Dr. AIX's POSTS NEWS — 23 August 2014


I received a press release from the French high-end digital download company Qobuz.com announcing, “we are both proud and excited to announce the official opening of the Qobuz music download service in your country.” The company was founded in 2009 in France and has continually grown outside of the U.S. Since I live in Los Angeles, it seems they’ve come to the states.

Here’s their statement:

“You won’t find MP3 files here! The entire catalogue, including major and independent labels across all musical genres, is available for you in at least True CD Quality (Lossless). Qobuz goes even further to offer you the world’s largest catalogue of releases in 24-bit Studio Master quality. This format is superior even to that of a CD, and allows you to listen to your music exactly how it leaves the studio, approved by both the engineer and the artist themselves!

The Qobuz experience is also based in musical expertise: our specialists are actual human beings and will update you every week on what’s happening in the music world as well as hand-picking the finest recordings, from both past and present.

Qobuz Client Services is at your disposition for any and all questions, especially during this initial opening period. We are more than happy to receive your comments and opinions in order to improve our unique music service for you everyday.”

It’s not hard to quibble with their definitions of high-resolution and claims of having “largest catalogue of HD downloads in the world.” As some readers may recall, I downloaded the free sample files that they make available and found that despite their assurances of tight quality control…both tracks were in fact, not 192 kHz as they claimed but upsampled DSD recordings or transferred analog tapes. You can read my post and check out the response from the founder and head of Qobuz by clicking here.

They mention “at least True CD Quality (lossless)”. CD quality usually refers to a music download that has been through lossy encoding but sound as good as a CD. To preface that term with “True CD Quality” is just confusing. Either something meets the CD specification…the Redbook spec at 44.1 kHz /16-bit PCM…or it doesn’t. Should I bother to ask how many titles in the “largest collection of HD downloads are ‘true CD quality’?” Just how many of their Studio Masters were natively recorded using equipment at 96 kHz/24-bits or higher?

As for 24-bit Studio Master quality, a format they claim is superior “even to that of a CD”; I’m rather dubious about that claim as well. Qobuz receives masters from their licensors in the format that the labels make available. They’re at the mercy of the engineering team at the delivery end of that relationship. In fact, the email that I got from the boss said exactly that. Basically, don’t blame us! Blame the labels. And unfortunately, there aren’t too many labels that are actually recording and releasing material in high-resolution. They take whatever catalog they’ve got and upsample or transfer it to bigger bit buckets.

I noticed in Cookie’s August newsletter that she’s pulling old 24 track analog tapes and remixing them to 2-track tape and then making DSD copies. As wonderful as Blue Coast’s recording are…they aren’t HD. If she makes them available to Qobuz as PCM files (no word whether they are going to get sucked into DSD downloads), the final downloads will be upconversions from the DSD

The entry of Qobuz into the North American market does present additional pressure on the existing players…including, HDtracks, SuperHiRez.com, ProStudioMasters.com and the upcoming Ponomusic site. It will be interesting to see all of these sites battle for market share when the stuff that they’re selling comes from the same source…at least in the case of the major labels. I fully expect Pono to jump out in front by say they’ve got 35 million high-resolution tracks for sale…as if the number of tracks is more important than the fidelity.

If I had to guess, I’d be willing to bet that Apple is readying the iTunes HD upgraded site as I write this. It’s going to get interesting in a few months. Unfortunately, all we’re likely to get is more over compressed music without the MP3 format.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

(11) Readers Comments

  1. Very weird. I visited Qobuz and I still don’t see US option and it does not let me buy any albums…

    • Read some of the other comments…perhaps an email to those who have accounts outside of France were sent the note without them knowing we’re in the U.S. I’ll look into this.

    • It will be available Spring 2015.

  2. Mark,

    There has been discussion about this email on the computer audiophile.com forum. Many of us in the US have set up accounts, and many have also been granted access “full access” simply by requesting it.

    Since we already have accounts, it is speculated that the email was meant to be sent to perhaps additional “NON US” countries that have just been added.

    When on the Qobuz site today, the US is still not listed as a recognised country. So I think that we all received that email assuming we are in a country that has been added.

    All indicators are that the US will be added before the end of the year from what I’ve heard in the rumour mill.

    And perhaps I am wrong about the info I’m sharing, but that seems to be the thought at this point. Hoping you know something that we don’t know! Thanks!

    • Hard to know if I’m right or not. I received an email saying they were opening up “in my country”. I’ll reach out to them and ask.

  3. No experience with Qobuz, but After downloading George Benson’s ” Breezin ” from HD Tracks in 24/96 format, I find the copy I made from 1977 vinyl, using an Ayre QA9 to be more detailed. I contacted HD Tracks, who basically blamed the remasterer, not themselves. They do have some nice product, but it’s a crap shoot. Just bought your sampler- I like it.

    • The truth is it’s always going to be a crap shoot…the labels are only giving HDTracks and all of the others the stuff they have available. I’m glad you like the iTrax – Sprint sampler…it’s a whole different type of recording.

  4. I got that e-mail, too. I tried to place an order yesterday, and even though I have an account with them and have successfully downloaded 5.1-channel albums from them (to the US) before, I got this error message:

    “Les produits suivants ne sont malheureusement pas disponibles à la vente dans votre pays.”
    [The following products are unfortunately not available for sale in your country.]

    I immediately sent an e-mail to Qobuz and I just now got this reply:

    “Qobuz open to international but not in your country.
    Only UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, NL, Belgie, Luxembourg & Irland.
    Qobuz is really sorry because you received our message.. Our International developpement grow up and your country will be open soon.”

    On an equally incompetent note: I reported to Qobuz a year ago that one of the albums they offer actually contains the audio samples and full tracks from a completely different album! I even contacted the American producer and the German recording engineer, but to no avail. Today the error still has not been corrected.

    • Apparently, the email that you and I received was incorrect. It didn’t actually say the U.S. but it DID say my country…so go figure. I think Qobuz is expanding but is going a marginal job of ensuring fidelity. Once again, everything is “Master Quality” in their minds.

  5. I just flashed back to 1966. I was really excited because I had just bought “The Best of the Animals” on MGM. I was 13 years old. In stereo (“Sounds great in STEREO”) no less! “House of the Rising Sun”, “It’s My Life”, etc., sounding like never before! Imagine how cheated I felt when I found that it was sourced from mono masters. 48 years later they (probably their children) are still doing the same… stuff! It’s perfectly legal and morally bankrupt. Obviously, you know that the only way to change things is to make it financially advantageous. I’m sure that is why you have lobbied so hard for an accurate definition HD so that the only way to get the premium money is with a premium product. It’s a tough road that will not change over night. We need to spread the word and keep it in conversation.

    • Thanks Blaine.

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