After years of waiting for Spotify to decide to enter the world of high definition audio, the company has finally announced the imminent launch of Spotify HiFi for 2021: “Lossless” CD-quality music. While we don’t know exactly the quality of the bitrate yet, nor do we know the prices, it’s probably around 1,411 kbps at 44.1 kHz 16-bit for a CD.
Spotify is by far the first to offer this, in fact we could even say that it is almost the last. Services such as Deezer, Tidal, Amazon Music and Qobuz already offer music in high fidelity, even reaching the so-called Ultra HD 24-bit deep bitrate at 192 kHz. However, for many users like this server, that we have tried most of the other offers, it is the one from Spotify that looks the most attractive and the one that will definitely make me pay for HD music.
Why Spotify HiFi and not Tidal or another?
Between 2019 and 2020 I was using Tidal quite constantly, in fact, courtesy of the company for its analysis, we were given a one-year subscription to test the service’s high-fidelity music, and I took advantage of it during all that time to try to give it the greatest benefit of the doubt possible. The truth is that During the year that I used Tidal, I never stopped using Spotify or paying for their premium plan.
The reasons are several, but they have to do mainly with the quality of the experience in general beyond the quality of the sound as such. First, I have been using Spotify for more than 10 years, and like many early adopters I’m not alone in streaming music, Spotify was the first in everything in that regard. It is too many years of collecting songs, playlists, albums, artists, and years training an algorithm, who at least more than half the time recommends things that I like.
As much as I managed to export my playlists to another service, I cannot export absolutely everything, not the artists I follow, or the collection of albums stored exactly the same. The other thing is that At the level of application options, Spotify is, in my opinion, much better than the competition.
The way you can organize your music, share it, discover new things, listen through any device at home in a completely painless way, etc. It is the most complete there is, although its search engine is a bit sad.
Switching from Spotify to another platform means basically starting from scratch, and for someone who is very jealous of their music, it is too much to ask for a more expensive subscriptionAlthough it hurts that it sounds better in certain circumstances, which is the other important point here.
Tidal is good service, and when you listen to the sound quality in Master, you can tell the difference between that and the high quality of Spotify which at the moment is only 320 kbps, the maximum possible bitrate for an MP3.
A service that I found superior to Tidal and that I tested for a month is Qobuz. This platform is smaller and less well known, but also offers 24-bit FLAC quality up to 194 kHz or “Hi-Res”.
Although as with Tidal where most of the music is in the so-called “HiFi”, that is, 16-bit CD quality at 44.1 kHz, there is also a good handful in the so-called “Hi-Res quality.” In the case of Tidal, the top quality is called “Master” (usually 96 kHz / 24 bit).
In my time listening to music on Qobuz I noticed quite a bit that even the CD quality of this one, it tends to be heard better than the Master of Tidal. But how and when you notice that difference depends on a couple of specific things that cost extra money.
Enjoying music in high definition is not as simple as paying for a subscription
First, When paying for a service of this type, it is important that you take into account the equipment in which you are going to enjoy it.. And it’s not just about having a good quality pair of headphones, it’s about the component that will translate that digital audio signal that comes from Spotify or Tidal or anywhere, into sound that your ears can hear through headphones. speakers or headphones, that is, an analog signal.
That component is called DAC or “Digital Audio Converter”. Your computer, your cell phone, your speakers, or almost anything that can emit a sound signal already comes with a DAC included, but usually that DAC is a cheap one that does the minimum.
It’s going to be basically impossible for the DAC on your Macbook, for example, to translate a 24-bit 192 kHz song to its speakers. You will never hear it in that quality no matter how much Tidal sends it to you in that quality. Paying for a HiFi music service without having at least one external DAC capable of correctly converting those signals to your stereo is a total and utter waste.
Paying for a HiFi music service without having at least one external DAC is a total and utter waste
If you buy an external DAC, even if it is a modest and cheap one, even the normal quality MP3 of Spotify you will start to hear better. If you decide to pay for hi-fi music without one of these gadgets, you won’t notice practically anything, but if you get one for the first time, the difference is going to blow your mind a little.
It is also important, in addition to the DAC, a component that amplifies that analog signal. So there it will depend if you bought a DAC with an amplifier included or if you have a separate amplifier. And of course, the quality of your headphones or speakers as the last point of sound output also plays a role.
All that is taking steps in the world of audiophiles, a world that, unfortunately, has a wall the color of money. The point is that, just by paying for a subscription to a service no matter how much bitrate it promises, you have to know that just connecting your 50 euro headphones to the 3.5mm jack is not going to be enough and you may think that they are scamming you.
And that, in the end, was another of the main reasons why I have continued to use Spotify and not something like Qobuz. Because although I have a decent external DAC and a more than acceptable pair of headphones, I can only enjoy HiFi sound when I am in front of the computer. My mobile doesn’t have an external DAC, my iPad doesn’t have an external DAC, neither do the video game consoles, nor the SmartTV, nor the smart speakers in the bathroom and kitchen. Through all those devices where I also listen to music, the signal that is translated is heard only “good”, not “great” as in front of the PC.
The difference now is that the idea of a Spotify HiFi would probably represent paying a little more for the same subscription that I have been paying for years, Within a service that already satisfies me enough, for more sound quality when I want it. I don’t even have to think about it.