Spotify HiFi one-ups Apple Music with lossless audio streams

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Spotify is preparing to offer higher quality music streams to subscribers in a number of markets, with Spotify HiFi set to offer lossless audio, a feature currently not available on Apple Music.




In its ongoing bid to fend off Apple's competing streaming service, Spotify used its Stream On virtual event on Monday to launch a new feature. Spotify HiFi will provide users with a CD-quality, lossless audio format.

Streamable via the Spotify app and through Spotify Connect-enabled speakers, the service will be an opt-in upgrade for Premium subscribers. Free-tier users will have to subscribe to listen to the higher-quality streams.

According to Spotify, the HiFi addition will let users "listen to their favorite songs the way artists intended," and that it was "consistently one of the most requested new features" of the service.





Spotify is working with "some of the world's biggest speaker manufacturers" to add Spotify HiFi support through Spotify Connect. The add-on will also be part of a "seamless music experience," namely for users to listen to the HiFi streams however they want.

Spotify HiFi will be made available in "select markets" later in 2021. More information on its availability will be offered by Spotify "soon."

The move could potentially give Spotify an advantage over Apple Music, which currently does not provide lossless music streams to its subscribers. It will also bring Spotify in line with Tidal, which has provided lossless audio streaming and "master-quality" tracks for some time.

However, the benefits of the Spotify HiFi service may not necessarily be noticed by all users.

The Pono music player and service, championed by legendary rocker Neil Young, was a short-lived attempt to provide audiophile-quality sound to its users. However, blind audio tests in 2015 found that people couldn't really tell the difference between the PonoPlayer and an iPhone.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 1,094member
    The Pono music player and service, championed by legendary rocker Neil Young, was a short-lived attempt to provide audiophile-quality sound to its users. However, blind audio tests in 2015 found that people couldn't really tell the difference between the PonoPlayer and an iPhone.
    Lossless, it's the "organic" for Audiophiles.
    tmayRayz2016Appleishtrackerozviclauyycsdw2001JWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 29
    I’m an avowed AM user (I do have several streaming accounts including Spotify and Qobuz), and this is admittedly a gamechanger. Looking forward to it...and when AM finally decided to do it and make it better. 
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 3 of 29
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,477member
    Well, since I was really rather surprised at how terrible Spotify sounds even at highest quality, this is...good news? 
    lkruppwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 29
    mknelson said:
    The Pono music player and service, championed by legendary rocker Neil Young, was a short-lived attempt to provide audiophile-quality sound to its users. However, blind audio tests in 2015 found that people couldn't really tell the difference between the PonoPlayer and an iPhone.
    Lossless, it's the "organic" for Audiophiles.
    Exactly. Apple Music's AAC format sounds better than any other 'non-organic' service.  I dabbled in hi-res files. Tried expensive cans and a dedicated headphone amp. Not worth the bother. If Apple ever launches a lossless tier, it will only be if they calculate that they can make a profit off of people who clearly have better ears than us normals. I upped my game with a set of AirPods Max. I'm good.
    edited February 2021 trackerozJWSCwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 29
    zimmiezimmie Posts: 651member
    mknelson said:
    The Pono music player and service, championed by legendary rocker Neil Young, was a short-lived attempt to provide audiophile-quality sound to its users. However, blind audio tests in 2015 found that people couldn't really tell the difference between the PonoPlayer and an iPhone.
    Lossless, it's the "organic" for Audiophiles.
    "Organic" at least means Monsanto wasn't involved in making the food. I do find it terribly amusing that one of the allowed "organic" pesticides is cobalt, though. It's one of the few inorganic pesticides available. Most others are consumer-grade chemical or biological weapons.

    Admittedly, psychoacoustics is not my specialty. Last I had heard, though, nobody had yet demonstrated the ability to distinguish lossless from 256 kbit AAC in ABX testing, let alone in double-blind. Seems like a great way to waste a lot of network throughput and battery power.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 29
    That lossless audio is gonna sound great with my waterproof BT speaker at the beach. (/s)
    viclauyycmuthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 29
    spheric said:
    Well, since I was really rather surprised at how terrible Spotify sounds even at highest quality, this is...good news? 
    You should try listening on speakers and gear worth more than an Oh'Henry bar. 
    winstoner71mobirdITGUYINSD
  • Reply 8 of 29
    I have quite a few Hi Res tracks and I can hear the difference even with CDs on my pretty decent home stereo.
    Yet the convenience of streaming with AirPlay has won me (I used to use the akward but great quality Pure Music)

