Weekly survey: Do you care about better quality audio from streaming music services?

Earlier this month, Apple Music launched its Spatial Audio offering, which they say greatly enhances the audio quality of streams on Apple Music. By the end of the year, they plan to roll out lossless files for some 75 million tracks. That means at audio streamed at CD quality and perhaps even better.

To be fair, Tidal has been doing this for a price for some time now, but Apple Music is rolling this out at no extra charge. So is Amazon Music and Spotify is apparently planning to do the same thing over the rest of 2021.

A good thing? Absolutely! After listening to (at best) streams at 320 kbps, lossless streams will be welcomed by anyone who wants to hear everything the artist, the musicians, the producer, and the engineer put into a song.

Here’s why this is important. MP3s and other codecs make files small by compressing the original to about 10% of its original size. That means up to 90% of the music information to make an MP3 file has been removed.

The ear (usually) can’t tell, but the brain can. It knows that there’s something missing and tries to fill in the gaps. That requires precious milliseconds of audio processing, which delays and/or blunts the shot of dopamine the brain gives the body when it hears a great song. As a result of this less-than-optimum secretion of the body’s feel-good hormone, neuroscientists say, listening to an MP3 doesn’t feel as good as listening to an uncompressed digital file.

But here’s the thing: There are now at least two generations of music fans who have never experienced full high-fidelity music. All they’ve ever known are MP3s. Will people care? Or maybe the better question is, will people notice? That’s the subject of this week’s survey.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

7 thoughts on “Weekly survey: Do you care about better quality audio from streaming music services?

  • June 14, 2021 at 10:15 am
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    Better quality music is always a good thing. For me though, most of my Spotify listening (like 90%) is while driving. Road noise, tire noise, wind noise, and all the other noises that come with driving would render better quality audio kind of a moot point.

    For home listening though, I would definitely notice and appreciate better sound.

    Reply
    • June 14, 2021 at 11:16 am
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      I agree 100% with Dan here. Most of the time I’d prefer the smaller file size as I won’t need it for routine listening but at home on a quiet evening I’d like to be able to hear why I paid thousands of dollars for top of the line stereo equipment.

      Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 10:26 am
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    I don’t really care that much… If given the choice I will go for the better quality listening experience… however, being over 50 my hearing is somewhat shot.. I put it down to listening to Rush’s All the World’s A Stage while lying on the floor with my head between two speakers when I was younger…

    Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 10:45 am
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    LOVE it…but,

    The majority of my listening is through either wireless (where Apple will only send the MP3s not the higher quality files) or on the road/using sub-par equipment. So yes, I like the idea. Practically I doubt I’ll ever really be in an environment to take advantage.

    I am an audio engineer, and my ‘office’ is a fully sound corrected professional control room. I don’t listen to Apple Music at work much, if I do listen to anything its on Vinyl.

    If “I” am not taking advantage of this, who is?

    Reply
  • June 14, 2021 at 12:11 pm
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    I don’t care as I do not use streaming services.

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  • June 14, 2021 at 7:54 pm
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    Better quality at the same price is OK but let’s face it – most people who rely on streaming services for their music consumption won’t even notice because they’re listening through earbuds or a dodgy bluetooth connection to another amplified device. Apple fans with AirPods Pro, Airpods Max or similar Beats headset may enjoy the ‘spatial’ effect but the real test of these better quality streams is going to be in living rooms and offices of folks with nice audio gear and I still think. I think this move to lossless is being done now because there finally is now enough bandwidth to it but I think is mainly an attempt for the streaming service to try and expand their market by luring in audiophiles.

    Reply
  • June 15, 2021 at 9:39 pm
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    I’ve been into Hi-Fi since the late 70’s and have a lot of high end gear, including proper network streamers for my local music files. I still have a dedicated music listening room (with a turntable even!) and even on my computer I have a good DAC, external amp and excellent speakers.
    TL;DR – YES! I really really care about upping the quality of streaming. 🙂

    Reply

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