coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
179
116
Hi
I just start using an Apple Watch Series 6 for listening music to my wireless headphones. My headphones work fine with any other devices (iPhone, laptop/desktop etc). Sincerely, I found the audio quality that the Apple Watch is streaming appalling. There is significant levels of distortion and clipping and I cannot find a way to correct this. I have tried my Music Library, Spotify and even Apple Music, but the problem is always the same. As far as I know, Apple Watch can stream audio up to 64 kbps, but it does not seem to be the case, most likely the audio quality sounds as 24 Kbps.
Is anyone else that feels the same? Any suggestions to improv audio quality are welcomed.
 

matrix07

macrumors 604
Jun 24, 2010
6,853
3,491
I really have no idea what you're talking about, specifically on 64 kbps and 24 kbps. I don't notice any clipping or distortion on my S5 to my AirPods.
 

coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
179
116
I find music streamed from my watch to be unlistenable. I believe that it streams at 64 kbps, 1/4th the quality of a standard lossly 256 kbps stream.


The SDK guide sets what is the maximum Audio Bitrate, but that does not commit Spotify or Apple Music to stream at the highest available Bitrate.

It is possible that they are make concessions on the audio quality in favour of the streaming speed. I don't think they've announced what is the streaming bitrate of Apple Music/Spotify through Apple watch and 'm curious to see if there is a way to confirm the bitrate that Spotify streams through the Apple Watch.
 

HDFan

Contributor
Jun 30, 2007
3,189
1,063
The SDK guide sets what is the maximum Audio Bitrate, but that does not commit Spotify or Apple Music to stream at the highest available Bitrate.

Not sure if I understand why you consider the maximum 64 kbps bitrate acceptable when all streaming services are at least 256 kbps. With 64 kbps being (for me) unlistenable, less than that would be worse. Doesn't make any difference which service is used, they are all limited, at best, to a horrible 64 kbps.
 

coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
179
116
Not sure if I understand why you consider the maximum 64 kbps bitrate acceptable when all streaming services are at least 256 kbps. With 64 kbps being (for me) unlistenable, less than that would be worse. Doesn't make any difference which service is used, they are all limited, at best, to a horrible 64 kbps.
You got me wrong, I’m not saying that the 64kbs is acceptable rate for good quality streaming. I merely say that it is possible that the AW does not have the processing power to stream at a higher bitrate and I’m trying to find if there is a way to confirm this.
Initially I thought the problems lies with the Bluetooth codec, but apparently AW supports the same codecs with IPhone 12 (maybe I’m wrong in this but I can only see support for SBC for both devices).



In all fairness, AW is not designed explicitly to stream audio, and considering the vast majority of people find the audio quality of the AirPods or the cheap knock-offs acceptable, I believe most people would not even notice what’s going on. Let’s hope the AW7 would prop up the specs in terms of audio streaming.
 

perezr10

macrumors 65816
Jan 12, 2014
1,477
782
Monroe, Louisiana
90% of my music listening is from my Apple Watch when I go out running. I haven’t noticed any quality difference from my iPhone and I’m pretty happy with it. But I’m not a very discerning audio consumer. What does bother me is the lack of equalizer settings.

Maybe the audio quality is dependent on the strength of the cellular signal? Kind of like how video streaming services don’t give you the full 4K quality if you have a slow Wi-Fi speed. That would explain why some watch users are happy with the quality and others thinks it’s terrible.

I find it hard to believe that the Apple Watch doesn’t have the processor power to do anything. The Android world is always griping that their android watches are seriously under-powered compared to the Apple Watch. The Series 6 processor is based on the iPhone 11’s A13. However, since the battery is so much smaller I guess it’s possible that Apple greatly reduced the clock speed. But it’s doubtful that Apple would allow such a serious downgrade as to make music sound crappy.

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coolajami

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jun 6, 2009
179
116
90% of my music listening is from my Apple Watch when I go out running. I haven’t noticed any quality difference from my iPhone and I’m pretty happy with it. But I’m not a very discerning audio consumer. What does bother me is the lack of equalizer settings.

Maybe the audio quality is dependent on the strength of the cellular signal? Kind of like how video streaming services don’t give you the full 4K quality if you have a slow Wi-Fi speed. That would explain why some watch users are happy with the quality and others thinks it’s terrible.

I find it hard to believe that the Apple Watch doesn’t have the processor power to do anything. The Android world is always griping that their android watches are seriously under-powered compared to the Apple Watch. The Series 6 processor is based on the iPhone 11’s A13. However, since the battery is so much smaller I guess it’s possible that Apple greatly reduced the clock speed. But it’s doubtful that Apple would allow such a serious downgrade as to make music sound crappy.
Fair point, the CPU itself may not be the bottleneck here, but the fact is that the streaming applications are usually power and memory hungry, and it would be sensible Apple to put limitations on the resources a single application can utilise from the AW. An Equaliser has the same issue, as it is basically manipulation of the output volume on-the-fly and that adds further strain on the processor/battery.

After a lot of digging I found out that Spotify is streaming (supposedly) at 96Kbps over AW. That is the "low" quality setting for the Spotify app on the iPhone. So some downgrade of the audio quality takes place and, most likely, Apple and Spotify made the assumption that most people would not even notice the quality difference.

Update: My mistake, apparently the 96Kbps is actually the "normal" quality setting for Spotify. I was looking to see if TIDAL gets better quality of streaming and apparently all streaming services are capped to 96Kbps if they stream trough the AW, and this is the case also with TIDAL. Not sure what is going on with Apple Music but I guess it would be the same.I'm not convinced that the bitrate is the only problem here, I'm starting wondering if the bluetooth connection doesn't "agree" with my Bose headphones.
 
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