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Lower quantization, so lower distortion. But who can tell? The minimum bits/s to get "transparent" Ogg Vorbis encoded audio depends on which study you read and what sound you're encoding (transients are annoying and can cause pre-echo in essentially every frequency-domain codec, vorbis does a pretty good job though), but some sources put it at q5 (which corresponds to 160kbps, which you get in Spotify Free), some at q6, but 320kbps is all the way up to q9, nearly the max and uselessly high. They could probably go down to q4 (128kbps) and almost no one would notice.
Many many years ago, at the Cebit fair, I talked to a Herr Doktor Doktor can't remember the name from the Fraunhofer Institut. Yes, the ones that invented mp3.
He claimed that in their extensive blind tests, only very few special people could hear any difference in the sound of mp3s above 128kb.
And that those who could were usually special in more than one way.
I certainly do claim that I can hear the difference between 128kb and 192kb, but I suppose that doesn't necessarily mean he was wrong.
So if someone is giving you paid content for free, but with the understanding that you'll accept a few ads in return (so they can, in turn, pay the artists who make the music), and then you break that agreement with them by blocking ads, is that stealing? Or merely cheating them?
I'm not being facetious here: the only way many services can be provided for free is to have someone, somewhere, pay for them for you - and that's often through advertising.
You have your own moral compass to guide you, but please at least think about what ad blocking means. It usually means someone, somewhere, has just paid for you out of their own pocket.
I got an ad blocker when YouTube introduced their ads. Some ads were longer than the video you tried to watch! It really took the joy out of YouTube and I've never actually seen something like YouTube Premium!
I've also lived in a place with really slow internet for a while. An ad blocker was the difference between reasonable internet and really very slow internet. There was actually this YouTube-esque website that wouldn't show any videos at all while your ad blocker was active, but disabling it showed you a 30 second ad that lasted well over a minute because of buffering! The actual video played fine though...
But I'm especially annoyed by the little movie commercials with sound (not on YouTube, just in a side bar or something).
All in all I think advertisers have kind of ruined advertising by making it too big and invasive.
I didn't actually notice I was missing anything on Spotify until today and then I realized what I was missing (more than just a few banners and side bars).
It's off (for now) and all I got was a 30 second ad, so it's not that bad I guess.
and this is the other side of advertising: being annoying and treating your audience like hapless sheep. It's insulting and totally unnecessary. Advertising is meant to be informative: "I have something you may be interested in". Instead it becomes a contest of who can be loudest and most intrusive. The very worst cold-calling salesperson with your mobile phone number.
I get it. Totally.
It's a downward spiral at this point. Some of us, however, are trying to keep it respectable. We'll see how it all ends up...
For about a week now I longer get subject lines at all--every new entry just starts with the actual message content. Or rather, it seems like my RSS reader (Thunderbird), seeing no subject line at all, uses the message body in its place.