New Music & audio enhancements plus a mysterious 'Passthrough' feature are coming at WWDC

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in iOS

Apple is internally testing improved versions of its built-in Music and QuickTime apps, which in iOS 18 and macOS 15 will gain support for smooth audio transitions and a new "Passthrough" feature.

Red app icon with a white musical note on the left, and the words Passthrough & Smart transitions on the right against a blue background.
Apple's Music app will receive two new audio features



People familiar with Apple's pre-release operating systems have revealed to AppleInsider new details on improvements currently in the works. Though on-device AI remains the primary focus of Apple's upcoming software releases, the company is also working on audio-related features for its system applications.

Apple's current iteration of the Music app already has a crossfade option. Pre-release versions of the application in internal testing contain an improved version of the feature, known for now as "smart song transitions."

With the standard crossfade option, the Music app will gradually decrease the volume of the song currently playing, as it begins to draw closer to its end. Simultaneously, the app will begin playing a new song, while slowly raising the volume -- thus creating a transition between the two songs.

Smart Song Transitions will take this feature even further, by giving users the option to adjust the duration of the crossfade effect. Song transitions can be made to last anywhere from one to twelve seconds, depending on personal preference.

Playback settings window showcasing options for Song Transitions, Sound Enhancer, and Sound Check with sliders and checkboxes. Top navigation includes General, Playback, Files, and Advanced.
With smart song transitions, the crossfade effect can last significantly longer



The existing crossfade option will remain present within Apple's Music app, as will the option to disable the feature. Overall, this is only one of a few audio-related updates Apple has planned for its system applications.

Audio Passthrough for Apple Music and QuickTime Player



The Music app will also introduce support for a feature dubbed "Passthrough," which will only be available on supported hardware. What that supported hardware is, remains unclear at this time.

Although the details surrounding this feature are also unclear, it appears to be related to Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, with it possibly being a rebrand of the feature.

Apple has renamed different OS features and applications over the years, with iCal eventually becoming Calendar, and System Preferences being changed to System Settings with macOS Ventura.

The company also plans to rename its user accounts from Apple ID to Apple Account, starting with iOS 18. Features can even receive a new name mid-development, as was the case with Vocal Shortcuts - originally known as Adaptive Voice Shortcuts.

Renaming Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos to the simple "Passthrough" would seemingly fit this pattern, while also allowing for a significantly shorter name. Ultimately, though, we don't yet have a great deal of information about the feature as it exists now.

Unlike Spatial Audio, however, the Passthrough feature will apparently be available without an Apple Music Subscription, meaning it will likely be accessible to everyone. Passthrough is also set to make its way to QuickTime on macOS 15, indicating that Apple intends to make it available system-wide.

New audio features for gaming and spatial computing



Apple is also working on other audio-related improvements, focusing on audio accessories like headphones and headsets. We could see enhancements with a particular emphasis on gaming.

The company is working on more advanced versions of hands-free audio control for gaming, along with a feature known internally as "Spatial Gaming." Although there are no concrete details about the exact implementation of these features - they align with Apple's overall interest in spatial computing.

Over the years, Apple has introduced features such as Spatial Audio, which allows for an immersive audio experience by making different sounds originate from individual speakers. On Apple's AirPods, this feature is combined with dynamic head tracking to deliver surround sound and 3D audio through the headphones.

More recently, in late 2023, the company released Spatial Video, which can be recorded with the iPhone 15 Pro and viewed with the Apple Vision Pro headset. Spatial Videos are essentially three-dimensional video recordings, which allow users to relive moments and experiences.

Both Spatial Audio and Spatial Video require specialized hardware to function, as is the case with the Passthrough feature.

Passthrough and Smart Song Transitions will likely make their debut at Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference on June 10, as part of the company's next generation of operating systems -- iOS 18, iPadOS 18, macOS 15, and more.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 29
    I’m not sure why this article lists “Passthrough” as “mysterious.” The word Passthrough has a literal meaning in audio, and it’s a feature in other competing music player apps. It just means to pass the audio signal through with no modifications whatsoever. This is useful for delivering the highest quality audio possible to your DAC, or passing along an encoded signal to a downstream decoder. 
    AppleZuluLettuceAlex1Nfreeassociate2
  • Reply 2 of 29
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,067member
    "Renaming Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos to the simple "Passthrough" would seemingly fit this pattern, while also allowing for a significantly shorter name."

