Before iPhones became its hottest products, Apple’s name was also synonymous with music, both for its iPods as well as iTunes. These days, those roles have been taken up by the iPhone and HomePod speakers as well as the new Apple Music streaming service. Right at the start of its annual developer conference, Apple is flipping the switch to finally give Music some long-awaited features. But as enticing as Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio sounds, no pun intended, you’ll have to make sure you actually have the hardware capable of supporting those modes.
Last year, Apple revealed Spatial Audio, its own brand of simulated 3D audio space. Technically, it builds upon Dolby Atmos technology, and the toggle to switch the feature on or off will fall under that Dolby branding as well. Once Spatial Audio arrives on a user’s account, they will be able to turn it on, off, or automatically turn it on depending on the content.
According to Apple, thousands of tracks on Apple Music support Spatial Audio and they will be labeled appropriately with the Dolby Atmos logo. Of course, you need compatible hardware to listen to this 3D audio simulation, and, fortunately, Apple’s AirPods line and some Beats earphones are very much capable of supporting this feature.
The same can’t be said for Lossless Audio, unfortunately. This feature will appear under Music’s Audio Quality settings and users will be able to select what quality they want to use when streaming over Wi-Fi or cellular data. Considering the amount of data involved, some might even prefer to just download lossless content for offline playback instead.
Lossless Audio, however, requires even more specialized equipment, particularly a DAC or Digital to Analog Converter. Apple’s own headphones don’t, at least not without some help. The HomePod and HomePod mini smart speakers may someday actually support lossless audio but no timeline for that has been given yet.