Spotiy Premium audio quality - pretty disappointed


Spotiy Premium audio quality - pretty disappointed

Just signed up for Spotify Premium after reading that the premium service streams high quality audio.  Did two quick quality comparisons, and so far I am pretty disappointed.


First I played a local audio file using Spotify.  I had ripped the file from a CD in iTunes... don't remember the settings, but they were high.  Sounded great.  Then I searched for the same song on Spotify and streamed it.... sounded significantly worse.


Then I played another local audio file using Spotify.  This file was not ripped from a CD.  It was downloaded from iTunes.  Sounded good.  Again searched for the same song on Spotify and streamed it.... again really disappointed by the Spotify streamed version.  Noticeably worse.


High Quality Streaming is checked on in my preferences.  Am I missing something?  Is the streaming quality just inferior?


Anyone else experience similar results?


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Hey there. Sorry about this.


Quality is 160 kbps by default. After update to premium, rmeember to select High 320 kbps quality from Preferences and for best results after clean-reinstall or cache removal.


Hope dat heps!

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Hi hpguru, and thank you for the advice.  Before reading your post, I did exactly what you suggest: a clean reinstall and selected "high quality audio" in preferences.  Ok, the sound improved but not too much.  Puzzled, I read all the posts in this forum (wise decision) and found that Choiglia and aelOnn have discovered the problem, or at least part of it.    Both of them use  external DACs as I do,  and, while it is indeed very difficult to identify different  sampling rates "by ear",  specially from streaming audio,   any good  DAC  will reveal inmediately other problems  in sound quality,  not related to  the bitrate.   In my previous post, I said that Spotify sounded compressed to me, and I was right.    As they discovered,  by unchecking the "equal volume"  tab in preferences  the sound improved a whole lot.  And, as they said, it is weird  that a simple volume control can do this.   I am no technician,  but  it is pretty obvious  that the problem lies in the Spotify Software, which is compressing not only volume, but also dynamic range.   When you do this, you kill the sound.


  In computer audio, everybody  knows the  dangers of tampering with the signal in the digital domain.  The less you alter it, the better it sounds.  Just to be sure, I also unchecked the "allow hardware acceleration" tab.  Since there is no bitrate indication in the control panel, there is no way to know,  but surely Spotify now sounds a LOT better.   Finally, when you save some song for a playlist, a message like "improving the sound for the playlist" appears.  What is this ?  It looks like dual bitrates, one for  "browsing" and a higher one for playlists...I think that Spotify should take note and improve its software platform as soon as possible.   


Kind regards,

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If you use the desktop client to play spotify content, you can set the high quality streaming option in edit/preferences or spotify/options on a mac. The music will stream at 320 kbps.

Thank you for your reply, but as stated in my original post, I already did that, and the results are still noticeably inferior.

I did the same test myself on various "mainstream" tracks, and found no significant difference.

(M-AUDIO soundcard + NAD 325BEE + Cabasse MT3 Tobago... not the best hifi hardware, but certainly not the worse)


According to various sources, Spotify is streaming "the best they can up to 320", according to what majors are providing, thus it may vary from one track to another.

Also some CD editions are suffering from bad sound engineering from the beginning, whatever the quality of the rip.

Maybe you add bad luck with your sample, which tracks have you tested ?


And are you playing your "itunes" file from Itunes or from Spotify ? Equalizer can modify your listening experience and artificially make the sound more pleasant to your ears. (I'm not saying better)

I tested it with "mainstream" music as well (Daft Punk's new album, Gatsby Soundtrack, Of Monsters and Men, etc.), and I'm playing both the local tracks and the streaming tracks through Spotify, not iTunes (even though the songs were originally purchased in iTunes).  Spotify scanned my hard drive and found my iTunes tracks and automatically added them.


My setup is not hi-fi at all -- I'm using on-board audio straight to my Klipsh Pro Media 2.1 powered speakers.  No soundcard, no external DAC.  I will be purchasing a separate DAC and new speakers later this month, but as of now, I'm just using the audio that's on my motherboard (Abit IP35 Pro).


I'm on the 30-day Spotify Premium free trial, and I'm using the Spotify desktop app.  High Quality Streaming is checked on.  I've found a couple of other threads on this forum where people are experiencing the exact same problem as I am, but I have also spoken to friends of mine who are very picky about audio quality and use Spotify who have no idea what I'm talking about... so I'm completely confused.


I don't see why this would make a difference, but perhaps it has to do with the fact that I'm not using a separate DAC or soundcard.  That's the only thing I can think of.  I'll be getting a DAC soon, in the next couple of weeks, and when I do, I'll repeat the comparison and post back.  In the meantime, if anyone else has ideas or is experiencing this issue, please let me know.


