Entertainment

The 7 Best Music Streaming Services for Audiophiles

Dan Price Updated 22-05-2020

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

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This might sound like a lot, and for most users, it’s certainly 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, this poses a problem. You demand the clearest and most refined music available, and don’t want to put up with low-quality audio. As such, your options are rather limited. However, here are the best streaming services for audiophiles.

1. Tidal

tidal logo

Tidal is the best-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 offering.

Tidal offers users two different plans. The Premium plan costs $9.99/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.

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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? Here's our comparison of music streaming services Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music on price, quality, and catalog. Read More —don’t worry about not being able to find something to listen to. At the time of writing, Tidal boasts more than 60 million tracks.

2. Qobuz

qobuz playlist

Another of the leading audiophile streaming services is Qobuz. Based in France, entrepreneur Yves Riesel launched the company 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 54 countries worldwide, Qobuz operates in just 12: the US, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Austria.

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Today, Qobuz holds the largest catalog of lossless CD and hi-res albums in the world. The library, which spans 50 million songs, has both new releases and niche genres.

Two subscription plans are available, Studio Premier ($15/month) and Sublime+ ($250/year). The audio quality is the same on both plans, but Sublime+ allows for cheaper music purchases.

3. Deezer

deezer hifi

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.

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Although it’s not known for as an HD audio music streaming app, the $20/month Deezer Hi-Fi offers 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps FLAC audio. In comparison, the regular Premium plan only offers 320 Kbps and the free tier just 128 Kbps.

The lossless plan was originally introduced in 2014 thanks to the company’s partnership with Sonos. At the time, it was only available on Sonos speakers. Today, however, the Hi-Fi subscription works on most smart speakers, including Bang and Olufsen, Harman/Kardon, Sony, and Google Home.

4. Primephonic

primephonic playback

Primephonic launched its streaming service for classical music fans in 2014. It was instantly popular, as users praised the app for its reimagined approach to cataloging tracks, its impressive artist biographies, and its ease-of-use.

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Classical music-loving audiophiles will be delighted to learn that Primephonic streams all of its content in 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps CD-quality if you are happy to pay for the $15/month Platinum plan. A cheaper $10/month plan is available with 320 Kbps MP3 streaming. Primephonic also lets you buy music. Again, all of your purchases will be 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.

5. Amazon Music HD

amazon music hd details

Amazon Music HD is one of the newest audiophile music streaming services on the market following its launch in the second half of 2019.

More than 60 million HD songs are available on the platform. Around 50 million of them are in 850 Kbps and 16-bit/44.1 kHz, with a further 10 million available in 3730 Kbps and 24-bit/192 kHz. That’s more than 10 times the quality found on most rival music streaming apps.

Before you sign up, make sure your device supports 24-bit songs. If you own a pre-2015 Android or iOS gadget, you will probably be out of luck. Amazon’s Fire devices are all supported.

A subscription to Amazon Music HD costs $15/month (or $13/month if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber).

6. YouTube Music

youtube music videos

YouTube Music initially launched with a maximum bitrate of 128 Kbps, though that has since increased to 256 Kbps. But that’s still way behind some of the other apps in this list, so why have we included it as one of the top streaming services for audiophiles?

Well, for the music videos. Music as an art form is about more than the audio. Ever since Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles became the first music video to air on MTV in 1981, artists have been falling over themselves to produce more and more extravagant video content. As you can see in our brief history of music videos From MTV to YouTube: A Brief History of Music Videos While music videos are mostly viewed on YouTube these days, this is only the latest stage in the evolution of a medium that can be as elaborate as film and as personal as photos. Read More .

If this side of the music world appeals to you, YouTube Music is king. Not only is there a vast selection of music, but you can watch the videos, concerts, and recording sessions that accompany your favorite tracks.

7. Spotify

spotify playlists

Spotify offers its users a maximum audio quality of 320 Kbps. However, despite the lesser quality, Spotify is still worth considering if you’re an audiophile purely for the vast library. More than 50 million tracks are already available, with a further 40,000 being added every day.

The service’s music discovery tools are also unrivaled. Even if you have niche tastes, Spotify will still be able to find new music that you’ll almost certainly love. For music lovers who want to embark on an audio journey, there are few better ways to broaden your horizons.

And remember, Spotify is one of the most device-agnostic services. There is a Spotify app available for just about every operating system and smart speaker on the market. Some of the lesser-known services don’t offer such widespread support.

Interestingly, in 2017, Spotify announced that it was planning to enter the world of high-definition audio streaming. Branded as Spotify Hi-Fi, the company started testing it around the world. Since then, the trail has gone cold and Spotify has offered no further updates.

It is still one to keep an eye on though; Spotify is already one of the world’s top music streaming services. If it did enter the HD music arena, its vast library and powerful music discovery tools would make Tidal vs. Spotify a more interesting battle.

Keeping Even the Pickiest Audiophiles Happy

These music streaming services for audiophiles should be more than enough to keep everyone satisfied. Yes, even the pickiest audiophile. And if you don’t already own one, here are the best digital audio players for music without your phone The 10 Best Digital Audio Players for Music Without Your Phone Your phone can play music, but if you want a dedicated music player, you'll want to check out these best standalone digital audio players. Read More .

Explore more about: Apple Music, Audiophiles, Deezer, Google Play Music, Music Discovery, Spotify, Streaming Music.

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  1. Jack McHugh
    March 31, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    I only recently discovered HD Tracks but wanted to try a streaming high def one, and it seems the only choice for us Yanks, is the British Tidal. Though this article is almost a year old, perhaps I'm wrong and some US company actually saw that there's a market for such a thing.

    I was going to give Tidal a shot but when I saw it who owned it, it was a deal breaker for me. I may look at this Roon. Hopefully it's available in the US.

    @Likefunbutnot- You need to try downloading your favorite album from HD Tracks- if you're an audiophile, you'll hear the difference between a High Resolution flac file and that of a CD. Especially if you are a fan of Rock music from the 60's onward, right around the time music fidelity made leaps and bounds in sound quality.

    I'd tried my favorite album by Led Zeppelin- Physical Graffiti, and played it back through WMP, after installing the proper codec so that it would work, and it sounded great, but it wasn't until someone turned me on to Foobar, and I was converting it down to 24 bit for a USB stick to play in my car on an Alpine CDE-153BT Head unit, which is one of the few with flac support, and just hearing the opening track "Custard Pie" through my crappy Sony Vaio Laptop speakers, my well trained musician ears heard a clarity that was immediately noticeable.

    Once I had the album on the USB stick and got to play it through a Pioneer 500 Watt amp with Infinity Kappa speakers, to say I was blown away , is an understatement.

    I have that album on a DSD SHM CD from CD Japan, and played on the same deck, it just doesn't even come close. There are things I've noticed, like Robert Plants voice sounding as though he were in the back seat along for the ride.

    It was a religious experience for me.

    You mileage may vary.

  2. John de haan
    December 5, 2017 at 2:22 am

    Shhhh Roon

  3. John de haan
    December 5, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Thanks for the heads up on your list there, you must have spent a good hour writing that report. Anyway in a word Roon. Shhh don’t tell anyone ok? But Roon is for audiophiles, who want to tak3 there gear and listening experience to the next level. Classe.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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

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

  7. 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.