Audio quality of Spotify Premium and other streaming services? - diyAudio
Go Back   Home > Forums > Source & Line > PC Based

PC Based Computer music servers, crossovers, and equalization

Please consider donating to help us continue to serve you.

Ads on/off / Custom Title / More PMs / More album space / Advanced printing & mass image saving
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 18th February 2011, 03:25 AM   #1
diyAudio Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: UK
Default Audio quality of Spotify Premium and other streaming services?

I've set up my 'dream system' comprising Spotify Premium on a laptop, a meaty low distortion amp, excellent speakers and a USB DAC. I'm convinced the hardware is all working well. I'm just having difficulty with (my perception of) the audio quality of the source...

Spotify Premium allows the listener to select a 'high bitrate' option. Reputedly it is Ogg Vorbis q9 at 320 kbps as described on Spotify's web site:

What quality does Spotify stream in? - Spotify

"We use the Ogg Vorbis format for streaming. There are three quality ratings that we use:

* q3 (~96 kbps)
* q5 (~160 kbps)
* q9 (~320 kbps)

Note: not all tracks are currently available in high bitrate. "

Hmm. All well and good, but I notice the link talks about the quality of the streaming, not necessarily about the quality of the source. How are the tracks encoded when the record company makes them available to Spotify? (It may seem a silly question, but there isn't any chance that the music is being encoded twice is there?)

I'm not enjoying listening to classical music on Spotify at all. Everything is fine until a piece builds into a section with lots of strings, brass and/or woodwind playing. I'm then hearing very unpleasant distortion.

Now, I realise that that is precisely the effect that audio compression might be expected to have; the most 'complex' sounds suffering from a paucity of bits. It's just that I hoped that at 320 kbps it wouldn't be audible. I've been taking a distinct interest in the same sorts of music on FM Radio 3 in the car in the morning, and there I just don't hear the same unpleasantness - it sounds 'transparent'.

If I had to bet, it would be that the classical stuff is encoded at 160 kbps and that I shouldn't hold my breath for it to ever be 'upgraded'...

Last edited by CopperTop; 18th February 2011 at 03:34 AM.
  Reply With Quote
Old 18th February 2011, 03:36 AM   #2
frugal-phile(tm)
diyAudio Moderator
 
planet10's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Victoria, BC, NA, Sol III
Blog Entries: 5
The bit rate of a CD is 1440 kbps. (1440-320)/1440 = 78% of the information on a CD is being tossed to get the high bit rate compressed file. And many think that a CD has tossed away too much of the analog information.

dave
__________________
community sites t-linespeakers.org, frugal-horn.com, frugal-phile.com ........ commercial site planet10-HiFi
p10-hifi forum here at diyA
  Reply With Quote
Old 20th February 2011, 01:22 AM   #3
OllBoll is offline OllBoll  Sweden
diyAudio Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
320 kbps OGG is good, I personally can in no way distinguish that from a good lossless FLAC.

Personally I don't use spotify but my mom does and I've noticed that far from all spotify track recordings are good, some are downright awful and then better bitrate won't help you at all.

The difference between 160 kbps and 320 kbps ogg is in my opinion actually quite small, the difference is not in distortion but that you can hear slightly more instruments at the same time and more depth.

My best recommendation would be to take a lossless track you have with lots of detail and instruments and use a free compressing tool and then compress and compare that track at say q9, q5 and q3 and then listen if and where you hear differences.

If you sit in ubuntu SoundConverter is a good tool to use for the convertion.
  Reply With Quote
Old 20th February 2011, 09:55 AM   #4
diyAudio Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: UK
@OllBoll

I am using Ubuntu as it happens. I will do as you say. Thanks for the advice.
  Reply With Quote
Old 3rd March 2011, 02:07 PM   #5
diyAudio Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: UK
Maybe I am doing Spotify a disservice. I am beginning to wonder if what I am hearing is the result of standard orchestration combined with hyper-critical listening and expecting the worst from my audio system!

When a composer wants to make the orchestra 'louder' it seems he usually adds instruments as a general background wall of sound, as well as getting the already-playing instruments to play 'louder'. It occurs to me that if I am listening intently to the violins and they begin to play a bit louder, but in the background the composer adds a wall of brass and woodwind playing the same notes, it may be that I am being tricked into believing that the violins have changed their 'tone' as they have got louder. The sound of a clarinet, for example, contains high levels of odd harmonics (it can be imitated quite well with a synthesiser using a square wave) so if I blend it with a violin, it may begin to sound as though the violin is beginning to clip.

