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Spotify Launches Crackdown on Tools Offering Premium Service For Free

Spotify is currently the most popular music streaming platform in the world with 286 million users. An impressive 130 million subscribe to the company’s premium service with the remainder using the ad-supported tier.

Somewhere in those figures are a small minority who enjoy the features of Spotify Premium but yet manage to do so without paying the subscription fees charged by the company. This is achieved by deploying various hacks and workarounds that remove the restrictions imposed on users of the ad-supported service.

In many cases this means users obtaining a hacked variant of the Spotify software, often on the Android platform. These applications don’t subject users to adverts and in some cases claim to enable other features such as unlimited track skipping and a departure from enforced shuffling.

Needless to say, Spotify views these applications as a threat to its business model. The company has previously taken action against specific tools in an effort to make them harder to find but more recently the Swedish streaming service appears to have stepped up its efforts.

Beginning back in March but increasing as the weeks have passed, Spotify AB has been sending DMCA notices to Google targeting domains that appear to be offering the types of tools highlighted above. Torrentfreak learned of the complaints from a third-party and we were able to track many of them down using the Lumen Database repository.

The majority targeted at Google’s search indexes contain similar wording, with claims that the domains in question are infringing on Spotify’s intellectual property rights. However, the company goes further still with allegations that the tools are designed for fraudulent purposes.

“This site uses Spotify intellectual property in its content without authorization and this falsely suggests Spotify sponsorship or endorsement of the website and violates Spotify exclusive rights,” many read.

“We reasonably believe that it is the intention of its owners to use it as an instrument of fraud.”

Spotify DMCA complaint to Google

At the time of writing Spotify has targeted at least 20 domains with requests like this one to remove more than 60 URLs. Many seem to be so-called APK download sites or similar platforms giving hints and tips about how to obtain Spotify and indeed other services for free, with accompanying links.

However, when testing the domains in the numerous takedown notices our interest was piqued by at least one that triggered a Malwarebytes ‘fraud’ alert. Spotify took a particular interest in this domain by targeting 14 of its URLs, which raises the question of what type of fraud is taking place on the site.

SpotifyPlus.com blocked

Spotify appears to use the term in connection with using its intellectual property and accessing its platform in an unauthorized manner but it wouldn’t be a huge stretch to think that something even more nefarious might be at play with some modified APK files available online today.

In the vast majority of cases, Google has complied by delisting the requested URLs. At the time of writing there are a handful of more recent Spotify complaints marked as pending a decision (1,2,3)but it would be no surprise if they were removed during the days to come.

From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.

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The 7 Best Music Streaming Services for Audiophiles

Music streaming services haven’t traditionally targeted audiophiles by focusing on audio quality. Spotify and Google Play Music both boast maximum bitrates of 320 Kbps, while Apple Music comes in at just 256 Kbps.

This might sound like a lot, and for most users, it’s certainly enough. However, when you compare the quality of most streaming services to CDs—which typically offer 1,411 Kbps—there’s no contest.

If you’re an audiophile, this poses a problem. You demand the clearest and most refined music available, and don’t want to put up with low-quality audio. As such, your options are rather limited. However, here are the best streaming services for audiophiles.

1. Tidal

tidal logo

Tidal is the best-known high-definition music streaming service around right now. Operated by global rap star Jay-Z, the service’s entire reputation has been built on its high-quality audio offering.

Tidal offers users two different plans. The Premium plan costs $9.99/month and provides a music bitrate of 320 Kbps. If you’re an audiophile, you need to focus on the Hi-Fi package. It offers lossless, CD-quality 1,411 Kbps music for a monthly fee of $19.99. Both packages have family plans available.

And just because Tidal doesn’t have the same allure as the big three—Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play Music—don’t worry about not being able to find something to listen to. At the time of writing, Tidal boasts more than 60 million tracks.

2. Qobuz

qobuz playlist

Another of the leading audiophile streaming services is Qobuz. Based in France, entrepreneur Yves Riesel launched the company in 2007. In addition to streaming services, it also offers music downloads.

Unfortunately, the app does not have the international reach of some of its competitors. While Tidal is currently available in 54 countries worldwide, Qobuz operates in just 12: the US, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and Austria.

Today, Qobuz holds the largest catalog of lossless CD and hi-res albums in the world. The library, which spans 50 million songs, has both new releases and niche genres.