    What? That makes absolutely no sense. Yes, Apple has changed the names of various features over the years, but the new moniker made sense as a descriptor for the feature in question. "Passthrough" is in no way descriptive of spatial audio.

    You might come up with better speculative ideas if you looked up the definition of the term, particularly in relation to electronics and audio: "In signal processing, a passthrough is a logic gate that enables a signal to 'pass through' unaltered, sometimes with little alteration. Sometimes the concept of a 'passthrough' can also involve daisy chain logic." This definition is from the Apple's own "lookup" feature. Setting aside the mildly amusing redundant phrase about alteration, this definition suggests that the feature will perhaps involve transmitting or transferring audio signals without degrading it by running it through some sort of compression codec. Perhaps they're devising a way to get spatial and lossless audio to wireless AirPods without squeezing it through Bluetooth. 
    LettuceAlex1NDennisrtCheeseFreeze
  • Reply 3 of 29
    LettuceLettuce Posts: 8member
    Luckily readers explain this better. Pass through for Spatial Audio indeed makes no sense. Spatial Audio has nothing to do with sound passing through anything. 

    But it’s a nice article nonetheless because you have exclusive info. Thank you 
    Alex1NOfer
  • Reply 4 of 29
    MisterKitMisterKit Posts: 506member
    What has been sorely missing in iOS/iPadOS from the beginning is system wide audio management. I hope this is addressed.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 29
    I always hated fadeouts on songs; seems like artists just couldn’t figure out how to end it. Maybe it’s due to chiefly listening to punk rock and thrash medal, but I shan’t use crossfade or Smart Song Transitions. 
    radarthekat
  • Reply 6 of 29
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,368member
    I was just hoping they might do much better at not stopping my music for sound events from devices. 
  • Reply 7 of 29
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,565member
    I always hated fadeouts on songs; seems like artists just couldn’t figure out how to end it. Maybe it’s due to chiefly listening to punk rock and thrash medal, but I shan’t use crossfade or Smart Song Transitions. 
    Ending a piece of music is almost as hard As writing the music itself. Even Beethoven had this problem, so it’s nothing new.
  • Reply 8 of 29
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 33,565member
    With all of these fun niceties, there is really only one thing I care about. Classical Music on the Mac. It took them a long time to get it out for the iPad, which was a major advance. But the app doesn’t work in the Mac, though I haven’t tried to lately. I always thought this was because they were working on a real Mac version, but nothing so far. I don’t see the problem here. Does it really require an OS upgrade to get a new app? My 13” Macbook Pro is my music server, taking over from my ancient 15” Macbook Pro when it first came out. But the lack of a proper classical music app for it is really inexcusable.
  • Reply 9 of 29
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    Some songs have dramatic endings hitting on a hard note, (eg, "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who) and shouldn't be merged with the beginning of other songs. And some songs have dramatic beginnings, (eg, "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles) and shouldn't be merged with the ending of other songs. I wonder if artists will sue Apple for modifying their music. I remember a story a few years back of big companies suing a small software company for creating software that bleeped out certain swear words in their movies. I don't recall who won that case.
  • Reply 10 of 29
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    melgross said:
    I always hated fadeouts on songs; seems like artists just couldn’t figure out how to end it. Maybe it’s due to chiefly listening to punk rock and thrash medal, but I shan’t use crossfade or Smart Song Transitions. 
    Ending a piece of music is almost as hard As writing the music itself. Even Beethoven had this problem, so it’s nothing new.
    Likewise, the rear end of a car is much harder to make good looking than the front end.
  • Reply 11 of 29
    I’m not sure why this article lists “Passthrough” as “mysterious.” The word Passthrough has a literal meaning in audio, and it’s a feature in other competing music player apps. It just means to pass the audio signal through with no modifications whatsoever. This is useful for delivering the highest quality audio possible to your DAC, or passing along an encoded signal to a downstream decoder. 
    Agreed. On every AV unit I’ve had over the years** Passthrough has meant send PCM to the unit and let it decide what it and the speakers are able to reproduce. In my case, I was lucky that a firmware update last year installed Atmos as an option.
     