Lastly, you said you did the same test.... did you at least notice a difference in VOLUME?  Sound quality is somewhat subjective, but VOLUME is not.  For me, the local tracks play back noticeably louder (and also richer and fuller, etc.).  Do you notice any difference in volume at least?



Yes indeed I remember such thing, and I tried to uniformize the volume (or activated Replay Gain in Spotify, don't remember).

As you say yourself, the volume can modify drastically your listening experience: bass more developped and more rich, details emerging.

Test must be done at iso-volume.


Not sure how it's working exactly, but have you restarted Spotify after thicking the "high quality" checkbox, just in case ?


A motherboard soundcard is certainly a plastic toy comparing to a DAC, but even with it, I see no reason for having good sound from Itunes and bad one from Spotify.

Anyway, your new hardware will certainly change your experience... wait for it before judging 🙂

Yeah, i switched to high quality, restarted the program, and checked again.  The problem persisted.


Regarding volume, I think you may have misunderstood me.  The increased richness and fullness I'm hearing when I play local files is not from the increase in volume.  I can turn up the Spotify stream so it's louder (as loud as the local file), but it still sounds flatter and less detailed than the local file.


What I'm saying is, there are two differences: volume but also detail.


I'll report back when I get my DAC.  There'll be an improvement for sure, but I'm hoping it will also somehow resolve the discrepancy in quality between local and streaming.  Not sure how it would.... might actually accentuate the discrepancy!


Last question for you.... are you a Premium paying subscriber?  or are you on the 30-day trial?  maybe the premium trial isn't really premium??

The DAC (+speakers+ampli... you know the rule about weakest point in the chain) will make your "just acceptable" quality into "not acceptable"... it's certainly easier to identify bad quality with good hifi system. But I don't see how it could reverse the result of your current match ! ^^


I'm premium. Would be so stupid from Spotify to not be fair on the trial... I doubt it.

A bug is also an eventuality: on same Spotify track, do you notice the difference bewteen low and high quality ? (with your actual system it's probably hard to say, you'll probably notice with new one)

I'll try the low/high quality switch when I get home tonight.  How do I do that again?  Do I need to clear my Spotify cache in order to make sure I'm hearing the low or high quality?


I was reading elsewhere that that can be an issue.... like you have a low quality version cached from a previous listen (before you went Premium), and you have to clear your cache to now hear the high quality version.  That doesn't account for my current issue as I started in Premium, but if I now have to downgrade to low quality, maybe I need to clean out my high quality cache??  Anyway, will try it later tonight.

I dont' know anything about cache issues, it's an interesting point though.

I suggest to compare webplayer (supposedly low qual) VS Desktop client.

alright, I think I figured it out.  there's an option in the prefs to "set the same volume level for all tracks".  it was checked on.  i unchecked it and BOOM.  the tracks sound the same to me, local vs. stream.  is yours checked on or off?  i can't believe that was the issue.  it definitely was doing more than just adjusting volume.  i'll know for sure if it's fixed when i get my DAC, but i'm a happy camper for now.


thanks for your help.

Hum, thanks a lot for your feedback because yes, I activate this.

Replay Gain (if this is the method used by Spotify) is not supposed to destroy quality, it's weird 😞

I'll have to retest on my side 😕

Just listen to a song on Vevo Youtube and then listen to that song on Spotify. they are completly different. the song on youTube sounds much better. I've also tried a couple of different songs and they are all sound different to me

It could be that the volume leveler uses multi-band compression to achieve the equalizing of volume. When implemented poorly, this can destroy the sound. Even when implemented well, it changes the sound, which may or may not be pleasant depending on taste. Currently listening to the web version (have not subscribed or downloaded yet), but it sounds really bad and over compressed. Not really an incentive to subscribe, I can say 🙂

I am surprised that discussions on the quality of Spotify always concentrate on the streaming quality. I am not a technician, but it seems to me that another question comes first: what is the quality of the data before streaming? Is a song sent out by Spotify equal to the sound quality of its studio recording? Or how much is left out from the beginning? 

@ImJoe wrote:

I am surprised that discussions on the quality of Spotify always concentrate on the streaming quality. I am not a technician, but it seems to me that another question comes first: what is the quality of the data before streaming? Is a song sent out by Spotify equal to the sound quality of its studio recording? Or how much is left out from the beginning? 

Hey there.


Record labels are sending lossless tracks.

Sending them to Spotify? And does Spotify send them to us? Or at least to the Premium Members?

Premium subscribers can get 320kbps streamed or downloaded. This is nowhere near studio quality but then neither are CD recordings. However, 80% of folk can't discern a difference between a 320kbps file and the original CD.

I think there is still a considerable difference between the sound quality of a good CD and of Spotify. And don't forget the 20% who care about the difference.

If you want lossless CD quality then add your vote to this idea.

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