Apple has revealed a new Hi-Fi-level tier for Apple Music, offering lossless audio playback and spatial audio support via Dolby Atmos at no extra charge - a stark change compared to many music streaming rivals.
With spatial audio and lossless playback finally available, here’s all you need to know about Apple Music Hi-Fi right now, including the latest release date, pricing and feature details.
When was Apple Music Lossless released?
Apple initially confirmed that lossless audio and spatial audio support would be coming to Apple Music subscribers on iPhone in June 2021, followed by Android a month later in July 2021.
Spatial audio and lossless playback arrived after Apple announced it would be added to Apple Music following the WWDC 2021 keynote (alongside the news that spatial audio would also rollout to tvOS and macOS later this year).
You just need to make sure you're running iOS 14.6 or later to access the feature on iPhone, while Android subscribers need only update the Apple Music app to the latest version to take advantage.
How much does Apple Music Lossless cost?
If you've wanted to access Hi-Fi-level music from the likes of Amazon Music HD traditionally, you’ve had to pay an additional fee on top of your subscription each month – usually around £5/$5 – but Apple changed that business model with its announcement, offering lossless audio to all subscribers at no additional cost.
It's the same $9.99/£9.99 per month it has always been, which is a massive blow to streaming rivals like Spotify and Tidal.
In fact, in the wake of Apple's announcement, Amazon also came forward and confirmed that its HD offering would now be bundled into its entry-level streaming service at no extra cost, and we wouldn't be surprised if Spotify's hand isn't forced when it releases its Hi-Res collection later this year.
It’s worth noting that this isn't the first time Apple has offered a free upgrade where rivals have charged. Apple introduced a 4K upgrade for iTunes customers back in 2017, retroactively upgrading previous movie and TV purchases (where possible) from 1080p to 4K at no additional cost.
What does Apple Music Lossless offer?
Apple’s Apple Music-themed announcement may not "change music forever" but the introduction of high-fidelity lossless audio and spatial audio support on its streaming service will no doubt delight many - especially without having to pay extra for the pleasure.
It's admittedly a little late to the game, with many rivals offering a Hi-Fi tier, and let’s not forget Tidal, which has offered lossless playback since day one.
For those new to the world of high-end audio, lossless audio retains all the detail from the original recording, which should result in better-sounding music compared to standard streaming-friendly compressed audio.
Apple is making its entire 75 million-strong collection available in Lossless form using Apple's own ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) to preserve the detail of the original recording. To listen in the highest possible quality when released, subscribers will have to head to the Apple Music settings menu and select CD quality or higher.
For the true audiophiles out there, you'll be able to go all the way up to 24-bit Hi-Resolution Lossless at 192 kH.
It’s a great concept, but the results will depend largely on how you listen to music – you’ll need a pair of high-end wired headphones to make the most of the lossless audio on offer, as even Apple’s high-end wireless AirPods Max can’t quite compete with wired connectivity.
Alongside lossless audio playback, Apple is also rolling out Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos. Already available via select video streaming apps on iPhone and iPad, Apple's spatial audio tech - available on AirPods Pro, AirPods Max and any other H1- or W1-enabled headphones - creates a more immersive audio experience that responds to the movement of your head.
Dolby Atmos playback is also available in beta form on the HomePod and HomePod Mini, as long as you're signed up to the iOS 15 beta and the HomePod beta program. Though it won't offer the reactive audio experience from Apple Spatial Audio, users should notice an improved sound - especially on the larger, forgotten HomePod.
Spatial Audio is also available for Android subscribers, though there are a few caveats; you need to first make sure that your phone can decode Dolby Atmos content, and then you need to confirm that the headphones you're using support Dolby Atmos. It's not as clear-cut as it is with Apple's own products, so you'll have to refer to your manufacturer for more information on available support.
Oliver Schusser, Apple's VP of Music and Beats describes listening to a song in Dolby Atmos as "like magic. The music comes from all around you and sounds incredible."
Apple Music will play Dolby Atmos tracks on all supported headphones by default on iPhone, although Android users will need to manually toggle the feature on within the app's settings menu. Apple will not only be expanding the Dolby Atmos content over the coming months, but it'll be providing curated playlists so you can get the most out of it too.
One report suggested Apple would announce the third-gen AirPods at the same time as Apple Music Hi-Fi, possibly offering support for spatial audio to take advantage of the new lossless tier, but that wasn't the case, so we're still waiting for those.