April 19, 2018

Sky announce Spotify on Q but still no date for HDR or "Q over web"

Sky's results for the last quarter show the familiar pattern of adding more customers and the company, in the throes of takeover talks with 20th Century Fox, announced that Spotify will be on the Q boxes by the end of the week. Remember when our TiVo boxes had a Spotify App that was so flakey and useless it was pretty much unusable? I bet nobody misses it. Spotify software can be frustrating (ever used it on an iPhone? Ever wondered where all your disk space has gone??!).  Spotify on NowTV isn't any better, but hopefully on Sky Q it will be fully functional, which would be an improvement - it could hardly be any worse.
(Personally, I prefer Apple Music to Spotify: Apple's software and sound quality are, on my systems and to my ears, superior and they pay artists twice as much as the pittance offered by Spotify. But I digress…)
Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning Sky is that there's still no date set for the arrival of Sky Q over the internet, which I know is a service of some interest to visitors to this site.
Over on Cable Forum, there's a poll asking if VM TV customers are looking to switch to the new Q web service. Here's what I contributed:
I'm a "maybe". I currently have the full VM TV (whatever that's called these days) and top it up with Netflix and the occasional month with NowTV when there's something I fancy on Sky Atlantic. I can't have a dish on the outside of my home and have never wanted to directly line Murdoch's pocket, but neither of these will be relevant in 2019. We've been NTL/VM TV customers since the late nineties.
We're under contract until next January and we are in no hurry to leave VM/Netflix as, Atlantic aside, they give us everything we want to watch at an affordable price. But I'm intrigued by the new Sky Q and when it finally launches I'll consider the price (I'm on a good deal at the moment and I'm not prepared to pay more) and reports on its reliability. Having said that, I'm more likely to drop VM TV and just use Netflix and NowTV, possibly with a Freeview recorder, than try something new and probably flakey at launch. At the moment, Mrs Nialli is very happy with our pair of V6 boxes and her Netflix/VM combo, and that's probably the biggest factor of all...
But never say never, which is why I've said 'Maybe'.


Jez24 said...

What a load of rubbish! Spotify software is very good! The old Virgin App was pretty rubbish, but did have a search funtion by the time they stopped it. We have Spotify family all over our house on phones, tablets and Echo. All four accounts work without problem, bouncing around various speakers and devices. A friend of mine is an Apple nut and he prefers Spotify. As to filling up memory that is down to you and what download settings you set up. As to sound quailty, again you are wrong. If you read reviews comparing the two services, while both are in fact pretty simular, Spotify seems to edge it on most reviews. Please keep up the good work, but can we please avoid inaccurate reporting.

Nialli said...

Thanks for the feedback sir.
My views on Spotify are borne from personal experience (and this is a personal blog, of course). I was a Spotify customer for years, but got increasingly frustrated with Spotify being unwilling to address its iOS app’s cache hogging. That, coupled with the TiVo and NowTV apps experiences and an awful experience working directly with Spotify developers a few years ago are the basis for my current opinion of Spotify. On top of that, I found the audio quality of Spotify on the music I listen to, especially soundtracks and classical music, lacked depth and often sounded ‘muddy’ via Bluetooth on my Bowers & Wilkins and Denon Bluetooth devices.
(I also have an issue with how little Spotify pay artists, but that’s a moral rather than technical grievance.)
So I tried Apple Music and was surprised how much better it sounded on my equipment than Spotify,
However, when I listened to a friend's Spotify on his Sonos set up he had no such issues.
It took some digging but I finally figured out why Apple Music sounds so much better on my equipment than Spotify, but as others like yourself have no issues with the Spotify sound quality, especially on Sonos systems, I figured it's all to do with Bluetooth codecs vs the Sonos wireless network
iOS devices using Bluetooth to connect to wireless speakers use either an SBC codec (poor quality) or AAC codec (superior, near-CD quality)
Apple Music is AAC format, so when I connect using Bluetooth it streams in the highest quality to my wireless speakers. Spotify uses the more lossy Ogg Vorbis format and, if I understand it correctly, these files do a lossy conversion to AAC or even SBC over Bluetooth.
But the Sonos system handles the Spotify format without any conversion to AAC. That's why I thought Spotify sounded poorer than Apple Music on my Bluetooth-based system but my friend had no issues with his Sonos.
I learned a lot of this from a long Reddit post on Bluetooth, which said: "It’s important to realize that Bluetooth, as its commonly implemented using SBC (mainly to save money/power), does harm sound quality, but it doesn’t have to. Devices that use Bluetooth’s direct AAC will sound identical to wired headphones or speakers. Apple’s iPhone supports Bluetooth AAC for this reason, and offers the best wireless non-Sonos experience right now, so long as you use AAC."
This is why Spotify sounds inferior over regular Bluetooth from iOS - the Ogg Vorbis format's conversion worsens the sound. For Bluetooth audio to work correctly, the transmitting and receiving device must support the codec you want to use. iPhone only uses AAC audio with Bluetooth devices which support the AAC codec.
(Spotify improves greatly using Apt-X codec over Bluetooth, but that’s not on iOS devices.)
It concluded: "If you care about sound quality and don't have Sonos, avoid services that doesn’t explicitly support AAC as this is your best option right now for high quality wireless audio.”
Happy to debate further. I should have qualified my statements on my post about Spotify better, but I didn’t want to get into the technicalities of my set up. Which I have now done anyway! :)

Nialli said...

PS I've revised the post's Spotify comments accordingly

Martin Trorey said...

Having used Apple products in the past, I would have to say that I wouldn't want to use them again. I'm an Android and Sonos user so Spotify is not an issue for me. Apple are good at making other Apple products work better on other Apple products, but for everyone else that isn't tied in to their eco-system, they just aren't all that good. I'd be tempted to try Deezer and their lossless streaming if Spotify didn't give me what I needed.

Scott McCarthy said...

Regarding "Q over Internet". Providing this includes Ultra-HD offerings (specifically Sky Sports in UHD) I'll be switching as soon as it's available. There's no reason why it can't include UHD, as that's exactly how BT's Ultra HD TV service is delivered. I'm eagerly awaiting it.

rowland2008 said...

sounds very interesting,i originally wanted Sky Q but found the price prohibitive so opted for V6 with fast broadband,would be interested in streamed Sky Q if it included Ultra HD,also would love sky atlantic and i believe you can subscribe to the AMC channel,i am dieing to see the series The Terror.
On the subject of Netflix i stream thru my Sony BluRay app which seems better than virgin and i get a DD+ soundmix and the 4K is excellent.

Scott McCarthy said...

This might be worthy of an entirely new post, but I noticed today that Sky Italia is now offering "Sky over Fibre" as an option. It's worth noting that it's not quite the full package that you can get if you install a dish. In particular, two things stand out that you CAN'T get if you go for the via-fibre deal:

1) No option of multi-room.
2) No Sky Q (Just a regular Sky box) and therefore no Ultra-HD.

I assume these are both bandwidth concerns, but I find it surprising as fibre should easily have another bandwidth for Ultra-HD and multi-room. That's pretty much how BT and Virgin do it.

Of course, given that I don't really know the Italian TV market very well, there could be a host of other reasons for these two glaring omissions.

Either way, this could be an indication of what Sky will offer when it's Sky-over-fibre service comes to the UK next year. Personally if they don't offer multi-room and Ultra-HD, I'll stick with Virgin, but it'll be a real shame, as I'm crying out to get Sky Sports in UHD, and at the moment, I can't.