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Spotify Blames UK Broadband For Lack of Lossless Streaming

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If Spotify's fast, capacious music library does have one failing for audiophiles it is the lack of lossless audio streaming. Something that doesn't look like it will be solved any time soon...

Speaking to Home Cinema Choice, Spotify VP of products Gustav Söderström explained: "We get the files from the labels in lossless format, in FLAC. But we don't stream them in lossless formats. This has more to do with the user experience based on current broadband and mobile internet networks."

"Streaming lossless files would consume very large amounts of bandwidth for people," he continued. "It would also make Spotify much more prone to a bad user experience, with problems such as stuttering and the like, which is something that we pride ourselves in not having at all. So we have to try to manage the best audio quality offering with the best user experience. Higher audio quality with a bad user experience is not an option for us."

The frustration here is for many audiophiles higher audio quality with a bad user experience would be an option. Naturally how you define "bad" is key, but it should mean little more than extra buffering time. It also seems unfair that those premium subscribers on very fast connections such a Virgin Media's 50Mbit service don't even have the choice whether to use lossless or not. Happily the door isn't closed:

"Currently we offer the option of listening at 320kbps on Spotify Premium and we use the Ogg Vorbis codec, which is considered to be very good amongst audiophiles," defended Söderström. "We are always looking at how we can improve the service. At the moment there are more external factors that put the hold on very high bandwidth streaming. So as networks and infrastructure improve, then we are certainly going to be looking at that."

In the meantime it is worth pointing out to any disgruntled users that low quality earphones and speakers are far more of a bottleneck to audio quality than bitrates so that should be your first port of call. Furthermore our own blind tests found that 320Kbps MP3s are certainly good enough to blur the gap with lossless so the more efficient Ogg should be fine at the same level of encoding.

For those who do refuse to listen to anything less than lossless, however, the answer is simple: give BT a call and donate £2bn...

Link:
Home Cinema Choice (via TechRadar)

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