SoundCloud drew some heat recently when some users noticed changes in their audio quality. Select people noticed a shift from 128 kbps MP3 to 64 kbps Opus when using the SoundCloud streaming platform. The company has since clarified that these experiences are part of frequent tests it makes of audio, but are not part of any overall change to its technology or listening experience.
“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,” a representative told Billboard. The rep also noted that all content from creators is stored at the originally uploaded audio quality. The company did not offer any further detail about the specific codecs or versions of audio technology it is using at a given time.
The development has put audio quality back in the crosshairs. Many platforms use lower bitrates for mobile streaming to help reduce data usage, but listeners can often opt to go higher. Even if SoundCloud is defaulting to 128 kbps MP3 files in streaming, that’s still a lower quality than most other competing services. Spotify’s default is 160 kbps Ogg with a Premium option for 320 kbps. Apple Music offers 256Kbps AAC.