbutnot
    July 19, 2017 at 12:58 pm

    Sadly, stereo FLAC files don't really represent the state of the art in audio any more; we've had that quality since the advent of the compact disc. Unfortunately, very little music is released in higher quality formats like SACD or DVD-Audio and the easiest way to get THAT off of a disc and into a purely digital format involves exotic software and/or a hacked 1st generation Playstation 3 with ancient firmware.

    Given what FLAC tracks cost, it's almost always cheaper to just buy the CD yourself and rip the disc to whatever proper format you need than to deal with the hassle of being charged 50% more to buy it as a FLAC in the first place.

    A few online platforms do actually offer 24-bit FLAC, which at least offer some improvement over 16-bit sampling. eClassical.com and HDTracks.com have high-resolution files, but outside of classical music, high-quality digital recordings are very rare.

    • Kit Kimes
      July 29, 2017 at 4:27 am

      AIX Records via their iTracks website also offer high quality flac tracks. The selection is pretty limited because all the tracks are from recordings made by Dr. Mark Waldrup in his state of the art studio. Great recordings but most of the artists aren't names that you would instantly recognize.