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Spotify is testing a lossless Hi-Fi option as it hits 50 million paid subscribers

Spotify announced back in September that it crossed 40 million paying customers, and it took the world's largest streaming service just five and a half months to pick up an additional 10 million subscribers. In a tweet, Spotify revealed that it crossed 50 million paid subscribers. 2016 was a great year for streaming services in general, and Spotify is now looking to continue its momentum by testing a lossless tier with CD quality audio.

Several users on Reddit got a prompt to upgrade to the lossless audio tier, with the prices ranging from $5 a month to $10 over the cost of a regular $10 premium subscription. Those that tried to activate the offer got a message saying, "this is not available in your area."

Based on the screenshot for the lossless tier, Spotify will offer CD quality audio, which will likely stream at 1411kbps. By contrast, the current premium plans top out at 320Kbps. It looks like Spotify is still figuring out the pricing and features for the lossless tier, as the screenshots detail different perks. One claims to offer all the premium features and CD quality audio for an additional $10 a month, while others also include discounts on limited-edition vinyls and access to exclusive pre-sale tickets for an added $5 a month over the premium plan.

By offering lossless audio, Spotify is setting its sights on Tidal, the Jay Z-owned music streaming service. Tidal's focus on Hi-Fi audio and its repertoire of artist-owners and exclusive content deals allowed it to stand out in this segment, but the service has had difficulties in gaining subscribers. Sprint picked up a 33% stake in the service earlier this year, and the carrier said that it will offer "exclusive content" to its 45 million customers.

Spotify has a significantly better recommendation engine and a larger music catalog — not to mention an interface that's actually usable, and by introducing a lossless option, the service will be looking to lure subscribers away from Tidal while maintaining a competitive advantage over Apple Music, which is limited to 256Kbps.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Harish Jonnalagadda

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor covering Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone manufacturers, and writes about the semiconductor industry, storage servers, and audio products. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

