When you think of high fidelity music streaming services, Tidal immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately, if you’re a fan of Asian artistes like BTS, Arashi or Jay Chou, the selection can be a bit lacking. There’s also Spotify, which has a larger library but doesn’t support lossless music streaming. Well, music platform KKBOX is possibly the best music streaming service for people who want a wider selection of songs.
Started in 2015 by a Taiwanese company, KKBOX has an excellent collection of songs from East Asian and Southeast Asian artistes, which sets the service apart from Tidal. Recently though, the Singapore version of the app finally got Hi-Fi quality tracks (16-bit FLAC) included, which is a big plus.
I searched for some tracks, but found it to be somewhat inconsistent. First off, I searched for my favourite K-Pop group, Girls’ Generation. Some albums had 90% of the tracks in Hi-Fi, with one or two tracks in standard 320kbps, while older albums didn’t even have a single Hi-Fi track available.
I moved on to J-Pop, searching for Arashi, one of the most popular boy bands of all time. Typing in “Arashi” didn’t immediately turn up a result, but once I did the search properly, their artiste page popped out, with their Japanese name showing.
For Arashi fans, KKBOX might be a worthwhile investment. Most of their albums were available in Hi-Fi, even the ones released in 2001, which definitely came as a shock to me.
Perhaps J-Pop might be one of KKBOX’s strong suits? I tested out my theory with Ayumi Hamasaki, but surprisingly, only her more recent albums were available in Hi-Fi. I suppose it’s really dependent on whether KKBOX is able to get a deal with the record companies or not.
But no matter what, you would have expected Mandopop or C-Pop to be KKBOX’s most complete genre right? Not so much. I found that this differed greatly between artistes, even if we were only looking at popular groups like Mayday, Sodagreen, S.H.E or even singers who are still popular now like Jay Chou and JJ Lin.
Sodagreen and S.H.E were some of the most complete Taiwanese bands, with almost every album available on KKBOX in Hi-Fi. But Jay Chou and JJ Lin didn’t have many (if any, at all) Hi-Fi tracks available. It’s a bit disappointing, to be honest. I was quite excited to try out KKBOX because I wanted to be able to listen to my favourite Mandopop songs in high-res, but not everything I found was available.
Right now, it feels like it’s a little half-baked. The discrepancy between artistes really is quite vast, and if you’re lucky, your favourites will have most of their songs in Hi-Fi. If your favourite bands and singers don’t have Hi-Fi songs on KKBOX though, it might not be worth it to pay the $15.90 subscription fee per month.
One good thing though, is that there are plenty of English songs as well that are available in Hi-Fi, even some that Tidal doesn’t have available like Maroon 5’s older albums (Songs About Jane, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long).
There’s a lot of potential here since Spotify and Tidal don’t have the best selection of Asian music, but whether KKBOX can increase their Hi-Fi offerings is the most important factor at this point. I’ll be keeping an eye on this service to see how it progresses. If KKBOX can get their Hi-Fi English offerings up to par with Tidal and increase the number of Hi-Fi Mandopop and K-pop tracks, I might just be a convert.
Written by Cheryl Tan