Apple Music: Apple has said that users with the latest OS on iPhones, iPads and Mac would be able to stream both standard lossless or CD-quality audio and high-resolution lossless audio for select tracks on Apple Music. Its spatial audio features are also being launched. For being able to stream high-resolution lossless audio, however, users would need an external DAC. The announcement was made by Cupertino during its Worldwide Developer Conference – WWDC 2021 – on Monday, and the feature is being rolled out immediately. However, it might take some time before all the users are able to get access to this feature, since the update is server-side.
Explaining what high-resolution lossless audio is, Apple said, “Most audio compression techniques lose some amount of data contained in the original source file. Lossless compression is a form of compression that preserves all of the original data.”
It must be noted that high-quality lossless audio streaming would consume much more data and downloading such audio would take up more storage space. By default, the streaming option would be the standard AAC, and users wanting to listen to high-res lossless audio would need to change their preference in the iOS settings by going to the Music app section, heading to the Audio Quality section and enabling the Lossless Audio option.
At the time of the launch, more than 2 crore songs would be available in both standard lossless and high-resolution lossless audio options. Notably, Apple Music has a catalogue of 7.5 crore songs and all of them would become available in high-res lossless audio quality by the end of the year.
At present, this feature can be enjoyed on iPhones, iPads, Apple TV 4K and Mac, and in subsequent software updates, HomePod and HomePod Mini would also get the support for this.
A key thing to be remembered is that while Apple’s AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and Beats headphones offer excellent audio quality, this is only true for AAC audio. This means that they would not be able to play high-res lossless audio the way it is intended and would rather play back as normal tracks, and therefore, an external DAC is recommended.
However, as per Apple, its standard lossless audio is delivered with the help of its own in-house Advanced Audio Codec or AAC, which was designed to deliver the highest standards of audio. Accordingly, Cupertino has now said that “the difference between AAC and lossless audio is virtually indistinguishable”, despite which it is offering this feature to its users. While this feature would attract no extra cost above the subscription price for Apple Music, it is not clear what exactly would be the advantage that users would get if they would not be able to use this feature over Bluetooth and would need an external DAC for this.
Apart from this, Broadcast radio, Live radio and on-demand content from Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country, and Music videos would not be available in high-res lossless.
Meanwhile, Apple Music is also offering immersive, Dolby Atmos-powered mixes or the spatial audio tracks, although they would be much lesser in number than the lossless ones. At the time of launch, thousands of tracks are being offered with spatial audio, and more are soon to be added, as per Cupertino.