Audiophiles that have invested in superior quality audio systems and hardware would appreciate and welcome options in lossless music providers. Apparently even Jay-Z appreciates the resounding quality of the FLAC format for music, as proven by his recent investment in Tidal, a new music streaming service that through the WIMP platform offers a catalog of 25 million songs. Tidal’s “Premium” and “HiFi” services cost $9.99 per month and $19.99 per month. While the recent reviews of the service have not been stellar, Tidal is a strong contender and challenges the existing players in the lossless music arena.
Another major players in the lossless music streaming space is Deezer Elite, which also offer music in FLAC files at 44.1 kHz/16 bit. Deezer, however, can only be played if you have Sonos speakers. Despite this limitation, the company managed to acquire about 200,000 subscribers in the U.S. It charges $9.99/month if paid for the entire year, or $14.99 if billed monthly.
Pono is another lossless music service that is delivered through the PonoPlayer, an iPod-like device that plays 24-bit FLAC files. Developed by musician Neil Young and his company PonoMusic, the PonoPlayer costs $399 and has a 64 GB of internal storage.
Many albums in Pono’s store cost between $15 and $25, and individual songs cost a few dollars or more. While the PonoMusic store will sell files in the FLAC format only, it does offers compatibility with multiple file types, including FLAC, ALAC, WAV, MP3, AIFF, and AAC.
HDtracks, launched in 2008, has become a solid player in the high-resolution digital music space. With albums priced between $17 – $30 range, and individual songs at $2.49 per track, HDtracks supports several formats, including FLAC, ALAC, WAV, AIFF. Album purchases come with the cover art and liner as a PDF. The store has a decent selection but more music is constantly being added.
While Spotify crushes the competition in streaming music with about 3 million subscribers, it does not offer FLAC format. Perusal of Spotify’s community forum reveals numerous posts by loyal subscribers asking the company to offer lossless formats such as FLAC supported music files. It is unclear when the company will oblige, but the demand for high quality audio is growing.