How to Listen to Apple Music Lossless and Spatial Audio on Any Device – This year, Apple Music received a major update, and it is now available for free to all members, including Android users. Starting with roughly 20 million tracks and increasing to the complete catalog by the end of 2021, Apple’s full collection of over 75 million tracks will be available in a lossless audio format using ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Compression). All tracks will eventually be accessible in a hi-res lossless version with a maximum resolution of 24bit and 192kHz. Additionally, some tunes will be Dolby Atmos compatible, allowing them to be played on compatible devices such as most Apple and Beats headphones. On albums, there are labels that indicate which formats are available.
However, not everyone will be able to appreciate these formats; each one requires specific technology. (As for software, you’ll need to update your Apple device to iOS 14.6, iPadOS 14.6, macOS 11.4, or tvOS 14.6 to use these new formats.) Here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need to get started.
Remember that these new formats require iOS 14.6, macOS 11.4, or tvOS 14.6 or later, and they will only appear if your device does.
Apple Lossless Music
The ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) is used by Apple Music Lossless to preserve all of the information in the original CD-quality master. It begins at 16 bits and 44.1 kHz and progresses to 24-bit and 48 kHz. You’ll need wired headphones because no bluetooth device, including Apple’s AirPods, can decode this format.
Open Settings, then Music, then Audio Quality, and select Lossless or Hi-Res Lossless for cellular or Wi-Fi connections to activate this format on your iPhone or iPad. On a Mac or Apple TV, you’ll need to go into Settings or Preferences to enable this option. You can use Lightning headphones with the iPhone because it includes a built-in DAC that supports 24-bit, 48kHz. The Mac’s 3.5mm port also supports 24-bit, 48kHz audio. The Dolby Atmos toggle is found in the Audio settings for Android devices.
Furthermore, Apple’s 3.5mm Lightning headphone adapter has its own DAC, which supports 24-bit, 48kHz, allowing high-end wired headphones to operate. Apple’s Lightning to 3.5 mm Audio Cable for the AirPods Max, on the other hand, does not allow Lossless streaming.
Wired headphones or speakers are required as listening equipment. Apple Music Lossless will not be supported by any of Apple’s AirPods or Beats wireless headphones. Even when using a Lightning connector, the AirPods Max won’t operate because it only accepts analog connections and subsequently converts them to digital. Apple claims support for Apple Music Lossless will come “in a future software update,” but that won’t be until iOS 15, which is expected to launch in the autumn.
Apple Music Lossless Hi-Res
Lossless audio in high-resolution is a step up from lossless audio in CD quality. It can go as high as 24 bit at 192kHz. It has the same requirements as normal Lossless, but it also requires external hardware, such as a USB DAC or receiver, that can handle 24-bit audio up to 192kHz. A USB-to-Lightning dongle for your iPhone or Mac is also required.
Supported listening devices: As with Apple Music Lossless, your wired headphones or speakers must be linked to an external DAC capable of handling 24-bit 192kHz audio, which is then connected to your Apple device. Hi-Res Lossless is not supported by HomePod or Apple TV.
Although the number of tunes available in Dolby Atmos is unknown, Apple has created many playlists dedicated to the new format. Many more Apple devices are now compatible with Dolby Atmos: any AirPods or Beats product with a W1 or H1 chip, as well as the latest iPhones, iPads, and Macs, will automatically play suitable tracks in Dolby Atmos. Other headphones can be forced to use Dolby Atmos by going to Settings > Music > Audio and adjusting the Dolby Atmos setting to Always On.
Spatial Audio on Apple Music
Supported listening devices: When a track with Dolby Atmos is played, Spatial Audio will be activated automatically if you have any of the following headphones. On the latest iPhones, iPads, and Macs, it will also automatically play from the internal speakers, and you can force it on for other listening devices using the way above. You must connect your Apple TV to a sound system that supports Dolby Atmos (or use AirPods).
- AirPods Pro
- AirPods Max
- Wireless Beats Solo3
- Studio 3 by Beats
- Wireless Powerbeats 3
- Flex outperforms
- Pro Powerbeats
- Solo Pro by Beats
Spatial Audio is only available with Apple earphones, as Apple Music on Android does not support the format, even when AirPods or Beats are used. With wired headphones, some Android phones that support Dolby Atmos, such as the newest Galaxy S phones, will provide spatial audio.
Android Apple Music
Some iPhones and Android phones will include Dolby Atmos speakers as well, though the effect will be considerably less visible. Apple specifies that spatial audio will be supported by “built-in speakers on an iPhone XS or later (excluding iPhone SE), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd generation or later), iPad Pro 11-inch, or iPad Air (4th generation).”
Digital Masters by Apple
You should be aware that the “Apple Digital Master” label on an album or track is simply a rebranding of the original “Mastered for iTunes” feature. It has nothing to do with the track’s output format; it’s simply a mechanism for Apple to promote recordings encoded directly from 24-bit studio masters. This is how Apple describes it:
We are able to provide the highest possible audio quality to our Apple Music and iTunes consumers by starting with the best available masters. Engineers are producing high-resolution masters specifically for us, and our latest encoder can take advantage of every bit of them. The results are practically indistinguishable from the original 24 bit studio masters, both for streaming and download.
To use Apple Digital Masters, you don’t need any extra hardware—all it’s about Apple producing its files from a very high-quality source.
Downloads from iTunes
Apple Music customers will be able to redownload music in lossless format only from the Apple Music collection by deleting and redownloading the original track. Previous iTunes purchases will not be upgradeable, and new tracks purchased from the iTunes Music Store will only be available in AAC format.