Hifi audio isn’t everything, say audio testers who rank Spotify and co

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Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, Apple Music or Amazon Music? Competition among audio streaming platforms has intensified with the addition of lossless audio streaming on more platforms.

And yet, anyone considering switching to or subscribing to a new platform would do well to look beyond the promise of high-resolution streaming, as well as the emerging option of 3D audio.

The latter offers more immersive sound than stereo by making parts of the music appear to be fixed in certain spaces around you, while high-resolution streaming brings CD-quality music rather than the usual compressed audio for a richer listening experience.

As promising as these new features may be, experts say they are still not enough to make a major difference in everyday music listening for most users.

This is because the overall range of features and ease of use matters just as much as audio quality, especially if you plan to listen with a Bluetooth headset, which rules out lossless audio, according to a detailed test by industry experts. audiophiles from the German magazine Computer Bild.

The testers took a close look at five major vendors, all of which scored “good” in the overall rating, although the benefits of hi-fi audio failed to guarantee a win for any service.

The Spotify test winner managed to come in first place without any hifi or 3D functionality. The reason for the good overall usability rating: Spotify offers the most features and is available almost everywhere.

Other vendors are scoring points with hifi audio and more, but it’s worth mentioning that Spotify is also introducing HD audio as part of a new “HiFi” pricing tier in 2021.

The testers ranked Deezer second, followed by Amazon Music HD, Apple Music, and Tidal – all of which feature an extended hi-fi system and a few high-res tracks.

The 3D audio offering, on the other hand, is still modest, as the vast majority of audio content still needs to be remixed for this.

Dolby Atmos technology used by Apple and other vendors can accurately reproduce the arrangement of instruments when playing back through headphones.

Here, the instruments stay in the same sound space, even when you turn your head thanks to the head tracking technology in the headphones. However, you will need a small number of compatible headphones for this to work.

Hifi audio is also not available to everyone and the advent of high resolution music presents a downside for anyone who enjoys streaming to bluetooth headphones as the testers note because lossless audio is not possible when streaming to wireless headphones.

The reason is that the AAC Bluetooth transmission technology cannot handle such high data volumes.

Another side effect of the new lossless strategy is the size of the audio files. To ensure that your phone’s mobile data volume and storage space is not exhausted after just a few songs, users will need to choose different quality levels for mobile data, wifi, or downloads.

So far, Apple, Amazon, and most other streaming platforms have compressed songs to a lower bit rate to make them faster to stream over slower connections.

If you want to sign up for an audio streaming platform and you are still undecided, you can test each service for free before purchasing a subscription. – dpa


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