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Spotify Blames UK Broadband For Lack of Lossless Streaming

Gordon Kelly by

Spotify Blames UK Broadband For Lack of Lossless Streaming

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...


Home Cinema Choice (via TechRadar)

Go to comments


July 15, 2010, 7:23 pm

Well encoded 320 kb/s MP3 is totally transparent to me (can't tell the difference from lossless even on high end equipment), and for pretty much everyone from what I've read. Heck, well encoded variable bit rate MP3 at around 200 kb/s is indistinguishable from lossless to me and to most people. As such, Spotify's 320 kb/s Vorbis stream should be more than adequate, and I'd bet there are no more than 50 people in the world who could reliably distinguish it from lossless, so it's understandable why Spotify don't want to throw ~1,000 kb/s at a lossless stream. Why bother?


July 15, 2010, 9:33 pm

@John McLean: Completely agree. As I type this, I'm listening to my collection of lossless and 320k AACs through an iBasso D2+ (via USB) and a pair of Shure SE530s. Honestly, I cannot tell the difference, and I'm really picky.

Don Kanonjii

July 15, 2010, 10:19 pm

Nothing wrong with 320kbps


July 15, 2010, 10:26 pm

@John McLean - Seconded - On my cheap, but decent Hi-fi equipment, I can only hear problems with badly-encoded 128kbps MP3 files. All the new DRM-free stuff from Amazon and iTunes sounds great. On the other hand, when I first encoded my CD collection I used 128kbps encoding. A decision that now looks slightly foolish in retrospect.

Denis iii

July 16, 2010, 12:20 pm

is there a market large enough to warrant having lossless?

currently only ppl with speakers to notice better audio with lossless are high end htc owners and gamers with impressive pc speakers.

Unless there is a spotify yahoo tv widget i'm not aware of? Wonder if they will ever push to DVD Audio, I heard thats amazing and takes true advantage of surround sound 7,1 or something


July 16, 2010, 12:52 pm

I'll own up to having just finished ripping all my CDs in lossless - took weeks! This was more of an attempt at some sort of insurance should some catastrophy happen and I lose all my CDs in a fire or something!

Anyway, as for Spotify. I dont think it's problem is in the 320kbs, more the general "feel" of the music. When compared to We7, for example, I think it sounds a little "weak" (for want of a better word). Not much mind you but I definately prefer the We7 sound. However, I prefer by far the Spotify experience and I wouldnt dream of switching over as things stand.

So, could I tell the difference between a Spotify 320kbs and a lossless played from elsewhere? I probably could. Would I be able to tell the difference of a Spotify lossless? Almost certainly not.


July 16, 2010, 3:22 pm

@Jones: I agree, I can certainly tell the difference between a 320kbps Spotify track and a 320kbps AAC from my PC, and 'weak' is a good word for it. The bass lacks punch and the midrange sounds flat. I don't know why that would be, but it's definitely there.


July 17, 2010, 5:28 am

... I believe fibre optics were invented in the 1950s? ...mmmmmmmmmmmm


May 18, 2013, 6:41 pm

Guys, Looking for Lossless media streaming? Try Tyso Vi-Core. Its a private entertainment network and supports streaming HD audio in 7.1 channel.

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