Apple launch spatial audio and lossless audio on Apple Music – how to upgrade today for free

How to upgrade your audio quality for free now that spatial audio and lossless audio are available on Apple Music.

Last month, Apple announced they would be rolling out spatial audio and lossless audio to Apple Music at no extra cost.

What are spatial audio and lossless audio?
Spatial audio

According to Apple, spatial audio with Dolby Atmos is set to “transform music” as we know it today. Until now, music has traditionally been limited to stereo, while surround sound has largely been reserved for TV and films. By mixing music in surround sound, spatial audio adds a whole new dimention to music, giving the listener an immersive experience.

The launch of AirPods Pro introduced spatial audio with dynamic head tracking. This adjusts the virtual positioning of audio based on the physical positioning of your head and your iPhone or iPad. The feature is still available for films watched on iPhone or iPad with AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Apple Music will introduce spatial audio with dynamic head tracking on more Apple devices in the fall.

For more information on spatial audio, watch the roundtable discussion on the future of sound with Apple Music 1 presenter Zane Lowe, producer & Atmos ambassador No I.D., producer, mixer and engineer Sylvia Massy, and producer Manny Marroquin.

Artists and producers interest in experimenting with mixing spatial audio will find tools in Logic Pro later this year.


Lossless audio

The majority of streamed audio online is sent to our devices as MP3 files, or on Apple Music as AAC files. These files are usually compressed to a maximum of 320 kbps for MP3s or 256 kbps for AACs. This is generally considered to be enough for most day-to-day use on a lot of consumer grade gear, however it is far from what the artist or producer hears in the studio when playing the original uncompressed audio files on higher end gear. Lossless audio on Apple Music is streamed to your phone, tablet, computer or TV as ALAC files (Apple Lossless Audio Codec). These files are available as 16-bit/44.1 kHz, which is CD quality and roughly translates to 1411 kbps, and goes up to 24-bit/192 kHz for Hi-Res Lossless audio, which roughly translates to 9216 kbps.


What I need to enjoy spatial audio and lossless audio?
Subscription

Spatial audio and lossless audio are available to all Apple Music subscribers.


Operating system

You’ll need an Apple device running the operating system below or later:

  • iOS 14.6
  • iPadOS 14.6
  • macOS 11.4
  • tvOS 14.6

Dolby Atmos is coming soon to Android.


Equipment

Spatial audio

Spatial audio is available to enjoy on many speakers and headphones such as Dolby Atmos compatible sound bars, Dolby Atmos enabled AV Receivers and TVs that support Dolby Atmos audio. Most new Apple and Beats devices also support spatial audio, including:

  • AirPods
  • AirPods Pro
  • AirPods Max
  • BeatsX
  • Beats Solo3 Wireless
  • Beats Studio3
  • Powerbeats3 Wireless
  • Beats Flex
  • Powerbeats Pro
  • Beats Solo Pro
  • Built-in speakers on:
  • iPhone XR or later (except iPhone SE)
  • iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later)
  • iPad Pro 11-inch
  • iPad (6th generation or later)
  • iPad Air (3rd generation or later)
  • iPad mini (5th generation)
  • MacBook Pro (2018 model or later)
  • MacBook Air (2018 model or later)
  • iMac (2021 model)

Spatial audio is supported on HomePod speakers, but only when connected to an Apple TV 4K.

Lossless audio

While the built-in speakers on your iPhone, iPad and Mac support lossless audio, the speakers (particularly on iPhone) are so small, the difference will be negligible. To make the most of lossless audio, you’ll want some external speakers or headphones. Unfortunately Apple and Beats headphones use Apple’s AAC Bluetooth Codec, which is not lossless. HomePod and HomePod mini also currently use AAC, but support for lossless audio on HomePods is coming in a future software update. To stream lossless music you’ll need to hook up your device to headphones, receivers or powered speakers with a wire. Apple’s Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter used to connect your phone to headphones/speakers and Apple’s Lightning to 3.5mm Audio Cable for AirPods Max, both contain a digital-to-analogue converter that supports up to 24-bit/48 kHz lossless audio. For audio quality higher than 48 kHz, you’ll need an external digital-to-analogue converter.

On the Apple TV 4K, just hook up the box to an AV receiver using an HDMI cable.


How to enable spatial audio and lossless audio?
Spatial audio

By default, iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple TV 4K will be set to Automatic. Automatic will play Dolby Atmos content when you are playing content on a recognised supported devices, such as those listed above. If you want to force Dolby Atmos because you’re playing music on a third party Dolby Atmos supported device:

iPhone and iPad

  • Head to Settings – Music
  • Then switch Dolby Atmos to Always On.

Mac

  • Open Apple Music
  • Head to the menu bar, click MusicPreferences
  • Click the Playback tab
  • Choose Always On

Lossless audio

iPhone and iPad

  • Head to SettingsMusicAudio Quality
  • Switch on Lossless Audio
  • Here you can choose the quality of cellular streamed music, Wi-Fi streamed music and downloads
    • Choose Lossless for a maximum of 24-bit/48 kHz
    • Choose Hi-Res Lossless for a maximum of 24-bit/192 kHz

Note Lossless Audio consumes a lot more data that regular audio files, so be aware of your data limits and storage size. To upgrade any existing downloaded music, you’ll need to remove the downloads and then redownload once you’ve switched on Lossless for downloads.


Mac

  • Open Apple Music
  • Head to the menu bar, click MusicPreferences
  • Click the Playback tab
  • Under Audio Quality, select Lossless
  • Here you can choose the quality of streamed music and downloads
    • Choose Lossless for a maximum of 24-bit/48 kHz
    • Choose Hi-Res Lossless for a maximum of 24-bit/192 kHz

To upgrade any existing downloaded music, you’ll need to remove the downloads and then redownload once you’ve switched on Lossless for downloads.


Apple TV 4K

  • Head to SettingsMusicAudio Quality
  • Select Lossless

Apple TV does not support Hi-Res Lossless (higher than 48 kHz).


Where to find spatial audio and lossless audio content?

When you’re streaming spatial audio or lossless audio, you’ll see a Dolby Atmos or Lossless badge on the Now Playing screen. If every track on an album is available in spatial audio or lossless audio, you’ll see the badge on the album’s detail page. Apple’s radio stations and music videos aren’t available in lossless audio.

Apple have said that over 20 million lossless songs are available for streaming today. The entire Apple Music catalogue will be available by the end of the year.

As music has been consumed in stereo for so many years, the need for mixing audio in surround sound has been largely unnecessary. For this reason a lot of the over 75 million songs on Apple Music aren’t available in spatial audio. Luckily Apple Music have collated all of the information, songs, albums and playlists available in their Spatial Audio hub. Here’ll you’ll find the best new songs and albums with spatial audio, as well as pop, hip-hop, rock and more playlists, solely featuring spatial audio. Check out Made for Spatial Audio to get started, with 100 songs including a demo showing the difference of mono, stereo and spatial with Zane Lowe and Marvin Gaye.


If you want to experience spatial audio and lossless audio for yourself on Apple Music but you aren’t yet subscribed, Apple Music costs $9.99 per month, with Apple currently offering a three month free trial for new customers.

To distribute your own lossless music to Apple Music for free, click here.

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