Hi-res Revelations (part 1) – Qobuz playlist

11 05 2023

As a recent covert to the Qobuz hi-resolution streaming service, I thought it would be a good idea to make some playlists of some of the songs that highlight the wow factor of lossless streaming.

What does the hi-resolution experience sound like? Hi-res audio offers greater detail and texture, bringing listeners closer to the original recorded studio or live performance. Bass hits deeper and harder, vocals are clearer, percussion is crisper and the songs sound fuller, more expansive and richer. Parts of the recording that you may not have noticed in a lossy format become more visible, and at times its like hearing the music through new upgraded ears!

I’m a couple of weeks in, and this playlist is made up of some of the tracks that jumped out straight away as being a huge upgrade on the audio quality of songs that I have known and loved for years.

Some of the album covers from music featured in this playlist - Issac Hayes, The Who, Tears For Fears, Mike Oldfield, Kate Bush, Steven Wilson, Donna Summer, Prince and St. Vincent.

Qobuz uses the tagline “Rediscover Music” and that is what I have been doing over the past few weeks. For those new to hi-res music, you need extra equipment to hear beyond CD quality – so a DAC (digital-to-analogue converter) is needed. Streaming from mobiles / tablets works without a DAC up to CD quality, so better than the MP3 quality of Spotify (that I will be ditching!) but if you add a portable DAC such as the DAC I use – AudioQuest DragonFly DAC (and for Apple / iPhone users a Apple Lightning to USB Camera Adapter is needed), you can listen to hi-res from your phone or tablet.

If you are planning to listen through your hi-fi setup, through your amp and speakers, you will need a DAC streamer such as the Cambridge Audio MXN10.

There are other services, such as Tidal and Apple Music, but I have settled on Qobuz due to the added features such as the editorial options that are provided, along with a great online community and the easy way to get track / recording details for songs and albums.

The catalogue is not perfect – there are some hi-res gaps that I hope will be filled over the next year. The main catalogue is comparable in volume to Spotify, with music available in CD quality but not all of it is in hi-resolution / lossless at the moment. Notable hi-res omissions (although they do have lots of these in CD quality) for me include The Police, The Stranglers, some Steely Day (what, no Aja, once of the best sounding albums of all time?), Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing (another sonically amazing album), Thomas Dolby and some Prince releases.

I’ve spent the past week browsing the hi-resolution catalogue and have added lots of favourites to go back to savour, so Qobuz have already succeeded on the re-discovery front. If you are a Qobuz subscriber, please have a listen to my playlist and let me know what you think. I hope you find some music you like, that you may not have been aware of before.

Hi-res Revelations (part 1) tracks

Peter Gabriel – The Rhythm Of The Heat

The Rhythm Of The Heat had to be the song to open my playlist. Taken from Peter Gabriel 4: Security from 1982, the song sounds stunning in this lossless format. Gabriel’s vocals are clear, and the arrangement builds slowly, with a stark, restrained backing until the percussion explodes on the 3/4 mark.

Peter Gabriel - Security (4)

The Who – Who Are You

Who Are You, the title track from The Who’s 8th studio album, was released in 1978 and was the last album to feature Keith Moon. The synths really bubble in this hi-res version, and Entwistle’s bass has a more prominent role, showing how the bassline really fed into the groove on the final chorus. Townshend’s guitar work in the stripped back middle section is one of my favourite Who moments.

Issac Hayes – Theme From Shaft

Theme From Shaft is one of my favourite songs. Whenever I hear this track, I am instantly transported back to the early 70s. I treasure my original double vinyl version of the Shaft soundtrack, but this hi-res stream is by far the best sounding version I have heard of this iconic and influential single. The hi-hat and wah-wah guitar interplay sounds like you are in the studio as the track was being recorded. I have heard this song hundreds of times and I never tire of it. Can you dig it?

Isaac Hayes - Shaft

Paul McCartney Goodnight Tonight (single version)

This 1979 single is included on the Pure McCartney compilation on Qobuz, a quick and easy way to dive into Macca’s post-Beatles catalogue.

Featuring one of McCartney’s finest basslines, the backing vocals and Rhodes piano on Goodnight Tonight is timeless.

The Carpenters Rainy Days And Mondays

Considering how well-known Rainy Days And Mondays has become, its surprising to note that it wasn’t a big hit in the UK, though it did reach number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. A lot of the songs that blew me away during my first few weeks of using Qobuz were often beat driven, with complicated arrangements, but that was not the case here. The simplicity of the arrangement is pure pop perfection.

