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Sonos enables first 24-bit streaming audio support with Qobuz

Streaming provider Qobuz is the first hi-res service supported by Sonos, beating Tidal to the punch.

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French company Qobuz -- pronounced ko-buzz-- launched in the US in 2019. Its focus is on sound quality rather than the breadth of its catalog.

Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Streaming music service Qobuz has become the first hi-res streaming service on Sonos, allowing users users of the service to stream higher-quality music on compatible Sonos speakers. Qobuz is a competitor to Tidal and Amazon Music HD, which also provide hi-resolution files, and yet Tidal hasn't enabled 24-bit on Sonos yet.

"For many years Hi-Res audio was only available to a select few with the knowledge of where to get it and how to play it", managing director of Qobuz USA Dan Mackta told CNET in a statement. "Now, millions of people have the hardware in their homes already -- and the source has never been easier to access than through Hi-Res streaming with Qobuz on Sonos." 

The Sonos S2 operating system enabled users to play 24-bit FLAC files from their local drives when it launched in late 2020, but this is the first time users have been able to stream in hi-res.

Hi-res support promises better sound but with small, wireless speakers like the Sonos One and the new Sonos Roam, the main benefit is compatibility rather than sound quality. If Sonos users can play back 24-bit files, they potentially have access to more music than before. For example, every professional digital studio records in 24-bit, even though most files are converted to 16-bit for CD and streaming. Previously, if Sonos didn't support a 24-bit file it just wouldn't play at all.

Last year Sonos ended updates for legacy equipment in order to push through the S2 changes and while legacy products still work they won't receive the latest features.  

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