Shindig! are now providing monthly playlists, guides and essays for the finest streaming and download service out there, Qobuz. For the benefit of those yet to embrace the pleasures of “serious streaming” JON ‘MOJO’ MILLS quizzes managing director DAN MACKTA about how to get started
S!: Spotify, Apple, Amazon, Tidal… Qobuz. It’s a minefield. What’s the difference?
DM: The biggest difference to me is that Qobuz is small, privately owned company that does nothing but music. The others are giant companies, or parts of giant companies, for whom music is at best a loss leader.
S!: Now we have the basics out of the way, could you explain the best ways to make the most of Qobuz whether listening via headphones or through their hi-fi?
DM: The biggest misconception out there is that you can hi-res audio over Bluetooth. Even with the newest codecs, it is not bit-perfect. We advise using wired headphones, and try a low cost USB DAC (digital-to-analog converter) between your phone and the headphones for best results. If you already have a home system set up to listen to vinyl, and you have an aux in or tape in on your receiver, you can run right out of the same USB DAC you use for your phone. From there you can start getting into upgrades like dedicated streamers and higher-end DACS. Good speakers are probably the most important thing though!
S!: Listening in the car or walking using 4G and a lower bitrate is fine, but for me, the serious way to enjoy Qobuz is to listen to the 24-bit high res files through the home stereo. I use a Node streamer and the quality is brilliant. For the uninitiated could you offer a few other recommendations of how to make the most of Qobuz in a home environment?
DM: Bluesound Node is good, there is also a new product called the WiiM mini streamer which also does full Hi-Res streaming. Every audio manufacturer is now making streamers or amplifiers with streamers built in, which allow you to listen to music in the system without hooking it up to a computer or phone. The other big recommendation we have for streaming Qobuz at home is hard wire your devices via Ethernet to your router for best results. Qobuz is not adaptive, which means the sound quality is not automatically degraded to match your bandwidth – and Wi-Fi inevitably is a weak point when streaming giant audio files.
S!:For anyone who has considered embracing high-res streaming and considered Tidal’s MQA, or your CD quality FLACs and 24-bit files, Amazon’s and Apple’s versions, it’s quite confusing. Could you explain what each offers, and why Qobuz is the best choice?
DM: Qobuz streams the same audio files as Apple and Amazon. Tidal Masters uses a special format. I don’t know what other processing these services apply. I know Qobuz does nothing. No loudness normalisation, nothing. Music producers and engineers tell us they think Qobuz sounds best, and I trust their ears. The other thing that makes Qobuz different is we also offer a Hi-Res download store for those customers who want to buy digital albums in the best available audio quality. None of the others have this option.
Qobuz has a section called “The Taste Of Qobuz”. Our editors have selected hundreds of important albums across all genres which is a good place to start. You can save any album, track or artist to your library for easy access later across all your devices. You can also search by record label on Qobuz which is a great way to discover new stuff.
S!:For the younger listener Spotify have nailed the app interface with their recommendations, Apple have their radio. Qobuz is certainly more of a streamlined platform. We offer a monthly playlist, as do other cool publications like Jockey Slut, and we are also working on in-depth playlists centring around labels, genres, sub-genres and more, with accompanying essays. This is an area you excel in. Beyond what we will be offering in 2023, what else would you suggest a Shindig! reader investigates?
DM: The Panoramas section (called Grand Angles in France) offers interactive, long-form articles about key artists, genres, and scenes. These are a great way to dive deep while listening to carefully curated offerings from our music team.
S!: For those who know their way around streaming platforms, could you let us know when we can expect Qobuz Connect? What other new implantations are on the cards?
DM: Qobuz Connect is currently in development and we are expecting to launch it in the first half of 2023. This feature will allow users to play Qobuz right out of our app to whatever audio hardware they choose. Other improvements like a redesigned My Qobuz section are also on the way.
S!: Each service has its strength and weakness, and most contain albums and artists that the others don’t. Will your catalogue be significantly expanding in the new year?
DM: At the current time we have over 90 million tracks in our library. There aren’t significant numbers of tracks to add, frankly. What we are doing is continuing to sign deals or arrange delivery from more small labels, as well as clean up holes resulting from various technical issues over the years. Our team is very small so this work is kind of whack-a-mole but it’s important. And Bob Seger will hopefully be giving us his full digital catalogue this year, he has been a holdout, not quite sure why.
S!: One thing that many of our readers like about CDs, particularly Cherry Red’s well thought out boxes, are the in-depth liner note booklets. If you could contain all of these it would be the icing on the cake. How likely is this?
DM: We are able to display digital booklets right in all of our apps. The record labels have to send them to us though! Some distributors are simply not able to do it, in which case we can always add the booklets manually if we can get them from the label. We ask our suppliers to send booklets ALL THE TIME because we know our users really love them. But the it is in the hands of the labels.
S!: What’re a few of your picks from across the catalogue?
DM: Here are some recent favourites and discoveries:
To learn more and subscribe to Qobuz, click here. It’s well worth the outlay. Get a streamer and become part of the modern age. There’ll be Shindig! content every month.