[16bit vs Reality]Apple’s Lossless Streaming is Here. This Is How It Compares to the Competition

  It is official: 2021 is the year of lossless streaming. It’s taken years and huge leaps in technology, but it’s finally getting easier to listen to high-quality audio without taking out the record player or CD player. That’s because Apple and Spotify are both introducing lossless streaming tiers this summer. And that’s on top of an already packed list of lossless streaming services that have been around, such as Tidal, Amazon, Qobuz and Deezer.

  The other kicker is that lossless streaming is also getting cheaper. Since Apple is introducing a lossless tier to Apple Music at no extra cost (an Apple Music subscription is $10/month), it’s forced the hands of other streaming services. For example, Amazon just announced that its lossless tier, Amazon Music HD, is now available to all eligible Amazon Music Unlimited subscribers at no extra cost (which, again, costs $10/month).

  If you’re interested in upping your music subscription so that you can listen to CD-quality (or better) audio, we’ve rounded up the lossless streaming services that will allow you to do just that.

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  Apple has just enabled its new lossless quality options in Apple Music, letting subscribers turn up the quality of their tunes at additional cost. That instantly makes a $10/month subscription to Apple Music one of the best deals in lossless streaming. To make this lossless streaming possible, Apple has introduced a new proprietary codec called ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), which starts streaming at CD quality (16bit / 44.1kHz) and this audio quality will play natively on all Apple devices, such as iPhones, iPads and Macs.

  The service will also be able to play higher-resolution audio files, up to 24-bit / 192 kHz), but you’ll need to have an external DAC that supports it to experience them. Also, Lossless audio only works over a wired connection but AirPods Max do not support Lossless even when in wired mode.

  Additionally, Apple Music will be able to spatial audio and Dolby Atmos tracks, for listeners craving that more immersive experience. (Note: only Apple’s newest devices will support these spatial audio and Dolby Atmos tracks.)

  To turn it on:

  ? Go to Apple Music

  ? Go to the menu bar and select Music > Preferences

  ? Select the Playback tab

  ? Under Audio Quality, enable or disable Lossless

  Number of lossless tracks: 75 million (by end of 2021)

  Max streaming quality: 16bit / 192kHz

  Supported formats: AAC, ALAC

  Price: $10/month (three-month free trial for new users)

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  tidal app

  Tidal HiFi is one of the oldest and best known lossless streaming services. It lets you listen to 70 million tracks in lossless CD quality sound. You also listen to Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) certified tracks, which are even higher resolution (up to 24bit/96kHz), as well as audio tracks like 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos Music. The big advantage to subscribing to Tidal HiFi is that you get access to artist exclusives, music videos and live concerts.

  Number of lossless tracks: over 70 million

  Max streaming quality: 24bit / 96kHz

  Supported formats: AAC, ALAC, FLAC

  Price: $20/month (30-day free trial for new users)

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  amazon music hd app

  Amazon launched its lossless streaming service (Amazon Music HD) in the fall of 2019, and it has two big selling points. First, it’s affordable; it costs $8/month for Prime members (or $10/month for non-Prime members). And secondly, it allows you to listen to really high resolution audio. There are two different tiers of lossless audio to choose from. There are “High Definition” tracks, which are roughly CD quality, there are “Ultra HD” tracks, which are 24-bit/192kHz and the highest-resolution audio that’s available for streamers.

  Number of lossless tracks: over 60 million of “High Definition” tracks; millions of “Ultra HD” tracks

  Max streaming quality: 24bit /192kHz

  Supported formats: FLAC

  Price: $18/month for Prime members; $10/month for everybody else (90-day free trial for new users)

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  deezer music app

  Deezer HiFi is probably the best alternative to Tidal HiFi, as both are able to play lossless CD-quality FLAC files. The advantage of a Deezer HiFi subscription is price — it’s cheaper and offers a substantially longer free trial for new users. The downside is that it doesn’t support Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) tracks, like Tidal, so it can’t quite match the audio quality.

  Number of lossless tracks: over 70 million tracks

  Max streaming quality: 16bit / 44.1kHz

  Supported formats: FLAC

  Price: $15/month (90-day free trial for new users)

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  qobuz music app

  Qobuz is one of the best lossless streaming services because of its intuitive app and large catalog of lossless and ultra-high-resolution tracks. (If you’re looking for the best quality audio, Qobuz and Amazon Music HD are your two best options.) The only real downside of Qobuz is that it lacks some of the additional features — like auto-generated radio stations, a karaoke mode and music videos — that other lossless streaming services have.

  Number of lossless tracks: over 70 million tracks

  Max streaming quality: 24bit /192kHz

  Supported formats: AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, WMA Lossless

  Price: $15/month (30-day free trial for new users)

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  spotify app

  Spotify recently announced its first lossless streaming service, Spotify Hifi, which will officially launch “later this year.” Not a lot is known about Spotify HiFi just yet, other then it will deliver “CD-quality” audio and work really well with Spotify Connect-enabled speakers (which is most wireless speakers). There is no news on how large its lossless music catalog will be. And we do not yet know pricing.

  Number of lossless tracks: TBA

  Max streaming quality: TBA (but we’re guessing 24bit / 96kHz)

  Supported formats: TBA

  Price: TBA

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