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Is Hi-Res Audio Coming to Apple HiFi Music?

Is Apple about to launch a lossless music streaming tier called Apple HiFi Music on May 18th? Will it also include Hi-Res streaming as an option? Maybe.

Apple Music Device Screenshots 2020

UPDATE (May 17, 2021): Apple Announces Lossless Audio, Dolby Atmos and Apple Digital Master coming to Apple Music in June 2021

May 18th is less than 2 days away and all eyes will be on the Apple website on Tuesday to see if the rumors are true. It’s distinctly possible as we’ve been reporting over the past few weeks that Apple will be making two significant announcements on the 18th; the release of the 3rd generation Apple AirPods, and the release of its new Apple HiFi Music streaming tier.

Apple offering a lossless streaming platform is big news; let’s not pretend that it has zero meaning for the high-end audio industry or the other streaming platforms. With Spotify HiFi coming at some point in 2021, Apple had to make a move.

It was impossible for Cupertino to sit on the sidelines and be the last major digital music streaming service to offer lossless music. Not with the number of Spotify Premium customers around the globe who could make the jump to Spotify’s planned lossless tier at any moment.

Apple can barely keep up with the demand for its hardware; the new iPhone 12, iPad Pro, and AirPods earphones are some of the best-selling products in the world. Why would it walk away from the opportunity to sell its Godzilla-sized customer base lossless streaming?

But what about Hi-Res lossless streaming?

Does the Apple Music customer care about Hi-Res streaming? What percentage of that number have ever experienced Qobuz or Tidal?

Many years ago, I asked Gordon Rankin (CEO of Wavelength Audio and Designer of the AudioQuest DragonFly Series DACs) why Apple had not decided to support 16-bit/44.1kHz digital playback.

The answer was not that Apple didn’t care about CD-quality playback but that the demands on bandwidth for mobile device users would be incredibly high and that consumers might not want to pay for better sound quality because it would negatively impact their phone bills.

Ever try to stream 24-bit/192kHz on your smart phone for a month? Give it a whirl for a month on a daily basis 2-3 hours each day and see if your bill is any different.

Apple Digital Masters

The other reality is that Apple have been collecting 24-bit PCM hi-resolution digital music files from musicians and music labels for a number of years under its Mastered for iTunes program, which was recently renamed Apple Digital Masters. Also see whitepaper (pdf) for technical details of the program.

There’s no question that Apple have accumulated millions of tracks in 16-bit/44.1kHz and those will make up the vast majority of its offerings on Apple HiFi Music when it launches.

The plot thickens after the release of information from 9to5Google which leaked that the 3.6 Beta of Apple Music for Android features a disclaimer for users that lossless streaming will eat up more memory on their devices and that consumers will consume more data…”

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None of that is earth-shattering news but the last part of the warning was far more interesting.

Lossless streaming will consume significantly more data. A 3-minute song will be approximately: – 1.5 MB with high efficiency- 6 MB with high quality at 256 kbps- 36 MB with lossless at 24-bit/48 kHz- 145 MB with hi-res lossless at 24-bit/192 kHz. Support varies and depends on song availability, network conditions, and connected speaker or headphone capability.9to5Google

Why would that even be mentioned unless Apple plans on offering Hi-Res audio as an option?

The plot thickens. Or it just makes things murkier for consumers, Spotify, and Qobuz.

For more information: 9to5Google

UPDATE (May 17, 2021): Apple Announces Lossless Audio, Dolby Atmos and Apple Digital Master coming to Apple Music in June 2021

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