Two subscription plans are available, Studio Premier ($15/month) and Sublime+ ($250/year). The audio quality is the same on both plans, but Sublime+ allows for cheaper music purchases.

3. Deezer

deezer hifi

If you live outside Qobuz’s supported countries but don’t want to subscribe to Tidal, Deezer might be exactly what you’re looking for.

Although it’s not known for as an HD audio music streaming app, the $20/month Deezer Hi-Fi offers 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps FLAC audio. In comparison, the regular Premium plan only offers 320 Kbps and the free tier just 128 Kbps.

The lossless plan was originally introduced in 2014 thanks to the company’s partnership with Sonos. At the time, it was only available on Sonos speakers. Today, however, the Hi-Fi subscription works on most smart speakers, including Bang and Olufsen, Harman/Kardon, Sony, and Google Home.

4. Primephonic

primephonic playback

Primephonic launched its streaming service for classical music fans in 2014. It was instantly popular, as users praised the app for its reimagined approach to cataloging tracks, its impressive artist biographies, and its ease-of-use.

Classical music-loving audiophiles will be delighted to learn that Primephonic streams all of its content in 16-bit, 1,411 Kbps CD-quality if you are happy to pay for the $15/month Platinum plan. A cheaper $10/month plan is available with 320 Kbps MP3 streaming. Primephonic also lets you buy music. Again, all of your purchases will be downloaded in high-definition audio.

The use of FLAC audio for classical music makes sense. It’s the music genre that has the most to gain from high-definition audio. After all, you don’t want your Mozart masterpieces to sound like something your school orchestra has thrown together.

5. Amazon Music HD

amazon music hd details

Amazon Music HD is one of the newest audiophile music streaming services on the market following its launch in the second half of 2019.

More than 60 million HD songs are available on the platform. Around 50 million of them are in 850 Kbps and 16-bit/44.1 kHz, with a further 10 million available in 3730 Kbps and 24-bit/192 kHz. That’s more than 10 times the quality found on most rival music streaming apps.

Before you sign up, make sure your device supports 24-bit songs. If you own a pre-2015 Android or iOS gadget, you will probably be out of luck. Amazon’s Fire devices are all supported.

A subscription to Amazon Music HD costs $15/month (or $13/month if you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber).

6. YouTube Music

youtube music videos

YouTube Music initially launched with a maximum bitrate of 128 Kbps, though that has since increased to 256 Kbps. But that’s still way behind some of the other apps in this list, so why have we included it as one of the top streaming services for audiophiles?

Well, for the music videos. Music as an art form is about more than the audio. Ever since Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles became the first music video to air on MTV in 1981, artists have been falling over themselves to produce more and more extravagant video content. As you can see in our brief history of music videos.

If this side of the music world appeals to you, YouTube Music is king. Not only is there a vast selection of music, but you can watch the videos, concerts, and recording sessions that accompany your favorite tracks.

7. Spotify

spotify playlists

Spotify offers its users a maximum audio quality of 320 Kbps. However, despite the lesser quality, Spotify is still worth considering if you’re an audiophile purely for the vast library. More than 50 million tracks are already available, with a further 40,000 being added every day.

The service’s music discovery tools are also unrivaled. Even if you have niche tastes, Spotify will still be able to find new music that you’ll almost certainly love. For music lovers who want to embark on an audio journey, there are few better ways to broaden your horizons.

And remember, Spotify is one of the most device-agnostic services. There is a Spotify app available for just about every operating system and smart speaker on the market. Some of the lesser-known services don’t offer such widespread support.

Interestingly, in 2017, Spotify announced that it was planning to enter the world of high-definition audio streaming. Branded as Spotify Hi-Fi, the company started testing it around the world. Since then, the trail has gone cold and Spotify has offered no further updates.

It is still one to keep an eye on though; Spotify is already one of the world’s top music streaming services. If it did enter the HD music arena, its vast library and powerful music discovery tools would make Tidal vs. Spotify a more interesting battle.

Keeping Even the Pickiest Audiophiles Happy

These music streaming services for audiophiles should be more than enough to keep everyone satisfied. Yes, even the pickiest audiophile. And if you don’t already own one, here are the best digital audio players for music without your phone.

