Deezer expands Hi-Fi beyond Sonos to Google Cast and Chromecast speakers

Once nipping at the heels of Spotify in the world of music streaming services, we don’t hear too much about Deezer these days. Little surprise: today, the company originally based out of Paris only has around 12 million active users, just a fraction of Spotify’s 140 million, across its 185-country footprint and 43 million tracks.

Today, the company is launching a service that it hopes will help it boost those numbers, specifically among higher-margin users who are willing to pay rather than simply use Deezer’s freemium tier. It’s expanding Deezer HiFi, a $19.99/month high fidelity tier, to any wireless speaker system that supports Google Cast, Chromecast Audio or on any Chromecast built-in speaker using Deezer’s mobile app. This will mean that HiFi is expanding to speakers from Sony, Samsung, Yamaha and Bang & Olufsen, Onkyo, Pioneer, AudioPro and Devialet.

The expansion comes about two years after Deezer took its first baby step into partnerships with speaker companies: it originally announced a global expansion of the service, previously called Deezer Elite, in partnership with Sonos.

It also comes a couple of weeks after Deezer announced its first integration with Google Home, making the service usable with Google’s voice-responsive hub.

It’s now clear how many users Deezer has picked up to date from its Sonos partnership (we’re asking). You have to wonder, though, about whether Deezer is being pushed into these expansions by virtue of other market movements. Sonos has been working on its own voice-controlled smart speaker to compete with the Echo from Amazon and Google’s Home service, which is excepted to be fully revealed in September to work with a number of content and voice service providers.

Deezer HiFi is part of the somewhat-crowded throng of music services and products that have been built in recent years to cater to listeners who want sound quality significantly better than what you can get on an average streaming service and average speakers.

Others that are part of this trend include Tidal, the music service owned by Shawn Carter (Jay-Z) with lots of buy-in from other big-name musicians; and speaker makers like Devialet (also based out of Paris, like Deezer, and like Tidal backed by Carter, but also Foxconn, Andy Rubin and others). Spotify is reportedly working on launching its own Hi-Fi service soon, too.

Deezer’s service specifically promises “lossless capture of original analog audio source quality at 5x the bitrate at 1,411 kbps” using the FLAC codec.

While part of the significance of this deal is about how it’s showing the Deezer is trying to grow its business by focusing on specific, higher-end tiers of users, it’s also notable because it is one more sign of how streaming music is being drawn into the connected home experience, as one of the main use cases for voice-activated hubs.

“With more and more consumers embracing voice-activated services and a clear market for high quality audio, it is important that we are in a position to offer both to ensure the best possible experience,” said Riad Hawa, Deezer VP of Hardware Partnerships, in a statement. “Through deepening our relationship with existing partners and expanding our product offering, we believe that we deliver just this.”

This is not the only move that Deezer has made to scale its business. The company tried (but ultimately failed) to list itself publicly. And according to this report, it was among the companies that considered buying Soundcloud before the latter troubled streaming service secured emergency funding instead. Deezer also later raised some funding in the wake of its IPO cancellation. Since being founded in 2007, Deezer has raised about $217 million, with backers including Access Industries (which owns Warner Music), Orange (France Telecom), and Xavier Niel.