Rdio will now be streaming music at 320kbps, after signing up to an initiative called Artists for Quality piloted by Bob Weir of The Grateful Dead.
Rdio announced the news in a blog post: “Our joint mission is to ignite and lead discussions on inequity in streaming audio quality, and to commit to both artists and music fans to establish the highest standard of streaming quality in the digital music space,” explained Rdio.
“As the initial step in this program, Rdio has begun to convert its entire existing catalog to the AAC format and will deliver 320KbPS as our new standard — without increasing our price.”
However, Rdio says it is also exploring higher streaming quality “where sufficient network bandwidth exists”, suggesting that there will be more announcements to come. Weir unveiled the scheme on Friday in a US radio interview: “It’s tiring to listen to digital music,” he said, referring to the existing quality levels.
Don’t be tempted to talk up 320kbps too much: that level is already available through Spotify, Deezer, Google Play All Access and Beats Music, to name but four competing services. In Scandinavia, the WiMP service’s HiFi tier streams lossless-quality music, meanwhile – although there, it does cost more than the standard version.
Rdio’s announcement is thus more about catching up with rivals, but it’s also an indication that audio quality is slowly becoming more of a priority for streaming music. While the success of Neil Young’s Pono Kickstarter may be a minor factor in that, the real push is more likely the better-quality headphones and hi-fis that people are using to listen to services like Rdio.
WiMP said in March that it had “thousands” of users paying for its HiFi tier, so it’s early days for establishing whether people will pay more for streaming quality beyond 320kbps. Even so, that seems to be establishing itself as the standard level – albeit with lower rates still required for people streaming over a 3G connection on their phones while trying to avoid bumping up against a monthly data limit.