    But zero benefit when using Bluetooth (at least on an iPhone that has AAC as the best Bluetooth codec).
    I find Apple Music tracks very good (with a Radsone ES100, short balanced cable and Tin HiFi P1s)
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 29
    I still like Apple Music best. a lot of music I can not find else where I can find it on Apple Music especially international music.  since now I can listen to any song from my birth country, it's making living here not too difficult for me.  thank you Apple Music for making international music available to us. I can also find music from my time  and that was pretty surprising to me.
    winstoner71
  • Reply 10 of 29
    I've blind-tested AM vs Spotify with many people over the years on my desktop HiFi system. About 3/4 instantly said Spotify was better. The others said they were close - but would prefer listening to the Spotify stream. That's 100% for the higher bitrate stream. (Dragonfly Red / Arcam DAC's).
    On my big Hi-Fi rig - it's not even a comparison... the 320 mp3 outshines the 256 AAC in detail and depth. (more information for the Chord DAC to upsample). 
    Tidal lossless blows them both away on most things - Tidal MQA blows everything away. Anyone with decent gear will acknowledge this. 

    If you are listening with Beats, AirPods or other lo-fi consumer products... sure, it doesn't matter - Lossless means nothing to you. 
    If you are listing on prosumer gear like Marantz, Denon, Yamaha, Pioneer - with sub $2k speakers and Monster Cables... you will notice a small/moderate difference. More if you have a dedicated DAC.
    If you are listening on HiFi gear... it's night and day. 

    This move by Spotify will be huge - and threatens Tidal more than Apple. Spotify isn't even thinking about Apple with this move. 
    If Spotify licenses MQA... look out! Spotify has far better curation and larger library than Tidal. 
    retrogustomuthuk_vanalingamapplecoredITGUYINSDchemengin1
  • Reply 11 of 29
    rain22 said:
    I've blind-tested AM vs Spotify with many people over the years on my desktop HiFi system. About 3/4 instantly said Spotify was better. The others said they were close - but would prefer listening to the Spotify stream. That's 100% for the higher bitrate stream. (Dragonfly Red / Arcam DAC's).
    On my big Hi-Fi rig - it's not even a comparison... the 320 mp3 outshines the 256 AAC in detail and depth. (more information for the Chord DAC to upsample). 
    Tidal lossless blows them both away on most things - Tidal MQA blows everything away. Anyone with decent gear will acknowledge this. 

    If you are listening with Beats, AirPods or other lo-fi consumer products... sure, it doesn't matter - Lossless means nothing to you. 
    If you are listing on prosumer gear like Marantz, Denon, Yamaha, Pioneer - with sub $2k speakers and Monster Cables... you will notice a small/moderate difference. More if you have a dedicated DAC.
    If you are listening on HiFi gear... it's night and day. 

    This move by Spotify will be huge - and threatens Tidal more than Apple. Spotify isn't even thinking about Apple with this move. 
    If Spotify licenses MQA... look out! Spotify has far better curation and larger library than Tidal. 
    Interesting. Have you tested TIDAL vs Qobuz? Just curious. I’m a huge fan of Qbz and you can definitely hear the difference compared to Spotify/Apple Music, but I haven’t done a deep dive comparison between Qbz/TIDAL even though I have both. Qbz begins at 320kbs (if you want to stream that quality), and gets up to 24-bit HiRes/192 kHz. Most of the content streams at least CD quality. The different from 320 to 196 is life-changing. 
  • Reply 12 of 29
    rain22 said:

    This move by Spotify will be huge - and threatens Tidal more than Apple. Spotify isn't even thinking about Apple with this move. 
    If Spotify licenses MQA... look out! Spotify has far better curation and larger library than Tidal. 
    I am sure 95% of AM or Spotify will not care. Especially if your data plan is limited, yes in 2021 some people still using dialup.

    also, nothing wrong with monster cable, it is as good as any $5000 cable or monoprice cable. Sure, a $5000 cable looks fancy and make you able to show off to your friends.  But that is about it.  
    ITGUYINSD
  • Reply 13 of 29
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,992member
    jeromec said:
    I have quite a few Hi Res tracks and I can hear the difference even with CDs on my pretty decent home stereo.
    Yet the convenience of streaming with AirPlay has won me (I used to use the akward but great quality Pure Music)

