Apple Music Gains Apple Lossless and Spatial Audio For Free
The rumour mill has been turning for quite a while now; however, today, Apple has officially announced that Apple Music will support lossless audio, as well as Spatial Audio powered by Dolby Atmos.
Apple Music already boasts 75 million tracks available in CD-quality (16-bit/44.1kHz) or hi-res (24-bit/48-192kHz). Today, Apple announced that there will be 20 million songs in lossless audio when the new service launches next month, with the whole 75 million available in lossless by the end of the year - at no extra charge.
Additionally, “thousands” of tracks will be available in Apple's Spatial Audio flavour, which adds “multidimensional sound and clarity”, as enjoyed by our Jensy during his Apple AirPods Max review.
APPLE LOSSLESS AUDIO
Where lossless audio isn't a new thing for a subscription service to offer, take TIDAL, Qobuz, Amazon HD and Deezer, for example. Still, Apple's launch sees it nosing ahead of Spotify HiFi, which is pencilled in to arrive later this year. It will also be interesting to see how these more established services react to Apple's announcement.
Apple's lossless streams use ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) to offer more detail so we can expect higher audio quality, as well as larger file sizes. Should you want to avoid streaming the highest possible quality when out in your car and have it munch away at your data allowance, you get three tiers of lossless audio to choose from - CD-quality (16-bit/44.1kHz), 24-bit/48kHz, and 24-bit/192kHz. This is selected by going to Settings > Music > Audio Quality in Apple Music.
Music up to 24-bit/48kHz can be played natively on Apple devices; however, playing anything above that, such as 24-bit/96kHz or 24-bit/192kHz streams, requires connecting an external DAC. Apple has dubbed these highest-quality streams 'Hi-Resolution Lossless'.
The reason why your AirPods Max and AirPods Pro won't be able to get the really good stuff natively is that they take advantage of the Bluetooth AAC codec when connected to an iPhone, meaning they can’t receive the full quality of the Apple Music lossless files, which are encoded as ALAC files. This might change in the future, or it might not. It would be a strange move if Apple hasn't already got something in the pipeline as we all know who the Cupertino giant likes to keep people within its ecosystem.
APPLE SPATIAL AUDIO
Meanwhile, Apple's Spatial Audio comes thanks to support from Dolby Atmos. Naturally, Apple Music will automatically play Dolby Atmos tracks on all AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip, as well as through the speakers built into the latest versions of the iPhone, iPad and Mac.
However, it has since been revealed that Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos will also work on any headphones. All you have to do is simply enable it by switching the new Dolby Atmos setting to 'Always On' instead of leaving it set at the default 'Automatic' in your settings.
As well as the promised “thousands” of tracks available in Spatial Audio at launch across genres including hip-hop, country, Latin, pop, and classical, Apple says it will be adding new tracks “constantly”. Additionally, Apple will also put together a set of Atmos playlists so you can easily find something to listen to in the 3D format. Albums available in Dolby Atmos will sport a badge on the detail page to make them easier to spot.
Apple says it's working with artists and labels to produce more songs in Spatial Audio. Apparently, Apple Music and Dolby are making it easier for musicians, producers, and mix engineers to create songs in Dolby Atmos through initiatives such as doubling the number of Dolby-enabled studios in major markets and providing resources to independent artists.
Both the lossless and Spatial audio features will launch in June and, here's the best bit, it won't cost Apple Music subscribers any extra, with the monthly subscription remaining US$9.99.
StereoNET’s resident rock star, bass player, and gadget junkie. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.
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