Late on Monday night, Apple flipped the switch on two new features for its Apple Music subscription service: immersive Dolby Atmos spatial audio and lossless-quality streaming. It feels like the company is really only excited about one of them, though, and it’s not the latter.
Eddy Cue is Apple’s senior vice president of services and the person who oversees Apple Music. He didn’t mince words when he told Billboard that the sudden proliferation of lossless audio isn’t going to significantly evolve or change how we listen to music. “There’s no question it’s not going to be lossless,” he said when asked what technologies will bring about the “next-gen” of music streaming. Cue firmly stands on the side of the crowd that argues most people can’t hear any difference between CD-quality or hi-res tracks and the AAC or MP3 files that’ve been filling their ears for so long now. He did acknowledge that the higher-bit rate tracks might matter to music lovers with particularly sharp hearing or premium audio equipment, but he was also direct about how niche that group is.
“The reality of lossless is: if you take 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.” Cue revealed that he has regularly done blind tests with the Apple Music team, and they confirm how rare it is for anyone to be able to consistently recognize lossless audio. “You can tell somebody, ‘Oh, you’re listening to a lossless [song],’ and they tell you, ‘Oh, wow. That sounds incredible.’ They’re just saying it because you told them it’s lossless and it sounds like the right thing to say, but you just can’t tell.”