You’ve probably heard the rumor, but in case you haven’t, here’s the meat of it. Apple Music may soon go to a “lossless” tier, offering higher quality audio as part of the streaming service.
Apple currently broadcasts music at a bitrate of 256 kbps, which is lower than Spotify’s 320 kbps. but Apple uses its own AAC audio codec that can deliver higher quality audio at a lower bit rate.
256 kbps currently in use is more than adequate for most people, and by most I mean numbers over 90 percent. Why shouldn’t you care about Apple Music going lossless?
The weakest link
As with many other things in life, your audio experience is as good as the weakest component of your entire audio system.
For many (and we can easily say the majority) it’s the headphones. If you use earphones of any kind, they are limited by their frequency response, which is a physical limitation due to their miniature size.
They fall into this category if you’re using the included earbuds or if you’re using high-end earbuds like AirPods Pro or FreeBuds Pro.
Even the AirPods Max can’t benefit from a lossless format as that too has its limitations and as a rule of thumb, anything connected via Bluetooth is likely to detract from the experience.
Now let’s talk about those who did Invest in quality earbuds. Because of their size, they can accommodate larger drivers, so their frequency range can be much lower and much higher. You might see some improvement if you’re in this category, but it will likely go unnoticed to the untrained ear.
The last weak link is your ear. Depending on their age, human ears can usually pick up sounds in the range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. And while this frequency range is usually enough for a great listening experience, it is important to “know” what is being heard in order to actually hear the difference.
Who will benefit in the end?
Let’s talk about the ones who could benefit from a lossless streaming experience. I believe connecting your Apple Music to your headphone amplifier and listening to the pre-amplified output with a pair of planar magnets or other high-end headphones is the only way to really tell the difference. I still use the OPPO PM-1 plugged into its own headphone amplifier.
Switching from Apple’s current 256 Kbit / s (or Spotify’s 320 Kbit / s) to lossless is a much smaller difference than switching from 128 Kbit / s to 320 Kbit / s, to draw the analogy.
If you’ve followed my logic, you will likely agree that you are not part of the “elite” audiophile. Don’t get me wrong, I love when my music sounds great and in general I tend to buy more upscale audio equipment, but that doesn’t make me an audiophile or audio fanatic. I count myself out and personally I couldn’t care less about becoming lossless. I am more than happy with the current streaming quality from Apple Music.
The price factor
… And then the elephant in the room: the price. Although rumor has it that Apple doesn’t charge any additional costs for the increased audio experience, we’re talking about Apple here. If the company can make money, make no mistake, it will do everything in its power to make that extra buck.
If lossless doesn’t cost anything, there’s a good reason not to bother because, simply put, you’re not losing anything. However, depending on your setup, you won’t get anything either.
However, if there is a bonus tax on the new quality stream then you (yes, you in the majority I described above) shouldn’t bother about it as it is money that is not well spent. Do not you believe me? Sign up for the trial version (we hope there is one so everyone can decide for themselves).