Apple Music Adds Atmos, Lossless Audio in Sound Quality Makeover

Apple today announced a sound quality makeover for its subscription-based Apple Music streaming service that expands its Spatial Audio surround-sound platform with support for Dolby Atmos and brings lossless audio to its music catalog.

Hailed as Apple Music’s “biggest advancement ever in sound quality,” both upgrades will be available to subscribers at no extra cost starting next month.

“Thousands of tracks will be available in Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos at launch, with more added regularly,” according to Apple, which said music from J Balvin, Gustavo Dudamel, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Kacey Musgraves, The Weeknd, and others will be offered in Atmos.

Dolby Atmos tracks will play automatically on all AirPods and Beats headphones that have an H1 or W1 chip, as well through the speakers built into the latest versions of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Apple said it plans to add new Dolby Atmos tracks on a regular basis and will curate Atmos playlists to make it easier to find music available in the format. Albums available in Dolby Atmos will also be highlighted with a badge.

“Apple Music is working 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,” the company said in today’s press release. Together, Apple and Dolby plan to double the number of Dolby-enabled studios in major markets, offer educational programs, and provide resources to independent artists to make it easier to create music in the objected-based Atmos format.

“Since recording began, artists, producers, and engineers have tried to paint pictures with sound, transporting listeners to worlds they never knew existed, even when the sound came from a single speaker,” said Grammy Award-winning producer and composer Giles Martin. “Now with the dawn of immersive audio, we can take the music lover inside the music. From the feeling of hearing your favorite artist in the same room as you, to the experience of sitting directly in the middle of a symphony orchestra, the listening experience is transformative and the possibilities for the creator are endless.

“This is a quantum leap in technology,” continued Martin, who is the son of The Beatles producer, the late George Martin. “I have so far had the pleasure of mixing some of the greatest artists in history in Dolby Atmos. With this work I have found myself falling into albums I love. There is a unique experience of being able to fully immerse myself in music that, although is familiar, suddenly sounds new, fresh, and immediate.”

Lossless quality music will also start rolling in June with all of Apple Music’s more than 75 million songs getting the sonic upgrade by the end of the year. Apple said 20 million songs will initially be available across all genres, including hip-hop, country, Latin, pop, and classical.

The Apple Lossless Audio Codec, or ALAC, is being used to “preserve every single bit of the original audio file.” Subscribers using the latest version of Apple Music can turn on lossless audio by going to Settings and selecting Music and then Audio Quality where they can choose different resolutions for download or connections such as cellular or Wi-Fi. The Lossless tier starts at 16-bit/44kHz CD quality and goes up to 24 bits at 48kHz. High-resolution 24-bit/192kHz playback is also supported but requires an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC).

“The soul and life of the mix is sitting in the extra bits of data that are stored in the lossless file,” said mastering engineer Piper Payne. “Having the ability to convey the music to the listener at its highest quality is the end goal of what I work for every day.”

For more information, including a list of compatible Apple devices, visit apple.com.