Apple has just announced a substantial free upgrade to their Apple Music catalogue. Starting next month, Apple Music will be gaining ‘Spatial Audio’, as well as Lossless Audio format for the entire catalogue. Read on to find out why this is exciting stuff!
If you’re unfamiliar with it, Apple Music is Apple’s answer to Spotify - a streaming music service with an enormous selection of albums, all available for a monthly fee. We included it in our list of the Best Music Apps for your phone, praising the strength of its catalogue and solid integration both with most modern tech.
The upgrades announced today will make Apple Music even better, allowing for 3D audio and far higher-quality audio. Let’s look at these individually.
Spatial Audio is a method of adding 3D depth to music and audio - it simulates a full Surround Sound system without the need for a massive setup of speakers. Using this, you can feel like you are in the middle of your music, with different elements of the track seeming to appear from different directions (i.e drums behind you, singer by your side). It makes listening far more immersive - not just for music, but podcasts and movies too!
Apple’s Spatial Audio supports ‘Dolby Atmos’, which is the gold standard in 3D, ‘object-based’ audio. Object-based audio is a very clever method of simulating 3D space - in effect the system isolates the individual elements of an audio track, and then balances them carefully between the left and right channels to make them sound like they are playing from a certain direction.
To give an example - in a movie scene, the camera is in a car driving along the motorway. Using object-based audio, the system would be aware of the sound of the other cars passing by on the road. It would therefore play the sound so it sounded like it was coming behind you, before shifting to the left channel as it overtook the camera, before reducing the sound as it drove away. With 3D music, it’s designed so that it feels like you’re sitting in the middle of a band session, with the musicians all at slightly different positions, in order to give an immersive quality to the track.
Spatial Audio isn’t a new thing - Apple added it to their Airpods Pro headphones in September 2020. However the range of compatible music was fairly slim - this time around they have significantly expanded the selection, allowing you to experience 3D audio with a wide range of your favourite music!
The second improvement is the addition of ‘lossless’ audio to Apple Music. Basically, this is extremely high-quality audio that tries to get as close as possible to the original recordings, sacrificing none of the small details in the songs.
By themselves, audio files are very large - anywhere from 50-200Mb per song. These are just too large for everyday use - they take a long time to download, and you can’t fit as many on your phone/music player. So the majority of digital audio is ‘compressed’ - sacrificing audio quality for significantly smaller files sizes. The most popular compressed audio format is an ‘mp3’, which is synonymous with digital audio.
While compressed (a.k.a ‘lossy’) audio formats have historically been used to save space - and because mobile headphones simply weren’t high quality - the last few years has seen a push for higher quality digital audio. Phones can hold more data now, plus audio streaming has become the norm and headphone quality has vastly improved.
Enter ‘lossless audio’ - this is an audio format that aims to sacrifice none of the audio quality of the original file. The files are significantly larger, but the quality is far far higher - you won’t feel like you’re listening to your tunes through a bad speaker or car radio anymore.
Apple has really gone the extra mile, and has upgraded the entire Apple Music catalogue to lossless format - that’s 75 million songs you can listen to in extra-high quality if you want to. Be aware that using lossless audio will consume more data (because the files are far larger) and you’ll need some good headphones to listen to them, otherwise you won’t be able to hear any difference.
A free upgrade to high quality music
The best part of all of this? Both the spatial audio and lossless formats will be a free upgrade for anyone using Apple Music. Apple hasn't given us a specific date, but they’ve announced the upgrade will be arriving some time next month.
While Apple Music does work on Android phones, it really shines when you’re using an iPhone. So if you’re interested in getting ultra-high quality music, why not check out the latest range of iPhones here on Kagoo - we recommend the iPhone 12 Mini or the iPhone 12 Pro Max.