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Embracing Spotify Music Streaming: The Audiophile's Dilemma

Read Time: Approx. 15 min.
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Is There Hope on the Horizon for Spotify HiFi?

There's no denying the power of Spotify in the music streaming market. It is a force to be reckoned with, which makes it all the more unfortunate when you realize that it doesn't offer much for audiophiles. Despite the rise in popularity of high-resolution music and music streamers, Spotify still dominates. So we were wondering, why is that? And will Spotify eventually offer higher-resolution audio in the future? The answer to that question is: probably and very likely. That's great news we'll talk more about later on, but the question still remains: is there a way to make your current Spotify music streaming subscription sound better?

The most interesting thing about the music streaming market is that everyone does it. It has revolutionized the way we consume, listen to, explore, and enjoy music. Despite the fact that it's amazingly affordable, some music subscriptions, including Spotify, include completely free versions (which usually take the form of ads between song playback). If you don't mind the ads, then you can't get too mad about it being free. Is there a way to make Spotify sound better if you're an audiophile? Yes. The beauty is that many audiophile-grade music streamers and servers are compatible with Spotify Connect (Naim Uniti Atom, and Matrix Audio's excellent MA Remote App), and of course one of the most popular ways to listen to Spotify from any computer is with the Spotify Web Player. Spotify has made sure that literally every computer, phone, tablet, and device on the planet can access the service no matter where you are or when you want it. So how can you make your Spotify streaming sound better? Can you make the Spotify Web Player sound crisper, more resolute, and more dynamic? There are options there too that we'll discuss as we delve more into the world of Spotify. So let's get to it! 

PROS

- Access to millions of songs
- Spotify Connect and using high-end audio gear improves sound quality
- Spotify HiFi is on the way!

CONS

- Does not have the fidelity of high-resolution music streaming services like TIDAL and QOBUZ
    
Spotify web player

What is Spotify?

Spotify's meteoric rise to prominence can be attributed to several key factors. First and foremost, the platform offers unparalleled accessibility. Users can access Spotify's extensive music library from a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, music streamers, and smart speakers. This ease of access has made Spotify a go-to choice for music lovers on the move.

Moreover, Spotify boasts an expansive catalog of songs and playlists covering virtually every genre imaginable. From mainstream hits to obscure indie tracks, Spotify has something for everyone. The platform's personalization features, such as tailored recommendations and curated playlists based on user preferences, further enhance the listening experience, helping users discover new music that aligns with their tastes.

Spotify's social integration is another compelling aspect that brings people coming back for more. Users can easily share their favorite songs and playlists with friends, collaborate on playlists, and even see what their friends are listening to in real time. This social element has fostered a sense of community and connection among music lovers. With over 400 million monthly active users and a dominant presence in the music streaming market, Spotify's popularity is undeniable.

Courtesy of Pixels
Courtesy of Pixels

What Spotify Offers:

  • Extensive library: Spotify offers millions of songs from various genres, catering to diverse musical tastes.
  • User-friendly interface: The app is intuitive and easy to navigate, making it accessible to users of all ages and technological skill levels.
  • Personalized playlists: Spotify creates customized playlists based on users' listening habits, helping them discover new music that aligns with their preferences.
  • Cross-platform accessibility: Users can access Spotify on various devices, including smartphones, computers, tablets, smart TVs, music streamers, and car audio systems.
  • Social features: Spotify allows users to share playlists, tracks, and albums with friends, fostering a sense of community and music discovery.
  • Affordable subscription plans: Spotify offers a free, ad-supported tier and affordable premium subscription plans that provide ad-free listening, offline playback, and higher-quality audio.
  • Exclusive content: Spotify has partnerships with artists and podcasters to create exclusive content, drawing users to the platform.
  • Algorithm-driven recommendations: Spotify's sophisticated algorithms suggest new music and artists based on users' listening history, enhancing the music discovery experience.

How does Spotify compare to the competition?

There's one blaring omission for audiophiles: high-resolution music. Despite its popularity, the highest resolution audio that Spotify can do is a measly 320 kbps. For an audiophile, this is pretty pitiful, especially when you have premium high-resolution music streaming services out there like Tidal and Qobuz. Of course, part of Spotify's popularity is its accessibility with both a free-tiered plan and the plethora of devices that the streaming service is compatible with via its app and web player. 

