Apple has today announced that Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos and Lossless Audio are coming to Apple Music subscribers beginning June 2021 at no additional cost.
Apple describes Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos as a “revolutionary, immersive audio experience that enables artists to mix music so the sound comes from all around and from above,” with the resulting listening experience sounding “like magic.”
At launch, Spatial Audio will be available on thousands of songs from some of the world’s biggest artists, including J Balvin, Gustavo Dudamel, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Kacey Musgraves, and The Weeknd.
Apple says that it “will be adding new Dolby Atmos tracks constantly and will be curating a special set of Dolby Atmos playlists to help listeners find the music they love.” In addition, albums that are available in Dolby Atmos will have a badge on the detail page for easy discovery.
Apple Music will also make its catalog available in Lossless Audio. 20 million songs will be available at launch, with Apple saying that its full 75 million catalog of songs will be available by the end of the year.
Apple uses ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), which the company says preserves “every single bit of the original audio file” and ensures that you hear “the exact same thing that the artists created in the studio.”
By default, Apple Music will automatically play Dolby Atmos tracks when listening on any AirPod and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. You will also be able to hear Dolby Atmos music using the built‑in speakers on a compatible iPhone, iPad, MacBook Pro, or HomePod.
Because of its higher bandwidth usage, Lossless Audio will not be enabled by default:
To start listening to Lossless Audio, subscribers using the latest version of Apple Music can turn it on in Settings > Music > Audio Quality. Here, they can choose different resolutions for different connections such as cellular, Wi-Fi, or for download. Apple Music’s Lossless tier starts at CD quality, which is 16 bit at 44.1 kHz (kilohertz), and goes up to 24 bit at 48 kHz and is playable natively on Apple devices. For the true audiophile, Apple Music also offers Hi-Resolution Lossless all the way up to 24 bit at 192 kHz.
What Apple didn't make clear in its announcement, was which devices are needed to play Lossless Audio. They have, however, now confirmed to 9to5Mac that Lossless Audio will not be supported when using any bluetooth headphone. This means that if you use AirPods or AirPod Pro, you are out of luck. Apple also confirmed that “AirPods Max currently does not support digital audio formats in wired mode.”
The HomePod and HomePod mini are also on the list of Apple devices which won't support Lossless Audio.
Note that Hi-Res Lossless requires external equipment such as a USB digital to analog converter.
9to5Mac offers the following Simple guide to the hardware needed for each new Apple Music feature:
- Lossless: a wired headphone (except for AirPods Max with Lightning/3.5mm cable).
- Hi Res Lossless: a wired headphone connected to an external DAC.
- Spatial Audio: any AirPods or Beats model with Apple’s W1 or H1 chip (Apple says that users can manually enable this option for other headphones). Spatial Audio will also be available on compatible Macs.
Apple hasn't said when in June the new features will become available, but has said that they will require iOS 14.6, iPadOS 14.6, macOS 11.4, or tvOS 14.6.
Post a comment below to let us know your opinions and expectations for what the changes will mean for Apple Music and the listening experience.