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Spotify Is Testing a Lossless Subscription Tier For $15 to $20 Per Month (techcrunch.com) 77

Spotify is seemingly preparing to launch a lossless audio version of its streaming service. The offering, which is currently called Spotify Hi-Fi, will offer lossless CD-quality audio to users -- similar to what Tidal offers in its Hi-Fi service. From a report: For an extra $5 to $10, you could get all the features in Spotify Premium as well as lossless high fidelity streaming. There could also be a couple of new features. What is lossless quality anyway? Currently, if you go into Spotify's settings and choose the highest quality, Spotify serves you 320kbps audio files. It's very high quality, but it's not perfect -- in other words, it's a compromise. This way, files are still quite small and load quickly. Lossless files are perfect copies of the songs on an audio CD. They are then compressed, but without any quality loss.
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Spotify Is Testing a Lossless Subscription Tier For $15 to $20 Per Month

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  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday March 01, 2017 @02:53PM (#53955635) Journal

    If you think your can hear the difference between 320kbps and lossless on a 44.1/16 track, you deserve to pay the extra $10 a month.

    If you can *actually* hear the difference between 320kbps and lossless on a 44.1/16 track, and complain about it, you shouldn't want to listen to 44.1/16 music in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is assuming they don't downgrade the current "High Quality Streaming" option to 128k VBR or something.

    • I respect the fact that you're only talking about your own distorted, desensitized hearing. ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by misxn ( 901438 )

      If you think your can hear the difference between 320kbps and lossless on a 44.1/16 track, you deserve to pay the extra $10 a month.

      If you can *actually* hear the difference between 320kbps and lossless on a 44.1/16 track, and complain about it, you shouldn't want to listen to 44.1/16 music in the first place.

      If you've destroyed your hearing sensitivity to not discern compressed music vs uncompressed, then you should be grateful a cheaper version option exists. Classical music is a great example, but if you are trying to hear the difference between a 320 kbps MP3 vs FLAC of Big Daddy Kane then the purpose will be missed.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Thing is, accepting shit quality forever constrains the maximum quality you will ever have.
      Only lossless FLAC, raw DVD-9 VOB rips, and blu-ray rips (transcoded down to DVD-9 for best balance of bandwidth and quality if you're a torrenter that cant handle the raw rip).
      Those are the only way to go.
      After that you can transcode them down to whatever shit quality you want.
      But you can never get original quality from lossy shit.
      Accepting lossy shit gives others a reason to never publish the original quality in the

    • by GWBasic ( 900357 ) <slashdot&andrewrondeau,com> on Wednesday March 01, 2017 @04:35PM (#53956811) Homepage

      Last summer I wrote a program to compare two audio files, mostly to get an objective understanding of how sound degrades in a lossless format: http://andrewrondeau.com/blog/2016/07/deconstructing-lossy-audio-the-case-for-lossless [andrewrondeau.com]

      My conclusion is that, even at 320 kbps, formats like MP3 and AAC still screw with the sound. The newer Opus codec at 320 kbps is better than an 8-bit flac, though.

      What happens with lossy audio is that it's more about "will someone notice an objectionable artifact" then "can someone notice the difference in an A-B test." Even then, the difference is usually in details that people don't pay close attention to. So, what you pay for in lossless is that the subtle echo in the fadeout sounds perfect, and that the equalization is always perfect, and that the cymbals and clicks of the guitar sound exactly like they do in the studio. Most people will never hear the difference, even in A-B testing.

      In my very subjective experience, I find that AC3 has a certain dullness that lossless doesn't have. MP3 has a particular thinness that's noticeable compared to AC3. I personally don't have any opus files in my collection, so I can't comment there.

      • I thought I could clearly hear problems with mp3s up to 320kbps when I was getting ready to rip my CD collection (several hundred across most genres) back in the early 2000s. So I decided to take a weekend and do an ABX across the different formats I listen to. The answer: above about 224kbps (256 for well recorded classical) I couldn't reliably tell the difference. Now, that wasn't with a $10,000 listening chain, but it was decent enough cans (7506) and on a system which is better than 95% of my listening

        • by GWBasic ( 900357 )

          I suggest looking at the result of codec comparison in https://tech.ebu.ch/docs/tech/... [tech.ebu.ch]. The EBU performed A/B comparisons with different lossy codecs for 5.1. They trained people in how to spot the difference in challenging areas to encode, and then evaluated various codecs with challenging pieces.