That being said, in 2021 Spotify released a statement about a high-resolution version of their streaming service to come out later that year, called Spotify HiFi. Spoiler alert: it was never released. This is not to say that it won't happen, as the rise in popularity of competitors offering high-resolution streaming is hard to ignore. Here's what Spotify said in their blog release back on February 22, 2021:

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT SPOTIFY HIFI

FEBRUARY 22, 2021

Artists and fans have told us that sound quality is important to them. We agree, and that’s why today at Stream On we announced Spotify HiFi. 

Beginning later this year, Premium subscribers in select markets will be able to upgrade their sound quality to Spotify HiFi and listen to their favorite songs the way artists intended. 

Read on for five things you need to know about our new high-quality music experience:

  1. High-quality music streaming is consistently one of the most requested new features by our users.
  2. Spotify HiFi will deliver music in CD-quality, lossless audio format to your device and Spotify Connect-enabled speakers, which means fans will be able to experience more depth and clarity while enjoying their favorite tracks.
  3. Ubiquity is at the core of everything we do at Spotify, and we’re working with some of the world’s biggest speaker manufacturers to make Spotify HiFi accessible to as many fans as possible through Spotify Connect. 
  4. HiFi will be coupled with Spotify’s seamless user experience, building on our commitment to make sure users can listen to the music they love in the way they want to enjoy it. 
  5. Spotify HiFi will begin rolling out in select markets later this year, and we will have more details to share soon.  

The fact that Spotify HiFi hasn't released yet shouldn't dissuade hopefuls, as the fact that a streaming company this large put out an official statement says they're likely working on it - perhaps just finding the right way to implement it moving forward. With all the other major music streaming services adding high-resolution audio tiers, it would be prudent for Spotify to do the same. 

Spotify and the Audiophile

For audiophiles, the pursuit of high-fidelity audio is a top priority. They invest in high-end audio equipment and seek out the highest-quality music sources to ensure an immersive and accurate listening experience. Audiophiles are meticulous about every aspect of the audio chain, from the source material to the playback devices.

When it comes to music streaming, audiophiles often gravitate towards services like Tidal or Qobuz, which prioritize high-fidelity audio quality. These platforms offer lossless audio formats and higher bitrates, ensuring that the music remains as close to the original recording as possible.

In contrast, Spotify's audio quality has been a point of contention for audiophiles. The platform primarily uses compressed audio formats and lower bitrates to optimize streaming performance and reduce data usage. While this approach makes Spotify accessible to a wide audience, it comes at the cost of audio fidelity. Audiophiles may find that Spotify's audio quality lacks the depth, detail, and dynamic range they crave.


Courtesy of Pixels

Despite its limitations in audio quality, Spotify can still be a valuable tool for audiophiles. One of the platform's greatest strengths is its ability to facilitate music discovery. With its vast library and sophisticated recommendation algorithms, Spotify can introduce audiophiles to new artists and genres they may have otherwise overlooked. By using Spotify as a discovery tool, audiophiles can expand their musical horizons and find new music to enjoy in high-fidelity formats.

Spotify's convenience is another factor that audiophiles can appreciate. The ability to access a massive music library on the go, without the need for physical media, is undeniably appealing. Audiophiles can leverage Spotify's offline listening feature to download high-quality tracks and enjoy them without compromising on quality.

Furthermore, audiophiles can integrate Spotify into their broader audio setup. By pairing Spotify with high-quality headphonesspeakers, and other various audio gear, audiophiles can still enjoy a satisfying listening experience. While the audio quality may not match that of lossless formats, the combination of Spotify's vast library and high-end equipment can still provide an enjoyable and immersive experience. Keep reading to find out the types of products that are compatible with Spotify and what we recommend! 

Spotify Web Player & Compatible Devices

Spotify Screen

What is the Spotify Web Player?

The Spotify Web Player is a browser-based version of the popular music streaming service, Spotify. It allows users to access their Spotify account and stream music directly from their web browser without needing to download or install additional software. The web player provides access to Spotify's vast library of songs, playlists, albums, and podcasts, offering users the ability to discover and enjoy music from various genres and artists. With the web player, users can create playlists, search for specific tracks or artists, and control playback using familiar features like play, pause, skip, and shuffle. Additionally, the web player syncs seamlessly with the user's Spotify account, allowing them to access their saved music and preferences across different devices. Overall, the Spotify web player offers a convenient and accessible way for users to enjoy their favorite music content while on their computer or laptop.

