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Spatial and Lossless Audio Go Live in Apple Music

Posted June 9, 2021 | Android | Apple | Apple Music | iOS | iPadOS | Music + Videos | Windows


Yesterday, Apple enabled spatial and lossless audio in Apple Music across its own platforms, with Android support coming soon.

Apple announced it was adding these features to Apple Music back in May, but the big surprise was that they would be free additions, and not available only in an extra-cost subscription tier. This scrambled Spotify’s plans for lossless audio, and Amazon announced that day that its Amazon HD lossless capabilities would be free as well in response.

There’s also been a lot of confusion around which devices will support these capabilities. Apple Music’s spatial audio capabilities are provided by Dolby Atmos and work fine with many headphones and most smartphones and tablets, but not with many speaker systems. And Apple Music’s two lossless tiers have even more complicated compatibility issues, especially with Apple’s own audio hardware. Its HomePod smart speakers, for example, will get Apple Music lossless support in the future via a software update.

I tested Apple Music spatial audio yesterday using my iPad Air, which features four speakers and should be a decent on-device experience, and I tried via my Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds, which I paired with my iPhone 11 Pro Max, but they don’t appear to support Dolby Atmos. And I have to say, the results were impressive in most cases, even with the devices’ built-in speakers. And this makes me wonder about a future Dolby Atoms-compatible speaker setup for the home.

If you’re interested in this functionality, I recommend starting with Apple’s “Made for Spatial Audio” playlist, which is being promoted in the app. It steps you through mono, stereo, and spatial versions of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and several other songs (most of which have stereo and spatial versions).

Browsing through the surprisingly large library of songs with spatial versions, most sound great, but there are some odd outliers that I’ve sampled that sound a bit off. And a user on Reddit discovered that there is a “spatialize stereo” feature in the iOS Control Panel that will apply a fake immersive effect on stereo songs too. It’s all quite interesting and worth checking out if you’re a music fan.

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