Digital Audio on Spotify

By Kim Gilmour

Digital audio comes in many flavors — there’s no standard format. Although .mp3 is the most popular format, some audio files may have extensions such as .mp4, .aac, .m4a, .ogg, .wma,.wav — the list goes on. None of these file extensions matter if you’re listening to streaming music that’s stored on Spotify’s servers. The music just comes to you when you request it.

(Spotify’s also capable of playing music files you’ve already stored on your local hard drive, but they need to be compatible with the software.)

A bit about bitrates and Spotify digital audio

Digital audio quality is measured in bitrates. A bitrate is the amount of data transferred per second from one place to another. With music, bitrates are usually measured in kilobits per second (Kbps). (A bit is the smallest measure of digital information; a kilobit is 1,000 bits.)

A standard Spotify track streams at around 160 Kbps, which provides excellent quality (well above what you’d find in a typical MP3 file), but Premium subscribers can listen to a large proportion of tracks with even better clarity — approximately 320 Kbps.

Hook up speakers for Spotify digital audio

If you can happily listen to music through your laptop speakers, standard earphones, or plug-and-play computer speakers, then you’ll be satisfied with hearing music at 160 Kbps — after all, most MP3 files barely reach this level of clarity.

But if you have a top-quality home stereo setup and want to connect this sound system to your computer, then you may want to consider getting a Premium subscription, which offers the higher 320 Kbps bitrate for truly excellent sound, particularly at relatively loud volumes.

Spotify also has agreements with the hi-fi manufacturers Logitech, Sonos, and Onkyo that let Premium subscribers stream music through those manufacturers’ systems.