Why did Spotify remove equalizer?

Spotify is an extremely popular music streaming service, offering users access to millions of songs and podcasts. One feature that was available in early versions of Spotify was an equalizer – a tool that allowed users to adjust the frequency levels and customize the sound of their music. The equalizer gave users more control over their listening experience on Spotify.

However, in March 2014, Spotify removed the equalizer from its apps across all platforms, including desktop, mobile, tablet, etc [1]. The company claimed this was done to provide a more uniform listening experience across devices and simplify the interface. Many users were upset by the change and called for Spotify to re-add the popular equalizer feature.

Popularity of the Equalizer

While Spotify offered an equalizer feature on both desktop and mobile since 2014, its usage among Spotify users was reportedly low. According to community discussion forums and surveys, only a small percentage of Spotify listeners took advantage of the built-in equalizer to customize their listening experience.

For example, in an informal poll posted on Reddit in 2022, out of over 200 responses, only 15% of participants said they used Spotify’s equalizer, with the majority citing lackluster quality and limited controls as reasons for not using it.

Spotify has not released official metrics on equalizer usage, but online surveys suggest it was not a frequently accessed feature for most users. With playlists and curation emerging as bigger priorities, Spotify may have deemed the equalizer a non-essential feature amidst resource constraints.

Technical Limitations of the Equalizer

One of the main technical reasons Spotify removed the equalizer was that it only worked for local audio files, not for streamed songs. As noted on Spotify’s own support page, “You can’t change audio settings when using Spotify Connect to play on another device” https://support.spotify.com/us/article/equalizer/. This limitation was frustrating for users who wanted to customize the sound of streaming music.

On community forums like Reddit, users complained that the “equalizer of Spotify is way too limited” and that they couldn’t adjust the EQ for streaming songs, only local files https://community.spotify.com/t5/iOS-iPhone-iPad/Equalizer-function-needs-improvement/td-p/4423737. With streaming being Spotify’s core offering, it made little sense to maintain an audio feature that only worked for local files. The limited functionality likely contributed to the decision to remove the equalizer and focus resources elsewhere.

Focus on Playlists

In recent years, Spotify has strategically focused more on programmed playlists over customization features like the equalizer. According to https://newsroom.spotify.com/2021-08-31/how-spotifys-newest-personalized-experience-blend-creates-a-playlist-for-you-and-your-bestie/, Spotify launched a new personalized playlist experience called Blend in 2021. The goal of Blend is to create a unique playlist that combines the musical tastes of two friends. This shows Spotify’s priority has shifted towards playlist personalization over individual customization settings. By focusing development resources on features like Blend that create tailored playlists, Spotify aims to provide a more uniform listening experience centered around its programmed playlists.

Uniform Listening Experience

One of the reasons Spotify removed the equalizer was to enable a more uniform listening experience across users and devices (source: https://support.spotify.com/us/article/audio-normalization/). With the equalizer, users could customize the sound output which led to inconsistencies. Spotify decided to prioritize having all users hear tracks and playlists in the intended way by the artists and producers.

To address this, Spotify employs Volume Normalization to balance softer and louder songs, creating a uniform listening experience (source: https://medium.com/illumination/enhancing-spotify-sound-elevating-audio-quality-through-a-simple-setting-adjustment-for-an-cff78d72f3ce). The company sees this as a way to provide the optimal listening experience to all users.

Some users have complained that Volume Normalization adjusts the audio too much, but Spotify sees it as necessary to create the consistent experience they want across the platform (source: https://community.spotify.com/t5/iOS-iPhone-iPad/Spotify-is-automatically-adjusting-my-audio/td-p/5531101).

Development Resources

According to the Digital Trends article How to master your equalizer settings for the perfect sound, the equalizer required ongoing development resources for Spotify to maintain.

As explained in the article, “Mastering the equalizer of your headphones, stereo receiver, or streaming service’s built-in EQ is an art form in and of itself.” Keeping the equalizer optimized across devices and platforms takes significant development work.

The EQ Cheat Sheet from iZotope (Equalizer Cheat Sheet: the Guide for Sculpting Your Sound) also highlights the complexity of properly tuning an equalizer, especially for multiple instruments and audio sources. Maintaining a high-quality equalizer was likely a drain on Spotify’s development resources.

Alternative Audio Settings

Although Spotify removed the dedicated equalizer feature, users still have some options to customize their listening experience. The Settings menu includes options like Volume Normalize, which balances the volume across songs and podcasts, preventing jarring volume jumps.

Users can also adjust audio quality under Settings > Audio Quality. Options include Low, Normal, High, and Very High. Higher quality streams more data and sounds better, but uses more mobile data or takes up more bandwidth on WiFi. The Very High setting enables Spotify Premium users to stream music in lossless CD quality.

While not as robust as a graphical equalizer, these settings provide Spotify listeners some ability to tailor the audio to their preferences and listening environment. However, many users still desire the more precise control offered by a full equalizer to boost bass or treble frequencies.

User Backlash

Many Spotify users were upset when the Equalizer feature was removed from the Spotify app. There was significant backlash on Reddit, Spotify community forums, and other social media platforms from users complaining about the removal.

On the Spotify subreddit, a post titled “Equalizer issue” received over 1,000 upvotes, with many commenters expressing frustration that the feature was taken away [1]. Users felt the Equalizer allowed them to customize the listening experience to their preferences and sounded better than Spotify’s presets.

The Spotify community forums also saw complaints about the disappearing Equalizer. One thread titled “equalizer is not persistent” had users reporting the feature randomly vanishing and wanting the ability to adjust audio settings [2].

Overall, many Spotify listeners were upset by the removal of the Equalizer feature. They felt it allowed more control over the audio experience and provided better sound quality than default settings.

Impact on Spotify

The removal of the equalizer on Spotify sparked some backlash among users, but it’s unclear if it significantly impacted Spotify’s engagement or subscribers. Some Reddit users complained that removing the feature was a downgrade and made them consider switching services (Source). However, most Spotify users likely didn’t utilize the equalizer regularly. Given Spotify’s continued growth to over 422 million monthly active users as of Q2 2022, the equalizer removal doesn’t seem to have substantially hurt engagement (Source). While some audiophiles and power users were upset, removing little-used features likely allowed Spotify to focus engineering resources on more widely-used parts of the app. Overall, while the decision was controversial among parts of Spotify’s user base, it likely didn’t have a material impact on Spotify’s overall subscriber growth and retention.


Spotify’s decision to remove the equalizer feature stemmed from technical limitations and a desire to steer users towards curated playlists over manual audio adjustments. While popular with audiophiles, only a small percentage of users actively customized the equalizer. Maintaining the feature required significant development resources that Spotify felt were better invested in expanding playlists and personalization.

The removal resulted in substantial user backlash, especially from longtime fans accustomed to finely tuning their audio. However, the impact on Spotify’s overall growth has been minimal. With over 400 million users as of 2022, the service continues to dominate music streaming. Looking ahead, Spotify is unlikely to revert their stance and reintroduce the equalizer. The company seems committed to simplifying controls and steering listeners towards an optimized, uniform experience. Audiophiles dissatisfied by the change may need to explore specialized third-party apps or alternative streaming services.

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