SoundCloud is back at it again. Just when you thought the company might be stabilizing a tiny bit (maybe) after a very tumultuous 2017, things are already off to a bit of a shaky start in 2018. The streaming and discovery service has lowered its bitrate from 128 kbps to 64 kbps Opus without much of a warning or explanation. Meaning the sound quality that you hear music on SoundCloud is now lower. The Opus is supposed to be equal, but at 64 kbps, it really doesn't stand up to the already terrible 128 kbps.
Sound quality on SoundCloud has been a big gripe among creators who didn’t want their music compressed to 128 kbps. It works for SoundCloud to speed up streams and ease pressure on servers, but keeps audiophiles away from the service. This latest move to 64 kbps is strange at best and troublesome at worst for those who don’t want to listen to bad quality songs.
This could be a move to push people towards SoundCloud Go as the company continues to struggle to monetize its users and content. One potential thought is that if it makes it quality so unbearable, entrenched users will have no choice but to upgrade. The other choice is they leave for a different streaming service like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon or YouTube.
A producer, Direct caught the move and even came up with an extension to get your music back to not sounding terrible. Also if you want to check it yourself, just listen to a song and after about 15 seconds write click on the screen, on the drop down menu, click inspect element. From there a bunch of code will pop up on the right. Go to the "Network" tab. As you continue to listen, there will be commands that go by that contain 64 Opus in it.
UPDATE: A SoundCloud rep after many emails back and forth refutes the claim that the sound quality has not changed and the reports are "inaccurate." "We haven't altered our approach to audio quality," continues a statement from SC. "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."
That may be the official stance, but many DJs on the web say they have noticed a difference and refute the idea you can have good quality sound at 64 kbps, Opus or not. It isn't like you were getting good quality at 128 kbps mp3 anyway.
Opus is a different codec from the dinosaur mp3 and is a better piece of software. However, at 64 kbps, this may not be that beneficial to SoundCloud looking to lower their bills with Opus.