Both Amazon Music and Apple Music have announced that they will provide hi-fidelity streaming to subscribers at no added cost.
The companies unveiled their hi-fi streaming options this morning, via formal releases. Beginning with the announcement message from Amazon Music – which in March debuted an artist-merch store, including exclusive products from Weezer and Gwen Stefani – Unlimited subscribers in the US, Canada, the UK, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany can now upgrade to Amazon Music HD for free.
Amazon Music HD – which previously cost subscribers an extra $5 per month – encompasses north of 70 million lossless, high-definition songs, “with a bit depth of 16 bits and a sample rate of 44.1kHz (CD quality).” Additionally, Amazon Music HD currently offers seven million tracks in Ultra HD, which is “better than CD quality” and comes “with a bit depth of 24 bits and a sample rate up to 192 kHz.”
The Ultra HD song total has increased by over five million since Amazon Music began supporting the format in 2019, according to the text, and Amazon Music HD also boasts “a rapidly-growing catalog of songs remixed in 3D Audio formats” – the 16 tracks on Taylor Swift’s Folklore among them.
Apple Music, for its part, “is bringing industry-leading sound quality to subscribers with the addition of Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos” beginning next month. Plus, Apple – which recently revealed that it has 660 million subscribers across all services and hired an in-house professional for new Beats designs – won’t charge Apple Music users to access some 75 million songs in “lossless audio.”
On the spatial-audio front, Apple Music by default “will automatically play Dolby Atmos tracks on all AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip, as well as the built-in speakers in the latest versions of iPhone, iPad, and Mac.”
Furthermore, the six-year-old Apple Music is set to add new Dolby Atmos songs “constantly,” curate special playlists for the works, and label Dolby Atmos albums with a badge on their “detail page.”
Worth mentioning is that Apple Music intends to work “with artists and labels to add new releases and the best catalog tracks, as more artists begin to create music specifically for the Spatial Audio experience. … Initiatives include doubling the number of Dolby-enabled studios in major markets, offering educational programs, and providing resources to independent artists.”
The release also contains statements from Gustavo Dudamel, Giles Martin, Manny Marroquin, and J Balvin in support of spatial audio and Dolby Atmos. The “Mi Gente” artist relayed: “I’m really excited to be part of this project with Apple Music because I always want to be a step ahead and I think this is one of those steps.
“With Lossless, everything in the music is going to sound bigger and stronger but more importantly, it will be better quality. Hearing myself and my music in Dolby Atmos for the first time, it was just crazy, it blew my mind, it’s indescribable. I think fans will really love this new experience,” finished the 36-year-old Colombia native.
Finally, in terms of the previously noted lossless audio, Apple utilizes “ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) to preserve every single bit of the original audio file,” thereby allowing listeners “to hear the exact same thing that the artists created in the studio.”
To start listening to lossless audio (beginning “at CD quality, which is 16 bit at 44.1 kHz” and going “up to 24 bit at 48 kHz”), Apple Music subscribers must navigate to the app’s settings section, selecting “music” and then “audio quality.” And “for the true audiophile,” Apple Music will make available “Hi-Resolution Lossless all the way up to 24 bit at 192 kHz.”
However, subscribers have to opt into the latter, owing to the considerable file sizes and data involved, and will need “external equipment, such as a USB digital-to-analog converter (DAC).”