    But zero benefit when using Bluetooth (at least on an iPhone that has AAC as the best Bluetooth codec).
    I find Apple Music tracks very good (with a Radsone ES100, short balanced cable and Tin HiFi P1s)
    Speaking as a trained musician, you might think you hear the difference, but it is very likely you don’t.  You would have to have a very trained ear and very good equipment, much better than “half decent.”  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 29
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,992member
    This is nothing but a marketing gimmick.  Apple’s encoding is so good that I as a musician who picks up small quality differences can’t distinguish...at least not unless we are talking on true HiFi equipment, certain genres, and  I’m listening for it.  Between Bluetooth, earbuds, consumer grade equipment, untrained ears, etc...there’s no way this makes a practical difference.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 29
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    viclauyyc said:
    rain22 said:

    This move by Spotify will be huge - and threatens Tidal more than Apple. Spotify isn't even thinking about Apple with this move. 
    If Spotify licenses MQA... look out! Spotify has far better curation and larger library than Tidal. 
    I am sure 95% of AM or Spotify will not care. Especially if your data plan is limited, yes in 2021 some people still using dialup.

    also, nothing wrong with monster cable, it is as good as any $5000 cable or monoprice cable. Sure, a $5000 cable looks fancy and make you able to show off to your friends.  But that is about it.  
    Absolute nonsense. Some people still using dialup? Baloney. Dialup maxed out at 56kbps and there ’s no way anyone could even think about accessing the modern internet at that speed. iIt would take 30 minutes for a page to load. It just couldn’t happen, let alone use a music steaming app. 
  • Reply 16 of 29
    Tidal→Roon→HQPLAYER

    Great listening experience!
    Pascalxx
  • Reply 17 of 29
    I’m surprised how many people here think it won’t make a difference, and while I acknowledge that a lot of people don’t notice or care about audio quality, some people do. Those people know who they are, because they have probably already invested time and money in being able to hear music presented as well as possible, as their budgets allow. A lot of people also don’t understand why anyone would pay a premium for a Mac or iPhone instead of the cheapest thing available, and those people also think there’s no real difference. Because to them, there’s not. 
    winstoner71d_2chemengin1FileMakerFellerapplecoredPascalxxurahara
  • Reply 18 of 29
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,480member
    I’m surprised how many people here think it won’t make a difference, and while I acknowledge that a lot of people don’t notice or care about audio quality, some people do. Those people know who they are, because they have probably already invested time and money in being able to hear music presented as well as possible, as their budgets allow. A lot of people also don’t understand why anyone would pay a premium for a Mac or iPhone instead of the cheapest thing available, and those people also think there’s no real difference. Because to them, there’s not. 
    I think the rejection is that if most people don’t care it wouldn’t be game changing. 
  • Reply 19 of 29
    mobirdmobird Posts: 746member
    Amusing how some get all excited about the latest and greatest video technology DVD, Blu-ray, 1080p, 4K, OLED, Retina, etc., but dismiss those that have an appreciation for HI-RES audio. It takes the appropriate software and hardware and a smartphone or Homepod is not appropriate and will have no appreciable benefit. Music streaming services are no longer being used solely on portable devices.
    If you ever have the opportunity to listen maybe then some of you will understand.
    winstoner71applecoredPascalxx
  • Reply 20 of 29
    I think about this for a living (audio engineer). 

    Music that is properly Mastered for iTunes (which means encoded in 256kbps HE-AAC format from at least a 48 kHz/24-bit master), is, for 99.99% of listeners listening to 99.9% of recorded music - indistinguishable from lossless-compressed audio. 

    There is a lot of music on all streaming services that is encoded from a 16/44.1 uncompressed source (i.e. CD), or in some cases, from a lossy-compressed original. It results in audible artifacts that most people can readily identify, once they know what to listen for, especially in the latter-case. This is why people say that streamed music sounds terrible. Because a lot of it really does sound bad. 

    It's only the most dynamic and delicate acoustic music that benefits in a meaningful way from lossless compression. And even then, only at 24-bit word depth. 16-bit lossless recordings will sound virtually identical to properly encoded compressed recordings except on the most high-end reproduction systems. There's a reason Apple has not gone down that road. If implemented widely, it would add significant overhead to their services infrastructure with next-to-no tangible benefit, at least outside of marketing. Only a small percentage of listeners even care. 

    If a listener wants better sound quality, they should invest in better headphones or speakers. That makes a much more significant difference in the listening experience when compared to splitting hairs over encoding.

    What I would like to see Apple do, if we're going to cater to a minority of listeners, is support multi-channel audio (at least 5.1 surround) for music. There is no good delivery system, at least for the masses, in place right now. 
    d_2DogpersonibillITGUYINSDFileMakerFellerapplecoredPascalxx
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