As today’s headphones and speakers get better and Bluetooth connectivity makes advances, there’s a new desire for hi-resolution audio streaming.
The latest audio equipment is packed full of advanced features that allow for hi-res audio streaming, however all that is useless if we stream our music in a highly compressed, low-resolution format like MP3.
To accommodate this desire, there’s now a number of streaming services that offer hi-resolution audio streaming. Hi-res audio is no longer an exclusive commodity for the most enthusiastic audiophiles. Now, anyone with compatible wireless headphones or earbuds can listen to music in the highest quality format.
In this article, we’ve listed our favourite high-resolution audio streaming services in NZ to assist you in choosing a service that is right for you.
Best high-resolution streaming services NZ (2021)
Amazon Music HD
NZD$21.44/month | Offline listening | 70 million songs
Amazon Music HD is the best high resolution streaming service on the market. It provides high-resolution audio at a lower price than the competition while boasting a similarly sized library.
Amazon Music HD has two different streaming qualities, “HD” and “Ultra HD.” Both of these are encoded by the lossless codec FLAC. You can listen to over 70 million songs in the HD quality which is CD quality audio at 44.1kHZ/16bit. You can also listen to a select number of songs in the “Ultra HD” quality at 192kHz/24bit. Just make sure your device can support it.
Amazon Music HD costs NZD$21.44/month which is the cheapest on this list for Hi-Res audio. It allows for offline listening to music. Just make sure you don’t confuse Amazon Music HD with Amazon Music Unlimited as Unlimited only streams music in a 320kbps lossy format.
NZD$29.99/month | Exclusive videos | Offline listening
Tidal is one of the most popular high-resolution streaming services on the market and it offers some of the highest quality audio out there.
Tidal has 70 million songs that can be listened to in 3 different streaming qualities.
The Tidal Premium subscription NZD$14.99/month gives you access to “high” quality streaming which streams songs at 320kbps over AAC (not high-resolution).
Tidal HiFi, NZD$29.99/month gives you access to “HiFi,” CD-quality lossless FLAC files (44.1kHz/16bit,) and it also gives you access to the “Master Quality Authenticated (MQA)” quality which is delivered via a FLAC or WAV file at 96kHz/24bit.
Another big attraction to Tidal is the ability to download music and listen to it offline. It also has exclusive music videos and playlists only for Tidal users.
NZD$29.99/month | Music purchases | Offline listening
Qobuz has a massive library of 70 million songs in Hi-Fi CD quality and over 700,000 albums in Hi-Res format.
Qobuz comes in two subscriptions, the Studio Premier subscription that costs NZD$29.99 and the Studio Sublime subscription which costs NZD$29.16/month. Both of these subscriptions give you access to both the Hi-Fi and the Hi-Res tracks with the only difference being the Studio Sublime subscription giving you access to special discounts on music purchases.
You can purchase high-resolution music off the Qobuz store that gives you exclusive rights to the files. This means you can download them and listen to them on any device without needing the Qobuz app.
Qobuz also allows you to listen to music offline via its cached music system. When you listen to a song online, Qobuz automatically downloads it onto your device (in the quality you chose) for offline listening.
Only Hi-Fi | NZD$19.49/month | 360 Reality Audio
Deezer doesn’t have a high-resolution tier, but it does offer a very affordable Hi-Fi CD quality subscription costing NZD$19.49/month.
Offering over 70 million tracks Deezer has all of the music you would expect in a streaming service and it also offers 360 Reality Audio via the 360 by Deezer app. This will only work with Sony headphones, however.
Deezer does allow you to download your music so you can listen to it offline, and if you’re low on data you can choose low quality audio streaming in order to save bandwidth.
What is high-resolution audio?
High-resolution audio is the highest quality streaming audio you can get. It’s better at replicating the quality of sound created when working in a music studio, than CD.
To get music on a digital platform, sounds recorded in a studio need to go through an analogue to digital conversion process. This process has two parameters that determine the quality of the final audio file. The first is sampling frequency, measured in kHz, and refers to how many times signals or sounds are taken per second during the conversion. The second is bit depth, measured in bits, which correlates to the number of bits of information present in each sample. For every 1-bit increase, the quality of the audio file doubles.
Which is a complicated way of saying: the higher the sampling frequency and bit depth during conversion, the more accurate the digital sound is to the original recording and the better the quality is.
High-resolution audio usually has a sampling frequency at 96kHz/24bit but it can go up to 192kHZ. This is a massive upgrade on Hi-Fi CD quality which has a sampling frequency at 44.1kHz/16bit and an even larger upgrade on the popular MP3 format at 44.1kHZ/320kbps.
High-resolution audio isn’t new, the reason it didn’t become popular until recently, is because high-resolution audio files are massive. These files take up significantly more memory than low-res audio files and for devices with limited storage capacities (like phones) this was an issue. To manage the size of these files, and save storage space usually they are compressed into different formats.
There are two main forms of compression, lossless and lossy. Lossy compression ensures the smallest file size but the audio quality suffers because it removes soundwaves from the data.
Lossless compression doesn’t affect the audio quality, and while it does reduce the file size, it doesn’t make the files as small as lossy compression. Lossless compression is the only compression that allows the audio files to be Hi-Res or Hi-Fi.
There are a variety of formats that these compressed files come in:
Lossy Codecs: (not high-resolution)
- Ogg Vorbis
Lossless Codecs: (high-resolution)
How to listen to high-resolution audio?
In order to listen to high-resolution audio, you need three things:
Content (High-resolution streaming service)
You need to have audio that is in a high-resolution format. Most of the streaming services on this list provide high-resolution audio content.
Audio Device (Phone)
If you’re using wireless headphones or speakers you’ll need an audio device (phone) that has a built-in digital audio convertor (DAC) that supports HD/Ultra HD audio and can send a high-resolution signal to your playback device. There are a few ways you can do this, you can send a high-resolution signal using Bluetooth aptX HD, LDAC, Google Cast or Bubble UPnP.
If your phone doesn’t have an HD/Ultra HD DAC, you can get third party converters that will do the job.
Playback Device (Wired/wireless headphones or a speaker)
Your wireless headphones or speaker will also require a DAC that supports HD/Ultra HD audio and they’ll have to support the signal used to send the Hi-Res audio. They’ll need to support either Bluetooth aptX HD, LDAC, Google Cast or Bubble UPnP. Both your phone and headphones will need to support the same signal in order for high resolution audio to work.
How to choose the best high-resolution audio streaming service for you?
Number of tracks
While all of the streaming services on this list have millions of songs for you to listen to, the amount of tracks available in high-resolution does vary. Some services have significantly less high-resolution tracks to listen to, and this is an important factor to consider when choosing the best high-resolution streaming service for you.
Hi-Fi vs Hi-Res
Don’t get Hi-Fi and Hi-Res mixed up. Hi-Fi refers to CD-quality lossless audio with a sampling rate of 44.1kHz/16-bit. Hi-Res audio refers to studio quality audio with a sampling rate of at least 96kHz/24-bit. If you want to listen to the highest quality audio, make sure that the streaming service offers Hi-Res audio not just Hi-Fi audio.
Generally, high-resolution streaming services are more expensive than standard resolution services. A lot of the streaming services also provide different tier subscriptions. This is something to consider when choosing a Hi-Res streaming service that is right for you.