Amazon Music fails gapless playback

Not that long ago, my desktop install of Amazon Music Player (which is really their web app inside a Windows .exe wrapper) asked if I wanted to update to the latest version. I did, and that was a mistake. The new program turned on “gapless playback”. This would be nice if Amazon hadn’t fouled up the implementation. I’m not against gapless playback; I’m against gapless playback done badly.

The two problems are:

  1. Gapless playback cannot be disabled.
  2. The gapless settings are per-song, and are sometimes wrong.

Problem Number One is annoying, but can result from an immature developer, or someone on the design team who deep down inside is fearful that people don’t respect them. Because people do not do what he or she wants, he or she becomes a bully. Either way, the implementation of a new feature without the ability for the end-user to turn it off is arrogant.

One of the Tenets of IT is “Have the user show you the problem, often it is the user doing something in an unusual way.” Weird things happen. So to implement a new feature without giving the user the option to turn it off is the assumption that the developer is smarter than God, and things could never be imperfect, so no, plebeian, you don’t get a choice in the matter.

In this case, it isn’t the user doing something in an unusual way; it is Amazon’s algorithm for tagging the end of the song for gapless playback that fouled up.

I know that mistakes happen; this is normal. This is not a surprise. Therefore robust programming behavior is: make new features optional. Or at least have a back-out plan, for when things break instead of getting better. Amazon did not do that here.

Like I said, arrogance.

Problem Number Two wouldn’t be a problem if Problem Number One weren’t present.

Problem Number Two means I get a better music experience from YouTube than from Amazon Music Player. I paid you money for this song, Amazon. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

The problem showed up immediately after I did the suggested “upgrade” of the new version of Amazon Music Player on Windows. A quick search indicated that yes, gapless playback is a new feature that was added, and, no end users do not get a choice for this breakage to be enabled or disabled. It is enabled, end of story, go kick rocks if you don’t like it.

I should spell the problem out fully.

Context: I have playlists defined, and I start a playlist while working from home. It’s a particular set of songs with no vocals. It’s also a long playlist, since I don’t want to hear a song too many times. Sometimes I click the “randomize” button instead of the “play” button. Five or six hours later, I need to start the playlist over again.

Problem: After the “upgrade” some of the songs in the playlist are truncated by a large number of seconds, as the playlist advances to the next song early. Instead of a zero second gap between the next song and the current one, it’s a negative number of seconds. 30 seconds? 45 seconds? 60 seconds? I don’t know. It’s not like five (or less).

This did not happen prior to the “upgrade”. It does affect particular songs, whether the playlist is in order versus random play mode. I notice it in two or three songs (of 105 in the playlist I play); but with the one song, it is extremely noticeable because the song is great, and it has a nice ending – which I never get to any more! This song comes on, I’m rocking out, and pow – next song without warning. Man I hate this.

The version prior to the upgrade was better, because every song ended after it fully played. There wasn’t gapless playback, though. There was about a one second pause between songs. I understand that for some music, gapless playback is super; I just don’t happen to have any of those albums. My gapped playback was fine for me.

I also have this same song in another playlist, and it gets truncated there too. This is why I think the end-of-song tagging is connected to the particular track.

This does not happen if I play the song on my iPhone (not in a playlist). It does not happen if I play the song from my Amazon Echo. It only happens in the Amazon Music Player on Windows.

I did open a few enhancement requests / feedback comments (and even put a request in Amazon’s public forum), but it’s been almost two months and nothing has happened.

So here we are; me whining on the Internet. Yay (not).

Overall, I really like Amazon Music. I like that I can buy an MP3 file and download it. I can copy it to a USB stick and plug that into my car. I can wrangle a snippet of an MP3 into an iPhone ringtone. The playlists are not terrible to manage (although they must be managed on my iPhone) (which isn’t a great interface because the screen is too small to make things easy).

Anyway, if you want to hear a song with a great beat (without getting cut off early), here it is on YouTube: Timmy Trumpet and Scndl – Bleed It’s in the category of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) so it might not be to everyone’s taste; but I love it.

I can’t link to it on Amazon because you’d have to sign up with Amazon’s Spotify clone to hear it. I bought the single from Amazon, so that’s how I have it in my playlist.

This also happens on Harold Faltermeyer – Axel F

Another song it happened on was Old Skool. I watched the Amazon Music Player, and it cuts over to the next song with 25 seconds to go. In other words, Amazon Music Player knows the song should be 3 minutes 44 seconds long, but at the 3:19 mark, it skips to the next song.

Another song that fails is Crab Rave by Noisestorm. This one is truncated 12 seconds from the end.

It is information that Amazon Music Player playback failures (truncation time) differ per song.

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