Audible watermarks degrading sound on Spotify premium

Reply

Audible watermarks degrading sound on Spotify premium

kkh1114
Regular

I'm a Spotify premium subscriber.

 

I was listening to this track (in highest quality streaming):

 

https://open.spotify.com/track/4JO5eK1uiI6MvJIrtBrhI3

 

It's a beautiful recording rendered unlistenable due to the fluttering sound of the digital watermark Decca (Universal) is using.

 

I have removed the entire album from my music (a shame) and I realize there are other performances of the same work available, but can't understand why they would ruin a recording like this for the people who are paying for the premium service in order to hear high quality recordings!  How much do we have to pay to hear the original unaltered recording?  I am afraid to even buy the CD or download now because it may have the same watermark applied.

 

I would hope Spotify will refuse to stream recordings like this, at least for premium subscribers.

 

 

 

 

81 Replies

russellh1
Music Fan

I thought I could hear the watermark on this:

 

https://www.idagio.com/recordings/23462151

richbs
Gig Goer

You certainly can! There's a lot of distortion in that first big chord.

 

This version on Apple Music lacks the watermark and sounds good to my ears.

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/ballade-no-1-in-g-minor-op-23/57203559?i=57203564

 

This version on Spotify lacks the watermark and also sounds good.

https://open.spotify.com/track/6niW30BW6nrRIfnXJo2Ht3?si=TKOP6FOkSMe9eop5FLwUmg

 

The weird thing is that the Complete Works on Apple Music has the watermark and the single disk edition on Spotify has the watermark. It's like a mirror image.

user-removed
Not applicable

That's an interesting development! I've discovered that myself recently: the separate Ballades CD by DG doesn't have the audible watermarks so apparently they've reuploaded the content (most probably with a non-audible watermark), however the 17-CD Complete Chopin set that includes the same recording is still entirely messed up with the watermarks.

What's odd is that while the IDAGIO version used to be OK, it has apparently been replaced with the bad one! I canceled my IDAGIO subscription long ago due to it being buggy, the interface not intuitive and the still widespread lack of "album" notion seriously preventing me from liking it but it's disappointing that they were given the bad-watermarked DG-releases 😞

Seems like I will stick to Apple Music and might un-ban UMG releases.

This whole "crisis" actually opened my ears a lot to so many rather unknown musicians and labels and taught me there's probably too much big-name prejudice in the classical music world.

BTW, I am really impressed by the Harmonia Mundi label it is now my favorite. It would be hard for me to point a single record by that label which isn't excellent.

 

richbs
Gig Goer

It's a shame that ambitious new music services like idagio get lumbered by the same UMG watermarking. I've noticed that Qobuz does have fewer examples of tracks with watermarking but is not immune.

 

Harmonia Mundi are great; I particularly love the Berg/Beethoven violin concertos with Faust and Abbado. Beautifully played and recorded.

user-removed
Not applicable

What a coincidence! I've also started with the Beethoven/Berg and Isabelle Faust. It's not surprising she now happens to be my favorite violin player! Everything she recorded is fantastic. Her Brahms, Dvorak, Mozart and the recent Mendelssohn concertos are my reference records for those concertos.

richbs
Gig Goer

I followed up with the Mendelssohn Faust recording and really enjoyed it. At times, beautifully transparent and others nice and crunchy. A great example of a label that respects its listeners.

 

 

richbs
Gig Goer

Thanks for fighting the good fight, CyberGene. I think your idea of listening to non-UMG recordings is great. It's a good opportunity to support indie labels.

 

Idaho looks great—it seemed to be missing a couple of records bit I admire their ethos.

 

I might subscribe to another service occasionally but I do find Spotify's interface and integrations to be the best in the business.

richbs
Gig Goer

Hi Russelh1,

 

Just to let you know I've been trialling a lot of alternative streaming services including Tidal, Deezer and Apple Music. I compared several releases on each service. The best I found for lacking the watermark was Qobuz, which also caters for the "audiophile" audience. If you're more into popular music, Apple Music seemed to have fewer instances of watermarking.

 

I did find watermarking on some recordings on all services and not necessarily on the same tracks!

 

 

richbs
Gig Goer

I've been noticing this on recordings more often recently, I don't know if something has changed but it seems the exact same recording on Apple Music often has a non-watermarked version. 

 

https://open.spotify.com/album/02JXg8buWnM0BlSM6drL28?si=3IoAZaDfRciitTAD3CyWIQ

 

vs.

 

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/poulenc-gloria-stabat-mater/83873541

 

Newer UMG recordings are not affected.

user-removed
Not applicable

It's super obvious on classical songs. Please fix this, Spotify! This is not acceptible for a paid "Premium" service.

Hubo
Rock Star 16
Rock Star 16

Hey folks!

 

Spotify publishes music as they get it from the Record Labels. You can reach out to them for more informaion on digital watermarks. If there's anything I can help you with, just give me a shout! 🙂

 

Have a great day!

HuboRock Star 16
Help others find this answer and click "Accept as Solution".
If you appreciate my answer, maybe give me a Like.
Note: I'm not a Spotify employee.

