Apple Music lossless audio just revealed — and it's coming soon

Apple Music lossless
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Two weeks ago, it was rumored that Apple would be launching its own high-fidelity lossless audio tier for subscribers at no extra cost. 

Now, thanks to 9to5Google, we have confirmation that the feature definitely exists and an idea of what the offering will look like. The site took apart the Apple Music 3.6.0 beta APK from Android’s Google Play Store, and found evidence of high-quality music streaming and download options hidden in the code. 

Currently on Apple Music, quality is toggled in the app settings with one option for high quality streaming, and another one for data saving. The new code mentions high resolution audio, as well as Apple’s warnings about the consequences of turning it on whether you’re streaming or downloading for offline use.

“Lossless audio files preserve every detail of the original file,” the warning reads. “Turning this on will consume significantly more data.” The text goes on to explain the difference in actual numbers: 10GB of your device’s storage space could hold 3,000 songs at high quality, it explains, but only 1,000 tracks with lossless or 200 with high-resolution lossless quality.

It then goes on to describe the data used to stream a track. According to Apple’s figures, currently a 3-minute song will chew through around 1.5MB of data at the lowest quality or 6MB at 256kbps high quality. The new options will dramatically increase this: 36MB for lossless 24-bit, 48kHz audio, or 145MB for high-resolution lossless at 24-bit, 192kHz. 

The new lossless options will apparently utilize Apple’s ALAC codec, as opposed to the usual AAC the company typically uses for compression.

Interestingly, there appears to be a big divergence between iOS and Android, too. While a previous 9to5Mac dig found references to Dolby Atmos and Dolby Audio in the beta build of iOS 14.6, there’s no such mention of Dolby in the Android teardown. Given the new tier isn’t even official yet, let alone live, there’s a chance that this could be an oversight.

We’d previously heard a slightly dubious rumor that lossless Apple Music will arrive with AirPods 3 on May 18. That feels like it could be too soon, but the references to lossless audio in the code strongly suggests that this is a feature that will be coming sooner, rather than later. When it arrives, the rumor is that the upgrade will be included in the $9.99 monthly subscription, which would give it a clear advantage over the likes of Deezer, Tidal and Amazon Music Unlimited. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.