Google Play Music Tips for Apple TV

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Google Play Music Tips for Apple TV

Google Play Music doesn’t offer a tvOS app for Apple TV. This article provides tips for using Google Play Music with Apple TV.

It’s ideal to listen to music on the best speakers in your home. Modern home theater systems often feature amazing sound. Whether you’re using a compact sound bar or a powerful stereo, chances are your TV is connected to incredible sound. Unfortunately, if you own an Apple TV, your options for music are limited. Strict in-app purchasing policies and lackluster market share have kept competitors like Spotify and Google Play Music from developing tvOS apps. If you want a native music subscription app for Apple TV, you’re limited to Apple Music.

I was an early adopter of Apple Music. I used it the day it launched and kept using it through the free trial. It was my first real experience with a music subscription service. I loved the concept, but I didn’t like Apple’s implementation. It was just too buggy. More than a year after its launched, customers are still plagued with defects. This is par for the course. Apple makes great devices, but their services and software often leave much to be desired. My feeling was that Apple Music just wouldn’t get any better, much like with iTunes.

I subscribed to Spotify after my Apple Music trial expired. I really loved Spotify. It has the best app of any music subscription service. The problem is, it was missing some albums I really enjoy. After they lost the rights to Eric Dolphy’s Iron Man, I began to question the utility of music subscription services. Then I found out about Google Play Music. With 35 million songs in their library, they offer far more music than their competitors. I signed up for the free trial, and found all of the music I was missing on other services. Their music library is impressive! While their app isn’t as good as Spotify, it’s decent. The Google Play Music app is far better than Apple Music.

Apple Music has one key advantage. They offer a native tvOS app for Apple TV. In fact, Apple Music is built-in to tvOS. Users can play music using Siri and browse the library directly on their TV. Unfortunately, when I used Apple Music with Siri on my iPhone, I just wasn’t impressed. Recording artists often have unconventional names, making it difficult for Siri to interpret your true intentions. For example, when I say “play artist Gong”, Siri thinks I said “play artist gone”. For me, Siri was practically useless. I couldn’t stick with Apple Music because of Siri or its tvOS app. The music is the most important thing.

Apple Music offers the worst audio quality of any music subscription service. This statement often surprises and sometimes offends Apple fans. The reality is, Apple Music streams 256 kbps AAC audio. Both Spotify and Google Play Music use 320 kbps audio formats. Although you won’t notice much of a difference using the stock Apple ear buds, Apple Music’s competitors sound much better on a high fidelity audio system. This, and Google Play Music’s vast library, were even more compelling reasons to move away from Apple Music. The bugs alone were aggravating.

The good news is that you can listen to Google Play Music through your Apple TV using AirPlay. It sounds just as good as a native tvOS app would. AirPlay doesn’t degrade audio quality. Although it isn’t as convenient as a tvOS app, Google Play Music and AirPlay provide an adequate user experience. Let’s take a look at some tips to help you get the most out of Google Play Music.

Beam Google Play Music to Apple TV using AirPlay

AirPlay is Apple’s technology for beaming media to Apple TV and other devices. Although there were some nascent systems that enabled media-beaming prior to AirPlay, Apple was the first to perfect the technology. AirPlay grew out of their own AirTunes technology. AirPlay is also compatible with virtually any device. Beyond Apple devices, innovative third-party solutions bring AirPlay technology to Windows, Android, ChromeOS and Linux. Thousands of apps support Apple’s technology. Companies such as Yamaha, Marantz and Pioneer have built AirPlay support into their AV receivers. It’s a widely supported technology — a de facto standard. (continue…)

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2 thoughts on “Google Play Music Tips for Apple TV

    • That Engadget article is clickbait. It has a controversial title, which claims that MP3 is dead. This only undermines the article’s credibility. MP3 is obviously not dead. Google Play Music and other content platforms use MP3. Furthermore, the article doesn’t support the notion that 256 kbps AAC sounds as good or better than 320 kbps MP3. This is a conclusion that you have made, but the article doesn’t even make this claim. The article is more rhetorical than evidentiary. Where is the listening test?

      I found an actual study that compares the formats. At the same bit rate, they are indistinguishable. AAC files are also significantly larger than their MP3 counterparts, when encoded at the same bitrate. But even with the larger AAC file size, the two formats sound the same at the same bitrate. It is not a huge leap to assume that 320 kbps MP3 sounds better than 256 kbps AAC. But there is no need to assume this, since we do have ears.

      In my own listening tests, I have found that Google Play Music sounds better than Apple Music. I make these observations by listening to the same tracks on studio monitors. Beyond overall audio quality (fidelity), Google Play Music has better stereo imaging and they don’t hype the bass. There is more going on than a plain vanilla encoding. Both content providers are probably doing some proprietary pre-processing.

      Audio quality also depends on encoder quality. The best MP3 encoders actually sound better than some AAC encoders. According to Wikipedia:

      “Blind tests in the late 1990s showed that AAC demonstrated greater sound quality and transparency than MP3 for files coded at the same bit rate, but since that time numerous codec listening tests have shown that the best encoders in each format are often of similar quality (statistically tied) and that the quality is often dependent on the encoder used even within the same format. As an approximation, when using the best encoders, AAC’s advantage over MP3 tends to be evident below around 100 kbit/s, but certain AAC encoders are not as good as the best MP3 encoder as they do not take optimal advantage of the additional encoding tools that AAC makes available.”

      There are so many other considerations. Albums that are “mastered for iTunes” may sound better than other Apple Music albums. Google Play Music doesn’t offer every track at 320kbps. Some albums may have lower bitrates. I have yet to find one that does, however. I always download music and check the album’s file size to verify that I am getting the highest quality audio.

      Honestly, given modern broadband speeds, both services should be offering lossless audio quality. Tidal has the best audio quality and it is really obvious on a decent audio system. Unfortunately, they’re just missing too much music.

      CNET did a listening test where they compared Apple Music to Spotify. They found that Spotify has better audio quality. They use 320 kbps Ogg Vorbis encoding. It looks like the engineers at Spotify didn’t read that Engadget article. Don’t they know that AAC is the go-to encryption standard? If that is true, maybe Apple needs to read that Engadget article too, because every device they make supports MP3.

      The bottom line is, you need to listen to both audio sources on studio monitors to make this determination. I have done this. Google Play Music sounds better. If Google Play Music only used 256 kbps MP3, Apple Music might sound better. I still think some of Apple’s processing seems to hype bass frequencies. They finally fixed AirPlay so it is no longer distorted and hyping the bass. It only took them two years to fix it. Apple may be the choice of audio professionals, but their consumer-grade audio is not audiophile quality. This was true with the original iPod and is still true today. Google Play Music isn’t audiophile quality either, but it sounds better than Apple Music and has more music (that I listen to) than Tidal. I was willing to pay more for Tidal HD until I realized that they have massive gaps in their catalog.

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