Audio Quality... Sucks (Even Compared to Beats Music)

Discussion in 'Apple Music, Apple Pay, iCloud, Apple Services' started by MICHAELSD, Jun 30, 2015.

  1. MICHAELSD, Jun 30, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2016

    MICHAELSD macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #1
    While I've yet to do a full side-by-side comparison, thus far I believe audio quality is the worst aspect of the service. Case-in-point: Walk the Moon's "Shut Up and Dance" came up on Beats1 and sounded quite hollow on my highly-regarded V-MODA M-100 hi-fi headphones. So I launched the song on the Beats Music streaming service, which has been tested to be very close to CD quality despite being only 320kbps and it came alive. The soundstage was greatly expanded, the guitars had power, and it was generally a huge improvement. I still have a ways to go in comparison, with a lossless comparison forthcoming but no matter how great the service is if the audio quality isn't great it ruins the service for anyone listening with gear better than EarPods. Very disappointed but I have yet to test the songs directly separately from radio features. I should note all formal tests are accomplished on a Mac.

    Or perhaps, at this point until I compare non-radio streaming I should say the radio quality is lacking although the majority of radio stations do not offer top-grade audio.

    EDIT: While the Beats 1 station is still lacking in quality, it seems there was a bug or an issue with streaming that was causing songs to load at a lower bit-rate. Apple Music is now sounding and working great on the iPhone, although not as great as lossless.

    UPDATE:

    Apologies to Apple, the sound quality is more than adequate after additional testing. In fact, on many songs the quality is excellent. Their codec combined with the huge library of songs Mastered for iTunes means that there is a very minor difference between the original lossless song and the song on Apple Music. Best streaming service sound quality, not far behind Tidal. As mentioned the songs were loading at a much lower bit-rate originally (I believe the Radio loads songs at a lower bitrate).

    UPDATE 2:

    However, lossless is still noticeably better. Apple's compression is not perfect.
     
  2. Quu macrumors 68020

    Quu

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    #2
    Beats 1 audio quality is definitely quite low. I noticed it immediately. But the streaming of the songs not on the Beats 1 Station just in general seems okay.
     
  3. zakarhino macrumors 6502a

    zakarhino

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    #3
    Yep, I have to agree.

    Long time Google Play Music listener here, my earbuds are medium range price from Senn and everything feels flat. Did not have this problem on Play Music or Beats Music. Both of those aforementioned services include a 'quality' option in the settings menu and for each service I've always had mine on high.

    Look at this Verge graph below. Everyone has a 320 kpbs option except for the nobody 'platforms' (What were Microsoft thinking with xbox music!?).

    I think these issues are fixable but it's just a case of how fast/how willing Apple are to fixing them. We don't want this to be another 16GB iPhone issue where they try to justify a clearly ridiculous decision on their part. I'm not touching Play Music or any other service until iOS 9 -- if Apple have fixed the bugs and improved some UI options a bit I'm completely sold and won't look back... but for now, that google play subscription is going to remain active throughout this trial period.

    Sure, I think I noticed this too especially when I was streaming via 4G in the car. Beats 1 loaded fast, music from a playlist did not. Despite this, the general streaming quality is still below the competitors.



    [​IMG]
     
  4. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #4
    The chart is misleading since format is just as important as bitrate. I really wish Apple would just offer 320kbps AAC, which would be superior to 320kbps MP3.

    It is frustrating though since even Tidal's $9.99 tier, which utilizes 320kbps AAC and is virtually indistinguishable from lossless, is superior. (I found Spotify and Rdio's quality inferior to Beats Music).
     
  5. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #5
    Honestly, I would keep Beats Music until audio quality of Apple Music is improved if Apple wasn't getting rid of it.

    Tidal is a consideration as well but recommendations and radio features are awful.
     
  6. lchlch macrumors 6502a

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    #6
    The quality on beats1 and normal streaming is different. The latter is better.

