How to stream Spotify at the best possible quality

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I recently wrote that you shouldn’t have huge expectations for sound quality improvements when upgrading Spotify Premium to the next level of Lossless HiFi. The bottom line is that the vast majority of people – including audio enthusiasts – cannot tell the difference between lossless audio and “ lossy ” encoding at a sufficiently high audio bit rate.

But this argument rests on an important assumption: you are already listening to Spotify Premium with optimal settings.

The highest bit rate supported by the streaming platform is 320kbps, which should be largely indistinguishable from lossless, but in most cases the streaming app does not guarantee this quality. reading.

On most devices, Spotify defaults to a variable “ Automatic ” setting and offers four fixed playback levels: 24 kbps (low), 96 kbps (normal), 160 kbps (high), and 320 kbps (very high) .

You can assume that Spotify would boost up to 320kbps when using automatic mode with a strong Wi-Fi connection (after all, 320kbps is nothing compared to modern video streaming), but as best I can tell , the service will reach a maximum of 160 kbps with this setting.

160kbps (with the Ogg Vorbis codec that Spotify uses on most devices) isn’t bad, but it’s certainly much easier to distinguish than 320kbps lossless. So if you want the best sound quality in Spotify, you have to manually turn on the best settings.

Again, keep in mind that the 320 kbps setting is exclusive to Premium subscribers. If not, the following steps should help you ensure the best quality on all the devices that you can stream Spotify to.

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On Spotify’s downloadable desktop apps – not the browser’s built-in web player – just tap the down-facing arrow next to your username at the top right of the window. Then select “Settings”.

From there, scroll down to “Music Quality” and select “Very High”. That’s all!

Mobile

Similar to the above, you just need to tap on the gear icon at the top right of Spotify mobile apps to enter the settings. From there, you’ll need to scroll down a bit to the “ Audio Quality ” section.

You have a few more options on mobile than on desktop, as Spotify lets you choose separate quality settings for WiFi and cellular, as well as the music you constantly download to your device.

While you can set all three of these settings to Very High, you might want to be wary of doing this for the cellular option if you have a data limit on your mobile device. Likewise, downloading hundreds of tracks with the best quality may not be ideal if you are lacking in built-in storage.

Web player

If you still prefer to play Spotify from the web app, well, you don’t have much choice when it comes to sound quality. If you have Spotify Premium, the music will be played at 256kbps. If you have free Spotify, it will play at 128 kbps.

256kbps might seem like a big downgrade from 320kbps, but don’t worry too much if you’d rather not install the desktop app.

For one thing, Spotify’s web player uses the AAC codec which is actually a bit more efficient than the Ogg codec used in desktop and mobile apps.

On the other hand, 256kbps compression is already pushing the boundaries of what people can distinguish from lossless for most audio formats, let alone one of the more efficient like AAC.

Spotify Connect and streaming

If you stream to a Spotify compatible device through Spotify Connect, luckily in this case Spotify says it will still stream at 320kbps for premium users, so you still get the best of the service.

If you instead use Google Cast to cast from your phone to a Chromecast or TV, it will use 256 kbps AAC.

What is “Normalize Volume” and should you use it?

While changing the above options, you may have noticed a setting that says “Normalize volume”. Although only available in desktop and mobile apps, in most cases this should be left sure.

Normalization essentially allows Spotify to adjust the volume of a song before it starts playing, based on what it knows about the volume of the upcoming music. After all, music is mastered at all kinds of different volumes, and having to constantly turn the volume up and down can be a pain.

This is especially true if your playlists include a wide variety of artists and genres. Try to play a few classic tracks followed by a few ’90s pop songs, and you’ll see what I mean (read about the war of sound, in which music continued to be mastered louder and louder with the advent of digital audio).

You may have heard that Normalization performs a kind of wide dynamic range compression – making weaker sounds louder and loud sounds weaker in a single track. This is not true, but it is an oft repeated myth.

Again, normalization is basically Spotify turning a volume knob. And if you’re playing a full album, Spotify also makes sure that the intentionally silent tracks remain silent, in order to maintain the artist’s intent.

(In fact, for reasons beyond the scope of this piece, enabling normalization can arguably improve the sound quality in some music. It also helped end the aforementioned voice wars.)

If you are a Premium subscriber, you will see three normalization options: “Quiet”, “Normal” and “Loud”.

If you want the maximum amount of dynamic range possible and are listening to somewhere with low ambient noise, the Mute setting allows for the biggest jumps in dynamic range. This shouldn’t be necessary for the vast majority of music, but may be optimal if you listen to a lot of orchestral tracks and movies.

“Normal” should cover a sufficient dynamic range for most music, especially if you listen to mostly pop – spend some time switching between Normal and Quiet and see which one you prefer.

That said, I would avoid the “ Loud ” setting unless listening in a very loud environment, as this is more likely to affect the dynamic range.

Spotify gives more details on the settings here. Hope these tips will help you get the most out of your music.

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Published March 2, 2021 – 01:54 UTC


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