Music streaming has grown by unimaginable bounds over the last year, with the COVID 19 pandemic at large. This has caused a shift in the market, and two companies have decided to get on with the times before others-Apple and Amazon.
Apple is churning out one surprise after the other. Starting June 2021, its music streaming service Apple Music will get two new updates – the addition of high-quality, lossless audio, as well as spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos. This is the biggest update announced for Apple Music to date and will roll out to all Apple Music subscribers next month at no extra cost.
“Apple Music is making its biggest advancement ever in sound quality. Listening to a song in Dolby Atmos is like magic. The music comes from all around you and sounds incredible. Now we are bringing this truly innovative and immersive experience to our listeners with music from their favorite artists like J Balvin, Gustavo Dudamel, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Kacey Musgraves, The Weeknd, and so many more,” Oliver Schusser, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, said in a statement.
The lossless audio tracks will be available with the other tracks on Apple Music on the iPhone, Apple TV, Mac, and iPad, and you can choose between three quality standards for lossless music streaming – CD quality which is 16 bit at 44.1 kHz (kilohertz), the 24 bit at 48 kHz which is playable automatically on Apple devices and the Hi-Resolution Lossless all the way up to 24 bit at 192 kHz. If you want the highest quality, though, then you have to use an external, USB digital-to-analog converter to take advantage of the hi-resolution lossless tier.
As if that is not enough, Apple has also announced spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos. According to the Cupertino-based company, Apple Music would automatically play songs, Dolby Atmos-supported on all Air Pods and Beats headphones that come with an H1 or W1 chip. Since the latest iPhone, iPad, and MacBook models support Dolby Atmos, Apple Music will use their built-in speakers to provide the spatial audio experience. Apple said that new Dolby Atmos tracks would be constantly added (thousands of tracks will support Spatial Audio when it is launched) and that it would also work with artists and labels to add new releases and the best catalog tracks to bring music specifically for the Spatial Audio experience.
“Today marks the introduction of Dolby Atmos on Apple Music — a new music experience that is transforming how music is created by artists and enjoyed by their fans. We are working with Apple Music to make Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos widely available to all musicians and anyone who loves music,” said Kevin Yeaman, Dolby Laboratories’ president, and CEO.
On the same day, Amazon has announced that its high-quality streaming service Amazon Music HD would be made available to eligible Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers for free from the next billing cycle.
The move is being seen as a method to counter the stiff competition from Apple, which is bound to rise given Apple’s announcement. Amazon Music HD, first launched in 2019, has over 70 million sings and over 7 million Ultra HD tracks. Amazon Music Unlimited counted over 55 million subscribers since early 2020.
“When we first launched Amazon Music HD, our goal was to lead the industry by enabling music fans around the world to stream the best quality recording, the way artists intended their music to be heard,” said Steve Boom, VP of Amazon Music, in a statement. “We’re thrilled now to make Amazon Music HD available to everyone at no extra cost. All music fans should have access to this quality of music, and now they do,” he added. Lossless audio will now be available to all Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers at the same rate.
Should you wish to use the higher quality to the fullest, you will need a data connection that delivers at least 1.5 Mbps, and have access to headphones or speakers that support at least a 40 kHz dynamic range. Amazon said that music in 360RA can also be streamed via Amazon Music HD on Sony’s RA5000 and RA3000 speakers by using Alexa Cast. Amazon Music plans have been revised as well – the Amazon Music Unlimited Individual Plan costs $7.99/month for Prime members and $9.99/month otherwise and the Family Plan costs $14.99/month.