Your music never sounded so good.
Streaming audio has revolutionized the way we listen to music in a relatively short amount of time — no longer are you tethered to bulky CD players and MP3 players with limited capacity.
No, now you can listen from basically anywhere to just about anything you could imagine. However, CDs and MP3s (to an extent) have always held one edge over streaming audio — sound quality.
Digital audio is measured in kbps, or kilobytes per second. Simply put, the more kbps the music, the higher quality the sound is. The gold standard in this space is CD audio, which comes in at a whopping 1411kbps! The downside to a higher bitrate (how many kilobytes per second the music is at), unfortunately, is a massive increase in file size. Hence, most streaming services offer a mid-range bitrate to save bandwidth and resources. This is fine for the casual listener, but what of those with more discerning ears and expensive headphones?
According to Apple’s press release, lossless audio and Dolby Atmos spatial audio will be coming to Apple Music to all customers…for free!
Great news for audiophiles, or just big audio nerds like myself. But what does it mean?
As mentioned earlier, digital audio is comprised of different bitrates, which can increase or decrease filesize and audio quality. With lower bitrates, data is actually taken out of the file, resulting in worse audio quality. A good comparison between various bitrates is below. As you can hear, more bits per second result in much higher quality:
Apple’s lossless audio means you will get the best sounding music possible, though it may chew through your data plan quite quickly. The other half of the announcement, Dolby Atmos, is perhaps even more exciting.
Dolby Atmos, or spatial audio, provides a surround sound experience through digital trickery and clever algorithms. Simply put, your music will sound like it’s literally surrounding you, rather than coming from left and right as in traditional headphones. All AirPods and Beats headphones will support this feature by default, along with all iPhone, iPad, and Mac built-in speakers.
Not to be outdone, Amazon has also included similar features in its default plan as of this week, while Spotify’s offering is widely expected to release in the coming weeks.