Not the sort of thing one would notice at a 'live' concert, but when listening critically to an audio system...

In other forms of music, the volume often changes by sliding a knob on a mixing desk, rather than adding more instruments, so the effect is different. Maybe I am just too used to this.
  Reply With Quote
Old 6th March 2011, 03:15 AM   #6
Pano is offline Pano  United States
diyAudio Moderator
 
Pano's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Milliways
Blog Entries: 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by planet10 View Post
The bit rate of a CD is 1440 kbps. (1440-320)/1440 = 78% of the information on a CD is being tossed to get the high bit rate compressed file.
Not quite. Remember that 1440 can be compressed down to about 720K without loss. So 320K is not such a big step from there. Not ideal, but not awful.
__________________
Take the Speaker Voltage Test!
  Reply With Quote
Old 6th March 2011, 03:41 AM   #7
frugal-phile(tm)
diyAudio Moderator
 
planet10's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Victoria, BC, NA, Sol III
Blog Entries: 5
Still throwing away half.

Wonder how my car would do with 2 tires flat?

dave
__________________
community sites t-linespeakers.org, frugal-horn.com, frugal-phile.com ........ commercial site planet10-HiFi
p10-hifi forum here at diyA
  Reply With Quote
Old 6th March 2011, 03:52 AM   #8
Pano is offline Pano  United States
diyAudio Moderator
 
Pano's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Milliways
Blog Entries: 4
It's that bad half, you can be sure.
  Reply With Quote
Old 6th March 2011, 07:18 AM   #9
diyAudio Member
 
Join Date: May 2010
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pano View Post
Not quite. Remember that 1440 can be compressed down to about 720K without loss. So 320K is not such a big step from there. Not ideal, but not awful.
If you're referring to a lossless codec, the amount that it can be reduced is wholly dependent on how much unique information exists on the original. I have Apple Lossless files that compress hardly at all, while some compresses very highly. You can't say that 720K is a standard value "without loss".

Most compact 16/44 ALC file: Ethel Waters: Sentimental Jazz: 3:07 238 kbps
Least compressed 16/44 ALC file: The Beatles: I Wanna Hold Your Hand: UK Single: 2.27 1164 kbps

If I create a smart folder in iTunes and select sample rate of 44.1 and Bitrate above 1000 kbps I have 1400+ songs out of a library of 11700 songs, ie 1 in every 8 songs, that cannot be losslessly compressed below 1000 kbps.

If I change the criteria to 44.1 and above 721 kbps, 9918 songs, or 84% of my library, cannot be compressed to 720 kbps without loss.

There is little variance amongst lossless codecs regarding how much compression is available .... after all they have to keep the same amount of unique information, so a FLAC or other similar codec won't be significantly different.

Interestingly, classical music in my library does compress well; 850~650 kbps is common. However these are average bitrates per second over the entire track, and I would expect complex passages to be significantly higher than relatively quiet passages, which themselves are far more common in Classical music than other genres. If you are subject to a strict bitrate limit, as a streaming service is likely to be, I would be far from surprised to learn complex passages sound congested and lacking in dynamics and detail.
__________________
" ... Go back to the beginning of a technology before the priesthood was established; that was the time when people were communicating information, not proving why there needs to be Priests. This is why the old texts tend to be so good. ..."

Last edited by Johnny2Bad; 6th March 2011 at 07:46 AM.
  Reply With Quote
Old 6th March 2011, 02:53 PM   #10
diyAudio Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
I use Pandora|One (192kbps) service and I have to go in on occasion when the music is sounding flat, and adjust the setting upward to high rates. It seems that when bandwidth is limited, it automatically sets itself to a lower level. Even at the higher settings, I still like my Apple Lossless files better. Pandora sounds good, but the Lossless files sound great.
Paul
  Reply With Quote

Reply


Hide this!Advertise here!
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Is streaming audio a good idea? linuxfan PC Based 19 12th June 2010 12:48 PM
Offering audio mastering services Mr.Chamber Instruments and Amps 0 9th January 2010 12:06 PM
how to get streaming audio output to usb audionut PC Based 1 23rd September 2009 10:14 AM
Slimdevices has a new streaming audio player I_Forgot Digital Source 2 25th July 2006 05:45 PM


New To Site? Need Help?

All times are GMT. The time now is 10:26 AM.


vBulletin Optimisation provided by vB Optimise (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2014 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
Copyright 1999-2014 diyAudio

Content Relevant URLs by vBSEO 3.3.2