Apple started the legal music download revolution with iTunes, which removed copy protection programs from its music downloads, and in 2007 spearheaded a major digital music quality upgrade with the launch of iTunes. More.
More than a decade later, the company is somewhat behind in the music business by diffusion, something Steve Jobs used to say. When it comes to the quality of music, Apple is not ahead, but behind.
It’s time for Apple Music to get an update, and some technologies Apple recently released might even help it outperform its rivals when it comes to audio quality.
Audio quality facts
Last week, Spotify became the latest music service to switch to high-definition audio, joining Amazon, Tidal and other services that deliver lossless audio to their subscribers.
Let’s contextualize this. Most digital music, downloaded or from diffusion, uses data compression algorithms to reduce file sizes. This was extremely important in the beginning when the device’s storage space and internet bandwidth were limited.
These algorithms generate much smaller files than the originals, but on the contrary, they lose audio quality. At low speed, everything seems muffled. With the most common bitrates of early MP3s, the music sounded great, but if you listened carefully you could hear strange things. For me they were very evident with the cymbals and the percussion became white noise.
With the introduction of Apple’s iTunes Plus, the standard bit rate has been doubled. Today, this is Apple Music’s default audio quality. Spotify’s default quality is in the same range, if you have a paid subscription. (Free accounts get access to much lower quality replay.)
All of these compression algorithms remove detail from the audio in exchange for smaller files. But there is another way to compress audio files known as lossless compression. The files are much larger (although much smaller than the uncompressed files!), But they don’t remove anything from the original CD-quality file.
Personally, I think the current bitrates are good. Only the best ears will tell the difference between a lossy file and a lossless file. Still, most will notice it, and others will like to know they’re getting the original sound, even if they’re not sure they can tell the difference.
Beyond the curve
Beyond the current appeal of Hi-Res Audio to a wider audience, Apple still lags behind its competition. This might lead you to think that Apple doesn’t care as much about audio quality as Spotify, and that’s not good for the competition, although most people don’t think it’s worth paying for one. lossless version.
This is why it seems inevitable that Apple will have to upgrade and come up with a high quality version, supposedly encoded with Apple’s own lossy compressed codec, ALAC. The company will not allow Spotify to make Apple Music perceived as second-rate when it comes to audio quality.
If Apple does, it will surely charge extra to access these high-quality versions, although they may be part of some of the Apple One bundles.
Go beyond lossless audio
But I think Apple can even outperform Spotify and can help itself with some things Equipment of your company. The AirPods Pro and AirPods Max are very good quality headphones, but they also support spatial audio, which decodes multi-channel audio from movies and series and positions the sound in a space around the listener.
For years, the music industry has experimented with multi-channel audio. I bought several DVD-Audio discs in the 2000s that offered a mix of high quality audio and 5.1 audio that I could play at home. These audio formats failed, but the ones I bought sounded good and made me believe that multi-channel audio could be successful.
Between AirPods and Apple TV, Apple has access to offer multi-channel audio output directly to the ears of its users and surely also in the living rooms of their home as long as they have a pair of speakers or a speaker plugged in. . . sound bar.
Imagine if Apple Music offered this multi-channel audio that, combined with the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max, could deliver an audio experience that goes beyond the lossless audio of a standard stereo.
The parts are there. Apple has the clout (and the money) to encourage record companies to release multi-channel music. And that would put Apple back in a leadership position, instead of where it is now: behind Spotify and everyone else.
If you are interested, you can read our opinion piece Why I changed Apple Music to Spotify.
Original article published in igamesnews US.