          Keep in mind that FLAC is typically 3x as large as 320kbps, and storage sizes are quite huge now.

    • by Megane ( 129182 )

      And if you are still deluded enough to think that you can hear that difference, there's always pono. [wikipedia.org] Because some people [wikipedia.org] are delusional enough to think that we need 24/192 audio everywhere, not just in mixing where you need the extra precision because you're altering the original data with lossy transformations.

    • by strstr ( 539330 )

      hearing the difference isn't so hard. I have no abx comparator but mp3 and aac are both huge downgrades. mathmatically they have so many limits they are half the quality or worse. they sound very metalic. the details are washed out. sounds clip. color is missing. noise is prominent. high frequency is cut off. some people listen with cheap equipment that does poor reproduction in which case the loss in quality is probably not of concern but for people like me with $1500 headphones and a $300 DAC with 130dB S

  • I suppose they have to think of something.
  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Wednesday March 01, 2017 @03:03PM (#53955763)

    Pointing out that "CD audio quality" is, in fact, not really "lossless"...
    Of course, unless Spotify can get their hands on the original studio tapes (unlikely) or exotic limited edition releases, they're not going to able to make gonzobyte flac files available anyway, so perhaps a moot point.
    Bearing in mind their target audiences are likely to be listening on crap Beats cans or buds, there's probably little point in this anyway, apart from bragging rights.

  • by kalpol ( 714519 ) on Wednesday March 01, 2017 @03:27PM (#53956075) Homepage
    ...between 128k and 192k files. I can't tell the difference between anything much above 192k and 320k. I have a vintage Marantz amplifier and decent speakers, and even with classical I can't tell any difference between a CD and 320kbps. So more power to Spotify if they can convince people they are audiophiles and require lossless compression, which (protip) is already digitally sampled at 44.1khz anyway.
    • Agreed, current high bitrate lossy compression is not audibly distinguishable from lossless. That's not to say lossless formats aren't useful. They're necessary for storing original recordings and CD rips so that they can later be used to make transcoded copies in whatever lossy compression formats are best at the time. So unless there's been a breakthrough in lossless compression that beats 320kbps mp3 for size, then streaming lossless files is just a waste of bandwidth.

  • https://www.mattmontag.com/mus... [mattmontag.com]
    That is actually worse than compression artifacts, which by far most people cannot hear anyway.

  • I have a a Yamaha Aventage AVR, Anthem MCA 325 power amp and Dynaudio DM3/7 speakers, some pretty high end audio kit and it's in an acoustically treated room, and I don't think this would be worth it. I can sometimes notice a very subtle difference between a 320k mp3 and flac, but only if the recording is very good, and a recording that good is very rare today. For the few artists that I really enjoy who actually record and master their music well I'd just buy the CD.
  • Are you listening on a legit Hi-Fi rig? Speakers (or preferably Phones) set up, broken in, correctly tuned, on actual good amps? If you are, great, you may see a TINY benefit from a lossless streaming service. Anything short of that, and you are already mutilating the signal worse than any dropped samples.

    Lossless is great for storage to preserve fidelity, but it's just overload for actual casting. You want the source of your transcode to be lossless, but the actual output can be 'good enough' for the use-

  • They can't even get basic UI stuff down after all these years. Why they think I'd give them any money for a service missing such basic interactivity is beyond me.

    https://community.spotify.com/... [spotify.com]

  • Having dipped my toe in the shallow end of high-end audio, I can attest that judging the relative quality of recordings and equipment and cables requires a lot of close A-B comparisons and is fraught with conflicting opinions. The merits of one element can be obscured by other elements in the system, leading to a very different conclusion than if those interfering elements had been replaced with higher-quality ones.

    Sometimes hearing the difference between types of recordings will depend entirely on the sour

Your own mileage may vary.

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