The Celestial Jukebox is Here and It Sounds Incredible. An Interview with Dan Mackta from Qobuz

Are you using Qobuz yet?

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Jan 18, 2019 at 4:36 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 14
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Qobuz — the Hi-Resolution Audio streaming platform from France— just launched in the US. This is a big deal for Domo Audio. They have over 170,000 albums available in 24-Bit Hi-Res Audio quality and some of the deepest cuts of jazz and classical albums. But what’s most exciting to us is the integrated art, style and content. The editorial and the curation are a dream come true for any music lover.

When Qobuz formed in 2008, their goal was to offer the digital world the aspects of music fandom that audiophiles, those who love music best, have always cherished. That meant quality sound, quality editorial, and a freedom of choice that wholly excludes bias. How lucky are we that they succeeded.

To celebrate the launch, we caught up with Dan Mackta, managing director of Qobuz USA. Prior to joining the Qobuz team, Dan was Co-Head of Marketing for Razor & Tie Recordings in New York. He also served as Vice President of Marketing at both RCA Records and Jive Records/Zomba Label Group.

I’m excited about the new launch. Turning people on to the benefits of a hi-fi streaming platform almost sounds like your old days of breaking new acts and promoting new releases.

Qobuz is a tiny company compared to others in the music streaming and download business. I’ve generally worked with music outside the mainstream and had to be clever and creative in my marketing rather than relying on sheer budgetary might. But the thread that really ties it together is the idea of quality. Even when it was hard, I knew the music I was promoting was great and would bring people a lot of pleasure. Similarly, I know Qobuz will make people happy when they experience it. So we push through the tough moments.

When you first started in the music industry, did anyone ever imagine that you’d be able to stream hi-res masters anywhere in the world at any time?

Absolutely not. When I started, CDs were coming into their own and vinyl — outside the audiophile world — was completely dead. By the late ‘90s and the first dot-com boom, the idea of a ‘celestial jukebox’ was bandied about but at that time online audio was pretty lo-fi.

Basically, the idea of audio quality was totally sacrificed in favor of convenience by the lossy download. The MP3 revolution changed the model completely and almost killed the music business for everybody. Streaming has made it even more convenient and brought some revenue back into the business, but again, at the expense of audio quality.

The difference between what I was hearing at say Sterling Sound in Joe LaPorta’s mastering room and the music ultimately streamed to the fan was pretty depressing. That gap is eliminated with Hi-Res audio and the ability to stream it with no special equipment is revolutionary. The ‘celestial jukebox’ is here and it sounds incredible.

When music was first digitized, it was also commoditized. You can have 1 million songs at your fingertips but at what cost?

The beauty of streaming audio is also the problem — as music becomes even more ubiquitous, accessible, and customizable — the concept of “Furniture Music” proposed by Satie becomes real. It is everywhere and is merely the background to our regular lives. But that takes the kind of joy and excitement that music can bring out of the equation.

By focusing on the lean-in experience that a true music connoisseur is looking for, Qobuz offers an alternative to ‘music as aural wallpaper.’ Our service is all about offering the fan context, information, and an expert take on what sounds good and why.

Why does hi-res matter?

Music tickles the mathematical underpinnings of our nervous system. The shared appreciation of an art form doesn’t get any deeper than the one we see with music. I don’t know why! But I do know that something is lost when audio is compressed and when the art is detached from the artist completely.

Absolutely. What have you been listening to lately?

The Beatles White Album remix, of course. There is a great Swedish band called The Amazing whose latest album came out over the summer. And discovering all kinds of great jazz that really sings in Hi-Res. John Abercrombie’s “Timeless” on ECM has been at the top of the list.

And where do you see the future of music and streaming heading? Where do you think we will be in the next 5-10 years?

I think the market for streaming music will continue to explode. It is too convenient and now the audio quality is there. As a result, I expect stratification in the services and hardware. Some people will stream lossy audio into a crappy Bluetooth speaker and be happy, and on the other end of the spectrum there will those who stream lossless Hi-Res into a DAC costing 5 figures on the way into a system that cost the same as my house.

I personally believe that the growth in AI music alongside the lifestyle playlist phenomenon will lead to more and more music that is not created by humans being happily consumed by folks working out, trying to relax, or looking for something to help them focus. Qobuz is the opposite of all this though, and I think the market is evolving and will offer opportunities to humans too!

This article was originally published at Domo.Audio

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Jan 18, 2019 at 7:16 PM Post #2 of 14

bfreedma

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Qobuz is still showing as “closed beta”. If you have a link where the public can actually sign up from a US based IP address, please post it.

It’s been “coming soon” for so long, I’m close to giving up.
 
Jan 18, 2019 at 7:37 PM Post #3 of 14

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Qobuz is still showing as “closed beta”. If you have a link where the public can actually sign up from a US based IP address, please post it.

It’s been “coming soon” for so long, I’m close to giving up.

