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Rumor: Apple Music May Be Getting a High-Fidelity Streaming Tier

Dolby Audio references in iOS 14.6 hint that Apple Music may soon get high-fidelity audio.


Apple Music may soon announce a new, lossless audio streaming option alongside the upcoming launch of the company’s rumored third-generation AirPods wireless earbuds.

Apple Music Hi-Fi Due Within Weeks?

The rumored new high-fidelity tier may launch within weeks, Hits Double Daily reported.

The rumored high-quality tier is said to command the same $9.99/month asking price as the standard Apple Music plan, according to label sources. By comparison, Amazon Music’s high-definition tier is $14.99/month ($5 more than a standard plan).

In terms of quality, Apple Music currently offers audio streams at a maximum bit rate of 256kbps. In comparison, rival Spotify’s high-quality sound option available to Premium subscribers also maxes out at 256kbps.

Related: New Apple Music Features to Try in 2021

Both Apple Music and Spotify take advantage of the efficient AAC audio codec which generally achieves higher sound quality than MP3 at the same bit rate.

While the report does not substantiate claims with evidence, 9to5Mac has unearthed references to an unreleased high-definition option for Apple Music in iOS 14.6 and iPadOS 14.6. Concretely, the Music app on iOS and iPadOS 14.6 includes references to “lossless audio,” “high-quality stereo streaming,” “HiFi,” “Dolby Atmos,” and “Dolby Audio.”

The site clarifies:

What makes it more interesting, however, is that these references were only included in iOS 14.6 beta 1. We also verified the internal files of iOS 14.5 and iOS 14.6 beta 2 (released this week), but the codes are not there. This suggests that the mentions of Dolby Atmos and Dolby Audio are indeed related to something new that Apple is trying to hide from us.

Apple currently only supports Dolby Atmos audio through the TV app.

Apple Music may also dynamically toggle between standard compressed audio and lossless streaming, automatically switching between the two depending on network conditions.

To be clear, Apple is currently testing iOS and iPadOS 14.5 with its registered developers so a public release is still a few weeks away. Conventional wisdom tells us that iPad 14.6 will probably launch alongside the new iPad Pros, which are expected on Friday, May 21.

Apple Music Hi-Fi Exclusive to AirPods 3?

It’s unclear whether the upcoming AirPods 3 will be compatible with the rumored Apple Music tier. At any rate, launching this audio tier alongside the next AirPods could easily suggest that the new high-quality option might be exclusive to the AirPods 3.

Since we’re speculating, the Apple H1 headphone chip in the current AirPods may be too slow or consume too much power to process lossless audio in real-time.

The report goes on to note that labels and publishers are thought to be “taking a wait-and-see approach” to see if the move will increase total Apple Music subscribers or merely convert existing subscribers to the new offering.

Apple Music passed 60 million paid accounts in June 2019. Apple has since given no update on subscriber growth. In the meantime, rival Spotify just reported 158 million paid accounts and a whopping 208 million ad-supported free accounts.

On top of that, Spotify recently said it would start offering a high-definition tier of its own, but stopped short of revealing when that option might officially launch for its customers.

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