Karen Carpenters lead vocal before the strings kick in, is a performance of real beauty. Tommy Morgan’s plaintive harmonica lines just add to the magic.

Mike Oldfield – Five Miles Out

Mike Oldfield has a fair collection of lossless albums on Qobuz, but at the time of writing is missing hi-res versions of Platinum (my favourite Oldfield release), Incantations, Ommadawn, Hergest Ridge and criminally, Tubular Bells. I am hoping they get these early albums in hi-resolution soon. Qobuz do have a hi-res version of one of my favourite Oldfield albums from the early 80s, and I have included the title track from Five Miles Out in this playlist.

Five Miles Out featured Maggie Reilly and a heavily vocoder’d Mike Oldfield on vocals. I have always loved Oldfield’s guitar work, especially his sharp solos, and he is joined by Rick Fenn (10cc) on additional guitar here.

Five Miles Out has never sounded better, with a power and clarity that makes listening to this song an absolute joy.

Kate Bush – Breathing

It was difficult to pick just one song from one of my favourite artists, Kate Bush, who is well-represented in hi-res on Qobuz. It would be too obvious to pick Running Up That Hill (which admittedly does sound wonderful in hi-res) so I went with another personal favourite, the 1980’s post-apocalyptic Breathing. Mood killer!

The Rhodes sparkle and the bassline from the late John Giblin works so well with Kate’s intelligent and emotional multi-layered vocal arrangement.

Kate is not given enough credit for her production skills, which shine on the Never For Ever album. The subtle reverb on the snare, and the placement in the mix of all instruments give this track a rare power. Turn the lights off and turn up the volume if you are a Qobuz subscriber, and prepare to be moved.

Kate Bush - Never For Ever

Steven Wilson – Drive Home

The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) sounds delicious in hi-resolution, and I could easily have chosen any of the album’s tracks to highlight the power of hi-res audio, but I went for the single Drive Home for my playlist.

You can hear the scrape of fingers on guitar, and the drums have real depth. The production is stellar on Drive Home, and the guitar solo from Guthrie Govan takes this song to another level, making this one of Wilson’s most exquisite songs to date.

This Mortal Coil – I Come And Stand At Every Door

Beauty can also be found in darkness. The trilogy of albums from This Mortal Coil can be found in hi-res on Qobuz, and I have chosen I Come And Stand At Every Door from the final This Mortal Coil album, Blood.

Musically a million miles away from The Byrds version of the song, that was based on a poem by Nazim Hikmet. The discordant drums cut through the vocals from Deirdre and Louise Rutkowski, who deliver a gothic choral performance that sends shivers down my spine.

Tim Bowness / Giancarlo Erra – Change Me Once Again

Tim Bowness / Giancarlo Erra remixed and re-released their Memories of Machines album on it’s 10 year anniversary in 2022, and I have included one of the albums key tracks here. Change Me Once Again (featuring Julianne Regan on backing vocals) has a real lightness of touch, with thick acoustic guitars, and a mid-paced tempo, that sounds delicious in hi-resolution.

“Forget the heartache, forget the past”

The Cocteau Twins – Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires

The Cocteau Twins are also well-represented in hi-resolution on Qobuz, and I’ve included one of their most beautiful pieces, Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires from the bands sixth studio album Heaven Or Las Vegas, from 1990.

The jittery percussion and heavily processed guitars are more noticeable in lossless form, and listening to this song in this quality almost feels like an out-of-body experience.

Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas

The Pretenders – Kid

This single from 1979 sounds so much more vibrant in hi-resolution. The production by Chris Thomas is warm and bright, with the drums and the multi-layered guitars (those harmonics 😍) topped by Chrissie Hynde’s unique vocals make this my favourite early Pretenders song.

Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight

I simply had to include this song from Face Value. The beauty of hi-resolution audio is the lack of compression – with room for the quieter parts to breathe, so when that iconic drum break smashes through your speakers, your whole soul shakes.

The Knack – My Sharona

It’s all about the drums, baby! My Sharona is another groove-led song. This American new wave classic was always one of the best produced songs of the genre, and the scratchy guitar solo screams out of the speakers in hi-res.

Squeeze – Slap & Tickle

Now we go over to one of the UK’s finest bands, and a 1979 single from Squeeze. The band have never sounded better, with percussive guitar and swirling Kraftwerk / Giorgio Moroder inspired synths.

