The latest Spotify desktop client update includes the most-requested feature on the support forums: gapless playback! It seems this update was strongly driven by community user requests, as several other new features – crossfading, persistent play queues, hiding of “purchase” buttons – have all been requested by users in the past.
Here’s a brief look at the key new features:
Gapless Playback and Crossfade
Gapless playback is the uninterrupted playback of consecutive audio tracks without intervening silence or clicks where the song changes. It’s pretty common on a lot of albums and it’s now enabled by default in Spotify on the desktop:
The implementation of gapless playback is flawless: check out Shpongle’s album “Nothing Lasts… But Nothing is Lost” for one good example. For some classical examples, see the essential spotifyclassical.com. With gapless playback enabled, albums that are supposed to be gapless are played without gaps, but albums that are supposed to have gaps between the tracks retain the gap. So this isn’t some dumb all-or-nothing implementation; Spotify have spent the time to be sure gapless playback is smart and honors the original artist’s intention.
Spotify have had to re-encode their entire catalog to enable gapless: with over 19 million tracks this obviously takes some time, so some of more obscure albums may not have been re-ecoded yet.
Crossfading was another often-requested feature that logically fits in with gapless. With Crossfade Tracks enabled the end of one song fades into the start of the next one, giving you your very own continuous mix. There’s no beat matching or anything fancy like that, so professional DJs will still be able to make a living. You can set the fade time 1 to 12 seconds, but the default value of 5 seconds seems optimal. It’s great for mixed playlists and will be a fun feature for parties. Crossfading is bypassed when you listen to an album sequentially, so there’s no need to constantly manually switch crossfading on and off.
You’ll also notice in the image above that there’s now the ability for UK Premium users to hide those annoying purchase buttons you’d sometimes hit by mistake. Result!
Persistent Play Queue
With the spotlight on gapless playback, you may have missed another great new feature rolled out in this update: a persistent play queue. Also known as the “save and restore feature for Now Playing,” this now means that you don’t lose your play queue when you restart Spotify. It even remembers where you were in the currently playing track so you can pick up listening from exactly where you left off. The history is also retained across sessions (select Play Queue from the sidebar then click the History tab at the top) – for how long or for how many tracks remains to be seen.
Improved Subscribe, Buddy List and Favorites options
The update ticker in the sidebar on the right is now a lot smoother, and you’ll now also see when someone “stars” a song:
Other updates include a drag & drop fix on Windows (I hadn’t noticed it was broken), faster artist browsing, and you can now select View as Album Art from the View menu instead of only using a hotkey. This now works on a per-playlist basis too.
Premium users can now set Spotify to offline mode (File > Offline Mode). This works like airplane mode on mobile, so you can only listen to offline synched playlists and imported local music files. All network P2P traffic is disabled in offline mode, which may come in handy on a corporate or college network or when using 3G dongles.
Personalized Recommended New Albums
The main What’s New page that’s displayed whenever you start Spotify received a huge makeover a few months ago when Spotify Apps were released. While the apps got all the attention, another great new feature was enabled at the same time: a Recommended Albums carousel that’s tuned to your own personal listening habits:
Many thought this was just a random selection of new releases, but it seems that most if not all this small selection is keyed to what you’ve been listening to on Spotify. For example, in the snapshot above you’ll see new releases from Alexander Robotnick, E-Craft, and Deadmau5: all artists I’ve listened to before. This might seem like a coincidence but I’ve been checking this over the past few months and the hit rate is far too high for that. Every artist page in Spotify has a “Related Artists” section that’s driven by Spotify user listening habits, so it seems some of the data from that (or from what you share with Facebook) has been repurposed to generate this small custom selection. I only wish you could expand it from a measly five offerings!
Playlist Subscriber Email Notifications
If you publish playlists, you’ll now receive summary email notifications telling you who’s subscribed to your playlists:
You’ll receive one of these emails each day, depending on how many new subscribers you have. You can of course unsubscribe from the emails at any time (thanks to Spotimy for reminding me of this new feature!)
All-in-all, this is a fantastic set of updates to the core Spotify desktop experience and one that clearly shows Spotify listen and respond to what their customers ask for. I just hope the Android update gets some love now that this is out of the way!