page title icon Lossless Audio Coming to Podcasts

As originally reported in PodNews by James Cridland:

Apple Music is to launch lossless audio for all 75M songs on the platform (at up to 24-bit 192kHz), and “spatial sound with Dolby Atmos” – audio which will only work on AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip, which changes as you move your head. There’ll be no additional charge for this service.

Amazon Music has announced that “Amazon Music HD will be able to all subscribers at no extra cost”: including 7 million songs in “hi-res” (24-bit, 192kHz audio at up to 3730 kbps).

Spotify HiFi isn’t yet launched, but it’s been spotted in the wild. It’s an “upgrade”, which we’d assume is a paid-for product currently.

YouTube Music has no plans to exceed 256kbps AAC, citing music licensing costs.


Seems cool, but I think it’s a bell and a whistle that most won’t care about and, even if they do, won’t have the means to fully enjoy anyway.

Human beings have an incredibly difficult time telling the difference between something played at 44.1/16-bit/128kbps and 48/24-bit/320kbps, not least of all because most people don’t have headphones or speakers through which these tiny differences could be noticed even if you had the cyborg ears necessary to notice them anyway.

But with music that’s not true, you idiot!

Yeah, that’s true. With music it’s easier, and a 128kbps mp3 does sound noticeably different than a 320kbps wav… but between 192kbps and 320kbps? Nope. Sorry, nope. And for dialogue? FOR PODCASTS!? It would be hard to discern the difference between even 96kbps and 320kbps for almost anyone, and even if it wasn’t, we’re talking about dialogue. You really care enough about your favorite podcaster’s voice to take it from “sounds great” to “sounds perfectly replicated”?

Most of you aren’t audiophiles, and I would say, even as an audio engineer, that I’m not an audiophile.

And can we talk about the size of these files if they were being streamed? Lossless wavs, even if they are just 44.1/16-bit/320kbps, can be hundreds of megs large. And one that was for an audio drama with sound design and Dolby friggin’ Atmos 7.1 surround sound? You’re going to stream that to your phone? And listen to it on your Skullcandy ear buds? While walking in a busy city? Come on, no you’re not. And let’s not even mention the accessibility issues this presents for those in areas with poor internet, limited data contracts, or older devices… they don’t get to play at all.

I’m not unexcited about this, I just think it’s an improvement that most won’t benefit meaningfully from

QCode quality productions not withstanding, my love of high quality audio not withstanding, the practicability of streaming lossless audio (in regards to anyone truly appreciating it, and in regards to the immense increased cost of doing it) just, in my opinion, isn’t there.

Doesn’t mean I won’t sign up for it, I definitely will, I just see it as a move to outcompete the other guy on the basis of “our technology is superior, our sound is technically better, and so you should pay for Apple Music instead of Spotify (or vice versa).” The truth is, while it might sell more people, or convert more users from one platform to the other, it’s all part of the marketing efforts of each involved platform and unless you’re a genuine audiophile, you’re not going to care or notice.

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