What is Gapless Playback?
Gapless playback literally means there is no gap between songs during playback. It means that songs will play continuously one after the other without the common “silence” or “hissing” sound in previous records and music players. This playback feature has been common for music in CD formats, in cassette tapes, and even gramophone records. But for the digital music versions, not all compressed formats have the gapless playback feature.
For compressed media or music formats, gaps between songs may be caused by some form of decoder delay which is a “silence” gap usually added to the start of a song file. These sound gaps will then add to the total play time of a particular track. For MP3 files for example, it is very common to have gaps in between songs during playbacks. So there is always that “silence” or “lull” period in between tracks which is especially evident on tracks with fade features at the end of the file. But aside from this encoder delay, gaps may also result from the design of the music player software or hardware. In an effort to switch between tracks, some firmware will need extra time to end playback of one track and to start the next track.
But in newer music formats of today, gapless playback is a basic feature. In recent versions of iPods and iPhones, the gapless playback feature is turned on by default. For older versions of Apple products that do not have this feature, software upgrades are available if desired. In Apple’s online music store iTune’s, tracks can also be played without gaps. Versions 7 and later of iTunes support this particular feature. Gaps will only be noticed if the “crossfade” feature is enabled for some songs. Otherwise, tracks will play seamlessly one after the other.
But gapless playbacks have been a source of annoyance and disgust for some people. Many are accustomed to the usual silence between tracks and do not like to listen to songs that sort of segue into each other. Some people who have Apple’s iPod or iPhone want this feature disabled. For some, gaps are still ideal in playing songs.