Sound and Vision: I’m not that bothered about another Spotify HiFi delay
OPINION: Another month, another vague update about the status of Spotify’s HiFi tier. It’s still reported to be arriving in 2023 (maybe), but we’ve been talking about Spotify HiFi for so long that I’ve come to be rather nonplussed about its existence.
I’m not saying it’ll be a disaster – when it does launch it’ll probably be a success given the quality of the service as it stands, but while I was excited by the initial announcement in 2021, I’ve grown ambivalent in the years since.
Why? I already have access to high-quality audio.
The way people talk and report about Spotify HiFi, you would think the entire music industry is waiting for it to launch. That’s true to a degree in that Spotify remains the biggest and most popular music streaming service around, but Tidal beat it to the punch years ago, as did Qobuz, while Deezer has had CD lossless quality and immersive audio for years. Apple seemed to press a button and unlock all the lossless tracks within its library.
Spotify has been too slow on the uptake, and you could argue in recent years that it’s no longer the class-leading service despite its popularity among users. It’s almost the de-facto choice in the market because of its association with music streaming. But if you really wanted to listen to music at a higher quality, you would have subscribed to another service already.
At first, it seemed as if the issue behind the delay was getting all the agreements in place with the music studios to license music at CD lossless and higher. Now it sounds as if it has moved on to being a question of how much Spotify can charge for that access and how unique Spotify’s proposition can be. What gummed up the works was Apple’s decision to unlock lossless audio and Dolby Atmos support without adding a new, more expensive tier.
When it comes to lossless and Hi-Res audio, Spotify is at the back chasing the rest of the pack. That’s not a bad position to be in per se, you get to see what others are doing and potentially capitalize on any mistakes from those ahead. But other streaming services are set in their rhythm, they have a purity of purpose in what they’re doing. Spotify, especially in recent years, comes across as rather muddled and indecisive.
I subscribe to Tidal and when I can, I listen to Qobuz for testing purposes, and gradually those two services are my go-to for higher-quality music. The question is whether I really need Spotify HiFi in my life right now, and the answer is, not really.
While it’ll be nice to have, unless it does something radical or at the very least different from what’s been established, then it’s just another high-res streaming service, and we already have access to those if people choose to subscribe to them.
It feels as if Spotify has missed the boat and is trying to re-evaluate what it can offer in this current market, but the longer it takes the less it feels as if it’s a mandatory purchase. If Spotify HiFi is to have the desired impact then it needs to wow people, but this ‘umming’ and ‘awwing’ from Spotify just sounds like it is hedging its bets.