Audible watermarks degrading sound on Spotify premium

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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

Joerg1959
Music Fan

I re-opened my Deezer account and the mentioned Dave Grusin album is clean there. Same goes for "Ultimate Mancini" which is on Concord Records.

 

I will check later: 

Joerg1959_0-1574432653594.png

Telarc made famous Records since the 1980s until they ceased operation. They now belong to Concord and I found this album watermarked too.

So its not just UMG. Also Concord is watermarking.

BR Joerg

 

richbs
Gig Goer

Hi @Joerg1959 

 

I read with interest your research on the Concord label being watermarked. As an independent label, I was surprised they were suffering the same issue as UMG recordings.

 

I remembered somewhere a link between UMG and Concord and found at this link their "distributor". Guess who? Universal Music Group. See this link:

https://concord.com/distribution/

 

This reminded me that when ECM first published their amazing catalogue digitally, I noticed a lot of watermarking. Turns out ECM is distributed by UMG as well, despite being independent:

 

https://www.ecmrecords.com/distributors

 

Here's an example of watermarking from the ECM catalogue:

 

https://open.spotify.com/track/6yMxGkMvjkKR4gqPsl6TxL?si=q-rNPhYzRfGLeleJe1yBXA

 

Cheers!

 

 

brincktron
Casual Listener

When I wanted to sit down and listen and pay attention to the spiritual music of John Coltrane, my music experience was once again ruined by artifacts:

https://open.spotify.com/track/2h1o6yFR9Gjh8DqHwTy3M9?si=TkMqRBioTreBwFVBFvTlTw

 

I even listened to the "deluxe" version of the album, that is more well balanced than the original album. The audio quality is much better when listening to the same release on Apple Music - WHAT ARE YOU DOING SPOTIFY?? - forcing us to leave you?

richbs
Gig Goer

Totally agree—with Coltrane it is criminal to be distracted by watermarks. 

 

iTunes even has a "mastered for iTunes" version of this record, where the 24-bit masters have been directly converted to the AAC version. Not sure how important that is but it shows more respect for the music than watermarks.

Chappuchino
Newbie

I stumbled upon this after getting pi$$ed off listening to DGG recordings on Spotify with what I hear as a weird warble. Especially noticeable on vocal and quiet strings. Same thing as this watermark discussed here?

TC

richbs
Gig Goer

The watermarking I've experienced is exactly as you describe. 🙁

CryticalAce
Community Legend

There isn't a whole lot Spotify can do here afaik, they upload what they get, if it is watermarked, that's because the distributor/artist wanted it so. I could be wrong, but this is how I see the situation

richbs
Gig Goer

Absolutely right @cryticalace, this is the label's mistake and shows a lack of respect for their wonderful recordings and listeners. I'm just hoping that one day Spotify will have sufficient influence to request the labels re-upload non-watermarked content. Fingers crossed!

cthulhu184
Newbie

I'm so glad that I'm not alone on this.  For me the issue has been most noticable on Decca recordings. And no, you don't have to be a audiophool to hear it.  Dedicated listening in a quiet space or with headphones, reveals it clearly, particularly in sustained strings passages.

 

Here is a perfect example:

https://open.spotify.com/track/3UNrSxaC7ADadA6WlgFiLg?si=mkjYPqPvRHW4EZ_yvGp1Yg

 

It's hard to recommend Spotify to anyone who does a lot of classical listening for this reason, and as others are reporting, it affects a lot more of the catalogue than I realised.

 

R.I.P. what.cd

miero
Newbie

You can try to switch off the "High quality" streaming.

 

I checked the audio of the linked track on the normal quality and it was much more closer to a CD version than the high quality stream.

 

https://open.spotify.com/track/58uem87EElJobfMa1jR20B?si=yX-w-DkqQ_-I4xgL8bRffw

user-removed
Not applicable

FWIW the issue seems to be mostly fixed on Google Play Music, unfortunately it still exists on Youtube Music which is supposed to replace GPM at some point... but we at least have proof that it can be done, come on Spotify!

brincktron
Casual Listener

Being an audio engineer with years of experience in listening for small unregularities in audio content, I must admit that more and more and more songs reveal some disturbing artifacts on Spotify, which I've been using for many years.
I have recently discovered a degrade in quality (as premium user) for instance in this song: https://open.spotify.com/track/2c3pvppnBfFRad6gOoMoJQ?si=jJ-qi0W0Ru-S_MIlijstTw

I definately cannot live with this, if it is deliberate degredation using watermarks - it is so Spotify??

richbs
Gig Goer

I have auditioned that wonderful Horowitz recording and sadly confirm that the watermarking I’ve come to know and hate is present. It makes the finest pianos sound gurgly and wobbly.

