Apple Music getting spatial audio and lossless streaming — what you need to know

Apple Music spatial audio
(Image credit: Apple)

Apple Music is confirmed to get spatial audio and Hi-Res Audio support this June, following rumors of a new "Apple Music Hi-Fi" subscription tier.

Instead of a new tier, these upgrades will instead be available to all Apple Music subscribers, with no change to the current $9.99 monthly subscription fee. Apple had earlier posted a teaser on the Apple Music app, promising that “music is about to change forever.”

Apple's announcement didn't include an AirPods 3 reveal, as previously rumored, but Apple Music subscribers will be able to listen to spatial audio-mastered tunes with the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max. In fact, any Apple or with an H1 or W1 chip will work, as will the iPhone 12 series' speakers.

"Thousands" of tracks will be mastered for Dolby Atmos, which in turns makes them compatible with spatial audio, also a 3D surround sound format. This is a huge step forward for spatial audio in general, as previously it was never available to enjoy with music: the only Atmos-mastered content you could use spatial audio with was movies and TV shows. Apple Music is therefore bringing it to a whole new medium.

Apple Music will also offer a choice of lossless playback formats. "CD quality" 16-bit/44.1kHz streaming will be available if you don't want want to use too much data, but a 24-bit/48kHz option will be available too. This tips Apple Music into true High-Res Audio territory, though be warned that trying to play Hi-Res music on an iPhone can be tricky. 

Enabling either of these two formats will be much easier: you'll be able to simply open Apple Music's setting, navigate to "Music" then select "Audio Quality."

Apple hasn't said when exactly in June these changes will take effect, though again, they're free upgrades: Apple Music subscriptions will remain at $9.99 per month. 

That could make it quite the deal for those who want to try lossless/Hi-Res Audio streaming, as competing streaming services with hi-fi tiers — like Tidal and Deezer — cost more. And Spotify, which recently raised the price of its premium tier, hasn't even launched its own lossless tier yet.

Hopefully, when Apple does reveal the AirPods 3, it too will support Apple Music's newfound spatial audio capabilities — and will be able to play lossless audio at its best.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.