Qobuz Announces Opening of US Beta
https://shorefire.com/releases/entry/qobuz-announces-opening-of-us-beta
"Music aficionados looking for a premium audiophile experience can join the waitlist for the Qobuz beta here: http://on.qobuz.com/RH "


Also, we have a Qobuz thread here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/qobuz-lossless-streaming-service-thread.856101/
 
Jan 18, 2019 at 7:46 PM Post #4 of 14

bfreedma

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Qobuz Announces Opening of US Beta
https://shorefire.com/releases/entry/qobuz-announces-opening-of-us-beta
"Music aficionados looking for a premium audiophile experience can join the waitlist for the Qobuz beta here: http://on.qobuz.com/RH "


Also, we have a Qobuz thread here: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/qobuz-lossless-streaming-service-thread.856101/


Unfortunately, that link only allows someone to get on the waitlist (as you noted in the quoted text), not actually sign up. I’m already on the waitlist.

I certainly don’t consider a waitlist for a beta equivalent to a product launch. My frustration is due to wanting to sign up, as Qobuz offers the features I’m looking for.

Thanks for the link to the other thread.
 
Jan 18, 2019 at 8:02 PM Post #5 of 14

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Unfortunately, that link only allows someone to get on the waitlist (as you noted in the quoted text), not actually sign up. I’m already on the waitlist.

I certainly don’t consider a waitlist for a beta equivalent to a product launch. My frustration is due to wanting to sign up, as Qobuz offers the features I’m looking for.

Thanks for the link to the other thread.

Agreed, I don't think the above article is accurate to say "just launched in the US". A beta is not a launch, and we're both on the waitlist so that's even less of a thing. I've had a UK account for over a year now though, and have to say it will be well worth the wait!
 
Jan 18, 2019 at 8:28 PM Post #6 of 14

bfreedma

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Agreed, I don't think the above article is accurate to say "just launched in the US". A beta is not a launch, and we're both on the waitlist so that's even less of a thing. I've had a UK account for over a year now though, and have to say it will be well worth the wait!

I’ve considered setting up a VPN to get access but hope that this time, they really are close to a US release.

The last email I received stated that they would have everyone waitlisted on board in February. Good to hear you’re happy with the service.
 
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Jan 18, 2019 at 9:28 PM Post #7 of 14

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I’ve considered setting up a VPN to get access but hope that this time, they really are close to a US release.

The last email I received stated that they would have everyone waitlisted on board in February. Good to hear you’re happy with the service.

I don't think VPN signup works anymore, but anyway it's more expensive with the exchange rate so I'd just wait at this point.
 
Jan 19, 2019 at 8:00 AM Post #8 of 14

SoundDouble

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I agree with the exchange rate. I was trying to purchase some downloads and saw qobuz cheaper but I couldn't buy cause my address. So I did the vpn and it became more than the other site.
 
Jan 19, 2019 at 5:09 PM Post #9 of 14

Richter Di

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I am a Qobuz user for quite a while. While I think the music offering is great and quality is prefect, I think they should do better on their apps. I use it on my iPad Pro, iPhone 7 and on a Samsung A7. The most stable is the android version, but it is not able to remember what I heard last when I restart the phone.
The iOS version has to restart always when you switch apps and makes akward pauses between tracks from audio books.
 
Jan 20, 2019 at 12:53 PM Post #10 of 14

turbomustang84

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I've tried to sign up and have a VPN but I could not get the app to change from French to English .
I will try it but I am pretty satisfied with Deezer .
They have quite a few high res tracks available on Deezer so we will see
 
Jan 20, 2019 at 5:35 PM Post #11 of 14

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I've tried to sign up and have a VPN but I could not get the app to change from French to English .
I will try it but I am pretty satisfied with Deezer .
They have quite a few high res tracks available on Deezer so we will see

The language issue can be resolved by downloading the version of the app available on the UK site here [link], but that's not going to help if you can't open an account. I think the accounting system now checks your physical address even if you use PayPal, and if so then VPNing into London won't help you get around that. Before that you'd also need to clear your browser cookies and cache if you've ever visited a Qobuz website without VPN (like via the link I just provided). But payment seems to be the main barrier now.
 
Jan 21, 2019 at 6:34 PM Post #12 of 14

talmadge

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A closed beta is not a USA launch. I've been on the wait list for weeks!
My question is what can Qobuz offer that Tidal can't? Is Qobuz only going to be able to stream in hi res the titles that are available on HD tracks in high res and CD quality for everything else like Tidal? So will the only difference be I can get both in one place and not need to use both Tidal and HD Tracks and can stream whats available in hi res instead of buy?
 
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Jan 21, 2019 at 9:37 PM Post #13 of 14

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A closed beta is not a USA launch. I've been on the wait list for weeks!
My question is what can Qobuz offer that Tidal can't? Is Qobuz only going to be able to stream in hi res the titles that are available on HD tracks in high res and CD quality for everything else like Tidal? So will the only difference be I can get both in one place and not need to use both Tidal and HD Tracks and can stream whats available in hi res instead of buy?

On another forum I saw a post saying they are adding beta users in batches, so good luck maybe you'll be in soon. Nobody knows what Qobuz will be able to license for streaming in the USA, and what you find in the beta may not be the final list either. Sometimes labels won't even license the same version for both downloading and streaming. So who knows. But for the record, Qobuz currently offers about 2,000,000 Hi-Res tracks vs. Tidal's 150,000 MQA tracks. They both offer about 40 million tracks overall, but the depths of their back catalogs vary by genre, and what they present to you for new music discovery is usually very different, as are their app designs.
 

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