Apart from the app itself, the Spotify Web Player is the most popular way music lovers access their music. There are a couple of ways you can use the web player based on how you want to integrate Spotify into your current desktop system. Usually when recommending how to get the most out of your high-resolution music streaming service, step one is to have a fast and reliable internet connection. Since Spotify does not have high-resolution music streaming options (yet), a fast internet speed isn't necessary, but its overall reliability is. Make sure you're connected source device is either hard-wired (ethernet) or out of the way of multiple access points, as mesh networks can cause dropouts if not set up correctly for wireless streaming. 

About the Spotify Web Player

The Spotify Web Player offers users a convenient way to access their favorite music directly from their web browser, without the need to download or install the Spotify desktop app. Whether using Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Microsoft Edge, users can simply navigate to open.spotify.com to begin streaming music instantly. The web player provides access to the same extensive library of songs, playlists, and podcasts as the desktop version, allowing users to browse and discover new music, create playlists, and access their library from any device. While Spotify Free users can enjoy streaming music for free with occasional ads, Premium users have the added benefit to download songs for offline listening and enjoying an ad-free experience. With seamless integration between the web app and the mobile app, users can easily switch between devices and continue listening to their favorite tracks on the go. The web player offers easy access to your library, allowing you to manage playlists and explore new music effortlessly. Whether on a desktop or mobile device, the Spotify Web Player offers a versatile and user-friendly music streaming experience for all listeners. 

Portable/USB Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) & Amplifier 

The first and easiest way to enjoy Spotify as an audiophile is to use the web player as the music source for your existing desktop setup. If you're listening on a desktop computer or a laptop, consider connecting an external DAC/Amp as your audio output to make sure you're getting the best fidelity possible. Using a DAC is one of the best ways to get better sound across the board, as your built-in consumer-grade DACs will get the job done, but leave a lot to be desired. You can learn more about DACs, what they do, and how they work in our guide "From Bits to Beats: What is a DAC & Why You Need One."

USB DACs are great and affordable options to plug right into your computer or laptop, giving you premium audiophile-grade sound and enough power for most full-size headphones. The Clarus CODA sports an ESS SABRE DAC - known for its strong attention to detail, clarity, and wide soundstage, I'm personally a huge fan of the SABRE sound - and many people are. The iFi Gryphon is a stellar DAC and headphone amplifier that uses premium components - an excellent burr brown DAC, tons of power, USB audio, hi-res Bluetooth codecs, and a dynamic and fun sound. The Chord Mojo 2 is a true-reference quality mobile DAC and high-level headphone amplifier that fits in the palm of your hand. It's one of our favorite products here at Moon Audio due to its size, amazing functionality, and the sound of the DAC. It's also our top-selling portable DAC ever. For a fun video, check out our Face-Off between the Mojo 2 and the Gryphon

These are great options for desktop or portable use. Connect to your device playing Spotify, plug in your headphones, and you're good to go!

Spotify Connect

Spotify Connect is a feature of the Spotify music streaming service that allows users to seamlessly switch playback between different devices. It enables users to control their music playback on one device (such as a smartphone, tablet, or computer) and have the audio output on another device (such as a wireless speaker, TV, music streamer, or home stereo system) without interruption. Here's how Spotify Connect works:

Courtesy of Pixels
  1. Compatible Devices: Both the device streaming the music (source device) and the device playing the music (target device) need to be compatible with Spotify Connect. Many modern speakers, smart TVs, game consoles, hi-fi music streamers, and audio receivers come with built-in support for Spotify Connect. Additionally, smartphones, tablets, and computers running the Spotify app can act as source devices.
  2. Same Network: The source device and target device need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network for Spotify Connect to work. This ensures a stable connection between the devices.
  3. Control Playback: Once both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network and have the Spotify app installed, users can start playing music on the source device. They can select songs, playlists, albums, or podcasts within the Spotify app and begin playback.
  4. Choose Playback Device: Within the Spotify app, users will see a "Devices Available" icon, typically located near the playback controls. By tapping or clicking on this icon, users can see a list of available devices that support Spotify Connect.
  5. Select Target Device: Users can then select the target device where they want the music to play. This could be a smart speaker in the living room, a soundbar in the home theater system, or any other compatible device connected to the same Wi-Fi network.
  6. Seamless Transition: Once the target device is selected, Spotify Connect seamlessly transfers the playback from the source device to the chosen target device. The music continues playing from the same point without interruption, and users can control playback, adjust volume, and skip tracks from the Spotify app on their source device.
Spotify Connect
Spotify Connect

Spotify Connect is a great option to use your phone or computer and send the audio remotely to a speaker or device that is compatible with Spotify Connect. Many Bluetooth speakers like the Bluesound Pulse are able to do this, allowing much better sound and fidelity than your phone's speakers or wireless earbuds. As long as your Spotify Connect-enabled device is on the same network as the source device (your laptop, computer, or phone), then it will appear under the "On this network" list and you can select it as the audio output. 

