WTF! Why Don’t All Streams Have Gapless Playback?

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Q I just finished listening to the new Giles Martin remaster of The Beatles’ Abbey Road via a 24-bit/96kHz stream from Qobuz. For the first few tracks I felt like I was listening to the original album, but on a much better stereo system. Then the bad news came when I got to the medley on “side two” starting with “You Never Give Me Your Money.” Instead of a seamless flow between songs, I heard distinct gaps between the tracks. It really ruined the experience. Why can’t streams of album tracks that are supposed to segue do so without annoying, and at times jarring, gaps in the sound? There are lots of iconic recordings with the same issue. —Thomas E. Moore, Fairfax, VA

A Getting gapless playback of digital files can indeed be a problem in the music streaming world. As you’ve discovered when listening to the medley on the new high-res Super Deluxe edition of Abbey Road, a streaming setup can add audible gaps between tracks. This is generally a problem with classical works that are divided up into movements, but it can also affect rock and DJ mix albums where tracks are meant to flow seamlessly together.

Since you don’t provide details of your hardware configuration, I’m going to assume you’re streaming music using the basic web player on the Qobuz website. Unfortunately, the Qobuz web player doesn’t provide gapless playback, and the same happens to be true of the player on the Tidal website. You can get gapless playback with both services, however, by downloading their respective desktop apps (macOS only for Qobuz, macOS and Windows for Tidal). Gapless playback is also offered by the Qobuz and Tidal mobile apps, both of which are available for iOS and Android devices.

Since most new AV products feature various forms of built-in music streaming capability, it’s difficult to say exactly which ones offer gapless playback. After a quick survey of available gear in my home, I can confirm that the ones featuring AirPlay do support gapless, while the ones that feature Chromecast built-in do not. Sonos and BluOS products reportedly provide gapless playback, though the Play-Fi wireless streaming platform found in much current AV gear has yet to gain gapless support.