SoundCloud Refutes Decreasing Audio Quality, Cites Standard Testing

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The streaming platform caught some heat online for what some users perceived as diminished audio quality, but a spokesperson says that's "inaccurate."

SoundCloud is calling claims "inaccurate" that it has changed its streaming audio format and decreased its quality. 

Since Wednesday, Twitter users have been voicing a mix of frustration and confusion with the streaming platform over what appeared to be a swap from 128 kbps MP3 to 64 kbps Opus. But the company tells Billboard this change is nothing new and is part of frequent tests it runs with its audio -- just as other streaming services do regularly. 

"We always appreciate feedback, but these reports are inaccurate," a SoundCloud spokesperson told Billboard in a statement. "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."

On Wednesday, New Jersey producer Direct gained attention with some tweets that pointed out what looked to be a move from 128 kbps MP3 to 64 kbps Opus. Though the numbers might suggest the audio quality would decrease by half, it is not so simple. Opus (the successor to .ogg) is a higher quality format than MP3 and at 64 kbps should actually sound better than a 128 kbps MP3. 

Because Direct perceived a loss in audio quality, he theorized that SoundCloud might be using an older version of the Opus codec, which "could be addressed in the future." He then shared add-ons for Chrome and Firefox on Thursday (Jan. 4) that would allow SoundCloud users to switch back to MP3. He also pointed out that the service still runs MP3s via Safari or in Chrome's incognito windows

 

Since SoundCloud was close to sinking last year before a $169.5 million investment round helped steady the ship, the online community soon began speculating over what a change in audio format might mean for the company and the reasoning behind such a move. 

SoundCloud would not disclose any specific codecs or versions its using at any given time on any given device, calling that is proprietary information, but restated that reports of any altered approach to audio quality are "inaccurate" and that the company is actively investing its money and resources on streaming.