by Jason Snell
Is a higher-quality Apple Music tier on the way?
Music industry site Hits Daily Double reported Thursday that Apple Music is going hi-fi:
Apple will announce a new high-fidelity audio streaming tier in the coming weeks at the same $9.99-per-user price point as its standard plan, label sources are telling us. The announcement is expected to coincide with the launch of the third-generation AirPods. Whether these will be compatible with the new, improved audio offering is unknown.
It’s interesting to note that many Apple leaks end up coming from somewhere other than Apple, especially if it’s in the notoriously leaky entertainment industry. Here we’ve got a music label spilling the beans.
And here’s 9to5Mac reporting that there are hints of this within iOS 14.6:
9to5Mac can now confirm that a HiFi plan may indeed be coming to Apple Music. In the first beta build of iOS 14.6, which was released last week to developers, we found new code added to the Music app that specifically mentions “Dolby Atmos,” “Dolby Audio,” and “Lossless.” Despite supporting Apple’s own HiFi audio codec ALAC, the Music app has never offered support for Dolby Atmos or Dolby Audio.
Back in February, when Spotify announced it was going to roll out a high-quality option, Apple became the last major Music service not to offer one. At the time, I suggested that Apple couldn’t afford to be left out:
Regardless of the actual appeal of high-resolution audio to a broad audience, the fact remains that Apple is currently behind all its competitors. It will lead to a perception that Apple doesn’t care as much about audio quality as Spotify—and that’s not great for competition, even if most people won’t see the value in paying for a lossless version of their music library.
What’s even more intriguing is the possibility that Apple could roll its Spatial Audio feature, available for movies and TV shows on the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, into Apple Music as well. As I wrote in February:
Imagine Apple Music offering access to multichannel audio that, combined with AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, can provide an audio experience that goes way beyond lossless audio in plain old stereo.
The pieces are there. Apple’s probably got the clout (and the cash) to encourage record companies to release multichannel mixes. And it would put Apple back in a position of leadership, instead of where it finds itself this week—behind Spotify and just about everyone else.
I look forward to hearing whatever Apple is cooking up.