Monday, May 12, 2014

Moving on from Spotify

So after 5 years of regular listening, I'm moving away from Spotify, the last 3.5 were premium subscription originally so I can listen on my mobile, then for use with Sonos; and later so I can stream high quality music.

I let my subscription lapse because the streaming market is a very different place than when I first joined Spotify. Initially I was going to try Google Play Music All Access, but after reading about Qobuz I was intrigued by their FLAC streaming service.

They offer a 1 month free trial and I started my subscription yesterday, before I forget my first impressions I thought I'd post them here.

I started by using the web player which I found a little clunky, a few albums I searched for had greyed out tracks which played, but appeared to jump. I then noticed the music was streaming as MP3 and realised I had to install the desktop application for lossless. Using the desktop app led me to discover the greyed out tracks were 1 minute samplers with a link to purchase the track from Qobuz. However there is a helpful text message which appears explaining why the music is not streamable.

I very quickly got used to the interface and could overlook the occasional French messages appearing. I liked the idea of favouriting albums, artists and tracks as my Spotify account is awash with playlists containing just an album (although they have now solved this in their latest release). I quickly looked at my recent Spotify additions and added those albums to Qobuz, there were 1 or 2 albums not available but the vast majority are. One major downside for me is the inability to upload my own music purchases to make up the shortfall, although all purchases from Qobuz (often 24bit) are automatically streamable - I'm not sure if studio master purchases will be streamed in 24bit or if you get the 16bit version, I imagine the 16 bit version.

I noticed a cheeky import playlist from Spotify which I tried with a mixtape playlist I created back in 2012 containing 66 tracks of mainly electronic music, unfortunately only 30 tracks made it through. I found on a few occasions there was a slight difference in the album spelling which could have caused some of these failures. For example, Beastie Boys' Ill Communication is available in both services, but in Spotify it is suffixed with 'remastered edition'.

I decided to pick a few tracks to do side by side comparisons. Using Songcast on my laptop to stream to my Linn I played a CD quality track through the desktop app and the same through the webapp at 320kbps MP3 and could tell the difference.

I then played one of my own FLAC rips directly and compared with the FLAC streamed equivalent. My ears could not tell the difference. I tried this for a few tracks with consistent results.

I installed the Qobuz iPad application which seems to be much more responsive than the Spotify iPad app, I can then Airplay the Flac stream. I had to go through the options to make sure the quality was set to lossless. I like the iPad application which also includes a facility to read digital booklets of albums and in some cases browse the original LP sleeve!

The recommendation playlists of Qobuz aren't quite as good as the targeted suggestions made by Spotify, but they are enough to discover new music and there are plenty of links to related artists and albums. I actually discovered a new release by Mr Scruff out next week! I was able to favourite this album which will become available once it is released.

I am so far pleased with the service and in fact have exclusively listened to Qobuz tonight at home ranging from John Williams' Albeniz and Miles Davis Kind of Blue to the Chemical Brothers and even Disney Pixar's Greatest Hits!

I really like the idea of FLAC streaming and want to encourage this type of thing, the ultimate question however; is it worth the £10 premium? Hopefully by the end of the month I'll have an idea!


Kyle said...

Why doesn't Spotify have Disney music period? Sometimes you can find *alternate* bands that do Disney music but not anything official.

Do they have an agenda against Disney because they know how pretty the older Disney film music is and enjoy sucking?

Paige Smith said...
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