Gapless Playback

17 May 2022

Music is not only a sanctity but also a universal rite of passage that brings our cultures together, whether we are an undiscovered Amazonian tribe or hyper-advanced elitist Pan-European diaspora: music unites us all.

With the advent of digital music playback, the way we listen to music shifted which has been to the disdain of older albums.

Many older albums made in the days of cassette and vinyl are composed to essentially have the end of one song lead directly into the start of another song, a prime example of this is Neutral Milk Hotel's masterpiece album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. From the first song to the very last song, the album expects you to be listening on an analogue system that allows for this form of gapless playback or on a CD which also allows for this.

However, when you listen on a digital platform that compresses audio like on a personal music player or on audio streaming platforms, there is an inherent latency due to the fetching of the audio file and the decoding, if any, and then the playing.

This disturbs the listening experience and can ruin something as great as In The Aeroplane Over The Sea when going between Part 1 of King Of Carrot Flowers and Parts 2 & 3, a potential disturbance that could occur 2 minutes into the listening experience on a 40 minute album, that's 1/20th of the time of the album but it could ruin your entire experience!

There are many remedies to this, like using lossless data compression (which has no padding making them inherently gapless), having memory caches of the next track (a memory cache is also good in implementing anti-skip!) amongst other things.

Once you listen to an album in a gapless playback form when it was intended to be like that you'll realise how crucial a feature this is and how much you can really enjoy albums with this little thing in.

P.S. My favourite track from In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is in fact king Of Carrot Flowers, Pts. 2 & 3; thank you and goodbye.

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