Holiday Gift Guides – Music – Streaming
Once upon a time I saved my allowance, and after my piano lessons at Mrs. Salet’s house, I’d walk a block to Leo’s Stereo on State College Blvd. in Anaheim. A pioneer and big player in affordable car stereos in the sixties and seventies, they also sold LPs at rock bottom prices. At $1.99 or $2.99 per album, I was careful I could buy an disc a week. Of course my mom didn’t approve - rock and roll didn’t fit into my Jewish mother’’s idea of important things to purchase. To meet that qualification, only books for studying would suffice. I’d have to hide any LPs I bought in my backpack, and tell my mom I just went there to learn about the stereos. I think she knew.
Skip forward to 2023, and we don’t need to sneak music into our homes. Well, unless you don’t want to advertise spending $130 plus for an artisanal hand-pressed one-step LP of music you’ve owned for thirty years and know from heart. So, you still might be sneaking that into your house from a disapproving partner. But the point is, with streaming we don’t even need physical media. Although I still have a soft spot for tangible media, from LPs to Blu-ray, the bulk of our current listening is via streaming.
We have several streaming services that we use for reviews, and listening to music. I’ll mention a few favorites:
Qobuz is our go-to streaming service. With in-depth essays incorporated into the artists’ notes, and all the content in CD quality and above, it’s a hit with audiophiles round the world for a reason. The pricing plan is affordable, and with high-resolution content, Qobuz offers a fantastic selection, a store with attractively priced downloads, and a new club for users to discuss their favorite artists and selections. Qobuz is a service that doesn’t feel like the face of a giant corporation, instead it feels friendly, and their presence at audio events, shows, and their active Facebook page all speaks to a sincere effort to interact with their customers.
The Sublime pricing option, allows for downloads, the Qobuz Store has a wide variety of music and genres, often on sale with a lower point then other sites, and we have found the Studio option perfect for our needs. Qobuz, led by the ebullient team of Dan Mackta, Rachel Silton, and David Solomon, have built Qobuz into our favorite streaming site.
For more information on Qobuz visit: https://www.qobuz.com/us-en/discover
For audiophiles, Tidal has long had high-quality, high-resolution content. For a while, audiophiles on the MQA bandwagon flocked to Tidal. With MQA’s future still undetermined, there’s no guarantee if that content will remain on Tidal, but Tidal is still compelling for other reasons. Its selection is often skewed toward of-the-moment contemporary music, with some artists exclusively on it. Pricing is tiered, with the most expensive being their high-res offerings. Tidal is quirky, often with exclusive content, very contemporary programing, and some of our pals are big fans.
For more information on Tidal visit: https://tidal.com
Amazon Music has an impressive list of artists, including Dolby Atmos releases. It’s affordable, doesn’t charge more for high-res content, and can be part of insuring that Amazon knows every possible thing about you, making them a life partner, whether you like it or not. Still, it’s worth checking out. They aren’t as successful as they are for no reason.
For more information on Amazon Music visit: https://www.amazon.com
If you own any Apple device, you can’t escape the Apple juggernaut, and fittingly so. After all, the iPods success wasn’t due to it being a music player, it was due to the integration of iTunes, which made music purchasing, playing, and transporting it absolutely seamless. This brilliant and far-reaching innovation was a natural connection to iTunes. However, as Apple continues its dominance over the planet, iTunes has become Apple Music, and for audiophiles it’s a bit of a mixed bag. For years, iTunes refused to play high-res files, and now it’s capable of doing so, although limited. Price-wise, it’s reasonable, but the GUI drives us mad. Even after tweaking the preferences, breaking up the services, it’s still painful to use. We like to use shareware solutions like Senuti (iTunes backwards), but you can’t deny the breadth of Apple’s catalog. They are slowly opening up to high-resolution music, but in a scattered way. Of course, Apple made sure that you aren't limited to the Apple multiverse, and Apple Music works fine on Windows and Android. Well, almost as well...
For more information on Apple Music visit: https://www.apple.com/apple-music/
When I met with the founders of Spotify years ago, their pitch was simple: a service to benefit artists, with higher-quality sound than Pandora, and higher royalties. However, they are now a huge company whose payments to artists are almost non-existent. Even perennial nice guy Weird Al Yankovic has talked publicly about having millions of streams of his music on Spotify yield almost enough royalty payments to purchase a sandwich. So, for us Spotify is a big NO until they start paying artists properly.
For more information on Spotify visit: https://open.spotify.com/?
Harris Fogel, Nancy Burlan, and Frank Schramm, posted 12/05/2022