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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Subscription cost in the EU: €19.9/month, €199.90/yr

In my Pono piece I'd proposed that the age of ownership is shifting into an age of right of access. Rather than owning your music outright, you purchase cheap 24/7 access to vast libraries stored elsewhere. MOG, Spotify & Co. have offered such streaming subscriptions for years, albeit at 256-320mbps MP3 quality. With Qobuz you can now stream at vraie qualité CD, i.e. 16/44.1kHz FLAC. And yes, the site is French. For €199/yr—that's two free months over the €19.90 monthly subscription fee—you can listen to proper uncompressed full-resolution music from multiple computers. Here's what you do.

After you've paid your fee, you download the Qobuz Desktop app for Windows or Mac. Without it you can already stream through the Qobuz web browser but you'll be limited to 320mbps even with your HiFi abonnement. Once installed, your desktop will show the access icon like so (far right).

Launch the application. You'll have to sign in with your email address and password (or Facebook) credentials to start the session. Now click on the downward arrow next to the green Hi-Fi sign to open the inset window, then select Préférences as shown. This opens the Interface de l'application window. Here you set the streaming quality to FLAC, then select your chosen output device under Périphérique de sortie audio. If you have a favorite software player like PureMusic, you'll need an ASIO-type interface—for PureMusic you install their DPad plug-in—which then shows up as a selectable option in the same window. You might want to adjust a few more housekeeping items on this page before you close the interface window.

And then you're off to the races. Select from the Qobuz Desktop's search engine by typing in your chosen artist's name to bring up his/her albums...

... create a playlist—here you might want to turn on gapless play in the upper window or set your crossfade time from the playback toolbar if you do random play—or...

... pick a recommended album from one of the various category fields to broaden your horizons.

You can of course purchase an album or select tracks directly through this application. Just be sure to select CD quality (unless a Studio Master version is available which could be 24/96) and your desired file format. And be sure to set the output from Qobuz to 100% volume—at the bottom right of its tool bar—to get the best sound quality.

Obviously Qobuz don't have everything. That goes without saying. But... they have far more than any sane person would presently own in their personal library; are growing at a brisk clip; and have very little in common with your usual audiophile sites in terms of selection depth. Whilst Apple have been asleep behind the wheel of their iTunes store, our French melomanes have steadily built what looks to be the world's first proper uncompressed (non-lossy) streaming service. So give Qobuz Desktop streaming at full resolution a try, then tell me this isn't a fabulous service! As to gilding this lily with playthru options like PureMusic, JRiver Media Center, Jplay et all, I'm still getting my feet wet.

With the D-Pad for PureMusic installed and selected in Qobuz, make sure you also select Audio Playthrough mode in the Music Server drop-down window of PureMusic's tool bar as shown above. Once you do that, PureMusic's header bar will instantly show Playthrough Mode. If you want to upsample in software rather than in your DAC, you must deselect the default Constrain Sample Rate box in the Audio SetUp --> Input & Playthrough window in PureMusic. Now you can listen to your 16/44.1kHz Qobuz stream at 352.8kHz if your DAC is capable.

Memory play of course isn't applicable. Neither is integer mode because audio coming from other applications is supplied in floating point format. Monaco retailer Geoffrey Armstrong of Sound Galleries has an online article here on his favorite sound enhancements and plug-ins for remote control when using Qobuz.

Qobuz Desktop set to full-screen display is big indeed on a 27" iMac or 30" HP ZDisplay.

So go on streaming now. What are you waiting for? All audiophile negativity around the subject has been stricken. That's thrice vital for hifi retailers. With customers chancing upon you strolling by... well, chances of them carrying a CD of their favourite music are pretty much nil. And they're not much higher for you having their most favorite music on hand either. With Qobuz those opportunities look a lot more rosy now. Nothing makes music lovers feel quite as welcome than you playing the music they love the most!

For Win64, JPlay works readily via this included ASIO plug-in that's selectable from within Qobuz Desktop

Qobuz website