Read the full article: The 7 Best Music Streaming Services for Audiophiles

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Apple rumored to be ramping up effort to launch original podcasts

A new report says Apple is still moving forward with funding original podcasts, and that many of them will be spinoffs of Apple TV+ shows and films.
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‘The Joe Rogan Experience’ podcast is becoming a Spotify exclusive

"The Joe Rogan Experience" podcast is becoming a Spotify exclusive later this year.
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Spotify’s web player is working in Safari again

Safari is now included on Spotify's official list of supported web browsers for the web player following its removal more than two years ago.
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Vinyl vs. Digital Music: 5 Reasons Why Digital Is Better

There has long been a debate pitting vinyl vs. digital. Vinyl collectors claim that their format of choice is superior, citing reasons why vinyl is better than digital. However, others, including myself, think differently.

The fact is that digital music is much better than vinyl, and in this article we’ll outline the reasons why. And by digital music we mean CDs, songs purchased on iTunes, and music you stream on services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

1. Going Digital Will Improve Your Taste in Music

If you ask an art critic what their favorite painting is, they probably won’t say something well-known like the Mona Lisa. Rather, they’ll recount a unique story about a lesser-known piece that speaks to them personally.

Music is similar. Someone whose favorite band is an extremely popular group of the day—even if that artist is available in a record shop—doesn’t have much of an imagination in their musical taste. Having a developed taste in music means understanding what you like and why you like it rather than following what’s popular.

You can be a discerning listener that only listens to music digitally, just like you can visit record shops and still only buy albums from Top 40 artists. Music streaming services like Spotify boast excellent recommendation tools that help you find more music you’ll love, even if they’re not well-known.

The Discover Weekly playlist, for example, updates every week with 30 new tracks based on your listening tastes. By default, Spotify will continue playing similar music when your current playlist or album ends. And you’ll find a Fans Also Like section on every artist to branch out further.

Spotify Recommendations For You

With both built-in and external tools in your favorite music streaming service, you’ll discover dozens of bands (and maybe even genres) that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. That will help expand your musical tastes much more than buying old records from big-name artists.

2. Streaming Services Offer All the Music You Need

It’s difficult to overstate how powerful digital music streaming is. As long as you have an internet connection, you can think about what kind of music you’d like to listen to and start playing it in seconds.

And you have complete control over the mix of music you want to play, too. Feeling nostalgic for an album that represents your teenage years? Want to mix everything from your favorite artist? Or maybe you want to jump into music from a new genre to try it out. It’s all really simple with digital.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6aQpDzlGkoI9VIqRepZSZy

Compare that to vinyl, where you have a small selection of records to listen to. If you want to listen to something that you don’t own, you’re out of luck unless you trek all the way to the record store and hope they have a copy. And flipping the record every few songs gets old quickly.

Going digital also means your collection goes with you wherever you go. Paid streaming services let you download your favorite music for offline listening, so you can listen even when you’re offline. You can’t play your vinyl records in the car or bring them on a trip with you.

3. Digital Sounds Better Than Vinyl… Fact

Want to get the vinyl listening experience while listening to music on your computer or phone? First, start playing a song you like. Next, grab a bag of chips and rustle it next to your ear. That’s the signature vinyl crackle, and for much less than the cost of buying a record player.

A page on the Hydrogenaudio Wiki dispels several myths about the quality of vinyl and digital music. It explains that there is no objective basis to state that a vinyl record sounds better than a CD or streaming music.

Some albums might sound better on CD, while others sound better on vinyl. It’s all about the mastering used on that particular project. In addition, many modern albums released on vinyl use the same master as the one used for the CD, since vinyl records are expensive to produce.

Multiple tests have found that few people can tell the difference between a high-quality digital stream and vinyl playback. Even with file compression (how does file compression work), the 320kbps quality used by most premium services, combined with a good pair of headphones, will likely sound better than a mid-range record player.

If you’re an audiophile, you can download music in a lossless format, like FLAC. While most services like Spotify and Apple Music stream in a lossy format, dedicated services like Amazon Music HD or Tidal HiFi stream in higher quality audio formats.

4. Digital Is More Cost-Effective Than Vinyl

Browsing a record store

Buying vinyl isn’t cheap. While you can go to a record store and pick up some albums for a few dollars, cheap records are likely either in poor condition or not the music you want to listen to. And new vinyl releases can easily cost $20 or more. Spending that kind of money on every album you want to listen to adds up quickly.

