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Why do songs sound different when they play on different platforms?
03-09-2021

Why do songs sound different when they play on different platforms?

Youtube, Spotify and many other music streaming platforms have been the preferred method to consume music by listeners for a while now.

That is why, probably you are a regular consumer of different music streaming services such as Tidal? Qobuz? Applemusic? Youtube? Spotify? Have you ever noticed any subtle differences on the sound of the same song across these platforms? Songs sound different on various systems, that is true! How is that possible if the same original file was sent to the aggregator?

Unless you run a record label you probably have no idea of the process it takes to get a music file from the production company to the streaming service. To understand why these differences happen it is important to know how each site delivers their audio.

Keep reading, it will all make sense by the end of this article...

The mastered digital files are sent to 3rd party companies known as “aggregators”. These other companies (which are not usually recognized by name) have relationships with many music streaming platforms and record labels. What is their function?

The aggregator sends the files from the labels to the streaming companies, collects the money from sales and makes the necessary payments to the labels in exchange of a fee based on a fixed album/song fee or percentage of sales.

However, each of these companies have their own music app/platform and their own way of handling files. That is why generally you can only play each file using their own app.

Also, each platform has their own algorithm that automatically adjusts the audio file for the best listening experience. This involves optimising the volume rather than the sound by compressing the file (each service does this at a different level).  This is done so listeners don’t need to adjust the device volume from song to song since the playback level is consistent across all tracks.

For instance, Apple converts their files to AAC and Spotify uses the Ogg Vorbis format. Moreover, Spotify turns the volume down by 5.3 dB whereas YouTube turns it down by 3.9 dB.

Even not all the technical stuff might be understandable for a regular user of music. The bottom line is, music files are not dealt in the exact same way by all the platforms, this is why you may appreciate subtle differences in their sound.

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