With Apple Music and Spotify continuing to fight for the top streaming music spot, neither company is holding back the new features. Apple’s launch of lossless, high-resolution music improves the game for Apple Music customers who enjoy this leap in music quality without any additional price increases. It won’t impact the decision of some music listeners, but for many audiophiles this extra experience has enormous value. Let’s take a look at Apple Lossless Music and how you can start listening to it.
What is Apple Music Lossless?
When you listen to streaming music, there is a good chance that the audio file has been compressed to help you make the transmission smoother. In doing so, every streaming service knows that a little bit of audio quality is sacrificed over the original recording value. In the case of lossless compression, all original data or the original audio file format is retained. In other words, it is Apple’s opportunity to completely embrace high resolution audio. By using its “Apple Lossless Audio Codec”, ALAC for short, you will enjoy more detail with each song.
Eventually (sometime in June 2021), each Apple Music user will be able to access “Settings -> Music -> Audio quality” and select the type of quality they want. It’s important to know that high-resolution music will require more data usage, so be sure to take this into account when making the decision. This is a very important consideration that should not be ignored as downloading lossless audio to your phone also takes up more space. Ultimately, having the choice between CD quality or ALAC does a lot to appeal to both the average music listener and the audiophile.
Of course, Apple isn’t the only one offering this offering, as alternative services like TIDAL and Amazon Music HD have already started offering this service. Amazon beat Apple’s announcement in a few days, while TIDAL has been delivering high-resolution music for years. Separately, Apple’s biggest competitor, Spotify, embarked on its own lossless tier later this year. An additional consideration is that any live radio on Apple Music – such as Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits, or Apple Music Country – will not allow lossless or no video clips.
What devices support lossless?
With the release of ALAC long after the first AirPods were released, there is a big caveat, as AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max (even wired) will not support lossless music. While each of the named devices support Apple’s current AAC Bluetooth codec, Bluetooth connections aren’t lossless, which is the biggest hurdle for future AirPods to work with this enhanced audio experience. The same goes for the Beats wireless headphones. However, Apple said the AirPods Max can connect to high-resolution lossless and lossless recordings with excellent audio quality. Analog-to-digital conversion takes place in the Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable, so not all playback will be truly lossless.
On the other hand, any modern iPhone running iOS 14.6 and above, iPads running iPadOS 14.6 (and above), Macs running 11.4 and above, and Apple TVs running tvOS 14.6 can all use lossless music. To activate on a Mac, open the Apple Music app and choose “Preferences” from the menu bar, then “Playback” and search for Audio Quality. In this menu you can select Lossless and turn it on and off. On your Apple TV 4K, go to “Settings -> Music -> Audio Quality” and select “Lossless.
Last but not least, Apple has stated that support for lossless audio will be added to both HomePod and HomePod Mini via a future software update.
Don’t forget Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos
Although eclipsed during the Lossless announcement, Apple also announced that its entire music catalog will be available in Dolby Atmos, which enables Spatial Audio. This means that when you listen to music on compatible headphones, you will feel like the music is surrounding you. AirPods and Beats or any headphones with the W1 or H1 chip will automatically have this feature enabled. Speakers on all modern iPhones, iPads and Macs will also be compatible with a future software update. Third-party headphones will be able to enable Dolby Atmos in the device settings via Bluetooth.
For traditional music listeners who place more importance on their playlists than on the quality of the music, the difference will not be immediately apparent. For audiophiles or those who can really discern between the different types of quality, this is a welcome addition to the Apple Music experience. That it costs nothing more, it’s music to our ears.
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