Apple Music Now Streams Lossless Audio at Higher Quality: Here’s What You Need to Know

Apple Music stated on May 17 that it will be offering a lossless streaming service with uncompromised sound quality at no extra fee, which audiophiles had long requested. Amazon Music declared within hours that it would no longer charge $5 per month for lossless streaming. As a result, affordable, no-compromise music streaming became widely available in the course of a single morning. However, given how Apple downplayed the announcement in favor of focusing on the arrival of Dolby Atmos immersive music (which we’ll examine in a future post), we have to question how many non-audiophiles will share audiophiles’ delight.

What does “lossless audio” mean?

“Lossless” in the context of music streaming services means that the sound quality is unaffected by the streaming process. Listeners can get a perfect, bit-for-bit reproduction of the original audio with lossless music streaming, which uses compression technologies (FLAC and ALAC) that do not discard any of the music file’s data. A “lossy” service, on the other hand, degrades sound quality by discarding most of the original digital data using compression techniques such as MP3, AAC, or Ogg Vorbis. These technologies, on the other hand, delete data that people rarely, if ever, detect, such as an acoustic guitar string being lightly plucked at the same time as a loud cymbal crash. Lossy audio transmission has the advantage of requiring only one-third to one-fifth as much internet bandwidth or storage space on your mobile device, allowing you to download more files and avoid exceeding your cell service plan’s data limits.

Apple Music review | What Hi-Fi?

Apple Music customers now have access to lossless streaming at no additional cost. The lossless streams will provide sound quality that is at least as excellent as CDs, if not better. The digital audio on CDs is sampled at 44,100 times per second, which is widely thought to be sufficient to represent the whole range of human hearing, up to around 20,000 vibrations per second (or hertz). Most lossless streaming services, on the other hand, can deliver high-resolution audio sampled at up to 192,000 times per second, which can reproduce frequencies up to 96,000 Hz. Bats and dogs can hear the difference, but scientific testing, such as a 2010 study by McGill University researchers, demonstrate that the variations are “extremely small and difficult to detect” in people. Similarly, CD-quality streams use 16-bit samples, which can cover the range of sound from a pin being dropped to a jackhammer operating at close range, but most high-resolution streams use 24-bit audio, which can cover the range of sound from a pin being dropped to the volume of a shotgun being fired right next to your ear. Of course, that’s well beyond what’s required to reproduce music, and no ordinary speakers or headphones can even come close to that volume.

Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, Mac computers, and Apple TV media players) and the Apple Music app for iOS have received automatic updates to enable lossless audio. (The Android app will be updated “soon,” according to Apple.) However, because the program defaults to AAC lossy compression, you’ll have to explicitly enable the option. Apple chose lossy compression as the default for Apple Music because it believes that most listeners won’t have the equipment or know-how to reproduce high-resolution audio, and that the benefits won’t be significant because the data will pass through Bluetooth connections, which have become common for headphones and wireless speakers. Because Bluetooth uses its own lossy compression, there’s minimal benefit to streaming lossless audio over lossy Bluetooth (save in a few circumstances that we’ll go over later).

NPR provides an online comparison that you may use to hear the changes in sound between lossless and lossy compression.

What do you need to listen to lossless audio?

Lossless streaming will assist audiophiles who use high-quality speaker systems or wired headphones. Many people should be able to detect the difference lossless streaming makes, particularly in high-pitched instruments like cymbals, flutes, and strings, which can sound distorted when compressed.

You may or may not need specific equipment to stream lossless music at CD quality, depending on what device you use. Most devices with a headphone jack can play CD-quality audio, but phones without one—whether Apple or Android—need to utilize an external digital-to-analog converter (or DAC) to get lossless sound. Headphones with a Lightning port can also deliver lossless sound to Apple devices.

If you want to listen to high-resolution lossless music, you’ll need a DAC with at least the same resolution as the files you’re streaming—that is, 24 bits at 192 kHz. Although some modern Android smartphones feature built-in DACs that can generate 24/192 audio over the phone’s headphone socket, few laptops and tablets do, so you’ll almost certainly need to attach a DAC to them.

When you connect a DAC’s output to an audio receiver, stereo preamp, or integrated amplifier, you can listen to high-resolution audio through high-quality speakers, which is the finest way to enjoy it. Some of these audio components even include high-resolution USB DACs that can link to computers or most mobile devices directly.

Listen to music and more in the Apple Music app – Apple Support (UK)

When it comes to wireless streaming, most multiroom audio solutions can play lossless audio at CD quality (16 bits at 44.1 kHz). Sonos and Apple AirPlay and AirPlay 2 systems can play 16/44.1 audio, while Google Chromecast can potentially play 24/96 audio, though signal failures have been seen at resolutions higher than 16/44.1.

