About two weeks ago, Pandora.com started switching their audio streams from 128kbps MP3 to 64kpbs AAC. It may be a permanent change, or a behind the scenes experiment. I have yet to find anything about this on the official Pandora blog.
Since quite a few PandoraJam users have enquired about this, I thought I would mention that:
- I haven’t noticed any drop in audio quality, although I’m not an audiophile and I have a rather unimpressive audio set-up.
- Due to the change in audio compression technology, a higher bitrate does not necessarily mean higher quality audio. As an old Apple document points out, “AAC-encoded files sound as good as or better than MP3 files encoded at the same or even a higher bit rate”.
- If you like a song, buy the high quality 256kps AAC version of the song from the iTunes Plus store. It’s not quite lossless, but plenty good.
Pandora.com is a great web-site… don’t worry about the technology and just enjoy the tunes 🙂
UPDATE: Pandora.com is streaming in HE-AAC (aka aacPlus) and the recordings are also in this format. iTunes does not fully support playback of HE-AAC resulting in 44.1k Hz HE-AAC/aacPlus recordings being played back as 22 kHz AAC tunes. The recordings sound better when listened to in applications which support HE-AAC such as VLC.
UPDATE 2: According to a user who contacted Pandora.com, downgrade your flash version to 47 or before, and you’ll continue hearing 128 kbps mp3s.