Apple Music will receive two major updates next month: support for high-quality lossless audio and for spatial audio via Dolby Atmos. But even more surprising, the features will be available for free to all subscribers. The company says it will have 75 million lossless audio songs in its catalog by the end of the year and 20 million to start. Anyone listening via AirPods or Beats using the H1 or W1 chip or the built-in speakers in the latest versions of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac will have spatial audio enabled by default.
To enable lossless audio, subscribers must be on the latest version of Apple Music and can go to Settings> Music> Audio Quality. There they can choose different resolutions for different connections, such as mobile, wifi or download.
Apple Music’s lossless audio starts at CD quality, which is 16 bit at 44.1 kHz and up to 24 bit at 48 kHz natively on Apple devices. It tops out at 24 bit at 192 kHz. For the highest quality lossless files, there is one major problem: subscribers need external equipment to enjoy the 24-bit 192 kHz files, including a USB digital-to-analog converter.
Lossless audio now becomes standard in the largest music streaming apps. Amazon just announced today that it is making Amazon Music HD available for free to Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers, and Spotify plans to launch its HiFi tier later this year. Tidal also offers what it calls “Tidal Masters”, which can surpass even 96 kHz / 24 bit high-resolution audio.