What’s been missing from streaming services? The DJ — the person who can smoothly navigate the delicate transition between songs.
Well, iHeartRadio thinks the fix for this is artificial intelligence. Yes, the company believes that software will fix those awkward, disruptive transitions between songs when you’re listening to a playlist or personalized radio station.
The audio company is working with Super Hi-Fi, an artificial intelligence company, to work this magic, and it is more than just a simple crossfade. It works when you’re listening to internet radio, a playlist, or choosing the songs those upcoming tracks are being fetched. This way there is no interruption, and the song continues one after the other.
While it is syncing and queueing up these songs, this additional piece of software comes in and looks at the song being played and pulls info on it. Specifically, the software looks at the song structure including the processing levels, high points for volume, beats, and genre. All of this is used to identify whether the song ends when the track ends, if there is twenty seconds of crowd noise, or if the audio for a few seconds.
The core iHeartRadio experience shouldn’t change following the update, but users may notice that tracks end slightly earlier, or that the next song in the queue start a little sooner.
The removal of the gap between tracks should help create an immersive listening experience, especially for playlists that get a mood going for something like a workout. In my testing, I found that it was easier to listen to music for long periods of time compares to having a long pause between songs.
These silent gaps are something that many people don’t currently take an issue with, and like other tech products, it’s something that iHeartRadio hopes you can’t live without after using.
One of the biggest upsides to this new AI integration is volume-leveling or as it is called “sonic leveling.” This comes in handy for those who listen to classic rock and pop. Volume levels for an 80’s track versus a 2018 track are noticeably different, as you might be listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run from 1975 on high volume and when that transitions to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off,” it can be rather jarring. In these situations, the volume will be intelligently adjusted to prevent your eardrums from ringing.
iHeartRadio is making this new technology available with its free service as well as the two paid tiers. I use Spotify and Apple Music (along with an iTunes Match library of live tracks) and haven’t noticed the gaps too much.
After using a beta of the new iHeartRadio playback experience, I can say it does make a difference, and if you listen to multiple genres, it makes the switch easier. Truthfully, I was a little skeptical that this was just an overhyped crossfade, but the technology is pretty impressive especially when going from a studio track to a live one.
This enhanced gapless playback experience is rolling out to iHeartRadio users on iOS in the coming days and will arrive on Android in about a months time. Those who are regular listeners on the platform will be very pleased(especially the sonic leveling), and I wouldn’t be surprised if other streaming services start taking note.
For iHeartRadio users, you will be left wanting to upload your libraries, and that will make this feature even better than it already is.