    Are you sure your not hearing the difference in volume? Could you try again after increasing the volume.
     
  7. Quu macrumors 68020

    Quu

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    #7
    After comparing some songs I own that are 320 CBR MP3 (LAME encoded) and some of the 256Kb/s songs on Apple Music I can hear some popping and distortion in the Apple encodes that I cannot hear in my own MP3's.

    I'm using ATH-M50X headphones perhaps on lower quality headphones or speakers it would be less noticeable but as it stands there is a discernible difference. I don't know if this would make me not use the service, I'll give it the full 90 days before making my decision.
     
  8. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #8
    I've tried giving iTunes a volume edge over Beats Music but it simply sounds louder. The soundstage, instrument separation, and overall clarity are greatly improved in Beats Music (and Tidal). Beats Music sounds great on high-end gear.
     
  9. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #9
    Coming from a pair of ATH-700, I found the difference between lossless and 320kbps less noticeable on that pair of also-quality headphones but on my M-100 quality differences are very noticeable. I spent a lot of time finding a perfect pair of headphones for me at as reasonable a price as possible so it seems like a waste to use a service that as of right now makes them sound good rather than fantastic as the cans do on Beats Music.
     
  10. zakarhino macrumors 6502a

    zakarhino

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    #10
    I will right this down on paper and hand deliver it to Tim Cook's secretary myself.
     
  11. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #11
    Or I could just email Tim. I just don't want to come away sounding pretentious. Eh, let's see how this goes.
     
  12. zakarhino macrumors 6502a

    zakarhino

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    #12
    Oh God, just make quality manually toggle-able via a settings menu!!! I don't care if high quality files eat through my data plan.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. zakarhino macrumors 6502a

    zakarhino

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    #13
    Yeah I'm just waiting it out for now. Really hoping we see some improvements to the entire UX in iOS9 but music quality is a painful hindrance considering I stream all the time from desktop and iOS. Speaking of, do you think the desktop streaming is a lot better than the mobile streaming (even via WiFi on both devices)? Could just be my headphones/amp playing tricks on me...

    Praying for 8.4.2 to bless us with high quality toggles. (Let's face it, 8.4.1 is going to be 'security' fixes).
     
  14. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #14
    I definitely noticed the lower quality bitrate on $20 Xiaomi earphones when I was streaming over cellular before but assumed it was in my imagination until Cue's Tweet since Apple Music was thought to only stream at 256kbps AAC. I believe the iPhone and desktop quality over wi-fi are identical though.

    Here's my email, for what it's worth:

    Hello Tim,

    I will be as brief as possible, beginning by stating that I looked forward to Apple Music with great enthusiasm as I do all Apple releases. Curated recommendations, a radio station that plays good music rather than just the top 100, and a strong library (and interface) are all the features I have wanted in a streaming service and I believe Apple Music along with Beats1 has the potential to revolutionize the music/radio industry.

    Since the Beats Music streaming service offered excellent quality audio, I expected Apple Music to follow suit but am extremely disappointed. In side-by-side comparisons between Beats Music and Apple Music, Beats Music (as well as rivals such as Tidal — even at the 320kbps AAC tier) offered a significantly better experience on my hi-fi gear that was very noticeable. Apple Music simply does not sound fantastic on high-end (consumer) audio equipment. I planned to subscribe to Apple Music and become a long-time user of the service but cannot do so when the audio quality is lacking to such a prominent degree. It would be fantastic to have a lossless option, for an additional charge perhaps, but a 320kbps+ AAC option should greatly improve the enjoyability of the service for audiophiles. Apple Music can be too great of a service to let audio quality, which should be paramount to a streaming service, detract from the experience.

    Thanks for your time,
    Michael​
     
  15. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #15
    Maybe I'm crazy but I find streaming from the Apple Music library rather than the radio to be a higher bit-rate and frankly an improvement. Initial results with the radio were disappointing but with a bit more direct comparison the service is beginning to sound better. Full disclosure: I was using the radio as a non-subscriber prior if that affects the bit-rate.
     
