After clues in iOS 14.6 beta code and Apple Music for Android, and an intentional tease from the company, Apple has officially announced spatial audio with Dolby Atmos and lossless streaming. After all the hints and rumors, there are two new high-quality music options available through the streaming service. And the best part is Apple Music subscribers will have access to both at no additional cost when they arrive on the service next month.
Apple's AirPods Max are equipped with spatial audio capabilities, but the headphones only work well with your iPhone, iPad or Mac and there hasn't been much compatible content. With the addition of Dolby Atmos to Apple Music, you'll have an immersive option for listening to music akin to what Tidal HiFi and Amazon Music HD (which is also no additional cost as of today) already offer. Both of those services support Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio. Apple says the streaming service will automatically play music in Dolby Atmos on all AirPods and Beats earbuds and headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. Ditto for built-in speakers on "the latest versions" of iPhone, iPad and Mac.
Apple promises to make Dolby Atmos content easy to find with curated playlists and special badges. However, the company didn't go into specifics on the size of the music library here. It says "thousands" of songs will be available at launch, but didn't give any numbers. The company did say it's collaborating with Dolby to make it easier for artists, producers and engineers to create music in Dolby Atmos. It's also working with artists and labels to bring existing material to the format. Apple promises more tracks will be added "regularly."
Apple is also making its entire catalog of music available in lossless audio. Lossless streaming uses Apple’s ALAC codec (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) at up to 48kHz, while Hi-Resolution Lossless increases the quality to 192kHz. More specifically, Lossless starts out at CD quality 16 bit at 44.1 kHz and goes up to 24-bit/48KHz. Apple says 24 bit at 192kHz is meant for "the true audiophile." For that level of quality, the company warns you'll need some extra gear to make it worthwhile — like an external USB digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
The whole idea here is to capture the original detail of the studio recording. "This means Apple Music subscribers will be able to hear the exact same thing that the artists created in the studio," the company explained in a press release. You can access lossless audio by adjusting the audio quality settings in the Apple Music app and opt for different resolutions based on your connection.
Both Dolby Atmos and lossless audio will be available in Apple Music in June.