BACK IN 2015 streaming services were only just beginning to make headway into the world of hi-fi with lossless services from Qobuz and Tidal grabbing our attention. It was unknown territory, but we ran our first Group Test of six of the most popular services at the time (HFC 396) to see whether the lossless options offered audio advantages over their compressed competitors. Four years on and the nature of the market is continuously changing, so much so that an update on the state of on-demand music services has become an annual ritual in these pages. As with any evolving sector, nothing stands still for long in the world of audio, but even judged by the industry’s rapid technology development pace, on-demand streaming is progressing fast.
Better than CD
Each of the six services on test here delivers content in a lossless format equivalent to CD. In fact, five of the six services can deliver some or all of their content in better-than-CD resolutions, too. The resolution quality available from many services has increased but thankfully this hasn’t meant a hike in prices, which means you can add lossless and hi-res audio streams to your setup for an entirely reasonable subscription fee.
As well as looking at sound quality, we also investigate whether you are best served by a service that offers a large catalogue of both lossless and hi-res content or whether a specia