 

It is present in most Universal releases pre-2013. This means Decca, Philips and DG. Basically most of the important recordings of the major Western orchestras.

 

Other music services are less affected, e.g. Qobuz and Apple Music, but not immune.

russellh1
Music Fan

Another year goes by and the watermarks are still there.

clsnwbrdr616
Newbie

I cancelled my Spotify account mainly because I get Google Music for free with my YouTube Premium subscription. However, for a while I had both and kept noticing how Spotify's audio quality sounded so much worse than Google's.  It wasnt until trying out Tidal that I learned about the watermarking and realized that was what I was hearing on Spotify.  The Spotify tracks I thought sounded terrible sounded just as bad on Tidal.

 

I'm not going to claim that Google Music doesnt have any watermarked music, but at the very least the tracks I've noticed the watermarks on with Spotify and Tidal dont have the watermarks on Google. I haven't come across any new watermarked tracks on Google either (for the genres I listen to).

 

So I guess I'll be sticking with Google Music unless the watermarking trend ever goes away.  I really do miss Spotifys radio and discovery algorithm as they are far superior to Google's radio algorithms, but music quality means far more to me than those features. 

 

I support record companies' rights to protect their intellictual property, but this is not the way to do it.  Punishing people who are obtaining musically legally through streaming services is not going to reduce piracy, but instead is going to push those people to use less than legal means to obtain the undamaged versions of the music.

 

 

user-removed
Not applicable

At the other end of the music spectrum, just started playing Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter “1 + 1” on my iPhone speakers (Apple Music) and since it begins with an introspective piano improvisation I could immediately hear even through the iPhone speakers the nasty sound trembling. Looking at the album info what a “surprise”: The Verve Music Group, a division of UMG. 

cstak
Newbie

I am also experiencing this issue and really hope Spotify addresses this defect in their product.

Erziram
Casual Listener

Actually moved away from Spotify because of this. And since other music services do not fare better and it's variable at best, I once again download EAC to screw the music industry back for not letting me enjoy music in a really high quality through easy, payed channels and means like Spotify, Tidal, etc.. Besides going to a concert (which I do a lot), I really don't have much options here to enjoy the content at it's full extent.

russellh1
Music Fan

Please let me know where you went after leaving Spotify.  I would happily move to another premium streaming service if I could get better sound from UMG recordings.

user-removed
Not applicable

I've been having this battle with UMG and Apple Music for quite a long time. I only listen to classical music, most of it solo piano and symphonies and I noticed it immediately on most DG, Decca, Philips (and other UMG sub-labels) records. I didn't know it was digital watermarking so I have exchanged a lot of emails with Apple Music, even sending them my own rip of Chopin's ballades with Krystian Zimmerman by DG where it's like night and day difference. Ultimately they acknowledged they hear the difference but can do nothing and never mentioned it was digital watermarking. I then discovered Matt Montag's post and everything came into its place. So, it's been a year since and what can I tell. Nothing's changed on Apple Music. So I decided to just ban UMG. I started researching other performers and labels and I have now completely swtiched to Sony Classical releases. They have recently remastered and re-released RCA Living Stereo recordings. I have deliberately removed all UMG releases from my library and I won't ever listen to any of them. If I have to, I will deliberately download a pirated copies form well known torrent sites. But I am not gonna pay for an abomination like that.

user-removed
Not applicable

Ohh, BTW, there's a new streaming service dedicated only to classical music called IDAGIO. I've tried it and there are no watermarks on any of the DG releases and the premium service stream in lossless FLAC. I believe since they are a small team, they probably just rip the CD-s themselves which is why no watermarks.

 

I've tested it for a month, however I've had many problems. First of all, they do not support the notion of "album", so you can't simply listen to a well-known CD. You need to know a particular composer, work, performer and year of relase but since there are not CD-covers and many release years are acutally re-master or re-release years, it's very difficult to find what you llok for. Add to that bugs, high load on macOS, etc. But they promised changing their ideology about the albums, so maybe in a year or so they will get better.

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