Spotify is Testing Lossless Audio

By Gerald Lynch on at

What would you prefer: instant streaming access to millions of tracks, or delayed access to all those tracks at a higher, lossless audio quality? That's an issue that Spotify is currently wrestling with. Speaking to Gizmodo at the IFA conference in Berlin, the company revealed that it is "testing" lossless audio, but warned that it may be some time until it could be integrated into the service.

"We're thinking about it all the time, but it's a trade-off," Spotify's global head of hardware partnerships, Pascal de Mul, told Gizmodo.

"If we go for lossless, would we be able to deliver the same instant experience that Spotify gives? If we could [be high-resolution and instant], we would.

"At the moment, we don't think we can do it. We're testing it, we're looking at it, but we don't want to go back to that pre-Spotify time where you'd double-click on a track and you see a little timer going, and only after five seconds the music starts. That's an experience we don't really believe in.

"At some point, of course, we will go to lossless. Whether that's in 2020, 2030, 2040, it depends on bandwidth and how quickly we can upscale that."

The quality of digital audio has been a major bugbear for some of the industry's most revered artists -- Neil Young has been peddling his high-resolution Pono Player in response, whilst Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin called compressed digital audio a "hell of a compromise", despite his band's back catalogue being one of Spotify's most high-profile scalps.

"CD is a compromise too, right?" responded de Mul to Plant's comments. "There are some people in the world who say CD quality is not enough for me. How far do you wanna go? There's a market for everybody -- to appreciate high resolution audio the price point for hardware is pretty severe too."

It seems then that until the mass market turns to high-resolution audio, Spotify will be happy to continue catering to that large percentage of its audience that doesn't give a damn about lossless.

"We make a service for 40 million listeners, and not all 40 million listeners would like the trade-off between higher quality and waiting. They expect that instant feedback," explained de Mul.

"There are things we've done that push the Spotify quality really high up, but it's kind of hidden, as we like to hide the complexities. There's a lot of work going on in the background."