Music Streaming In A Car

Streaming music in a car is almost a necessity now as car manufacturers see the opportunity to further cut cost by deleting the CD mechanism.

There are many competing services that use huge music libraries and technological integration with everything from Smart TV’s to Smart Speakers and mobile phones to grab new consumers. The most famous are probably Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon and Google. These are also the cheapest unless you choose their “premium” service”. Many people listen to these services in their cars and are perfectly happy with the quality. However, those who have taken the trouble to upgrade the audio system in their car, there are couple of services in particular that are worth looking at.

When developing a streaming service there are a number of key factors which will drive the final cost to the consumer. These include bandwidth to ensure quality delivery without buffering or dropping out for periods of time. Most streaming in a car will happen over a 4G mobile network. The bandwidth available is affected by the number of users in a cell as well as proximity to the cell that your device is currently receiving. Another significant factor is cost of storing all of the music that a company adds to its catalogue. This can be significant when storing 50,000,000 albums plus, for instant recall by your user base. There is also cost associated to the creation of music. The news is often full of stories of artists pulling their titles from one streaming service or other as they make so little money in return they are almost giving their precious body of work away for nothing.

This latter factor has changed the entire business model of the music industry as comparatively few people now see the need to buy a physical copy of an album. The music industry and artist now make most of their money from live performance which is a complete turnaround from days of yore when an artist would tour to promote album and single sales!

But don’t worry, there are still many people and an increasingly youthful element to whom the quality of listening is important. These folk are quite likely to upgrade their car audio systems. Standard car audio is generally shoddy at best and completely unlistenable at worst. Once you upgrade, the quality of source material becomes extremely important in order to get the best from your new system. There are two services in particular that will deliver far superior reproduction than the big four!

I have been a huge advocate of Qobuz for some years now. Although their catalogue is smaller than most, the originating French company pays artists a decent amount and also streams from sources much closer to the studio masters than others. There are three levels of streaming quality; 320kbps MP3, 16 bit 44kHz (CD) and Hi Res audio (up to to 24 bit 320kHz) with differing annual subscription rates. Having driven with Qobuz for sometime, even the MP3 quality makes Apple Music sound nasty, harsh and distorted. I have completely banned Spotify from my car as it is even worse, in my opinion.

Tidal is an alternative to Qobuz. Originally from Norway, Tidal also streams from a much better source and supports artists by promoting new music within their user interface. They have aimed their market recently at the youth of America and sign up many new hip hop and rap acts as a result. They carry far more titles than Qobuz due to increased revenue.

Both Qobuz and Tidal provide a free trial period and I would wholeheartedly recommend giving them both a go. However, it is important to note that if you stream via Bluetooth or Airstream you will not be getting the best out of any service you choose to use. Wires are always best when streaming in a car!

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