Spotify Doesn’t Need to Sound Like Crap

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Spotify vs. Apple Music is a debate we won’t soon hear the end of. However, until now, Apple Music users are saying their service sounds better than Spotify’s, that Apple’s songs are punchier and louder than the competing streaming service, especially when using high-quality headphones or speakers. While Apple Music users may have a point, there is a simple way those on Spotify can increase their sound now.

Spotify and Apple Music offer different quality options

Comparing Apple Music and Spotify’s sound quality in general is a bit small. Spotify offers Free users a maximum bitrate of 160kbps (kilobits per second), while Premium offers double the bitrate of 320kbps. Apple Music, on the other hand, does not have a free tier, but offers a variety of different audio formats. The standard playback service is 256kbps, less than Spotify’s maximum. However, Apple Music also has lossless playback, which lets you choose from CD-quality 24-bit 48 kHz playback, or, if you have the right equipment, 24-bit 192 kHz playback. Spotify has plans to release its own lossless streaming option, but for now, its quality on paper is not what Apple Music is.

However, 320kbps is still high enough quality to hear great, even when riding between two platforms. So why more and more users complain about Spotify’s quality?

Audio normalization is affecting your Spotify quality

The default setting is called “audio normalization,” and it has no other purpose than to make your music sound better. Spotify uses audio customization to give you a consistent listening experience across all tracks. It tries to balance the sound of all your music, so you don’t have to compete with the volume all the time. If one song needs to be quiet, you’re going to turn up the volume; if the next song happens to be loud, it might come out louder than you’d like.

Now, that’s all well and good (no one likes a loud song that surprises them), but there’s still an unintended consequence: Your songs don’t sound as good, especially the ones that tend to be loud. Whatever Spotify’s intentions, the app still limits the volume of songs, which affects dynamic music. It is especially important when listening with good headphones or speakers.

Audio normalization is easy to turn off, though. On the phone, open the in-app settings and select Playback. Find “Enable Audio Normalization” (iOS) or “Normalize volume” (Android), then turn it off. On the desktop app, open the in-app settings, then turn off “Normalize volume” from the options.

If you’re a Premium subscriber, or you’re using the desktop app, you’ll see a “Volume level” option below the audio settings: “Loud,” adjusts the volume levels for loud areas, “Normal,” that is. it assumes you’re in the middle of a noisy environment, and “Quiet,” adjusts the volume for quieter areas. Spotify says there is no effect on audio quality when the volume is set to Normal or Quiet, only when Loud is turned on, but I’m not sure. Any additional filter will affect the overall sound, and I’m not interested in that if I’m looking for the best quality experience possible.

Even as a Free subscriber, I feel a difference when turning off this setting.

Other settings to check

If you are still not happy with your Spotify quality, check if the Equalizer is enabled under this Playback menu. The Equalizer can help raise or lower certain audio elements, but it often gets in the way of the sound quality. I recommend turning it off if you have no specific purpose for it.

Under Audio Quality, make sure your sound is as loud as possible, meaning “Very Loud” for Premium and “High” for free. That goes for both “WiFi streaming,” “Cellular streaming,” and “Download,” making sure your sound is the best it can be no matter what the situation. Note that increasing the cellular transmission type will use more cellular data. Finally, turn off “Automatically adjust quality” on this settings page to stop Spotify from lowering the sound quality when it detects poor internet speed.

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