In the early days of online music, we needed compressed files like MP3s because data was so expensive. It’s still too expensive in some countries (hello, Canada!) but it’s not as bad as it used to be. This opened the door to streamers like Tidal, Amazon Music, Qobuz, and a few others to offer data-rich high-resolution streaming. The result are streams that sound at least as good as a CD, if not better.
Several things continue to hold back widespread adoption. First, iPhones lack the capacity to play back uncompressed FLAC files. Second, the bandwidth of Bluetooth is insufficient to transmit hi-res files to wireless headphones. And third, Spotify, the biggest and most popular streaming music platform, has yet to get to get on board.
The company announced something called “Spotify HIFI” in February 2021, saying that it’s coming soon. When? No idea. It’s still not here.
Gustav Söderström, Spotify’s co-president, had this to say to The Verge: “We announced it, but then the industry changed for a bunch of reasons. We are going to do it, but we’re going to do it in a way where it makes sense for us and for our listeners. The industry changed and we had to adapt.”
Also according to The Verge, Spotify HIFI is actually ready to go. All the technical work has been completed. All the necessary hi-res music files have been ingested into the database. So why the delay? Spotify took note that both Apple Music and Amazon Music offer lossless music at no extra charge. That seems to have resulted in a rethink of the rollout.
Another issue? The current emphasis on spatial audio mixes--which, by the way, if done properly sound AWESOME. Spotify is apparently weighing its options with that technology.
It could be a while yet before we get top-notch audio from Spotify.