  16. Quu macrumors 68020

    Quu

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    #16
    You're not crazy, as I said in my first post, the radio quality is lower than the general song streaming quality. But the streaming is still sub-par compared to my local files encoded at 320 CBR.
     
  17. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #17
    Not just Beats 1 radio, but also the rest of the radio functionality which streams the songs themselves. Which would be odd if all radio stations streamed at lower quality. As I mentioned, I wasn't a subscriber yet (was supposed to wait with a friend for his Spotify subscription to run out... yeah, right) but was using the radio features assuming the bit-rate was the same regardless as Apple is not being very transparent regarding quality.
     
  18. Quu macrumors 68020

    Quu

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    #18
    Oh okay, I understand. I've not tried the other radio stations yet.
     
  19. MICHAELSD, Jul 1, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2015

    MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #19
    Hmm, oddly enough the same song immediately sounded improved played through the Apple Music library rather than streamed through the radio function. Which is odd because that song will show as playing when browsing the library while it's played through a radio station. Seems like an easy fix or a bug if the song is played at a lower bit-rate through the radio.

    EDIT: Yup. Easy test to do for subscribers. Try playing a song through iTunes Radio on the Mac then switching between it in the Apple Music library. Very noticeable difference. I believe the quality issue may be limited to the radio functionality!

    EDIT #2: The Apple Music library itself sounds at the least very good. The radio stations, hosted or not, are playing a lower-quality version of the songs at least on Mac. Still wouldn't mind 320kbps AAC. :p
     
  20. iBug2 macrumors 68040

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    #20
    Apple music library is the same as the iTunes Store. So they have the songs at 256k AAC. So everything sounds exactly the same as before when we purchased them.
     
  21. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #21
    Not used to iTunes quality since I've spent the past few years spending hundreds of dollars on streaming music.

    I will admit that now that music is playing at a proper bitrate it does sound at least as good as most other streaming services. Even if it's just a placebo effect, for audiophiles I would still like the option to stream in 320kbps. I can understand if Apple has determined 256kbps is more than adequate for most people and it saves them bandwidth, but I believe a 320kbps AAC option would competitively make Apple Music perfect.
     
  22. NDRes, Jul 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015

    NDRes macrumors newbie

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    #22
    For myself, my AKG 702s and Senn HD-600's with a Headroom Desktop Amp and toslink connection discern no difference between Spotify and Apple Music.

    I'm on the skeptical end here. Even with decent equipment, the likelihood that the end user will differentiate between 256 kbps AAC and 320 kbps Vorbis files is small. If anything, it should be reduced to how loud each service pumps out the tracks (which has been shown to influence how a lot of people perceive "quality").

    Perhaps this is influenced by the radio streams? I am not partaking in the radio feature.
     
  23. Supermallet macrumors 65816

    Supermallet

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    #23
    I did a totally non-scientific test between Tidal lossless and Apple Music on my iPhone with my beyerdynamic earbuds and Tidal felt like it had a better soundstage and separation than AM, but ultimately the difference wasn't big enough for me to worry about it. For me, streaming music is first and foremost about convenience. As long as the songs sound good enough, I'm not going to fret over the differences in audio quality between streaming services.
     
  24. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #24
    Absolutely. I'm not a fan of the way Spotify's compression sounds. AAC 256kbps should be as good or better than 320kbps MP3, even in the Ogg Vorbis wrapper.
     
  25. MICHAELSD thread starter macrumors 68040

    MICHAELSD

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    #25
    At least in Tidal's case, I found the difference between their 320kbps AAC and lossless practically unnoticeable. So I do believe a 320kbps AAC option would close the gap. Why buy beyerdynamic headphones if you can't listen to them as good as they're meant to sound?
     

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