One of the largest “high-resolution” music download sites in the world (so they claim) is the French site Qobuz. I had some back and forth with them a year or more over their claim to have a high-resolution catalog available only to discover that they are doing what just about everyone else does. The recordings are standard definition catalog recordings transferred to larger bit buckets. The Gustavo Dudamel recording of a Wagner work proudly displayed the JAS (Japan Audio Society’s) High-Res Audio logo but proved to be no better than a CD. You can read my post about this deception by clicking here.
In a May 5, 2015 recent press release, Qobuz announced, “Qobuz, Europe’s premier online music service certified ‘Hi Res Audio’ – The premier online music service in France has become the first and only service in Europe to obtain the ‘Hi-Res Audio’ certification from the prestigious Japan Audio Society, a Japanese association of audio material producers.” Just how they managed to get certified, as a source of high-resolution without meeting the requirements set forth by the JAS is a troubling question. In fact, it baffles me. I’ve been counting on the JAS to uphold their rigorous requirements as the best path forward against the meaningless definition issued by the DEG, CEA, NARAS, and major labels.
The release also includes a statement from the chairman of the JAS. He states, “We are pleased to license the Hi-Resolution Audio (HRA) logo developed and administered by Japan Audio Society (JAS) to Qobuz. We, JAS, are acting to advance Hi-Resolution Audio together with JAS member companies. It is a very important milestone to apply the same HRA logo used on hardware to the digital music service of Qobuz, as we believe that it is the best way for customers to coordinate hardware and software. We hope very much that the distribution of Hi-Resolution Music continues to grow with Qobuz”.
They have licensed the High-Res Audio logo to Qobuz. But the JAS isn’t in the business of checking whether a site or a company actually meets the specifications. They specifically absolve themselves from any responsibility by including the following on their “Definition of Hi-Res Audio Products” document. “Listening evaluation process is added and final decision as Hi-Res sound product to be proved according to each company’s sound evaluation standard.”
What does that mean? It means the Qobuz can say that they’re releasing content that meets the JAS standards but they are the company responsible for evaluating the content as to whether it is high-res or not.
How much confidence should we have that anything has changed because the “High-Res Audio” logo is prominently displayed on the Qobuz site? None. In spite of the press release’s assurances, “The Hi-Res Audio (HRA) logo is a guarantee of respect for the high standards put in place by the JAS consortium – to which the largest global electronics manufacturers and the biggest music labels have all subscribed.” The fact is no such guarantee of respect can exist if the content doesn’t measure up.
Here’s the requirements document as provided by the JAS:
Figure 1 – The JAS requirements for using the “high-res audio” logo. [Click to enlarge]
Notice the requirement that the audio recorder be able to do 96 kHz/24-bits. Analog tape doesn’t meet this requirement…therefore any items on the Qobuz website that originated on analog tape shouldn’t be able to display the logo. But the site doesn’t seem to know that. Here are a couple of spectra from Qobuz that were advertised as examples of “high-resolution” audio. They aren’t.
Figure 2 – A download from Qobuz. This track has no audio content above 24 kHz and a dynamic range of about 25 dB…or 5 bits! [Click to enlarge]
Figure 2 – Another track from Qobuz with the same issue. This track is no better than a CD but they display the JAS logo next to it.
I wrote to the chairman of the JAS today about this issue. I don’t expect any response.