Although lossless audio is unlikely to sound better than lossy audio over a Bluetooth connection, using lossless audio with an Android phone that supports the higher-quality aptX HD or LDAC Bluetooth codecs (neither of which are supported on Apple devices) and headphones or wireless speakers that support aptX HD or LDAC may provide some benefit. Because aptX HD and LDAC lose far less data at greater data rates than conventional lossy codecs, you may notice some small benefits when utilizing lossless audio with these devices.

Apple Music stated on May 17 that it will be offering a lossless streaming service with uncompromised sound quality at no extra fee, which audiophiles had long requested. Amazon Music declared within hours that it would no longer charge $5 per month for lossless streaming. As a result, affordable, no-compromise music streaming became widely available in the course of a single morning. However, given how Apple downplayed the announcement in favor of focusing on the arrival of Dolby Atmos immersive music (which we’ll examine in a future post), we have to question how many non-audiophiles will share audiophiles’ delight.

What does “lossless audio” mean?

“Lossless” in the context of music streaming services means that the sound quality is unaffected by the streaming process. Listeners can get a perfect, bit-for-bit reproduction of the original audio with lossless music streaming, which uses compression technologies (FLAC and ALAC) that do not discard any of the music file’s data. A “lossy” service, on the other hand, degrades sound quality by discarding most of the original digital data using compression techniques such as MP3, AAC, or Ogg Vorbis. These technologies, on the other hand, delete data that people rarely, if ever, detect, such as an acoustic guitar string being lightly plucked at the same time as a loud cymbal crash. Lossy audio transmission has the advantage of requiring only one-third to one-fifth as much internet bandwidth or storage space on your mobile device, allowing you to download more files and avoid exceeding your cell service plan’s data limits.

music radio Cheaper Than Retail Price> Buy Clothing, Accessories and  lifestyle products for women & men -

Apple Music customers now have access to lossless streaming at no additional cost. The lossless streams will provide sound quality that is at least as excellent as CDs, if not better. The digital audio on CDs is sampled at 44,100 times per second, which is widely thought to be sufficient to represent the whole range of human hearing, up to around 20,000 vibrations per second (or hertz). Most lossless streaming services, on the other hand, can deliver high-resolution audio sampled at up to 192,000 times per second, which can reproduce frequencies up to 96,000 Hz. Bats and dogs can hear the difference, but scientific testing, such as a 2010 study by McGill University researchers, demonstrate that the variations are “extremely small and difficult to detect” in people. Similarly, CD-quality streams use 16-bit samples, which can cover the range of sound from a pin being dropped to a jackhammer operating at close range, but most high-resolution streams use 24-bit audio, which can cover the range of sound from a pin being dropped to the volume of a shotgun being fired right next to your ear. Of course, that’s well beyond what’s required to reproduce music, and no ordinary speakers or headphones can even come close to that volume.

Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, Mac computers, and Apple TV media players) and the Apple Music app for iOS have received automatic updates to enable lossless audio. (The Android app will be updated “soon,” according to Apple.) However, because the program defaults to AAC lossy compression, you’ll have to explicitly enable the option. Apple chose lossy compression as the default for Apple Music because it believes that most listeners won’t have the equipment or know-how to reproduce high-resolution audio, and that the benefits won’t be significant because the data will pass through Bluetooth connections, which have become common for headphones and wireless speakers. Because Bluetooth uses its own lossy compression, there’s minimal benefit to streaming lossless audio over lossy Bluetooth (save in a few circumstances that we’ll go over later).

NPR provides an online comparison that you may use to hear the changes in sound between lossless and lossy compression.

What do you need to listen to lossless audio?

Lossless streaming will assist audiophiles who use high-quality speaker systems or wired headphones. Many people should be able to detect the difference lossless streaming makes, particularly in high-pitched instruments like cymbals, flutes, and strings, which can sound distorted when compressed.

You may or may not need specific equipment to stream lossless music at CD quality, depending on what device you use. Most devices with a headphone jack can play CD-quality audio, but phones without one—whether Apple or Android—need to utilize an external digital-to-analog converter (or DAC) to get lossless sound. Headphones with a Lightning port can also deliver lossless sound to Apple devices.

If you want to listen to high-resolution lossless music, you’ll need a DAC with at least the same resolution as the files you’re streaming—that is, 24 bits at 192 kHz. Although some modern Android smartphones feature built-in DACs that can generate 24/192 audio over the phone’s headphone socket, few laptops and tablets do, so you’ll almost certainly need to attach a DAC to them.

When you connect a DAC’s output to an audio receiver, stereo preamp, or integrated amplifier, you can listen to high-resolution audio through high-quality speakers, which is the finest way to enjoy it. Some of these audio components even include high-resolution USB DACs that can link to computers or most mobile devices directly.

