Apple Music received a big update this year, and it’s free to all subscribers, including Android users. The entire catalog of over 75 million tracks will be available in a lossless audio format using ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Compression), starting with some 20 million tracks and extending to the entire catalog of by the end of 2021. Eventually, all tracks will be available in a high-resolution lossless format at a maximum of 24-bit and 192kHz. Additionally, some tracks will benefit from Dolby Atmos support, which can be played with compatible devices, including most Apple and Beats headphones. You will see labels on the albums that will tell you the available formats.
Update 23/7: The Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio tracks in Apple Music are now available on Android phones.
But not everyone will be able to take advantage of these formats; you will need specific materials for each of them. (And software: You need to update your Apple device to iOS 14.6, iPadOS 14.6, macOS 11.4, or tvOS 14.6 in order to use these new formats.) Here’s a simple breakdown of what you need to use these new formats.
Remember: These new formats require iOS 14.6, macOS 11.4, or tvOS 14.6 or later, but they will only appear if your device specifically supports them.
Apple Music Lossless
Apple Music Lossless uses the ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) to keep all the information of the original master in CD quality. It starts at 16 bit, 44.1 kHz and goes up to 24 bit, 48 kHz. No Bluetooth device, not even Apple’s AirPods, can decode this format, so you’ll need a wired headset.
To activate this format on your iPhone or iPad, open Settings, then The music, then Audio quality and choose between Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless for cellular or Wi-Fi connections. You will also need to access settings or preferences on a Mac or Apple TV to enable this feature. The iPhone has a built-in DAC that supports 24-bit, 48kHz, so you can use a pair of Lightning headphones. The Mac’s 3.5mm port also supports 24-bit, 48kHz. On Android devices, you can find the Dolby Atmos toggle in the audio settings.
Additionally, Apple’s Lightning 3.5mm Headphone Adapter includes its own DAC that supports 24-bit, 48kHz so that high-end wired headphones will work. However, the Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable sold by Apple for AirPods Max does not support lossless streaming.
Supported listening devices: Headphones or wired speakers are required. It should be noted that none of Apple’s AirPods or Beats wireless headphones will support Apple Music Lossless. Even AirPods Max, when plugged in via a Lightning cable, won’t work, as they only accept analog connections and then convert back to digital. HomePod does not currently support Apple Music Lossless, although Apple says support will arrive “in a future software update,” which likely won’t be until iOS 15 arrives in the fall. .
Apple Music Hi-Res Lossless
High-resolution lossless audio is a step up from the standard CD-quality lossless format. It goes up to 24 bits at 192 kHz. It has the same requirements as the regular Lossless but also requires external hardware capable of handling 24-bit audio up to 192kHz, such as a DAC or USB receiver. And you will also need a USB to Lightning dongle for your iPhone or Mac.
Supported listening devices: The requirements are the same as with Apple Music Lossless, but you will need your wired headphones or speakers to be connected to an external DAC capable of handling 24-bit 192 kHz audio, which in turn is connected to your device. Apple. HomePod and Apple TV do not support lossless high resolution.
It’s unclear how many tracks will be available in Dolby Atmos, but Apple has several dedicated playlists for the new format. Many other Apple devices are supported: every AirPods or Beats product with a W1 or H1 chip will automatically play Dolby Atmos compatible tracks, just like the latest iPhones, iPads and Macs. You can force it for other headphones by opening Settings > The music > audio and changing the Dolby Atmos setting to Always on.
Supported listening devices: If you have one of the following headphones, Spatial Audio will be automatically activated when playing a track with Dolby Atmos. It will also play automatically from the internal speakers on the latest iPhones, iPads and Macs automatically, and you can force it for other listening devices via the above method. You need to connect your Apple TV to an audio device that supports Dolby Atmos (or use AirPods).
However, Spatial Audio is limited to Apple headphones because Apple Music on Android will not support the format even when using AirPods or Beats. Some Android phones that support Dolby Atmos, such as the latest Galaxy S phones, will support spatial audio with wired headphones.
The speakers of some iPhones and Android phones will also play in Dolby Atmos, although the effect will be much less noticeable. Apple specifically states that “built-in speakers on an iPhone XS or later (except iPhone SE), 12.9-inch iPad Pro (3rd generation or later), 11-inch iPad Pro, or iPad Air (4th generation)” will support loads spatial audio.
Apple Digital Masters
If you see the âApple Digital Masterâ label on an album or track, be aware that this is simply a rebranding of the old âMastered for iTunesâ feature. It has nothing to do with the output format of the track, it’s just a way for Apple to promote tracks that have been encoded directly from the 24-bit studio masters. Apple explains it this way:
By starting with the best possible masters, we are able to provide our Apple Music and iTunes customers with the best possible audio quality. Our latest encoder can take advantage of every bit of the high-resolution masters engineers create especially for us. The results, both for streaming and downloading, are virtually indistinguishable from the original 24-bit studio masters.
You don’t need any special hardware to enjoy Apple Digital Masters. It’s about Apple creating its files from a very high quality source, that’s all.
Apple Music subscribers will be able to re-download lossless music only from the Apple Music catalog by deleting the original track and re-downloading it. Previous iTunes purchases will not be upgradeable and new songs purchased from the iTunes Music Store will be limited to AAC encoding.
I have written professionally about technology for my entire working adult life – over 20 years. I like to understand how complicated technology works and explain it in a way that everyone can understand.