Donna Summer – Now I Need You

And talking of Giorgio Moroder… Donna Summer has a few hi-resolution albums on Qobuz, including what I think is her greatest album, the double Once Upon A Time from late 1977.

Summers vocals switch from warm and sensual to detached and clinical, depending on the mood of each track. The songs were written by Summer, Moroder and Pete Bellotte, and Now I Need You, with its massed choir like backing and pulsing electronic beat, oozes an alluring synthetic warmth.

I may have to include I Feel Love in my next Qobuz playlist, as it sounds so good at volume on this hi-res streaming platform.

Prince – If I Was Your Girlfriend

One of the more experimental tracks from 1987’s Sign “O” The Times double album. If I Was Your Girlfriend makes good use of the Fairlight and Prince’s favoured (at the time) Linn drum machine.

The bass (both slap and deep note) really cut through in hi-res, and the complexity of the vocal arrangement shines like never before. A perfect headphone song.

Prince - Sign "O" The Times

Tears For Fears – Mothers Talk

Mothers Talk was the first single from Songs from the Big Chair, and is not a favourite of the band, so is rarely performed live.

The guitars and drums cut clean through the sample-heavy song, and like the aforementioned Shaft, Mothers Talk takes me back to the time of its original release, and I’m wearing white jeans and a Relax t-shirt. In my dreams.

Porcupine Tree – Russia On Ice

I could have chosen so many Porcupine Tree songs, as they are always an example of quality production, but I went with Lightbulb Sun‘s Russia On Ice due to the complexity of the arrangement, and the peaks and troughs that highlight the beauty of hi-resolution audio.

Richard Barbieri contributes some of his strongest soundscapes, with synths, mellotrons and organ adding mood setting textures, whilst Steven Wilson delivers pitch-perfect harmonies and emotive guitar solos.

Lightbulb Sun is the last Porcupine Tree tree studio album to feature original drummer Chris Maitland, with Gavin Harrison taking over for In Absentia in 2002.

Electric Light Orchestra – Night In The City

Night In The City is from 1977’s massive selling Out of the Blue. The whole album sounds beautiful, but one of its lesser known tracks highlights the clarity afforded to it in hi-resolution.

Listen to the separation of the acoustic and electric guitars, alongside Rhodes keyboard and string riffs. Its a joy to hear, either loud on speakers or at night via headphones.

Electric Light Orchestra - Out Of The Blue

Harry Nilsson – Jump Into The Fire

One of the older songs on my playlist, Jump Into The Fire was given a second lease of life by being featured in a tense, paranoid scene in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 classic gangster film Goodfellas.

The track is taken from the album Nilsson Schmilsson, which features appearances from top session musicians Chris Spedding (guitar), Herbie Flowers (bass) and on the wild drum break that sounds top class here, Jim Gordon.

St. Vincent – The Nowhere Inn

The Nowhere Inn is from the soundtrack to the film of the same name. When compiling the playlist, it quickly became obvious that I was choosing lots of older music, so I added this song as an example of the improvement in audio quality from a more recent release. The twists and turns in The Nowhere Inn constantly surprise and delight.

Daddy’s Home is another recent St. Vincent album, with its stylistic nods to the early 70s, that sounds glorious in lossless format.

St. Vincent - Nowhere Inn

I hope you enjoy listening to my Qobuz playlist. Please follow me on Twitter if you want to be informed of part 2.

Listen to my Qobuz playlist – Hi-res Revelations (part 1)

Peter Gabriel – The Rhythm Of The Heat

  • The Who – Who Are You
  • Issac Hayes – Theme From Shaft
  • Paul McCartney – Goodnight Tonight (single version)
  • The Carpenters – Rainy Days And Mondays
  • Mike Oldfield – Five Miles Out
  • Kate Bush – Breathing
  • Steven Wilson – Drive Home
  • This Mortal Coil – I Come And Stand At Every Door
  • Tim Bowness / Giancarlo Erra – Change Me Once Again
  • Cocteau Twins – Frou-Frou Foxes In Midsummer Fires
  • Pretenders – Kid
  • Phil Collins – In The Air Tonight
  • The Knack – My Sharona
  • Squeeze – Slap & Tickle
  • Donna Summer – Now I Need You
  • Prince – If I Was Your Girlfriend
  • Tears For Fears – Mothers Talk
  • Porcupine Tree – Russia On Ice
  • Electric Light Orchestra – Night In The City
  • Harry Nilsson – Jump Into The Fire
  • St. Vincent – The Nowhere Inn

Listen to my Qobuz playlist – Hi-res Revelations (part 1)

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