by Currawong (Amos), Brooko & others (previously: hear.reviews)
by Currawong (Amos), Brooko & others (previously: hear.reviews)

Spotify to announce (finally!) a lossless tier

For serious audio enthusiasts (we don’t like the term “Audiophile”, which implies irrational obsession) lossless music is a must. Since the advent of the CD, which defined the basic level of lossless music to be 16 bit, 44.1 kHz, the idea of buying expensive audio equipment only to play back lossy-compressed tunes, which remove the low-level subtleties that make high-end audio listening so enjoyable, is something we consider nonsensical.

Thus, Spotify was for “normal” people, who don’t care about these sorts of things. For enthusiasts, Qobuz, TIDAL, Deezer or Amazon were the only options, as they offer lossless music (though TIDAL is falling out of favour with their now-found-to-be-fake “Master” category of lossy high-res and DSP-altered music). However, according to The Verge, Spotify will be, finally, adding a lossless tier. How much it costs remains to be seen.

TIDAL, for example, is $19.99/month, whereas Amazon and is $14.99 (or $12.99 for Amazon Prime members). Qobuz is also $14.99 (which includes genuine high-res offerings) and discounts this to $12.99 if paid annually. Given that Spotify premium, which offers MP3 320kbps at $9.99, the question remains whether they can offer their catalog, which exceeds that of the lossless providers, for an equally competitive price.

While supposedly to be limited to certain markets, the presence of a lossless tier in the US and Europe could have serious consequences for the smaller providers. TIDAL, for example, which is being investigated in Norway for fake streaming figures and has been criticised for its rollout of MQA, which has both been questioned about its claims and accused of being used by record companies to inject DRM into music (as the complete playback stream requires purchasing of licensed equipment) would be most likely to suffer from being undercut by a competitor with a much larger catalog.

While Amazon, ultimately, is unlikely to come to serious harm, since the service is only one of many that Amazon provides, the small, dedicated providers could have trouble finding customers, except, for example, those few who wish to stream genuine high-res, such as those who use Qobuz. Apple, on the other hand, likely has no interest at all, as the interest would be a proverbial drop in the ocean for them.

Spotify also posted a video with Billie Eilish and Finneas in conjunction with the announcement.