A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

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A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

Roguebantha
Casual Listener

So I've seen a lot of confusion over what exactly that "Hardware Acceleration" button means down in the bottom of the advanced settings of Spotify on PC, with no particularly satisfactory answer ever given that I can find. While it appears that over the past couple years that curiosity had died down, I thought it worthwhile to post a very quick and basic overview of what that switch does.

 

Inside of your computer (every computer), there is a chip about an inch squared in size called a CPU, which performs the daily tasks of everything that you do on your computer. Along with your CPU (and also having potential roles in audio hardware acceleration) include your motherboard and/or discrete sound card if you have one.

Inside of that CPU, most of it is designed for general purpose computing, a typical sequential set of possible instructions that let you do anything and everything that you need to do, including music decoding and playback. In the case that you are (more or less) using this set of general instructions for such a task, you have what could be called "software" playback, where the software does the majority of the algorithmic work in order to achieve that task.

 

However, also oftentimes present in your CPU/motherboard/sound card are small sections of hardware *specifically* designed in order to complete a specific task. Oftentimes, this hardware has very little usage outside of extremely specific tasks, but can usually do those tasks much much better than general purpose instructions ever could, due to specific optimizations that can be made, thus the term acceleration. You could have this akin to having a general human or worker who is perfectly capable of digging holes in the ground, but is not nearly as effective as a digger, which is VERY good at digging holes in the ground and not much else.

 

Some other good examples of hardware acceleration include integrated/discrete GPU's (whose calculations COULD THEORETICALLY be done in general purpose computing, for a massive performance penalty) or video decoding acceleration (as is present on the Broadcom CPU's embedded in Raspberry Pi's, and which allow such a tiny chip to achieve genuinely high-quality video playback).

 

Enabling hardware acceleration in Spotify will cause Spotify to use those specialized pieces of hardware present in your CPU/motherboard/sound card in order to decode and play back the audio stream. Disabling hardware acceleration will still decode the audio stream using hardware, but it will do so using general purpose computing and software-driven algorithms - a potentially slower approach.

 

Right so, for what this means for the end-consumer, the answer is, not a heck of a lot. For those with significantly weaker hardware, toggling hardware acceleration can either increase or decrease your listening experience, potentially causing skips and other such issues. It may also lead to a nearly negligible difference in CPU usage as well. Otherwise, for the vast majority, this setting really has little to no impact to the lives of the listeners, which is why it is buried at the bottom of the advanced settings, so that no one would ever have to worry about it, ever.

 

I hope this sheds some light and relieves some minds out there as to what that mysterious toggle does, and may you all have a wonderful day.

 

Roguebantha

21 Replies

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

Jahoker
Casual Listener

Hi Rogue,

 

So in the case of my setup, PC -> AudioQuest Dragonfly USB DAC -> Headphones/Speakers this setting will have no positive or negative impact on my experience? I'm trying to avoid the sound going anywhere near my crappy onboard soundcard.

2 people liked this

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

Roguebantha
Casual Listener

No it should not. The sound card manages how the decoded audio data itself is turned into sound as I understand it. It doesn't matter as much what piece of hardware actually decoded the audio data.

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

BillRoth
Newbie

I am building a new PC. Is there specific sound cards we should use to get the acceleration? Any recomendations on brands/types?

1 person liked this

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

Roguebantha
Casual Listener

No it really doesn't matter acceleration-wise. Sound quality will be noticably different if you get a good dedicated sound card and play it through good quality headphones, but motherboard integrated sound chipsets tend to be quite good these days. I roll fine without one.

2 people liked this

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

bsdk19
Casual Listener

thanks for the explenation.

1 person liked this

refund

Haganboy3
Newbie

I haunt received my refund yet

 

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

PlanetDan
Newbie

Thank you for clearing this up for me.

1 person liked this

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

Geedasmen
Newbie
I know this is a late post, but if you haven't really found a sound card you prefer yet, I would recommend the Creative Sound Blaster Zx PCIe. I tend to be a bit more picky with my audio files and how they play back, render, etc. This card has been really good in terms of quality when it comes to songs I make and listen to on Spotify and FL Studio. Hope this is useful to anyone.

Re: A brief explanation of Spotify hardware acceleration

bsdk19
Casual Listener
Thanks for that will look into it next time I need one.


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