Technology

What you need to know about Apple Music’s lossless, spatial audio upgrade


Albums will be labelled whether they support the Dolby Atmos, and Lossless features. — Apple Music screenshot
Albums will be labelled whether they support the Dolby Atmos, and Lossless features. — Apple Music screenshot

KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 — Apple’s lossless quality streaming and spatial audio have gone “live” on its streaming service, Apple Music. 

Here’ a quick guide to things you need to know about the new Apple Music upgrade.

1. You might need to restart your device

As I can attest, the settings that enable lossless audio and Dolby Atmos might not appear until you restart your iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV.

On the iPhone/iPad, head to Settings>Music. For the Mac, open the Music app, head to Preferences and under the Playback tab you can select the Audio Quality settings.

For Apple TV go to Settings>Music>Audio Quality. The TV does not as yet support Hi-Res lossless playback.

2. You will need extra hardware to play Hi-Res Lossless

To enable lossless streaming and Dolby Atmos, just head over to Settings>Music on your iPhone/iPad.
To enable lossless streaming and Dolby Atmos, just head over to Settings>Music on your iPhone/iPad.

Hi-Res lossless is the maximum resolution of music streaming supported, which is 24-bit/192 kHz. Non hi-res lossless maxes out at 24-bit/48 kHz.

However, Apple does not as yet support Hi-Res lossless on its AirPods and will show a prompt saying “External Hardware Suggested” and telling you to get a digital-to-audio converter (DAC).

The good news is that if you have an older iPhone, you have a DAC already in the Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack dongle. You’re out of luck if you’re on the Mac or a type-C port iPad and will have to get a DAC to plug your headphones into.

3. Not all albums support Hi-Res Lossless at this time

While Apple says you can listen to the entire Apple Music catalogue in Lossless format, not all albums will be available in Hi-Res.

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Apple says its entire catalogue will support Hi-Res by the end of the year, with an estimated 20 million tracks available at the moment. 

4. What about Spatial Audio?

Spatial Audio is basically surround sound, Apple-style. The good news is you don’t need Apple’s AirPods or Beats line to enjoy spatial audio. 

The difference with using Apple’s AirPods line is that the special chip will enable head-tracking so you can turn your head and have the sound follow you.

For a taste of what Spatial Audio brings to the table, just search for “spatial” on the Music App and filter your search results to Playlists to check out the current tunes that are Spatial Audio ready.

5. No extra charge

The reason why the Lossless and Hi-Res feature announcement was a big deal was because certain services such as Tidal charge more for Hi-Res audio though now Amazon has dropped its previous charges for higher-resolution audio. 

Spotify is releasing its own lossless support later in the year but only to its Premium customers and might levy an extra charge.

6. Will you really hear the difference?

The new Lossless support means you will get CD-quality audio but as to whether you can truly hear the difference between Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless is a hard call especially when you take into account the additional hardware you need for Hi-Res.

If you’re curious, Apple Music has a three-month free trial available on iOS, Mac and Android after which subscriptions start from RM14.90 a month.



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