Apple revealed Monday that it is stepping up its audio quality for Apple Music subscribers with the addition of lossless streaming music and Dolby Atmos spatial audio when played back over certain devices including: Apple TV, HomePods and earphones.

Apple said “spatial audio gives artists the opportunity to create immersive audio experiences for their fans with true multidimensional sound and clarity. Apple Music subscribers will also be able to listen to more than 75 million songs in Lossless Audio — the way the artists created them in the studio. These new features will be available for Apple Music subscribers starting next month at no additional cost.”

Perhaps the most striking news was Apple’s announcement that both lossless audio and Dolby Atmos music will be included in the the standard Apple Music subscription upon launch in June. Many competitive high resolution music streaming services charge a sometimes significant premium for their high-quality music tiers.

The addition of Dolby Atmos to Apple Music will go up against Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format, which is offered on specially higher-priced streaming music services including Deezer, TIDAL and Both Dolby Atmos and 360 AR are designed to give 3D-like listening qualities to specially produced and processed song files.

In systems that lack dedicated multi-channel speakers, Dolby Atmos is used to virtually expand and widen the overall sound and depth — sometimes for just stereo speakers — producing more realistic tonal characteristics

Dolby Atmos, which for the past several years has been used for 3D audio support on movies and television programs, was developed as an object-based audio format offering sound dimensions that seem to come at the listener from multiple directions, including overhead. In theatrical performances, the effect often seems to follow on-screen objects around on the screen.

“Apple Music is making its biggest advancement ever in sound quality,” stated Oliver Schusser, Apple Music and Beats VP. “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. Subscribers will also be able to listen to their music in the highest audio quality with Lossless Audio. Apple Music as we know it is about to change forever.”

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The company said that Apple Music will by default automatically play Dolby Atmos tracks on all AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip, as well as the built-in speakers in the latest versions of iPhones, iPads, and Macs. For the Apple TV devices, Dolby Atmos music can be experienced using connected to earphones.

It will also work on HomePod and the Apple TV 4K connected to a compatible multi-channel Dolby Atmos speaker set-up.

The enhanced service is based on Apple’s tvOS 14.6, which is scheduled for release in June.

As for new lossless music options, Apple Music will is upgrading and adding to its catalog of more than 75 million songs with high-resolution versions in Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC). Apple said in this way, “Apple Music subscribers will be able to hear the exact same thing that the artists created in the studio.”

“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.1,” the Apple statement said.

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By Greg Tarr

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