Yesterday, Apple unveiled the next big updates for its major platforms, including iOS 15. And the interviews discussion those things are probably coming soon enough. But Apple actually launched a new feature yesterday, by way of Apple Music.
So some Apple Executives (and high-level Apple Music employees) are making the rounds to talk about that feature: Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos in Apple Music. Actually, Apple added two new features to Apple Music yesterday, with Lossless Audio also joining the list of features for the streaming service.
So Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, Eddy Cue, sat down with Billboard to discuss the new features. Both of which were added at no extra charge for Apple Music subscribers, something that Cue touches on late in the interview when talking about Lossless.
Before that, though, Cue digs into the new Spatial Audio feature. This is the feature that will, one day, be more accessible to a lot of Apple Music subscribers. Apple obviously wants Spatial Audio to be a new default experience for listening to music, which means artists and producers and music labels need to make the necessary moves to make that happen.
At launch, “thousands” of songs on Apple Music support Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos. However, that’s not a lot when you consider the 75 million catalog Apple Music has. But adopting Spatial Audio is not super simple, and it’s not just about processing a song through new software to support Dolby Atmos. It’s more than that, as Cue notes:
So we went after the labels and are going to the artists and educating them on it. There’s a lot of work to be done because we have, obviously, tens of millions of songs. This is not a simple ‘take-the-file that you have in stereo, processes through this software application and out comes Dolby Atmos.’ This requires somebody who’s a sound engineer, and the artist to sit back and listen, and really make the right calls and what the right things to do are. It’s a process that takes time, but it’s worth it.
Cue echoes a sentiment put forward by Apple Music’s Zane Lowe: Spatial Audio will be the new stereo sound. Which means that, moving forward, new songs and albums will support the feature, and it will become commonplace soon enough:
I think we’re going to see certainly every new song that comes out very quickly here in Dolby Atmos, and you’re going to see people going to their back catalogues. We’ve already seen that. We’ve seen it with Taylor Swift and, obviously, Ariana Grande, J. Balvin, The Weeknd, Kacey Musgraves, and Maroon 5. We’re really excited about this.
Cue also talks about Spatial Audio support in cars, via CarPlay. Go check out the full interview for that bit. But, basically, support for Spatial Audio with CarPlay is not something we should expect to see soon.
The executive then moved on to Lossless Audio. This new feature gives a better listening experience, but it’s also a feature that a lot of people might not even notice — even with the proper hardware setup to enjoy it. Cue himself admits that he can’t tell the difference. But that’s not what the future’s for. It’s absolutely meant for the small percentage of listeners out there that can hear the difference:
Because the reality of lossless is: if you take a 100 people and you take a stereo song in lossless and you take a song that’s been in Apple Music that’s compressed, I don’t know if it’s 99 or 98 can’t tell the difference.
For the difference of lossless, our ears aren’t that good. Yeah, there are a set of people who have these incredible ears, and that’s one piece of it. There’s the other piece of it, which is do you have the level of equipment that can really tell the difference? It requires very, very high-quality stereo equipment.
Now, we’re supporting lossless and we think there’s a set of customers. It’s a small set of customers, but they want it and we’ll certainly give it to them, and they’ll have it as part of this. The good news is they’ll have lossless and they’ll have Dolby Atmos and Spatial. It really does work very well for that [set of customers], but it’s not going to be lossless [leading the way].
It’s interesting to hear Cue say that Lossless isn’t going to be the feature that leads “the way” for listening to music. Why might he do that? Because of Spatial Audio, of course. That’s where Apple’s focus is.
Go check out the full interview over at Billboard.