52 Comments
  • Heck I'd be all in with lossless streams.
  • My LG V20 , FIIO A5 hi-res amp and Bang&Olufsen Play H6 will love this. Spotfy is great an all but please offer top- noch quality, money no problem users will pay 10-20 bucks on top.
  • This guy hi-fi's...
  • Pointless for all but the very small handful of people that can distinguish between lossless and 320 kbps.
  • Depends on the person for sure, but also depends on the gear. I pay Tidal for lossless ($20) and can pull that into my high end home system on an Oppo BDP-103 with its native Tidal app. Certainly other lesser playback chains will produce results for which you would not pay extra.
  • Nothing you said speaks to whether you could distinguish between lossless and 320 kbps, on any equipment.
  • While I'm fine with the 320kbps. I do like to see them making strives to be the first to stream true CD quality. Spotify is my favorite streaming service and I would love to see them be number 1 and hopefully expand their library. I actually gave up on Sirius after 14 long years. The quality keeps getting worse as they keep adding more content. My main gripe their was always too much content, not enough sound quality, with streaming I feel it's the other way.
  • +1 on Sirius XM. Lousy sound quality, and way too much duplication and repetition of the same content.
  • Between "lossy" and lossless, it is pretty easy to distinguish - you need the right music - and headset. Add that Hi-Def DAC in LG's V20 and the difference is really amazing. If Spotify gave me a lossless option, I would likely leave Tidal.
  • Have you taken a blind test to that effect? It's unlikely you could tell a difference between high bitrate lossy and lossless, most people can't, even on quality equipment
  • I have listened to the difference on my system, and it's NIGHT AND DAY between 320kbps MP3, CD quality WAV files, and 24bit/96khz FLAC! I also have a Parasound 2100 with ZDAC, a Proton D-1200 (vintage) amp, Panamax M5300PM power conditioner and a pair of Atlantic Technologies AT-1 speakers. I would posit that if you are not hearing a difference, you are either 1) not paying attention, 2) listening to music that has been poorly mastered, or 3) in desperate need of a real system.
  • Did you determine this using a blind test? I'm not saying it's impossible, but testing has shown that most people cannot distinguish them. Confirmation bias is very powerful, which is why blind testing is necessary for reliability.
  • I think Mr Nyquist might disagree.
  • The fact that you are using a power conditioner is indicative of your susceptibility to suggestion and marketing hype.
  • what does Google Play Music stream at? are the streams and downloads at different quality levels?
  • Google Play Music plays back the file stored on their servers at full quality as long as you have the high quality option enabled in settings. This is almost always a 320kbps mp3. If they don't find a match for your music on their servers then they will play the file you actually uploaded to them at full quality. If you upload lossless music to GPM like FLAC for instance then they will encode and playback a 320kbps mp3 of that file to you. You can also force GPM to use the files you actually uploaded instead of the matches for your files by choosing 'fix incorrect match' (for instance if you are somewhat bandwidth limited and have a bunch of v0 encoded mp3's and you recognize correctly that they are smaller than 320 kbps but still transparent with the source).
  • Ummm, CD quality is not lossless. CD quality compresses the audio files quite a bit. Music in general hasn't been in a lossless format since I believe cassette tapes.
  • ... although I'm sure anything is an improvement to the dead, empty sound Spotify gives to songs now. It's really horrible
  • If its full Redbook standard digital audio output, its classed as lossless. You are getting it slightly confused as to what is lossless and lossy. As for Spotify I would rather have say a 512Kbps service.
  • 320 kbps is the maximum for MP3. Of course, if they used Vorbis or Opus, then that would be possible, but also pointless.
  • They use Ogg, but if 512Kbps is pointless in your opinion then so would lossless or hires streaming. I would still like a 500kbps Ogg option.
  • I think you're confused about terms here. CD audio (Redbook standard) is not compressed. Lossless compression makes that audio a smaller size without losing any information. If you're talking loss of information between a band actually playing in a room, then the recording, mixing and mastering process, then yeah, technically you don't get all of that information as if you were standing there, though you retain a lot more of it with CD than with cassette or vinyl, and that's not relevant to the use of lossless here
  • I agree with the other corrections around "lossless" but I think your complaint about the characterization of the music is valid. CD quality is not Hi-Fi. Nowadays, that is mostly reserved for 24 bit recordings like you might find on Pono Music Store, DVD-Audio, SACD, etc... "Unlike high-definition video, which has to meet certain criteria to earn the name, there’s no universal standard for hi-res audio.
    But the term tends to refer to audio that has a higher sampling frequency and bit depth than CD - 16-bit/44.1kHz. High-resolution audio files usually use a sampling frequency or 96kHz or 192kHz at 24-bit, but you can also have 88.2kHz and 176.4kHz files too." Read more at http://www.whathifi.com/advice/high-resolution-audio-everything-you-need... For that reason, I feel Spotify using the term "Hi-Fi" for nothing more than losslessly compressed Redbook is a pretty far stretch (Tidal does it too though, but that doesn't make it right).
  • You're conflating hi-fi with hi-res, but they're not the same thing. Hi-fi (high fidelity) generally means using audio equipment and recording mediums that are of high enough quality to reproduce sound faithfully. CD quality is considered hi-fi in combination with high quality audio components, but it's not hi-res, which as you point out means audio greater than 16-bit/44.1kHz (Redbook standard). Tidal and Spotify are using it correctly. Tidal is actually also offering hi-res content now
  • 24bit/192kHz Hires always makes me laugh. You see folks proclaiming that's all they can tolerate listening to and there they are playing it through some 35 year old classic speakers that the tweeters cut off at 19kHz for their 65 year old ears. Well whatever floats your boat. Not to mention those that say they can hear a few bit errors in a 24bit stream.