Digital music streaming offers so much more for your money. Most services cost around $10/month (even less if you make use of streaming family plans) and let you listen to as much music as you want.

When a new album from your favorite artist comes out, you can listen to it that day without paying any extra money for the privilege. It’s easy to check out a new artist without feeling like you wasted money if you end up not liking them. And you don’t have to buy a whole album if you just want to listen to a few songs from it.

$10/month can either buy you unlimited access to millions of tracks at the click of a button, or one vinyl record. It’s a clear choice which is better value. Some might argue that vinyl records hold their value, but the chances are slim that you’ll ever make much money selling records on.

5. Digital Offers More Convenient Features

If you place importance on music management and organization, digital music is far superior to vinyl.

Playlists, which are a vital element of today’s music scene, thrive on digital music services. It’s easy to make playlists for your own use, to send to a friend, or for use at an event. You can even search playlists others have made to save yourself time. With vinyl, playlists are essentially non-existent.

Digital music streaming also makes it easy to share music with other people. Instead of having to physically lend someone a vinyl record, you can send them a link to an album or song you like on Spotify or another streaming service.

Spotify Share Options

Finally, digital services offer more convenient features. You can create an easy-to-search digital library, making it easy to find just the right track, start radio mode to keep the tunes going without manual input, and manually add tracks to the queue. If you listen to music all of the time, these are huge benefits.

Digital Is Superior to Vinyl

In this article, we’ve spelled out the reasons why digital music beats vinyl. While we have previously suggested that everyone should start collecting vinyl, it just doesn’t make sense to use it as your primary music source when there’s a better alternative available.

Digital music is superior to vinyl, and streaming services let you listen to whatever you’d like at high quality, whenever and wherever you want, for a fraction of the cost.

With that in mind, our comparison of Spotify vs. Apple Music vs. Google Play Music will help you decide which music streaming service to subscribe to.

Image Credit: Shattered vinyl via Shutterstock

Read the full article: Vinyl vs. Digital Music: 5 Reasons Why Digital Is Better

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NowPlayingIcon replaces the Music icon with Now Playing media artwork

Everyone likes a little character when it comes to music, so why not replace your bland Music app icon with your Now Playing song artwork?
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You Can Now Start a Spotify Group Session With Friends

Spotify has officially launched a new feature called Group Session. A Spotify Group Session lets you listen to music with friends, with everyone able to control what’s being played. Thus preventing one person from controlling all of the song choices.

As good as Spotify is, its usefulness has been limited when listening to music with friends. Like at a party, for example. One person is in charge, choosing what to play and when to play it. However, Group Session means that’s no longer a problem.

How to Start a Spotify Group Session

A Group Session lets multiple people listen to music on Spotify together, with everyone involved in the session able to control what’s being played and when. And to start a Spotify Group Session, all you need to do is share your unique Spotify code:

  1. Open Spotify and play a song.
  2. Tap the Devices Available icon in the bottom-left.
  3. Look for your code under “Start a Group Session”.

To scan someone else’s Spotify code:

  1. Open Spotify and tap the Search button.
  2. Tap the Camera icon in the top-right.
  3. Point your phone at a Spotify code.

Once either you have scanned someone else’s code or someone else has scanned your code, you’ll be connected together in a Group Session. Which means you can all now play, pause, and skip tracks, and add more tracks to the joint play queue.

Group Session has actually been in testing for some time, but is now being rolled out as a beta. Group Session is only available to Spotify Premium users, but that includes Family and Student users. If you can’t start a Group Session, try updating Spotify.

Download: Spotify on Android | iOS

Other Ways to Listen to Music With Friends

Group Session is a great new feature for music lovers who live in the same house. However, the COVID-19 crisis means you may want to cast your net a little wider. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to listen to music with friends far away.

Read the full article: You Can Now Start a Spotify Group Session With Friends

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Spotify’s new Group Sessions feature will let multiple people control the music

Spotify is welcoming a new Group Sessions feature in beta that allows a Premium subscriber to share playback controls with guests.
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Sonos says Spotify operates an even-more closed ecosystem than Apple

Sonos cofounder John MacFarlane has tweeted that he thought Spotify CEO Daniel Ek's criticism of Apple's platform was "solid irony".