Oliver Schuster, Apple’s vice president of Apple Music and Beats, discusses the growth of Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio on the streaming platform in an interview with Billboard. In June 2021, Apple Music added support for Spatial Audio and Lossless, and since then, Apple has continued to add additional music to its collection that supports these new technologies. Apple had previously stated that it would make its complete catalogue of 75 million songs available in Lossless, and according to Schuster, the corporation has done so.
While the whole catalogue of Apple Music songs supports the higher-quality format, Schuster added that Bluetooth constraints and the inability for headphones like AirPods to playback the audio remain an issue.
“Everyone in the industry was focused on Lossless,” says Schuster. “We have every song in our catalogue available in Lossless to us delivered by the industry, but the challenge is it doesn’t play on any headphone in the world over Bluetooth or any wireless connection, and that is by a country mile the number one way how people consume music these days.”
Lossless is available to Apple Music members via the built-in speakers on their iPhone, iPad, Mac, and HomePod. Even though Lossless is a niche feature that most regular listeners won’t notice, Apple nevertheless wants to offer it to the masses, according to Schuster.
Schuster says most people can’t tell the difference when Lossless music is played and noted that while it’s an important feature to a select niche, it isn’t a mass-market product. “And so,” he says, “we went out and said we would like to have a feature for the mass market that works on pretty much every device and where people notice a difference.”
When it comes to Spatial Audio, which provides listeners with an immersive listening experience, Schuster claims that Apple Music’s provision of Spatial Audio content has risen significantly since the function was introduced last summer. According to Schuster, more than half of Apple Music users are currently listening in Spatial Audio.
When Apple Music introduced Spatial Audio last year, it only had a few thousand songs available, and the firm started on a mission to convince artists and producers, as well as fans, to embrace the new immersive experience.
“We now have more than half of our worldwide Apple Music subscriber base listening in spatial audio and that number is growing fast,” says Schuster. “We would like the numbers to be higher, but they are exceeding our expectations.”
While Apple continues to add new songs to its database that supports Spatial Audio in collaboration with studios, the company remains focused on the mixing quality of those tracks. For Apple’s part, the company is emphasizing the importance of quality mixing here — compared to the early days of Dolby Atmos Music, when some mixes didn’t live up to the quality of the original recordings. “We listen to every song that comes in Spatial Audio to us and we try to engage with people who cut the process,” Schuster says.
According to Rachel Newman, Apple Music’s global head of editorial and content, Spatial Audio is not only allowing listeners to appreciate new music in a more immersive way, but it’s also re-engaging fans with older tunes.
“We’re seeing a huge uptick in artists’ back catalogue off the basis of them re-engaging their fans with a new way of listening to the music,” says Rachel Newman, Apple Music’s global head of editorial and content. Streams of Spatial Audio tracks on Apple Music editorial playlists have grown by 125% since the feature launched last summer, Newman notes.
Another Apple Music official reiterated Schuster’s comments on the limitations of Bluetooth and Lossless audio in a previous interview in December. Apple would like “greater bandwidth” than Bluetooth can supply, according to Gary Geaves, Apple’s vice president of acoustics. “I’m going to stop right there. We’d like to have additional bandwidth, “Geaves was added to the mix.
Apple may be working on a new wireless protocol to overcome Bluetooth’s restrictions, and the company’s next-generation high-end AirPods Pro, set to ship later this year, might be the first AirPods to offer Lossless Audio playback.