Apple Music to reportedly stream at 256kbps, below Beats Music and industry rivals

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited June 2015
Apple is putting a 256kbps cap on Apple Music streaming, a report said Tuesday, a bitrate lower than competing top-tier offerings from Spotify and the service's own Beats Music forebear.




According to Slashgear, Apple Music will stream 256kbps files, in line with Apple's current iTunes Match product. The report does not mention whether the bitrate is to be reserved for "high quality" streaming, or made standard across both Apple Music and Beats 1 radio.

Apple's existing Beats Music currently streams MP3 files to desktops and mobile devices at 320kbps on the high end. Mobile users also have the option to conserve data and stream at a standard quality of 64kbps using the HE-AAC codec.

By comparison, market giant Spotify fields three bitrates using the Ogg Vorbis format. Normal mobile quality is set to 96kbps, desktop and high quality mobile is pegged at 160kbps and Premium subscribers get access to 320kbps streams on any platform.

Tidal, the upstart streaming service backed by Jay Z, provides its top-tier subscribers with lossless quality tracks, while regular subscription streams are limited to a maximum 320kbps.

Looking beyond numbers on a page, there has been much debate as to whether human ears can effectively discern differences in quality at higher bitrates. The issue is made more confusing when considering a gaggle of codec options, deviations in onboard audio converters and output hardware, the latter being a major drawback for iOS device owners using Apple's included EarPods.

It can be argued that 256kbps is a sweet spot that balances perceived gains in audio fidelity with acceptable bandwidth overheads.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 108
    thewhitefalconthewhitefalcon Posts: 4,453member
    So it's the exact same quality as iTunes Plus songs that I already enjoy? Sounds good to me.
  • Reply 2 of 108
    adamwadamw Posts: 114guest
    It all depends which Audio CODEC they choose to use. MP3 does not usually achieve the results of new CODECS like HE-AAC.
  • Reply 3 of 108
    boltsfan17boltsfan17 Posts: 2,181member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post



    So it's the exact same quality as iTunes Plus songs that I already enjoy? Sounds good to me.

    I was just going to post that I'm disappointed in hearing this but I totally forgot about iTunes Plus. iTunes Plus sounds really good to me, even better than 320kpbs mp3's I have. Now the only downfall, most of the music I have from iTunes aren't Plus songs. 

  • Reply 4 of 108

    Apple should just claim its 1024 bits, because no one can tell the difference anyway.

  • Reply 5 of 108
    sestewartsestewart Posts: 102member

    256kb is fine for my iTunes Match today. It runs great whether in an LTE area or an HSPA+ area, and doesn't eat too much data if you have a larger data plan. Smaller capped plans at less than 3gb will be pinched with Apple Music on the go, which is why the offline mode will help. 

  • Reply 6 of 108
    chadmaticchadmatic Posts: 285member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Maury Markowitz View Post

     

    Apple should just claim its 1024 bits, because no one can tell the difference anyway.


    Absolute rubbish!

  • Reply 7 of 108
    You should give the option (even if limited to the paying tier) wether on mobile devices or iTunes on the computer.
  • Reply 8 of 108
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    Would love to hear from the sensationalists spreading this garbage how they came up with the idea that 320 Kbps mp3 is "better" than 256 AAC.

     

    It is not.

  • Reply 9 of 108
    nkingmannkingman Posts: 44member

    Has there been any research done to see if the average user can tell the difference between 128, 256, 320? I'm talking about your average music listener, not audiophiles.

  • Reply 10 of 108
    mutatiomutatio Posts: 27member
    Way back in the day, I was testing regular MP3 codecs along with Apple's AAC and then at the time what was Nero's implementation of AAC. At 128kbps Apple's codec sounded the best and I haven't looked back since. I encode CDs at a VBR with a 256 cap, much like the $1.29 iTunes tracks, and it all sounds great!
  • Reply 11 of 108
    schlackschlack Posts: 700member
    Wish they would just stream analog signals! infinite kbps! Ear drum quality sound and Retina quality displays!
  • Reply 12 of 108
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    You'd think Jimmy Iovine would be pushing for hi fidelity. Anyway there's nothing unique about this service. I'm sure it will do well enough just because it's preinstalled on tens of millions of iPhones.
  • Reply 13 of 108
    vfx2k4vfx2k4 Posts: 43member
    Bummer- they should at least offer a hi-res option for folks who know their HiFi...
  • Reply 14 of 108
    Perhaps 256k is where their going to start off from and maybe raise it when they see the traffic that their service gets. Would you rather they be conservative and up it later or be liberal and have the service crash servers repeatedly?
  • Reply 15 of 108
    dororkedororke Posts: 5member
    Will Apple Music enable you to store in an offline mode like Spotify so you can play back without having to be connected to the internet?
  • Reply 16 of 108
    coolfactorcoolfactor Posts: 1,534member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Boltsfan17 View Post

     

    I was just going to post that I'm disappointed in hearing this but I totally forgot about iTunes Plus. iTunes Plus sounds really good to me, even better than 320kpbs mp3's I have. Now the only downfall, most of the music I have from iTunes aren't Plus songs. 




    This article doesn't do justice. It doesn't indicate which CODEC Apple will be using. Likely 256kbps HE-AAC is better than 320kbps MP3s that Beats has been using, so the new Apple Music streams *will* actually beat this "competitor".

     

    As for the songs you have from iTunes, just purchase iTunes Match and all of your songs will be upgraded to 256kbps automatically. That's one of Match's perks.

  • Reply 17 of 108
    vl-tonevl-tone Posts: 337member

    Everyone knows that 256K AAC is at least as good or better than 320K MP3 and I highly doubt that Apple is using MP3.

     

    This article needs to be updated, or completely removed because its premise is flawed.

  • Reply 18 of 108
    michael scripmichael scrip Posts: 1,912member
    coolfactor wrote: »
    This article doesn't do justice. It doesn't indicate which CODEC Apple will be using. Likely 256kbps HE-AAC is better than 320kbps MP3s that Beats has been using, so the new Apple Music streams *will* actually beat this "competitor".

    vl-tone wrote: »
    Everyone knows that 256K AAC is at least as good or better than 320K MP3 and I highly doubt that Apple is using MP3.

    This article needs to be updated, or completely removed because its premise is flawed.

    Exactly.

    I read the headline and immediately knew what I would encounter in the comments.

    I thought the 256kbps AAC vs 320kbps MP3 debate was settled long ago...
  • Reply 19 of 108
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 5,179member
    Who gives a ****? 256AAC is plenty. For the 1% of people that for some reason require more, they can use another service.
  • Reply 19 of 108
    wawajeywawajey Posts: 2member
    So the bigger the Kbps maybe be best comparison if we talking the same format, but AAC and MP3 are really different compressions people, 320kbps MP3 may not be necessarily better sound quality than 256 Kbps AAC will run the test on audition and let you know
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