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SoundCloud Makes Its Streams Sound Worse

Dave Parrack 05-01-2018

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 The Internet Music Guide for the Audiophile We have uncovered the biggest sites for music fans in several categories. Whether you want to buy an album, stream songs, discover new music, or just learn more, these sites have it all. Read More ) claim they can hear the difference. And according to them it’s not a change for the better.

Switching From MP3 to Opus

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 7 Reasons Why You Should Start Using SoundCloud Today SoundCloud is often thought of as a hangout for indie kids and backyard bands - a place to discover new music. And that's true to an extent, but it's far from the full story. Read More 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!


Related topics: MP3, SoundCloud, Streaming Music.

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  1. Sizain
    March 10, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    You can [Broken Link Removed] and download your music from SoundCloud.

  2. Jason Peterson
    January 15, 2018 at 4:49 pm

    Opus is a modern codec, which would allow SoundCloud to either decrease the bitrate a little while maintaining the quality, or improve the quality at the same bitrate, which is what users have been asking for before. But not both at the same time. I fear that this incident has given bad publicity for Opus with users who don't understand the codec's scalability.

    64 kbit/s in 2018 is just wrong. Where are the expected "advances" if they use a bitrate that is lower than standard from 20 years ago. It's just typical that any new codec actually gets used at half its designed bitrate without any safety margin, as has happened with DAB digital radio and TV, sometimes DVDs stuffed with added value, video games. I'd like to see some data on how much expense the company has for bandwidth and servers compared to offices, overhead and licenses.

  3. Corey Moncure
    January 7, 2018 at 12:47 am

    I had been thinking for a few days that the sound quality on Soundcloud streaming had changed. I use SC several hours every day at work to maintain my concentration through long coding sessions. Maybe some people wouldn't notice but I did. So this headline doesn't surprise me at all.

    It's a shame! If only they offered higher quality through their subscription service, I would sign up immediately.