May 6, 2021

Apple Music’s hi-fi tier rumoured to arrive free and ‘within weeks’

Apple Music’s hi-fi tier rumoured to arrive free and ‘within weeks’

Apple Music’s rumoured hi-fi audio streaming tier is said to arrive “within weeks”, according to reports from the US citing sources at record labels.

Unlike Spotify’s hi-fi offering coming later in the year, Apple’s lossless hi-fidelity tier is expected to be a free upgrade for current $9.99-a-month subscribers.

Apple has not made a comment on the speculation, but 9to5Mac has discovered new beta code in the Apple Music app with references to “Dolby Atmos”, “Dolby Audio” and “Lossless”. The Dolby hi-fi sound formats were not previously found on the app.

Apple Music streaming maxes out at 256kbps AAC, while Spotify’s is at 320kbps. CD or studio quality at 1411kbps not only provides a greater listening experience but might bring in those purist audiophiles who have only been interested in Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz previously.

The Apple Music move could create problems for Spotify’s April 30 price hikes in Europe and the UK, and even see the American company punch into the Swedish platform’s globally leading market share.

Deezer has already cashed in on the price hike, issuing a statement.

“We just wanted to let you know that Deezer isn’t going to raise prices in the middle of the pandemic,” it said.

“Music, podcasts and radio help people cope and we don’t feel this is the time to make things harder for them.”

However, Warner Music Group CEO Steve Cooper said in his post-quarter analyst call that all streaming services will watch the price hike.

So far with Spotify’s earlier pricing moves in Australia, there has been no “churn”, that is, no subscribers pulling out in protest.

If the same thing happens in the larger European and UK music markets, there will definitely be moves from all streaming services to follow – which is what the music industry has been demanding for years.

“Our long-term expectations is that the [subscription pricing] gap between audio and video will have to erode… audio will have to make incremental gains over time,” Cooper suggested.

Apple’s hi-fi streaming is expected to launch alongside the third-generation ‌AirPods. The new product may have a smaller stem, interchangeable tips, a shorter charging case and other features such as active noise cancellation.