This is also convenient for those who might have wireless speakers in the house or outside and want the simplicity of controlling the music from your phone. The ability to use Spotify Connect for streaming devices is an incredibly useful function to get better sound and quality out of your music streaming. Below are some recommended streamers and wireless speakers that will work effortlessly with Spotify:

Dedicated Music Streamers with Spotify Integration

Music streamers with integrated Spotify functionality offer a seamless and convenient way for users to access their favorite music directly from the device, without the need for additional audiophile equipment. By incorporating Spotify into the user interface and user experience (UI/UX) of the music streamer, manufacturers have simplified the process of accessing and enjoying high-quality audio content.

One of the primary advantages of having Spotify integrated into a music streamer is its ease of use. Users can log in to their Spotify account directly through the device's interface, eliminating the need to connect external devices or navigate through complex setup processes. This integration allows users to access their personalized playlists, favorite artists, and recommended tracks with just a few clicks or taps on the music streamer's display or remote control.

The Naim Uniti Atom works in this same way, with the ability to access your Spotify account directly from the main screen of the all-in-one unit. It's one of our favorite products at Moon Audio due to its high-end specs, jaw-dropping design, and endless high-end features for just about everything. The other way brands have integrated Spotify into their ecosystems is by incorporating Spotify functionality directly into their proprietary application's interface. You can do this with Matrix Audio's popular MA Remote App that works as a control app for their popular Element Series of music streamers and the X-SABRE 3 DAC, as well as any Astell&Kern DAP music player. Of course with DAPs, it's just about identical to the application experience on a smartphone, but Astell&Kern has a complete UX overhaul of Android that comes preinstalled with the latest APK versions of your favorite music streaming applications. 

By eliminating the need for external devices or complicated setups, music streamers with built-in Spotify functionality provide an all-in-one solution for music lovers who value both quality and convenience. Users can simply connect their music streamer to their home audio system or headphones and immediately start enjoying their favorite Spotify content in high-quality audio, without the hassle of managing additional audiophile gear.

Dragon Audio Cables

We recommend upgrading your audio gear with our award-winning Dragon Audio Cables. No matter if you're connecting a USB DAC or music streamer to your computer, or even adding a server with a tremendous amount of networking needs, Dragon Audio Cables help bring you closer to your music. Our digital cables like the Silver Dragon USB Audio Cable are some of our top-selling cables year after year, providing music lovers with the very best performance in digital audio transmission. Our Black Dragon Coax Digital Cable is also extremely popular with our music streamers and servers. Hearing is believing.

Our HiFi Dragon Audio Cables bring out more of what you love in your music and audio gear. If you love your headphones but wish they had a bit more top-end sparkle - a Silver Dragon Headphone Cable would be a great option. If your USB cables keep dying - as many stock cables do - then check out our quality USB Audio Cables. We say time and time again that materials matter, and our audio cables and custom geometries actually help to bring out those desired properties in your gear and music. We make tons of custom options for our customers so that you can get the right HiFi Audio cable for your exact needs. If you have any questions feel free to Contact Us and we'll be more than happy to help.
Generally, stock audio cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs. what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon Audio Cables are handcrafted with the highest standards and made to order according to your specific needs. At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. UP-OCC metals are void of impurities and are optimized for signal transfer and sound quality. We have one of the largest collections of audio and headphone connection options available online and we create limitless audio cable options depending on your specific gear and needs.

Why Dragon Cables?

You’ve heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right? Well, the same applies to your brand-new audiophile-grade headphone or other audio components. The weakest link, in this case, is your stock audio cable or the cheap interconnects the manufacturer threw in the box just to get you up and running. Why is the audio cable always an afterthought, when it’s just as important as the rest of your system? At Moon Audio, we use the purest and best raw materials in our cables to unveil your music. We believe that materials matter and your audio cables should have the same care and craftsmanship that manufacturers put into their audio components and headphones. Audio cables are ultimately the connection to your music. The fact remains that cabling is often considered the last priority to that of the main product and a means to cut down the overall production costs. It’s as simple as that. Dragon Cables elevate every note - as if you were hearing your favorite music for the very time. 

