- Feb 4, 2016
Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music and Apple Music all offer hi-res streaming tiers, but which deserves your monthly fee?
Streaming services compared - at a glanceStreaming services compared
Service Free tier Monthly hi-res price Supported formats Max streaming quality Spotify Yes, ad-supported, 128kbp - OGG 320kbps (for now) Apple Music No £10 ($10) AAC, ALAC 24-bit/192kHz Tidal No £20 ($20) MQA, AAC, ALAC, FLAC 24-bit/192kHz Deezer Yes, ad-supported, 128kbps - FLAC 16-bit/44.1kHz Amazon Music HD No £10 ($10), or £8 ($8) for Prime Members FLAC 24-bit/192kHz Qobuz No £15 ($15) AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, WMA Lossless 24-bit/192kHz YouTube Music Yes, ad-supported, 126kbps - AAC 256kbps
What is hi-res streaming and why should you want it?First things first, should you care about hi-res streaming? High-resolution (often shortened to 'hi-res') audio is a term used to describe music files that have a higher sampling frequency and/or bit depth than that of CD-quality, which is specified at 16-bit/44.1kHz. So a hi-res file can be 24-bit/44.1kHz, where bit-depth is higher than CD quality but sampling rate is the same, and vice versa.
So what do the numbers mean? It might help to think of an audio signal as a sound wave being plotted on a graph. Sampling rate – the second number – refers to the number of times per second that the wave is measured during the analogue-to-digital conversion process. The higher the sampling rate, the more times the audio signal has been sampled, and thus the more detail resolution you get.
Hi-res vs lossless: what's the difference?While the terms 'lossless' and 'hi-res' may be used in close connection – Apple Music has launched Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless labels and, to complicate matters further, Amazon Music prefers the terms HD and UHD when referring to its more premium audio offerings – music that is 'lossless' is not always hi-res.
Here's the thing: where hi-res audio is defined as music that has a resolution higher than CD quality, lossless audio has no set specification in terms of bitrate.