Discovering and understanding
High Quality sound is part of our DNA: our mission is to make you listen to the music the way it was conceived, played and recorded.
Many people still ignore how much compression robs music of the emotion and depth it should bring. Respecting sound means understanding the words that describe it. It also means fighting against the sometimes deceptive misuse of its lexical field: High Fidelity, HD, HIFI, Lossless, CD Quality, Hi-Res - We will help you find your way.
Definitions of the terms that scare you are given in the glossary
Sound is the vibration of a fluid in the shape of waves, a vibration felt by the human ear. That is sound as heard in its natural, analog state. Reproducing this sound implies capture and then restitution. Computers and digital technology have completely transformed our approach to sound capture and restitution: we now speak of digital audio. Our job at Qobuz is to give you access to the most faithful music reproductions, as digital audio can offer you both good and bad reproductions.
Named for its format, the MP3 is a compressed lossy audio file: it contains less data than the original files. The compression process entails the loss of many aural details, especially the harmonics of higher-pitched sounds. This results in pronounced quality loss, but also in small storage space. With improved internet connections, part of it's interest has been lost.
Lossy compressed format • Bitrate: from 128 kbps to 320 kbps • Resolution: 16-Bit
CD Quality comprises a number of formats (FLAC, ALAC, WMA Lossless...) offering lossless compression at a certain resolution and a certain sampling rate (16-Bit / 44.1 kHz -) which are identical to those used by the CD, defined according to the Nyquist-Shannon theorem. This nondestructive compression method reduces the file size without changing the original quality. Its bitrate is over 4 times higher than MP3's.
Lossless compressed formats • Bitrate: up to 1411 kbps • Resolution: 16-Bit
Hi-Res (as in High-Resolution) represents the apex of digital audio. These files - obtained through lossless compression or uncompressed - deliver better sound quality than a CD. They are encoded in 24-Bit, at frequencies that can go up to 192 kHz - these are actually the same files that are used in recording studios.
They therefore offer a much more accurate, faithful and respectful reproduction of the work of artists and sound engineers than any other audio file format. Moreover, the listening intensity and richness has no comparison with MP3 files or even with CDquality!
Uncompressed or lossless compressed formats • Resolution: 24-Bit
Going against the all-MP3 approach that has emerged in recent years, our mission is to offer all music lovers the listening comfort and excellence that both music enthusiasts and audiophiles deserve. Out of consideration for the music, for artists and their works, and for all who contribute to it.
It all starts with your choice of quality for music downloads and streaming.
(You may also download your purchases in lossy compressed formats - MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG -but only if you have very good reasons to do so!)
The finest aural experience is provided by a number of different actors, each one responsible for a link in the chain. Qobuz strives for the same levels of excellence on all links.
Artist, Studio and Mastering
We do the preliminary work with recording studios, in partnership with record labels and film studios, to obtain 24-Bit Hi-Res files with an identical sound to that of the engineer’s studio master
Transfer & File Control
We take special care with regards to the conformity of the audio files sent to us by our suppliers: sampling frequency, resolution…we seek to oust any cases of upsampling and other such adverse practices.
We develop applications which must meet the same requirements by offering the best possible sound quality, whilst remaining simple and enjoyable to use. At Qobuz, format is not the only ingredient that dictates quality.
Our Hi-Fi editorial team regulary test, dissect, compare and recommend the most suitable Hi-Fi equipment for enjoying Qobuz quality, for all budgets. We also work with the biggest brands to integrate our applications with them.
There are as many possible configurations as Hi-Fi equipment brands. Here are some Hi-Res configuration possibilities that will allow you to fully enjoy all the quality that Qobuz has to offer
(Google Chromecast, Bluesound Node...)
Here we don’t cover cables, NAS, network drives, or other advanced Hi-Fi configurations, so that we remain accessible to the entry-level audiophile! If you really know your Hi-Fi and want to go deeper in detail, our Hi-Res Guide is definitely for you.
And what about CD Quality (16-Bit FLAC/44.1 kHz)?
Unlike Hi-Res audio (which is encoded in 24-Bit), CD Quality has a 16-Bit resolution. It is supported by most devices on the market (computers, smartphones, tablets), without the need for extra equipment.
Resolution (bit) and sampling rate (kHz)
Resolution is expressed in Bits. It determines the accuracy of a sound's dynamics - in other words, the number of values a sound can take. The higher the accuracy of a sound's dynamics, the more perceptible aural variations will be, and the deeper a sound will seem. Sound becomes deeper and more dynamic. In 8-Bit, a sound can have 256 different values. In 16-Bit, it can have 65,536 values - and in 24-Bit... 16 777,217!
Sampling an audio signal consists of measuring a signal's amplitude at regular intervals, which are predetermined by the sampling rate. The latter is expressed in kHz (kilo-Hertz). The higher the frequency/rate, the most faithful and accurate the transcript will be. CD quality (44.1 kHz) collects 44,100 samples per second. In Hi-Res, this rate can reach 192 kHz (6.5 times more than a CD!).
The most common audio formats
"Lossy" compressed formats Definition
Destructive compression that reduces the file size by suppressing sound details, actually degrading the original quality. (MP3, OGG, AAC, WMA)
MP3 : The most common format on the Internet, developed in 1992.
OGG : A format based on a patent-free algorithm, whose quality is equivalent to MP3s
AAC : The format chosen by Apple as an alternative to MP3s
WMA : Proprietary format developed by Microsoft
"Lossless" compressed formats Definition
Non-destructive compression that reduces the file size without degrading the original quality.
FLAC : The most common lossless format on the Internet, patent-free and massively used
WMA Lossless : Lossless version of the standard WMA format developed by Microsoft
ALAC : A format developed by Apple in 2004, usable by everyone since 2011
Uncompressed formats Definition
Uncompressed audio is the most faithful to the original file quality.
WAV : A format that can contain uncompressed audio, developed by Microsoft & IBM
AIFF : A format that can contain uncompressed audio, developed by Apple
To go further: the DSD Definition
DSD is an 1 bit encoding format with a very high sampling rate (2.8 MHz or 5.6 MHz), based on the Delta Sigma conversion, where only signal variations are coded. It is actually an alternative to PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) - the conversion method used on all previously mentioned formats.
Codec, format Definition
Digital audio formats are commonly identified by their encoding. The encoding indicates the number of bits in which the file is encoded and its sampling rate.
A codec (coder-decoder) is the hardware or software element that converts the original digital audio file into the chosen format (encoding) and that enables its reading (decoding) in order to transform it into an audible, analog sound message.
Bitrates (used to describe MP3 or other lossy compressed files) reflect the flow of binary data (or bits) per second. A 320 kbps bitrate corresponds to the transmission of about 320,000 bits per second (kilobits-per-second). It can be constant (CBR) or variable (VBR).
For CD quality or Hi-Res files, bitrate is calculated as follows:
Sampling rate x number of bits (16 or 24) x number of channels (2 in stereo)
Simply put, a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) is an external sound card that is connected to a computer or a smartphone. Its role is to convert digital audio data into analog signals - which, when amplified, become audible.
The advantage of using a DAC is to overcome the poor quality of recent mass-market internal sound cards, which rarely support Hi-Res 24-Bit files.Discover our Hi-Fi testbeds
Network Drive Definition
The purpose of a network drive is to replace CD, SACD or Blu-Ray players. Once connected to the speakers, it establishes a connection with the local network (usually via Ethernet or Wi-Fi) and can reproduce various audio streams:
Most network drives also have a built-in DAC, allowing them to play files in Hi-Res 24-Bit quality.Discover our Hi-Fi testbeds