Sony Music and Rhapsody Jointly Release a Hi-Res Streaming Service to Japan — Introducing ‘Mora Qualitas’

Good news for Japanese music fans who demand higher-end digital audio quality. But is this market big enough?

Sony Music Entertainment and Rhapsody International are jointly launching Mora Qualitas, a hi-res streaming music service.  According to details send to Digital Music News this morning, the service will be priced at roughly 2,000 yen/month, or $20.

Subscribers will have access to a large music catalog managed by Sony Music and delivered by Rhapsody at 24-bit streaming quality.  Standard 16-bit CD quality will also be available for those who choose to consume less bandwidth.

Mora Qualitas is the latest hi-def streaming entrant, and the first in Japan — at least according to its founders.  Elsewhere, Tidal and Deezer are both tinkering with higher-end tiers, and Qobuz is another company testing the waters in this space.

Rhapsody noted that the first versions of Mora Qualitas will be available for Windows and Mac OS X systems.  That makes sense given Rhapsody’s roots in desktop-based streaming.

Now, the big question is whether the Japanese market will support a hi-res play.  So far, the anecdotes sound promising.  In 2016, for example, the Wall Street Journal published a report about an 82-year-old gentleman in Tokyo who actually convinced his local utility company to install a 42-foot pole adjacent to his house.  That proximity was demanded to source the cleanest electricity source to power an analog stereo setup, which included German speakers salvaged from an old movie theater.

Fun story, but are there enough of these audio die-hards to scale Mora Qualitas?

That’s actually a far bigger question worldwide, where more expensive streaming services are getting very little traction.  And before streaming hit the scene, hi-fidelity offerings mostly struggled, with niche audiophiles remaining a fringe group.

Then there’s the competition problem.  If one of these higher-end concepts starts to pop, you can expect giants like Spotify and Apple Music to follow suit.  That sounds like great news for the industry, but a rough road for smaller competitors.