Mon
May 15 2017
11:08 am

I really want to get hep to the streaming scene, daddy-o.

As mentioned previously, I tried Tidal HiFi a couple of times. Loved the sound quality and depth of their catalog, but their UI is awful and discovery features are weak to non-existent.

I had tried Spotify before, and liked the UI, the extensive catalog, and especially the discovery features which are awesome. But the sound quality from the desktop app was disappointing to say the least.

I decided to try Spotify again after I discovered (remembered?) that my Denon AVR has Spotify Connect built in and thought I should at least check it out.

The difference compared to the desktop app is night and day. With Spotify Connect I'm getting excellent sound quality.

It basically connects your playback device directly to Spotify's servers, bypassing any resampling/mangling by desktop/OS or phone apps in the signal path.

I set up an unscientific A/B test with a good sounding recording in lossless FLAC format played from my home audio system vs. the same tracks from Spotify. I was able to start playback at the same time on both and switch back and forth by just changing inputs while playing. I used the same AVR/DSP settings on both inputs and matched the volume as closely as I could with a Radio Shack SPL meter.

There is a difference, but you really have to listen closely to hear it. The FLAC sounds a little more open and maybe a little "tighter" with a little more "punch." (Could just be the playback software.) Spotify Connect sounds pretty close. (I believe they use Ogg Vorbis 320kbps.) Vocals sounded great on both, and there's no audible distortion or loss of frequency response (my hearing is only good to about 12 or 13kHz, so your mileage may vary).

All in all, I was surprised and pretty impressed.

(Crappy recordings/mixes/masterings still sound crappy on both. Not much you can do about that.)

You control it using the mobile app, so you'll have to install that if you haven't already. It works over wi-fi, so you can rock it from anywhere within range, such as the patio.

If you have a playback device with Spotify Connect, I highly recommend giving it a try.

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