Spotify Doesn’t Need to Sound Like Crap

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Spotify vs. Apple Music is a debate we won’t hear the end of anytime soon. However, next, Apple Music users say their service sounds better than Spotify, that Apple’s songs are punchier and sharper than the rival streaming service, especially when using headphones or high-quality speakers. While Apple Music users may have a point, there’s an easy way those on Spotify can boost their audio quality right now.

Spotify and Apple Music offer different sound quality options

Comparing Apple Music and Spotify’s overall sound quality is a little tricky. Spotify offers free users a maximum bitrate of 160kbps (kilobytes per second), while Premium offers double the bitrate of 320kbps. Apple Music, on the other hand, does not have a free tier, but it does offer a variety of audio features. The service’s standard playback is 256kbps, less than Spotify’s maximum. However, Apple Music also has lossless playback, which allows you to choose from CD-standard 24-bit 48 kHz playback, or, if you have the right device, 24-bit 192 kHz playback. Spotify has plans to roll out its own lossless streaming option, but for now, its quality on paper isn’t where Apple Music is.

However, 320kbps is still high enough to be heard great, even when jumping between two platforms. So why more and more users complaining about Spotify’s quality?

Audio editing is ruining your Spotify quality

The bug is in a setting called “audio normalization,” and it has no purpose other than making your music sound better. Spotify uses custom audio processing to give you a consistent listening experience across all tracks. It tries to balance the loudness of all your music, so you don’t mess with the volume all the time. If one song tends to be quiet, you tend to turn up the volume; if the next song is loud, it will be louder than you would like.

Now, that’s all well and good (nobody likes a loud song that scares them), but there’s still an unintended consequence: Your songs don’t sound right, especially those that are usually loud. Regardless of Spotify’s intentions, the app still limits the volume of songs, which affects the playlist. It’s even more noticeable when listening with good headphones or speakers.

Audio processing is easy to disable, however. On a mobile phone, open the settings app and then select Playing again. Find “Enable Audio Normalization” (iOS) or “Normalization volume” (Android), then turn off the converter. On the desktop, open the settings app, then disable “Normalization volume” in the options.

If you’re a Premium subscriber, or using the desktop app, you’ll see “Volume level” options below the default sound settings: “Loud,” which adjusts the sound levels for a loud environment, “Normal,” assumes you’re in average sound conditions, and “Quiet,” which adjusts the volume to a quiet setting. Spotify claims there is no effect on sound quality when the volume level is set to Smart or Quiet, only when Loud is on, but I’m not so sure. Any additional filter will affect the overall sound, and I’m not interested in that when I’m looking for the highest quality experience possible.

Even though I’m a free subscriber, I can feel the difference when you turn this setting off.

Other settings to view

If you’re not happy with your Spotify sound quality, check if the Equalizer is enabled under this item Playing again the menu. The Equalizer can be useful for increasing or decreasing certain aspects of the sound, but it often gets in the way of the intended sound. I recommend turning it off if you don’t have a specific purpose for it.

Below Sound quality, make sure your sound quality is as high as possible, meaning “High” for Premium and “High” for free. That goes for both “WiFi Streaming,” “Mobile Streaming,” and “Download,” to ensure your sound quality is the best no matter what the situation. Note that increasing the quality of mobile transmission will use more mobile data. Finally, disable “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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