  • I agree entirely, hi-res is audiophile snake oil, with MQA being the latest snake oil flavor of the month
  • HI RES audio has to be recorded as such to begin with. Most music on major labels are not recorded as such but often converted for post processing purposes, that doesn't mean they are Hi Res at all. The same goes for analog recordings that are actually below 16 bits of resolution based on their DR and SNR properties. For consumer playback 16/44.1 is all one need to reproduce what typically can be recorded even today.
  • That is inaccurate. Analog master tapes have been providing unreal audio quality for decades. What do you think vinyl and SACD/DVD-Audio releases come from? DSD (the basis of SACD) was also used by Sony to archive its analog masters. The only circumstances under which your statement would be true is if the music was originally recorded with really bad digital fidelity (of which there is likely very little). That would however "lock" in the poor quality at whatever the bits contained. Yes there are now a plethora of digital recording options that capture in hi-res (in use by studios for decades), but the old standby that is the master tape is definitely more than up to the task. Some would argue it's better.
  • If you understand anything about SNR and dynamic range properties than you would know that analog tapes master or otherwise can't even compete with 16/44.1 digital in those specs. The best analog master tapes would equal to about 15 bits. The fact that SACD and DVD-A audio releases have been sourced from analog tapes and than converted to large digital files that creates the new digital masters will not make them hi res, period. It doesn't mean it can't sound good though I have quiet a few of those releases myself. However true hi res recordings are never analog at any stage as even signal from mikes will be converted to digital right away before it is captured in 24/96 or higher rates. Sony introduced SACD under the guise of higher fidelity but their real motivation was copy protection and a renewed cash flow since their no longer controlled CD. as their exclusive rights have expired in the late '90s. That didn't stop some foolish "audiophiles" to crown it to something it isn't the same way they do with analog or vinyl. So yes I'm accurate and can be backed up by real data, not opinions.
    Carry on!
  • No, no. That's not right at all. Cassette tapes have a sort of warm sound due to the analog nature of it, but the fidelity and transparency with the original audio recording is absolutely worse as compared to CD. Original digital masters of recordings used to be stored on tape, but that's a different type of tape that has nothing to do with cassette tapes. Those tapes were in effect the portable hard drive or flash drive of the era and stored files digitally but were only used for mastering. Today you can buy SACDs or other 24 bit 96 khz versions of original recordings but time and time again blind listening tests show that virtually no one can tell the difference between the standard CD spec of 16bit 44khz and the newer HD audio formats.
  • Once I got used to listening to CD audio I could no longer listen to cassette or vinyl. Cassette was then all hiss and wow/flutter and vinyl was like listening to fingernails down a blackboard by the third track as tracking physics worked against it. It's been 100% digital audio (other than FM radio) for me for nearly 30 years.
  • Utter nonsense.
  • Hopefully Google steps up to match them with Play Music. I'd love to use Spotify, but I have a few tracks that aren't in their library I'd like to listen to.
  • I use groove as my service. Tried Spotify but the limit of 10thousand tracks was a no go for me. Sounds daft but I save my albums rather than just search for them and when I found out there was a limit when adding albums I had cancelled my subscription and went back to groove. I would look at Google music but need it to work on all mobile devices and this dose not. Only issue I have with groove is on android you can't save your tracks to the SD card but can on wino
  • If only they would take the customers into account and introduce an explicit filter so those of us who don't want to hear racist, misogynist and vulgar lyrics
  • I just avoid all Rap and Dance. The lyrics to most of those are childish at best.
  • Slippery slope mandating censorship.
  • that's not censorship
  • I don't think that word means what you think it means... censorship
    ˈsensərSHip/
    noun
    1.
    the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.
    "the regulation imposes censorship on all media"
  • An option to turn off explicit content isn't suppression or prohibition, we're talking about user choice. The music would still be available for those who want to hear it
  • You assume it's optional. Also I already explained MANDATED censorship is a slippery slope...
  • I don't know what conversation you're following, but what was requested was a filter, not a mandated removal of explicit content from the service
  • The filter sounds fine, I'm not sure what your issue with my statement is...
  • Your avatar is more offensive than any lyrics.
  • I use an HTC 10 for mobile with A.R.I.S.E. (Viper+Dolby Atmos) and on my desktop I have a dedicated external AMP/DAC. I use a pair of Fostex TH-900 and Sennheiser HD600. The point? I have rather higher end equipment and can hear a good amount of details. I don't feel like in casual listening sessions I'm losing anything on a 256kbit or 320kbit encoded MP3 over a FLAC file (or other equivalent lossless format). It's nice they're offering it but it's overkill for the limited quality gain. The best source is a local source (aka not streaming).
  • An audiophile with objectivity. I didn't know they existed.
  • BTW Spotify, the plural of Vinyl is Vinyl.
  • Good to have options. I would consider this. Currently on Tidal HiFi.
  • U audio geeks. I still listen to AM radio for my music.
  • An interface that's actually usable? Spotify's Android app has the worst interface I've EVER seen on Android. Maybe the worst I've seen on any mobile device.
  • Completely useless as most phones today don't have a Hi-Fi audio DAC in them.
  • completely not true, what they have is lousy speakers and neutered headphone amps. The integrated Quallcom DACs that most phone has is most definitely up to the task to correctly decode CD "quality " 16/44.1 files without any issues.