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Spotify (and YouTube)

1058 Views 26 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Couchie
(Couldn’t find a recent thread about this, so starting a new one.)

I’ve noted the predominant use of YouTube on TC. Which, I must say, surprises me just a little bit.

First, there’s the energy consumption issue. Using video streaming when all you are really after is audio is not exactly climate-friendly. And yes, I think that matters. Because it does.

Secondly, a page crammed with embedded YouTube players tend to slow down most computers. Which is, at best, annoying (however convenient the player in itself may be).

Thirdly, there is indeed a royalty system in place at YouTube. But it doesn’t always work. And yes, I think that matters too.

I’ve been using Spotify since (I think) 2009. And, frankly, I couldn’t imagine being without it.

And yes, doing efficient searches for classical will take some practice and experience (it helps learning to use tags, for instance; go google it…). Spotify is tailor-made for popular music, not classical. But the real downside is that any search will yield "extras". It's not pinpoint (but I'm afraid that's how algorithms work these days, and yes, that sucks). Figuring out how search works is nonetheless worth the effort, IMO. And you will figure that out. It’s not rocket science.

Anyway, Spotify is an incredibly powerful tool for mining the catalogue (off the top of my head, the only big(ish) label I can think of that’s missing from Spotify is Hyperion). With the added advantage, of course, that you can also listen to the catalogue.

It’s also convenient. You can organize your music. As you would any collection. (Really, the worst thing about Spotify is that it's almost too convenient. Addictive personalities should probably stay well clear of it.)

And it also has good sound quality (sound quality-wise Spotify is not vastly but perceptibly superior to anything you can find on YouTube). It's not state of the art audiophile stuff. But it's more than OK (and I'm not exactly insensitive to these matters). If it sounds really nasty, I'm guessing the problem lies somewhere else along the chain between source and ears. And if you get crappy sound from Spotify, you’ll most likely get crappy sound from YouTube as well. (Some YouTube audio is highly compressed, which might account for it coming across as more ”pleasing”.)

Still, if it sounds like **** (compared to cd or vinyl), try this:

  1. If you’re on a computer (and you should be if it’s classical you’re after) always use the desktop player (downloadable) and always use the highest quality audio setting (obviously).
  2. Use high quality open headphones (if you do use headphones, that is; I couldn’t live without mine). I have a pair of unbelievably ancient but trustworthy Sennheisers (HD600). (The HD600 aren’t exactly cheap. But there are plenty of more expensive alternatives out there. In comparison I’d say the HD600’s are cheap.)
  3. Get a good quality headphone amp. Or at least a decent quality one. (Anyhow, decent headphones and a headphone amp is good to have regardless of your listening source.)
  4. If none of this helps, you probably have an antique sound card in your computer. If that’s the case I suggest you start there.

And yes, it's fairly obvious that using bad equipment results in bad sound. I'm just saying that if Spotify sounds like a bag of nails (as some claim), then there's probably something not quite right further down the line. Because it really shouldn't sound like a bag of nails. And definitely not compared to YouTube.

And no, I’m not being paid by Spotify (I wish I was, though). I’m just a little taken aback by the amount of (in most cases highly unnecessary) video streaming going on around here.

Thank you.
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I only use YouTube or Spotify to sample recordings I'm interested in purchasing. I still buy CDs and even though I've certainly slowed down my purchases compared to 8 or 9 years ago, I value the physical medium. As for embedding YouTube videos on this forum, well, this won't stop and if people do have to rely on YouTube to listen to music, then I feel incredibly fortunate to have my current CD collection because the audio quality on YouTube isn't great by any stretch of the word. As for Spotify, I didn't think much of it and thought even less of the audio quality and I subscribed to Premium. I just wanted to try it out to see what the fuss was all about and I was disappointed. I use a pair of Audio-Technica AD900x, which are the best headphones I've ever used (much, much better than your beloved Sennheiser HD600, which I also own). Like the Sennheiser, these are open back headphones, but the soundstage is wider in these Audio-Technica. I don't know, Sennheiser's soundstage always sounded rather constricted to me. Anyway, the Audio-Technica are my main headphones and I'll replace them in a heartbeat if something were to happen with them. I'm pretty much done with Sennheiser, Philips and the really high-end headphones are all hype (I've owned many different high-end "audiophile" headphones and returned every single one of them). Anyway, I have a great setup and I do A LOT of listening at my desk (I don't really get a chance to use my stereo much these days) and I'm rather content with how I listen to music at the moment.
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I haven't heard those AT but they have a reputation of not having a very neutral frequency response. I looked up measurements of those and what I could find seem to confirm this: very rough/uneven midrange and quick bass roll-off. The HD6xx have been a mainstay in headphones because from about 200Hz up they're about the most neutral, smooth-response headphone ever made. From 200Hz down they start to falter with bass that also rolls off quickly and has quite a bit of distortion. For many, an HD6xx with better bass is the Holy Grail of headphones. I've only heard a handful of headphones that I think come close to that: the ZMF Auteurs and DCA Stealth probably being the closest, but I don't think either are perfect either.

As for soundstage, that's something headphones don't really do and most of our perception of "soundstage" with headphones has to do with the frequency response, namely the amplitude of the presence region. The more "forward" that region is, the more the soundstage seems to compress. The HD6xx don't have much a soundstage because their presence region is very linear and, if anything, a little "hot." The AT's (going by measurements) are the opposite, so that probably explains the difference you hear.

Yes, most headphones (period) are hype and as a Sean Olive study showed years ago there's very little correlation between price and sound quality. I haven't kept up with headphones over the last several years so there's probably some cheap-ish headphones out there now that are just as good as those Auteurs and Stealth at a much lower price point.
Oh well, it's all in the ears of the beholder. I know what I hear and that's all that matters to me.
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