What happened to Spotify HiFi?

Smartphone running Spotify
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Of all the music streaming providers out there, Spotify is undoubtedly the go-to service for the majority of music fans. Spotify admits that high-quality streaming is the most requested feature subscribers want to see from it. 

But as 2022 draws to a close there is still no sign of the popular streaming service launching the Spotify HiFi tier any time soon. This is in spite of it being originally announced in February 2021, before the company indefinitely delayed it earlier this year.

It wasn't meant to be this way. We had anticipated that 2022 would be the year that the streaming giant gave the option of lossless audio to subscribers. But as we take stock of the year's audio highlights, we are no clearer in knowing why the service has been delayed, or whether the plans have finally been shelved.

There was a glimmer of hope back in October this year though, and the suggestion that a Spotify HiFi was still on the agenda when a Spotify survey was sent to a Reddit user after ditching Spotify for Apple Music. Inside, the survey asked former subscribers if they would consider returning to something called "Spotify Platinum" in the “next 30 days."

Several months on and a Spotify Platinum tier doesn't exist. But the survey listed the advantages this theoretical $19.99 tier would offer, and the list of features includes "HiFi," “Studio Sound," “Headphone Tuner," “Audio Insights," “Library Pro," “Playlist Pro” and “Limited-ad Spotify podcasts.” 

Spotify HiFi

(Image credit: Spotify)

Market forces

Despite the survey refueling the rumor mill that a lossless-audio tier could still be in the works, Spotify hasn't made any official announcement about its plans since it dashed hopes of an imminent roll out earlier this year. This happened with a comment that appeared in a thread on Spotify’s Community site: “We know that HiFi quality audio is important to you. We feel the same, and we’re excited to deliver a Spotify HiFi experience to Premium users in the future. But we don’t have timing details to share yet. We will of course update you here when we can.” 

There been no official comment on the survey from Spotify either. But if the $19.99 monthly cost seen in the survey is to be believed, it could be too steep for the majority of music fans, including quality-audio diehards. That's especially when you consider that lossless audio is already available for less on other platforms.

Both Apple Music and Amazon’s Music Unlimited surprised the world by adding lossless audio to their subscription packages at no extra cost (although Apple has sinces increased its prices). Some believe that’s the reason why Spotify HiFi has been put on the back burner: if it couldn’t be a driver of additional revenue, then it was no longer seen as a priority for the company.

In our analysis at the time the survey emerged, we felt that Spotify was re-examining whether the new tier could be used to squeeze a bit more money out of subscribers, but the company would certainly have its work cut out. For $3 less than the mooted $19.99 per month price in the survey, users can sign up for Apple One, giving them Apple Music, Apple ArcadeApple TV Plus and 50GB of iCloud storage. For $5 more, they can get all that for up to six people with an extra 150GB of cloud storage.

That’s the kind of value that companies the size of Apple can afford to offer, and it’s tough for a relatively small business like Spotify to beat. It may have been the first to do streaming music well, but now the competition is too fierce.

Spotify HiFi outlook 

Of all the music streaming providers out there, Spotify is undoubtedly the go-to service for the majority of music fans. Yet despite its popularity, it continues to lag behind rivals when it comes keeping up with subscriber demands for high-quality lossless audio content. 

There's long been a demand for better audio quality, as Tidal, Deezer, and Qobuz demonstrated with the arrival of their lossless audio streaming platforms several years ago, and a Spotify HiFi tier has been something that's often been talked about since 2017. So why hasn't it happened?

Joe Rogan talking on a microphone, Spotify on a phone and Neil Young at a performance

(Image credit: Carmen Mandato/Getty, Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock, Gary Miller / Getty)

OK, the intervening years have been troubling for the tech industry as households feel the increased financial pressure from rising costs post-pandemic. Plus, the service hit some troubles of its own in early 2022 when Neil Young removed his music from Spotify in protest for what Young felt was the spreading of Covid-19 and vaccine misinformation by the Spotify-owned show "The Joe Rogan Experience." A number of artists followed suit, and a reported $2 billion was wiped from Spotify's market value during that period.

Then there's the licensing issue hinted at by Spotify CEO Daniel Ek over lossless content, which as far as we're aware is still ongoing. So the fact that there's been no word on Spotify's HiFi tier right now, could just indicate that it has had other priorities this year. 

Of course, the market has shifted so much between times, with rivals offering lossless audio content for no additional cost, that it's not too difficult to imagine that Spotify may also be reevaluating its position and working out how it can make its long-awaited HiFi tier work best for music lovers. 

I for one certainly hope so, and look forward to updating you with more Spotify HiFi news in 2023.

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Lee Dunkley
Audio Editor

As a former editor of the U.K.'s Hi-Fi Choice magazine, Lee is passionate about all kinds of audio tech and has been providing sound advice to enable consumers to make informed buying decisions since he joined Which? magazine as a product tester in the 1990s. Lee covers all things audio for Tom's Guide, including headphones, wireless speakers and soundbars and loves to connect and share the mindfulness benefits that listening to music in the very best quality can bring.