Music-streaming company Deezer recently announced that its high-fidelity service will soon be compatible with many more wireless speakers. But what exactly does it offer and could it be a better option than Spotify?
Previously, users could only access Deezer HiFi on Sonos speakers. This update will make it far more accessible, and the brand will be hoping to compete with bigger services such as Spotify and Apple Music. It will also make Deezer HiFi the first CD-quality service to be fully compatible with Google Assistant voice controls.
Deezer HiFi isn’t a new streaming service. It was launched in 2014 as Deezer Elite, giving users the option of streaming music in higher quality than the standard Deezer services allow. Now, under the ‘HiFi’ name, it will be available on a wide range of wi-fi speakers that support Google Cast.
The list of speakers that will be compatible includes models from Sony, Samsung, Yamaha and B&O, but you’ll be able to listen on any set of speakers if they’re plugged into a Chromecast Audio streaming stick.
Wireless speaker reviews – read our verdicts to choose a model with top-quality sound.
What does ‘CD quality’ mean?
CDs may seem like an out-of-date technology, seeing as it’s been 14 years since the iTunes Store was launched, and more than a decade since Spotify brought streaming to the masses. However, you might be surprised to learn that both of those technologies will often give you lower-quality sound than a CD.
MP3 music files are compressed, which means they’re simplified versions of the original digital music files. This makes them smaller, so you can fit more of them on your iPod or stream them more easily over the internet. It also means that some of the original information from the recording is lost – it never makes it to your ears.
CDs, on the other hand, use a different type of music file, which means there’s little or no loss of information from the original digital recording. This is known as a ‘lossless’ audio file.
So when Deezer states that its HiFi streaming service is in CD quality, it means that the digital files you’re listening to are larger than MP3s, and contain more information from the original sound recording.
In this case, they are FLAC files, which stream at 1,411 kilobytes per second (kbps). In comparison, the highest-quality MP3 files only require 320kbps to stream. The amount of data needed to stream a track is often referred to as the ‘bitrate’.
The difference that bitrate actually makes to the listener is a matter of debate among audio experts. Some studies have claimed that people generally can’t perceive any difference in quality once you get past around 320kbps. Others contend that a trained ear can tell the difference between this and CD quality.
What about the competition?
There are only three streaming services that claim to offer music in CD quality: Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz. These all allow streaming at 1,411kbps, compared to 256kbps for Spotify Premium and Apple Music.
The bigger streaming services aren’t backing ‘hi-fi’ quality just yet, although Spotify is rumoured to have a high-bitrate offering in the pipeline. Whether the idea of hi-fi streaming really catches on remains to be seen. If it does prove popular, though, Deezer may have stolen an important march on its rivals by rolling out its service to so many devices.