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What Is the Difference in Quality for Audio Streaming Services (and Why Does It Matter)?

Thanks to the wide availability of audio streaming services, music lovers have nearly unlimited options to listen to their favorite songs and artists. Whether on the go or at home, music streaming platforms make it a breeze to play just about any album or track — right from your smartphone.

Denon Staff

Having such a deep, rich music library in the palm of your hand is a boon for anyone with wide-ranging musical tastes, allowing you to listen to chart toppers like Camila Cabello's "Havana" one minute and forgotten '90s alt-rockers like Superdrag or Spacehog the next.

Not all music streaming platforms are created equal, however, and listeners will hear differences in sound quality across various services. Be sure to do your due diligence and pick the audio streaming service that offers the best experience for your needs.

How each audio streaming service stacks up

Most music streaming platforms offer similar services when it comes to their libraries and price points, but it's sound quality that separates the very best from the rest of the pack. Some apps were designed to be listened to on the go, and therefore may not make the most of a high-quality home audio setup.

Apple Music, for instance, features one of the lowest bit-rates out there: 256 kbps. Its AAC format creates a sound quality on par with 320 kbps MP3s, which is essentially equivalent to CD-level playback. That's perfectly fine if you plan to listen to music through earbuds while working out or commuting to work, but it might not hold up as well if you're looking for an immersive listening experience.

Tidal and Deezer may be the best options for music fans interested in Hi-Res audio. Deezer's paid platform uses 1411 kbps FLAC files, while Tidal gives a little extra oomph with 24-bit/96 kHz streams. The higher the bit rate, the more data is transferred during playback. Much like with an image where better resolution yields a clearer picture, music services with a higher bit rate provide more detailed sound.

Keep in mind that each platform could feature varying degrees of audio quality depending on which service you use. The free version of Spotify, for example, uses 96 kbps streams, while its premium service bumps things up to 320 kbps. It's a safe bet to assume that all platforms sacrifice sound quality to some degree with their free-to-use offerings.

Pair Hi-Res audio streaming services with high-quality equipment

If you've decided to subscribe to a Hi-Res digital music service like Tidal or Deezer, it only makes sense to have audio equipment capable of getting the most out of them. Denon mini Hi-Fi systems like the D-M41 and DCD-50 support the best music streaming platforms in a compact package. Both feature Bluetooth connectivity to sync your audio system with your mobile device, allowing you to seamlessly play songs from your audio streaming service of choice.

Take things to the next level by pairing your mini Hi-Fi system with the Denon PMA-50 digital integrated amplifier, which lets you boost the volume of your Hi-Res music without sacrificing sound quality.

Find out why the Denon name is synonymous with high-quality audio equipment. Take a look at the entire line of Denon products to find the right setup for your home.

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