Today, Apple announced that its Apple Music streaming app will get two major new audio features next month: lossless audio support and spatial audio with Dolby Atmos for a wide range of supported headphones and speakers.
Apple Music will play songs in Dolby Atmos automatically when users play the music over the built-in speakers in “the latest versions” of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, as well as through a connected Apple TV 4K or AV receiver. Songs will also automatically use Atmos when played on AirPods or Beats headphones that have Apple’s H1 or W1 chips. Users will be able to manually enable Atmos on other headphones by tweaking the app’s settings.
Spatial audio will be limited to certain songs, but Apple says “thousands of songs” across numerous genres “including hip-hop, country, Latin, pop, and classical” will support it at launch, with more to come.
Apple will also make 75 million songs available in lossless audio using the company’s own ALAC codec, though it looks like this feature will only be available for Apple Music subscribers and not for music downloads from what used to be called the iTunes Store. Users who are running the latest version of Apple Music will be able to enable lossless audio by going to Settings, then Music, then Audio Quality. Different settings can be used for different types of connections, like when music is streaming over cellular or Wi-Fi or when the audio file is downloaded to the local device.
As for what lossless means in terms of quality, Apple clarified with the following:
Apple Music’s Lossless tier starts at CD quality, which is 16 bit at 44.1 kHz (kilohertz), and goes up to 24 bit at 48 kHz and is playable natively on Apple devices. For the true audiophile, Apple Music also offers Hi-Resolution Lossless all the way up to 24 bit at 192 kHz.
High-resolution lossless audio may not be available on all headphones and speakers though. In any case, both lossless and spatial audio will become available in iOS 14.6, iPadOS 14.6, macOS 11.4, and tvOS 14.6—all of which will hit sometime in June, Apple has confirmed.
And as a side note: Amazon also made Amazon Music HD (its lossless streaming music service) a free upgrade for Amazon Music customers today. Spotify previously announced plans to launch a CD-quality, lossless tier of its streaming service.