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Com­ing to Amer­ica


MOVE OVER TIDAL. Qobuz (pro­nounced “ko-buzz”) is com­ing to the States this fall, armed with a 2-mil­lion-track ar­se­nal of hi-res mu­sic and a web por­tal that makes Tidal’s slick home­page seem con­fined. We checked in with AV in­dus­try vet­eran David Solomon, newly ap­pointed Chief High-res Evan­ge­list for Qobuz, to learn more about the mu­sic ser­vice and its un­usual name. —Bob Ankosko

S&V: Let’s start with some back­ground on Qobuz , a mu­sic stream­ing/down­load ser­vice many Amer­i­cans have heard of but don’t know much about. Can you pro­vide an over­view?

DAVID SOLOMON: Sure, and thank you for the in­ter­est. Qobuz is a high-res­o­lu­tion hy­brid stream­ing and down­load ser­vice from France. There will be sev­eral lev­els of ser­vice and we’re plan­ning a soft launch at CEDIA Expo in Septem­ber and com­ing full force as the of­fi­cial stream­ing part­ner at Rocky Moun­tain Au­dio Fest in Oc­to­ber. We feature over 130,000 al­bums (about 2 mil­lion tracks) in high res­o­lu­tion avail­able for stream­ing and down­load. This is on top of the 40 mil­lion 16-bit/44-khz full res­o­lu­tion cuts.

S&V: Why Qobuz? What’s the story be­hind the un­usual name?

DS: The name Qobuz— pro­nounced “ko-buzz”— rep­re­sents the ex­tra­or­di­nary power of mu­sic. Qobuz is an an­cient Cen­tral Asian twostringed in­stru­ment with horse­hair strings that res­onate in a leather cav­ity. The name is de­rived from a sa­cred Kazakh in­stru­ment, owned and played by spir­i­tual shamans. Ac­cord­ing to leg­ends, the Qobuz and its mu­sic could ban­ish evil spir­its, sick­nesses, and death.

I per­son­ally love the name, and what it rep­re­sents. With Qobuz, it is all about the mu­sic,

S&V: The com­pany has been around since 2007. Why did you wait so long to bring the ser­vice to the U.S.?

DS: Like most stream­ing ser­vices, Qobuz has had ups and downs, but in 2015 it was bought by Xan­drie, a very solid French com­pany, which owns a wide range of other com­pa­nies in the en­ter­tain­ment and tech­nol­ogy sec­tor. Xan­drie pres­i­dent De­nis The­baud is to­tally com­mit­ted to Qobuz and the goal of bring­ing the world high-res­o­lu­tion mu­sic.

S&V: What dif­fer­en­ti­ates Qobuz from other mu­sic providers, es­pe­cially Tidal?

DS: Qobuz is more like Ap­ple Mu­sic, if it were high-res­o­lu­tion. You can stream and down­load mu­sic. Un­like Ap­ple and Tidal, Qobuz will be the first stream­ing plat­form in North Amer­ica that of­fers true high-res­o­lu­tion mu­sic, up to 24-bit/192khz. There’s no need for a spe­cial DAC or server. Qobuz “un­folds” res­o­lu­tions from 16/44 to 24/192 on any com­puter or ca­pa­ble de­vice from FLAC files.

Qobuz is also the first hy­brid ser­vice that com­bines the best of both worlds: high-res­o­lu­tion stream­ing and down­load. Mem­bers of our top tier, Sublime+, can buy and down­load high-res­o­lu­tion tracks for about the same price as an MP3 on itunes.

The li­brary is com­pa­ra­ble with the com­pe­ti­tion and grow­ing con­stantly. Qobuz also has the largest col­lec­tion of 24-bit high-res­o­lu­tion tracks any­where, in­clud­ing ma­jor artists in ev­ery genre.

Qobuz re­cently hired mu­sic-in­dus­try vet­eran Yann Miossec—who was VP of Warner Mu­sic France—as CEO. De­nis and Yann are ex­cited to launch Qobuz in North Amer­ica as well as ac­tu­ally sup­port high-end man­u­fac­tur­ers, press, stores, and the high-end com­mu­nity. When they hired me to do just that, I knew this wasn’t just idle con­ver­sa­tion.

S&V: If you had to sin­gle out one at­tribute that re­ally sets Qobuz apart from other stream­ing/down­load ser­vices, what would it be?

DS: Aside from the ob­vi­ous sound qual­ity, we have a great em­pha­sis on ed­i­to­rial con­tent with thou­sands of dig­i­tal book­lets writ­ten specif­i­cally for the deep mu­sic lover and those who want to learn more about the mu­sic.

S&V: Which au­dio brands in­te­grate Qobuz into their prod­ucts? Will you be adding oth­ers?

DS: We’re adding man­u­fac­tur­ers weekly. As of mid-june, our ini­tial part­ners are Ad­vance Acous­tics, An­them, Ar­cam, Audirvana, Au­ralic, Auren­der, AVM, B&O Play, Blue­sound, Burmester, Cabasse, Cock­tail, DCS, De­vialet, DTS Play-fi, Elec­tro­com­paniet, Eso­teric, Free, Google­cast, Har­man Kar­don, ieast, JBL, Klip­sch, Kodi, LG, Lied­son, Linn, Lu­min, Mark Levin­son, Martin­lo­gan, Mcin­tosh, Mcon­nect, Melco, Moon, Mu­s­ic­cast, Naim,

Onkyo, Paradigm, Pioneer, Polk, Pop­corn­hour, Raum­feld, Ro­tel, Sam­sung, Sil­ver­crest, Sonos, Sony, Teac, Yamaha, T+A, and USB Au­dio Player Pro.

S&V: An im­pres­sive list! If we look at Qobuz’s cus­tomer base, what’s the break­down be­tween stream­ing and down­load­ing, and what’s the trend mov­ing for­ward?

DS: It’s cur­rently about 60 per­cent stream­ing, 40 per­cent down­load in our other mar­kets. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the U.S. mar­ket com­pares in a few months. With hi-res down­loads cost­ing so lit­tle, I think it will be some­what close.

S&V: What’s your take on hi-res au­dio? How does Qobuz de­fine it and why is it im­por­tant?

DS: I con­tinue to be thrilled with the di­rec­tion of mu­sic con­sump­tion. Hav­ing mil­lions of songs in full or high-res­o­lu­tion at my fin­ger­tips is a dream come true. Just a few short years ago, we were at 128Kbps, then 320Kbps, then full CD qual­ity, and now stu­dio-qual­ity files, up to 24/192 res­o­lu­tion. See­ing this tech­nol­ogy un­fold and im­prove to this level makes me proud to be a part of the process.

At Qobuz, we de­fine “full res­o­lu­tion” as CD qual­ity at 16/44. High-res­o­lu­tion is any­thing above 16/44 (CD qual­ity)—from 24/44 to 24/192.

S&V: What’s in store for the fu­ture? Any up­com­ing plans you can talk about?

DS: There will be re­ally ex­cit­ing fea­tures on the plat­form from day one. I re­ally can’t say more right now, but stay tuned for some ma­jor an­nounce­ments be­fore the launch.

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