At almost the same time Google announced that their Play Music service was coming to Canada yesterday, word was filtering down about Qobuz (pronounced KO-buzz), a French music streaming company. Formed in 2007 and available through much of Europe, their plan is to bring lossless streaming to all of North America by the end of the year–and Canada will be first.
Qobuz offers the same sort of catalogue–somewhere north of 20 million songs–as the incumbents. What sets them apart, they say, is the high-quality nature–CD quality–of their streams. That implies a bitrate higher than what we currently get from the other companies.
Qobuz’s other point of differentiation is a companion download service which will offer access to studio masters.
Even though I work for the competition–I’m head of curation for Canada for Songza–I welcome any new players into the market because this country desperately needs to catch up with the rest of the planet when it comes to adopting streaming music habits. Like I’ve written before, the latest stats have Canada 86th in the world when it comes to streaming music. And since this is the way humanity seems to be headed (access to music over possession), anything that helps us get with the program is welcome.
As far as Qobuz goes, I wonder how fat their streams will be. Given how much Canadians pay for data plans (and we’ve been conditioned to fear data overages), will (a) Qobuz streams suck up more data than the other players who used MP3 and AAC; and (b) will Canadians care?
I’m all for high-fidelity sound, but in the case of portable listening, convenience usually trumps quality. And for most streamers, the current level of audio quality is just fine.