Since the early days of music streaming services, one feature that has not improved much is the sound quality. While some services can stream in higher bitrates than a few years ago, the sound quality still remains inferior to CD quality. However, what we do take for granted is that all streaming music services stream their music in stereo.
As a paying Google Music subscriber, I often listen to music in my car using its Play Music app. Over the past few days, I noticed that something did not quite seem right with the sound and upon comparing my phone’s playback with Google Play in my PC’s web browser, I confirmed my suspicion – The Google Play Music Android app was playing music with mono sound. Not every song is affected, for example, I could end up with several songs in a row playing in mono, followed by one or two songs in stereo, followed by another few in mono and so on.
From a quick web search, indeed there are other users facing this issue starting around the 6th August. Going by what users report, most music streamed plays in mono, while music that has already been downloaded plays in stereo. Reinstalling the app and clearing the app’s cache does not resolve the issue.
For those affected with Android phones, the simplest workaround for now is to revert the Google Play Music app to the factory preinstalled version and disable auto-update for the app as most phones come with Google Play Music preinstalled. This procedure will vary depending on the phone’s user interface customisation and the Android version:
- Go into the phone’s settings page, into Apps and touch ‘Google Play Music’.
- Touch ‘Disable’ and then ‘Disable App’.
- Then touch the revert or uninstall updates button.
- Touch ‘Enable’ to enable the preinstalled app.
- Go into the ‘Play Store’ app, touch the top-left menu icon and then the inner ‘My apps & games’ item.
- Touch ‘Google Play Music’.
- Touch the top-right menu icon and uncheck ‘Auto-update’
On my OnePlus 2 phone (running Android 6.0.1, Oxygen OS 3.0.2), this reverted the Google Music app back to version 6.8.2817A. Although this version appears visually unchanged from the latest version, music now plays in stereo.
The Google Play Music app that is affected by this mono sound glitch is v6.12.3216E.