SoundCloud users have accused the music streaming service from lowering the quality of its audio streams. SoundCloud stands accused of switching from streaming 128 kbps MP3s to 64 kbps Opus files. Which, at first sight, looks like a terrible decision.
While this shouldn’t necessarily mean a reduction in sound quality, SoundCloud users with a keen ear for this sort of thing (AKA audiophiles) claim they can hear the difference. And according to them it’s not a change for the better.
Switching From MP3 to Opus
Soundcloud recently changed their streaming format from 128kbps MP3 to 64kbps Opus. This drastically reduces the audio quality and can introduce strange artifacts.
— Direct (@DirectOfficial) January 3, 2018
New Jersey music producer Direct first publicized SoundCloud switching from MP3 to Opus in a series of tweets. And his screenshots appear to bear out his claims. However, SoundCloud has denied his accusation it has intentionally reduced the quality of its streams, telling Billboard:
“We always appreciate feedback, but these reports are inaccurate. SoundCloud has not altered its approach to audio quality.”
“We have been using the Opus codec (among others) since 2016, and we regularly test different combinations of encoding and streaming to offer listeners a quality experience on any device.”
“Furthermore, we store all content from creators at its originally uploaded quality level so we can continually adapt to advances in encoding and playback.”
It should be noted that Opus, the successor to .ogg, is a higher quality format than MP3, so halving the bitrate shouldn’t necessarily make streams sound worse. Unfortunately, in SoundCloud’s case, they allegedly do. Leading to speculation SoundCloud is using an older version of the codec.
How to Switch Back to MP3
Whatever the truth, you’ll be pleased to know there is a fix in place. The aforementioned Direct has created extensions for Chrome and Firefox. These allow SoundCloud users who can hear the difference to switch back to MP3s. Using Safari or Chrome’s Incognito mode has the same effect.
Do you regularly listen to music using SoundCloud? Have you noticed a reduction in streaming quality over the last few days? Or do you think this is just audiophiles complaining unnecessarily? Could this prove disastrous for SoundCloud? Please let us know in the comments below!