EvilCoincoin
Regular

As already pointed out, UMG since then fixed the faulty technology but Spotify have repeatedly refused to redownload the corrupted music. I contacted Spotify directly, they told me they knew about it and they wouldn't do anything. It's been 5 years now and Spotify are still ignoring this.

russellh1
Music Fan

It is no better on any of the other music services that I am aware of.  There seems to be no way of getting UMG music online without the watermark.

silex
Casual Listener

I think we all understand that, and are not blaming Spotify directly for adding the watermark. My goal is to bring this to Spotify's attention so Spotify can stop reselling a incomplete, damaged products as part of their premium service. There are plenty of unaltered recordings out there, and Spotify, as such a large player in the streaming game, has a lot of influence. Remaining silent on the issue and telling your users to take it up with the record companies is a silly response. As an analogy: if I go to a grocery store and buy cheese that I later find out has spoiled, the store does not tell me to take it up with the cheesemaker. They make take responsibility for the product they sell. Spotify should do the same.

demanmetdeneus
Newbie

It is completely understandable that record companies fight piracy, but this is obviously not the right way to do it.

 

Yesterday I listened to the spectacular 1993 recording of Mahler's 5th symphony by Claudio Abbado for DG. The opening trumpetsolo is ruined by watermarking artifacts.

 

https://open.spotify.com/track/5Y5nq6qQMU0oIm5E2275dH

 

Have a listen, it's clearly audible when listening with decent headphones - which is what one would listen this kind of content with. 

 

Is there a list of recordings / labels that are not effected? At least not audibly.

HenrikStevn
Gig Goer

I just gave it a listen (the track linked by @demanmetdeneus) and the watermark is definitely absolutely still there, and very bad.

 

Is there any update at all on this issue?

silex
Casual Listener

Yeah, I agree they ought to be allowed to fight piracy, but it must be inaudible. It is truly ironic that their antipiracy measures lead to a situation in which I get better quality audio by engaging in piracy than by paying a legitimate service like Spotify.

silex
Casual Listener

The crazy part, now that I think about it, is that the watermark is not a product of high compression, so not only are we getting a degraded product, but we are downloading a compromised waveform at higih bitrate. So we are using a large amount of bandwidth to receive a damaged product. That just makes no sense.

silex
Casual Listener

This problem is out of control, particularly on classical recordings (Decca and Deutsche Grammophon are the worst). This is clearly an issue of digital watermarking, as outlined on Matt Montag's site. Now, I have tried to see if my friends can hear it, and have learned that 1. most people don't notice it, 2. it's nearly inaudible in much of pop music, even to me, and 3. it's nearly inaudible without nice headphones (I have a pair of studio monitors at home and i need to be very close to them before it's audible). That said, when listening to classical recordings on nice headphones, this fluttering watermark is painfully audible to me--to the point where I hear it immediately and am forced to restrict my listening to only recordings that have not been watermarked. This problem is unbelievable, in my opinion. I find it SHOCKING that these recordings are being deliberatedly defaced prior to sale--as far as I am concerned, this constitues knowingly selling a defective product. Spotify should push back on Universal. Stop buying watermarked recordings from them! It undercuts Spotify's reputation. If a friend asks me "How do you like Spotify Premium? How do you like the sound quality?" My response is always "It sounds great, except for the tracks that have been deliberately damaged." Please, please, please fix this or I will be forced to cancel my subscription. I can't in good conscience pay for a service that knowingly sells defaced recordings.

russellh1
Music Fan

@silex,

 

I agree with pretty much everything you said. 

 

I'm hoping that Universal can come to some kind of agreement with the streaming and digital download companies.  Maybe some kind of marketing promotion for cleaner sound or something would work -- whatever it takes to fix this.  

 

Years ago, Spotify fixed their problem with gapless playback after a reviewer from the New York Times mentioned that opera was un-listenable on Spotify without it.  It seems strange to me that no one in the music or audio equipment industry has called any attention to this.  I guess I can hope.

Erziram
Casual Listener

Stumbled upon Matt's post while researching audible differences in streaming services and I must say it's unacceptable that Spotify let's this happen (but on the same par, other streaming and music services as well, like Tidal). For instance: tidal.com/track/8334755 sounds the same as on Spotify Premium, which is horrible.

 

All in all this is bad news for any streaming service, as uncompromised high quality audio is not delivered through a payed subscription service. The alternative is either buying physical albums again or pirate the content (i.e. EAC-downloads). While this issue has been known for years, I'm assuming that most streaming services calculated this as a business risk. Most people wouldn't probably hear the difference and still pay up anyways. The very minor group of critics probably won't make a dent in the business case of a streaming service, so I'm guessing nothing will change anytime soon.

 

Except when all paying customers start to understand they are not getting what they should be getting, which is uncompromised, high quality audio streaming or the streaming services decide to draw a line. As long as Spotify accepts compromised audio, I see no justification for paying for a premium subscription.

 

As for UMG and the like of them: there are unhearable ways to watermark audio, like hiding a watermark within the compression algorithm of a stream. By now, the industry knows that any form of marking (or DRM, for that matter) yields far lower results compared to very accessible and affordable alternatives like streaming services (Spotify, Netflix, Tidal, Amazon). By crippling the experience, you are moving people towards alternatives that are not necessarily legal.. 

SUGGESTED POSTS