    ** [Yamaha that’s holding its own — 5.2.2, 2 subs, 2 FPS, SL/SR — all Klipsch]
  • Reply 12 of 29
    jonrojonro Posts: 65member
    I don't know, but I suspect that Passthrough might describe a feature that would allow Apple Music to play Dolby Atmos on Sonos speakers. It has been unfortunate that Sonos speakers only play Atmos/Spatial Audio through the Sonos App. It would be great if that were supported directly by Apple Music.
    freeassociate2
  • Reply 13 of 29
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,067member
    melgross said:
    With all of these fun niceties, there is really only one thing I care about. Classical Music on the Mac. It took them a long time to get it out for the iPad, which was a major advance. But the app doesn’t work in the Mac, though I haven’t tried to lately. I always thought this was because they were working on a real Mac version, but nothing so far. I don’t see the problem here. Does it really require an OS upgrade to get a new app? My 13” Macbook Pro is my music server, taking over from my ancient 15” Macbook Pro when it first came out. But the lack of a proper classical music app for it is really inexcusable.
    Yep, for Apple TV, too. I do get working the kinks out on iOS first before getting to Mac (and AppleTV). Classical music enthusiasts can be cantankerous and they’ve had to improvise their own catalog system forever, so anything Apple does will be “wrong” because it’s not whatever DIY convention each person has already set up, but it’s high time they bite the bullet and come out with it already. The iPhone and iPad apps are great, but classical music folks are probably more likely to have a decent listening room setup, and the classical app needs to be native on devices that are attached to amps and speakers. 
    edited May 21
  • Reply 14 of 29
    ingeniousingenious Posts: 19member
    The only “passthrough” I want is the ability for the Apple TV 4K to pass through audio to
    home theater/receiver equipment for processing and playback. My DTS equipment cries out!
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 15 of 29
    puiz666puiz666 Posts: 22unconfirmed, member
    Yeah, “passthrough” would be a great new name for Spatial Audio… wait, what? They should also rename “Stereo” to “charge,” and “4K” to “brightness.” Wow. 
    edited May 22 AppleZuluOfer
  • Reply 16 of 29
    matthewkmatthewk Posts: 13member
    My hope is that “Passthrough” will allow full resolution, lossless digital signal via a dedicated digital out from a new model AppleTV, so I can feed the DAC of my choice.  
    edited May 22 freeassociate2williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 29
    Shame! Because this is Music, I think it's ridiculous that iOS doesn't have a graphic equalizer to personalize the audio in a way that each user likes! And remove that list of rubbish equalizations that are useless! Apple engineers don't think they ever configured the audio equalizers in their cars and homes!!!
    williamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 29
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,889member
    The single biggest audio related improvement that Apple can make is to stop charging ridiculously high prices for disposable earbuds. $200 for AirPods that you throw away after 2 years is unconscionable.  Either make the batteries replaceable or cut the price.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 29
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,067member
    It’s amusing that Apple Insider has doubled down, making this the currently featured article on their site, even as there’s no further update to explain how the reference to “passthrough,” which has an already-established meaning in the audio world, is speculatively somehow instead going to be a nonsensical renaming of Spatial Audio, an already clearly descriptive feature term that I also just noticed Apple auto-corrects to capitalize. 
  • Reply 20 of 29
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,313member
    Some songs have dramatic endings hitting on a hard note, (eg, "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who) and shouldn't be merged with the beginning of other songs. And some songs have dramatic beginnings, (eg, "A Hard Day's Night" by the Beatles) and shouldn't be merged with the ending of other songs. I wonder if artists will sue Apple for modifying their music. I remember a story a few years back of big companies suing a small software company for creating software that bleeped out certain swear words in their movies. I don't recall who won that case.

    DJs have been doing this for years to keep the music going with no seemingly silent pauses between tracks.
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