Is Spotify Premium a good deal? Apparently not, according to a recent report from Kantar Research. In it, the agency cited a loss of 1 million subscribers in the first quarter in Britain, many of them young listeners looking to save money as inflation hit 9% in the UK and that the cost of living continued on an upward trajectory.
While Spotify’s dip in numbers may be temporary or the result of the monthly subscriber churn the services regularly experience, the news reminds us of the fact that Spotify isn’t exactly competing at a high level with other streamers. major ones such as Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal. It also comes on the heels of a controversy involving the service’s most popular podcast host, Joe Rogan. Maybe it really is time to rethink Spotify.
Where is Spotify HiFi?
Churning and controversy aside, Spotify’s biggest problem right now has to do with sound quality. In February 2021, the company announced that it would add Spotify Hi-Fi, an upgrade that would bring lossless CD-quality audio to its Premium subscription tier at $9.99/month. But since February 2022, Spotify Hi-Fi hadn’t arrived yetand four months later, we are still waiting for it.
What Spotify offers its Premium subscribers are low bitrate streams that use lossy compression – the data present in the original audio is stripped away to reduce the file size of the tracks. While limiting bitrates from the 1,441 kbps needed for CD quality to Spotify’s current 320 kbps might have made sense in the days of Napster and iTunes, today’s home and mobile internet bandwidth adapts easily to higher quality streams, so there’s really no excuse for that.
Reality check: If you listen mostly through your laptop speakers or a set of cheap headphones at the gym, Spotify’s 320kbps MP3-level streams will sound great. Where lossless audio with CD quality or higher resolution really makes a difference is when listening through high-performance headphones or separate speakers.
And what about Spatial Audio?
Besides only offering lossy audio, Spotify lacks a library of music mixed in Dolby Atmos (aka Spatial Audio). Competing services like Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Tidal all offer Spatial Audio in one form or another, and it’s a neat feature that can really improve certain tracks for listening to headphones (and in some cases on systems surround speakers). Unlike Spotify HiFi, the company hasn’t even mentioned adding Spatial Audio in the past, so it’s clearly not on their radar.
Here are three best, and certainly higher quality, music services to check out as an alternative to Spotify:
Amazon Music Unlimited
For $8.99 per month, Amazon Music Unlimited (opens in a new tab) gives you access to 90 million HD tracks (lossless CD quality) and over 7 million Ultra HD tracks (high resolution lossless up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution) plus thousands of songs mixed in Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio.
While Amazon offers both desktop and mobile apps, a wide range of streaming-enabled speakers and A/V electronics also provide built-in support for Amazon Music HD.
For the same $9.99 a month you’ll pay for Spotify Premium, Apple Music offers both lossless CD quality and high-resolution audio streaming at up to 24-bit/192kHz. Apple has also led the charge with Spatial Audio, prioritizing the weekly addition of new and old albums and tracks mixed in Dolby Atmos and presenting them in a well-organized and easy-to-find way on Apple Music. desktop and mobile applications. While Apple Music lacks integration with most streaming-enabled third-party speakers and A/V electronics (an area where Spotify has the upper hand via Spotify Connect), the company’s AirPlay wireless protocol for streaming audio and video from computers and mobile devices is widely supported.
Tidal HiFi ($9.99 per month) has been in the lossless streaming game longer than Amazon and Apple.
It started in 2015 with a CD-quality offering and in 2017 added a Hi-Res Audio offering on its Tidal HiFi Plus ($19.99 per month) tier that uses MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) technology.
A downside to MQA is that you’ll need to use either the company’s desktop app for Hi-Res Audio listening, or an external DAC with MQA support.
But the good news is that Tidal boasts integration with a wide range of streaming speakers and A/V electronics, and Tidal HiFi Plus also features Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio tracks in its library.