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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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myself, I would be more worried about all the whales washing up dead on our east coast and that it may be a result of the off shore wind farms we put up recently
and the sheer ugliness of solar panels needs to be addressed We are destroying the joy of a beautiful environment by not regulating their placement better.
I only use YouTube or Spotify to sample recordings I'm interested in purchasing.
There are better streaming services that could replace your need to buy.

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,
Your Headphones are better than his you say. Much much no less. Can you qualify and quantity this? I have both and have relegated the Audio-Technica AD900x to mediation while napping because if they get damaged while I am asleep it's not a big deal. The HD 600 is OK. No big deal. IMHO

the really high-end headphones are all hype
Again, can you quality and quantity? There is a diminishing return these days in home audio but "all hype" sounds like no more than hyperbole.

(I've owned many different high-end "audiophile" headphones
Which ones.

returned every single one of them
Who allows you to return "every single one of them."
You must know some very nice retailers. :) lol

I have a great setup and I do A LOT of listening at my desk
What is your set up?

I don't really get a chance to use my stereo much these days
Why is that?
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there are some of the wind farms atop the ridges here in Pennsylvania and they kill alot of bald eagles. This after we went through decades or wildlife projects to restore them to Pennsylvania.

and putting farm fields under solar panels isn't the answer either. Here in southern PA we have great soil for growing crops, but they are putting up warehouses and solar panels over perfect farmland so we have to grow our food out west in the dessert.

Its so sad. It is a shame all the kids know is "oil bad". Driving my truck never killed any whales or harmed one eagle. ....deer on the other hand, that's another story 😟
I don't want to stray into politics so I'll just say my concern is in esthetics.

The beautiful hill not a mile from my home is now a long row of ugly panels.
Yesterday I was driving nearby and a beautiful old farm house was newly crowned with these insidious panels.
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.
Always great posts from you and in macro we always seem to agree on audio and sound reproduction except for one, IMO, very important aspect, speakers.
Diminishing returns, absolutely. But there are clear measurable differences, not directly tied to cost I willingly admit, in spending more. Headphones are speakers which is why I bring it up here again.
In fact, I have leaned to buy my audio equipment pretty much based on the interpretation of measurements by sound engineers to help avoid the dreaded psychoacoustic misleading's.
That said, yes, antidotal it can be said that a less expensive speaker tests as well or better than another more expensive speaker but as a rule, you'll get better sound as you move up the food chain. Diminishing returns considered. Much of this improvement is as simple as more power for speakers with more power handling ability.

Also of note, I recently bought a new Dac. I had zero expectations of better sound. It was features and aesthetics that led me to it. I was shocked at the differance I perceived. (notice, I said perceived) So, I'll continue to be guided by measurements, features, aesthetics and of course compatibility. I don't want an underpowered amp causing havoc.

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Speakers are very different from headphones in many key ways that mean there's a higher "ceiling" for speakers to be reasonably priced higher:

1. Speakers have to produce enough volume to fill a room, and some people have large rooms. This requires some combination of large drivers, many drivers, and/or sensitive drivers; the first two of these necessitate bigger cabinets, which means bigger size/more weight. All of these drive up the costs of making and shipping the speakers, so they understandably cost more.

2. Speakers also have to be engineered to deal with the influence of rooms on the sound, and quality engineering takes time, money, and effort. Companies like Revel (and parent company, Harmon) put a lot of all three of them into R&D, and are even responsible for much of what we know now about psychoacoustics thanks to people like Floyd Toole and Sean Olive.

However, even with all of that, we have speakers like the Revel F206s/F208s or Ascend Sierras that cost under $5k and measure phenomenally well.

Headphones simply don't have these issues. With headphones the driver sit so close to the ear that you only need one driver, and also because of that proximity there's no affect from the room. This basically means that headphones only really have to contend with things like housing and damping. These aren't inconsequential, but cost-wise it's minimal compared to what has to go into speakers. Even measuring headphones is much cheaper/easier than speakers (a full Klippel setup would set you back a cool $100k(!) while you can get really great headphone measurement systems for under $10k).

This is a long way of saying that the only reason most headphone manufacturers charge so much is because there are a lot of people with more money than brains who will pay it. There's simply no reason that any headphones should cost as much as speakers like Revels or Ascends. But this is why so many people have gotten into making headphones over the last decade or so; because the profit margins are huge compared to speakers; and because most of the money is also being spent by people who are clueless about audio and don't have trained ears that also means they can charge these ridiculous prices without doing much R&D and most people won't call them on their BS. It's why I'm thankful for sites like Audiosciencereview and Superbestaudiofriends that actually provide measurements rather than the usual audiophile "reviews" (which are often little more than shills and customers anxious to justify their purchases).
Margins on all luxury goods appear excessive. They are. But there are also higher costs involved in statement products which evaporate down the chain.
Marketing of luxury goods is far more costly than mass market goods. Takes a ton of money to build a brand.
Lower gross sales also increases the cost of goods as does customer service.

Don't dismiss psychoacoustics completely as our perceptions are our reality. In other words, I never have an issue with anyone saying they heard a vast improvement in audio when they acquire a new piece of equipment. I challenge them when they claim their new piece of equipment is better, its unquestionable, etc... and do not qualify or quantify it as happened in this thread above.

I also thing a lot of differences in speakers is that unlike components, they do not all sound the same . They are voiced differently. So cans can sound different and the label of better applied when it's really just a differance we hear.
And yes, I am a member of Audiosciencereview along with other science based sites in audio.
What I don't like about these sites is the constant ridicule of those not as familiar with the science. The constant belittling term "audiophool."
They continually speak to the arrogance of the high end audio boards. I find the high end audio board far more friendly than the science boards.

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Oh well, it's all in the ears of the beholder. I know what I hear and that's all that matters to me.
Actually its in the auditory cortex. That is where our interpretations of sound waves take place.

It is very understandable that someone will prefer a less transparent speaker. But like I said above, that is a personal preference. It can't be stated as a general statement.

Something else to be careful of is people who will sit and listen to Beethoven 's 9th on one set of headphones and then again on another set of headphones to compare the two.
Our auditory memory is only 3-5 seconds. So this method obviously not accurate.
I recently tried Spotify and found Amazon unlimited more suited to my tastes. Nuff said.
I too use Amazon but only because of its ultra HD offerings.
Its search function is very poor, its connectivity/controller feature is limited, the delete function is flawed, the different platforms (tablet, smartphone, laptop) do not offer the same options nor minor each other.
Spotify , In my experience offers the best features but not the best quality. So I put up with Amazon Ultra to assure the best quality.
Better than Tidal Masters but few realize this.
we know it's very easy to fool ourselves when it comes to audio
It's not just audio. The same is true in all aspects of out life.
Heck, our eyes don't actually see, our ears don't actually hear. They transmit the stimuli received to the brain. Then our brain, in a two part process, in two different areas of the brain, interprets it. First it decodes the actural stimuli. Then that part of the brain transmits the signal for interpretation.
I won't even get into what our eyes actually see and don't. It's amazing.
We are not at all as we think ourselves to be is the bottom line.

I'd assume that's why you you, like myself, put a lot of stock in measurements!

Then you have the whole, things sound better the more you listen to them. Familiarity with a speaker or piece of music. This is no longer a theory. This is now proven science.
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