Apple Music User Guide for music.apple.com - Apple Palaikymas (LT)

When it comes to wireless streaming, most multiroom audio solutions can play lossless audio at CD quality (16 bits at 44.1 kHz). Sonos and Apple AirPlay and AirPlay 2 systems can play 16/44.1 audio, while Google Chromecast can potentially play 24/96 audio, though signal failures have been seen at resolutions higher than 16/44.1.

Although lossless audio is unlikely to sound better than lossy audio over a Bluetooth connection, using lossless audio with an Android phone that supports the higher-quality aptX HD or LDAC Bluetooth codecs (neither of which are supported on Apple devices) and headphones or wireless speakers that support aptX HD or LDAC may provide some benefit. Because aptX HD and LDAC lose far less data at greater data rates than conventional lossy codecs, you may notice some small benefits when utilizing lossless audio with these devices.

What is the best lossless streaming service?

Listeners may have a more difficult time deciding which streaming service to subscribe to now that lossless streaming is available for no extra fee.

Apple Music costs $10 per month, whereas Amazon Music costs $8 for Prime subscribers and $10 for everyone else. Although Apple and Amazon are the most recent and largest entrants into this market, they are far from alone in providing lossless audio services. If you pay annually, Qobuz offers lossless, high-resolution audio for $12.50 per month, or $15 per month if you pay monthly. Deezer charges $15 per month for CD-quality audio, whereas Tidal charges $20 per month for high-res streams supplied via MQA (an audio compression technology that is partly lossy). This fall, Spotify will launch its own lossless tier, though it hasn’t revealed the technology or cost.

Most of these services have roughly the same amount of music—around 75 million songs—but some offer exclusive access to specific tracks by an artist, and fans of niche music genres may find more new releases on Apple Music and Spotify, as those are the most popular services—and thus the ones most likely to be prioritized by digital music distributors.

Streaming
service
Monthly
subscription cost
Lossy format
for subscribers
Maximum lossless
resolution for subscribers
Apple Music$10 for lossy and lossless256 kbps AAC24/192 ALAC
Amazon$8 to $10 for lossy and lossless256 kbps MP324/192 FLAC
Deezer$7.50 to $10 for lossy, $15 for lossless320 kbps MP316/44.1 FLAC
Qobuz$12.50 to $15 for lossy and lossless320 kbps MP324/192 FLAC
Spotify$10 for lossy; lossless expected in fall 2021320 kbps Ogg VorbisN/A
Tidal$10 for lossy, $20 for MQA320 kbps AAC24/192 MQA (partly lossy)

So, why would anyone want to pay more than $10 per month for essentially the same sound quality? Audiophiles have previously been ready to pay a premium for Qobuz and Tidal, in part because they work with the Roon subscription music player and information service, which many audiophiles have embraced. Qobuz and Tidal both have their own editorial material, transporting subscribers back to the glory days of vinyl records with “liner notes” that can be read while listening. Some listeners may prefer a particular service’s interface and apps—one that’s of the reasons I’ve persisted with Spotify, despite the fact that I can’t get lossless music from it yet.

Whether you choose to upgrade to lossless audio streaming or not, the option is now available to you at the touch of a button in an app. While the announcements from Apple and Amazon are bad news for streaming services attempting to compete with the tech titans, they are fantastic news for music listeners.


You may also like

Subscribe

Latest articles

An Analysis of the Apple Watch Ultra

The robust Apple Watch Ultra is an amazing adventure-focused...

6 Solutions to the Raspberry Pi Shortage

At the moment, there is a severe lack of...

Fujifilm Fujinon XF 150-600mm F5.6-8 R LM OIS WR Review

The all-weather construction, internal zoom design, and top-notch image...

Review of the second-generation Apple AirPods

Because of their outstanding noise cancellation and audio performance,...

Disclosure: Written and researched by the Get Gear Tech crew. We spotlight services and products you may discover fascinating. If you happen to purchase them, we could get a small share of the income from the sale from our companions. We could obtain merchandise freed from cost from producers to test. This doesn't drive our resolution as to whether a product is featured or beneficial. We function independently from our promoting group. We welcome your suggestions. Please e-mail us at [email protected] 

GGT
GGT
Get Gear Tech is an affiliate-based website that tests and reviews the best tech, appliances, gear, and more. You can trust our veteran reviewers and experts to find the best stuff just for you. Get Gear Tech strives to be probably the most trusted product suggestion and service on the web. We obsessively test and report on thousands of things annually to suggest one of the best of all the things. We aim to save lots of you time and get rid of the stress of buying, whether or not you’re on the lookout for on a regular basis gear or items for family members. We work with complete editorial independence. Meaning nothing seems on the location as a suggestion until our writers and editors have deemed it one of the best by our rigorous reporting and testing.

DIG DEEPER WITH RELATED posts

find out more!