Spotify says it’s close to launching a “Hi-Fi” service later this year and it feels like we’ve travelled back in time to March 2017 when the first rumblings of a high-quality service were announced. Of course, back then it was more of a rumour than anything else but it was always inevitable that the service would launch as Spotify looked to increase revenues as subscriptions inevitably slowed with market saturation.
The service is, however, entirely real now and Spotify has posted a video with music goddess Billie Eilish and her equally god-level brother Finneas, who writes and produces music with his fabulous sister. In the video the pair talk about the work that goes into producing their music and how much of it is hidden unless you’re using amazing hardware and a high quality copy of the music.
Enter Spotify Hi-Fi, which is going to offer much better quality music streaming. Of course it will come in the easy-to-use Spotify package that’s made the service a near global phenomenon. This is, of course, a major selling point because a lot of people love Spotify’s music discovery and are quite deeply entrenched in the ecosystem.
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Of course there’s a multitude of services out there offering high-quality streaming. Tidal is most famous for its lossless music service but, to be honest, it doesn’t sound like Spotify is exactly gunning for Tidal. In the press release, Spotify only mentions “CD-quality lossless” but Tidal also has its Masters, which offers up-to 24 bit recordings (CD-quality is 16 bit). You’d have more chance hearing the nuance in Eilish’s music on a Tidal Master than the new Spotify service.
That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, but realistically Spotify Hi-Fi is likely to be sold to people who think they want extra quality but might not really be able to appreciate it. You certainly won’t hear much more unless you’re actually listening on a proper Hi-Fi setup. Wireless Headphones, for example, are largely incapable of making the most of any quality increase.
So it’s likely Spotify Hi-Fi subscribers will be people who think they want better sound quality but don't really have high-end hardware. It's absolutely not going to appeal to real quality enthusiasts who will go for either Tidal or buy music in studio master quality from sites like Qobuz (which also has a high resolution streaming service of its own).
We don’t know what this service will cost yet, but it won’t be sticking at the tenner we’re all used to, that much is certain. If Spotify is smart it will price it at roughly the same as Amazon’s HD music streaming service, which is $14.99 / £14.99 (discounted to $12.99 / £12.99 for Prime members). Aiming at Tidal’s more costly $19.99 / £19.99 / $AU23.99 would be a mistake, given the lower quality it appears Spotify will be offering.