LEARN MORE ABOUT DRAGON CABLES

Verdict

The rise of Spotify presents a unique dilemma for audiophiles who prioritize high-fidelity audio quality. While Spotify's compressed audio formats and lower bitrates may not meet the exacting standards of audiophiles, the platform still offers valuable benefits. By embracing Spotify as a tool for music discovery, convenience, and integration with high-end audio equipment, audiophiles can find a balance between their pursuit of exceptional sound quality and the advantages of a popular streaming service.

Ultimately, the key is to approach Spotify with realistic expectations and to leverage its strengths while acknowledging its limitations. By exploring ways to enhance their Spotify experience, such as opting for higher-quality streaming options when available and investing in compatible high-end audiophile-grade gear, audiophiles can enjoy the best of both worlds—the vast library and convenience of Spotify, combined with the pursuit of high-fidelity audio. Be sure to get an easy portable upgrade by bringing the popular iFi Gryphon or Chord Mojo 2 DAC Amp - a small but sonically mighty piece of audiophile gear that can fit in your backpack. The Matrix Audio Element Series of music streamers (like the Element S) is one of the best ways to experience an all-in-one unit that comes equipped with high-end components for the very best sound quality. And with various models, there are options for just about every kind of budget. If you're looking for a Hi-Fi do-it-all box with Spotify integration built right in, then check out the Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition. Just plug in headphones and you have one of the best-sounding Spotifys that Spotify has ever Spotified. 

So, whether you're a dedicated audiophile or simply someone who appreciates great sound, don't be afraid to embrace Spotify as part of your music-listening journey. With the right mindset and equipment, you can make the most of this popular streaming service while staying true to your love for high-quality audio. And hey, who knows, maybe Spotify HiFi will come out soon and we won't have to worry about all this, right?

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FAQ

Q: What is Spotify HiFi?

A: Spotify HiFi is a new premium subscription tier offered by Spotify that promises to deliver high-fidelity audio quality, allowing users to experience their favorite music in higher resolution and with greater detail.

Q: How does Spotify HiFi compare to other music streaming services?

A: Spotify HiFi aims to offer CD-quality audio, which is on par with other high-fidelity streaming services like Tidal HiFi and Amazon Music HD. It provides users with the opportunity to enjoy their music in lossless audio quality, delivering a more immersive listening experience.

Q: When will Spotify HiFi be available?

A: As of now, Spotify has announced plans to launch Spotify HiFi in select markets, but specific release dates may vary depending on region. Keep an eye on Spotify's official announcements for updates on availability.

Q: Will Spotify HiFi cost more than the standard Spotify subscription?

A: Pricing details for Spotify HiFi have not been officially announced yet. However, it's expected that Spotify HiFi will be offered as a premium subscription tier at a higher price point than the standard Spotify subscription.

Q: What devices will be compatible with Spotify HiFi?

A: Spotify HiFi will likely be compatible with a wide range of devices, including smartphones, tablets, computers, smart speakers, and audio systems that support high-fidelity audio streaming.

Q: Can I upgrade my existing Spotify subscription to Spotify HiFi?

A: Once Spotify HiFi becomes available, existing Spotify subscribers may have the option to upgrade their subscription to Spotify HiFi for an additional fee, similar to other premium subscription tiers.

Q: Will Spotify HiFi require a high-speed internet connection?

A: Yes, to enjoy high-fidelity audio streaming with Spotify HiFi, users will need a stable and high-speed internet connection to ensure smooth playback without interruptions.

Q: What bitrate will Spotify HiFi offer?

A: Spotify has not disclosed specific bitrate details for Spotify HiFi yet. However, it's expected that Spotify HiFi will offer CD-quality audio with bitrates of at least 16-bit/44.1kHz or higher.

Q: Will Spotify HiFi include lossless audio files for offline listening?

A: Details about offline listening options for Spotify HiFi have not been confirmed yet. However, it's possible that subscribers may have the option to download lossless audio files for offline playback, similar to other premium streaming services.

Q: Will Spotify HiFi offer a lossless streaming option?

A: Yes, Spotify HiFi is expected to offer lossless audio streaming, which means that the music will be streamed without any compression or loss of audio quality.