Apple Music now supports lossless streaming at no extra cost which isn’t a usual thing to hear coming from the Apple Park. At $9.99/mo, this is a direct hit to Hifi streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal, also a major blow to Spotify plans to launch a Hifi tier in the $15-20/mo range.
To begin with, why should you care?
Lossless audio uses compression algorithms that preserve the original audio quality as mastered in the studio, while other lossy audio formats like MP3 compress audio by discarding some parts of the original master, depending on how aggressive the algorithms and settings are, the difference can vary from hard to discern to obvious.
Now the entire Apple Music catalog of 75 million songs will support lossless audio. With Apple offering three tiers of higher resolution audio: CD quality (16-bit/44.1kHz), Apple Music Lossless (24-bit/48kHz), and Hi-Res Lossless (up to 24-bit/192kHz). You can choose the best settings for you to save data or enjoy the highest resolution available.
All in all, it looks like this is the best offer if you are interested in taking your music to the next level at a tempting $9.99/mo, so is that all?
Not really, Macs, iPhones, and iPads can’t play 24-bit/192kHz, they top out at 24-bit/48kHz, meaning that you’ll have to purchase a DAC to stream it. A DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) is a device that can convert the digital ones and zeros from your computer to an analog signal that can be played by speakers or headphones. The integrated DAC inside those devices is incapable of processing high resolution audio thus the need for a capable device to take advantage of the resolution provided by Apple.
There is a wide variety of DACs for different use-cases at different price points, here are some good choices:
FiiO Q3 THX Portable Balanced DAC/Amp $149.99
The Q3 is a well built portable DAC/Amp, perfect for IEMs and low impedance headphones. Has balanced output for more power and battery life is great at 7-8 hours. This a great value DAC if you are always on the move.
Best entry desktop DAC
TOPPING E30 Desktop DAC $149
Topping has built a reputation for providing products that measure extremely well, sound great, and offer great value, the E30 is no exception.
Best midrange desktop DAC
TOPPING D30 Pro Desktop DAC $399.99
Quad flagship DAC configuration, fantastic build-quality, perfectly flat signature and a good price tag, this is a very competitive DAC that got the essentials right.
Best highend desktop DAC sub $1000
SMSL M400 MQA DAC $859.99
Feature-rich, sounds absolutely fantastic. This is a DAC perfectly capable of bieng the source for a high level system knowing it will not be the weak point any time soon.
Apple came up with a tempting offer but will require special equipment to take your audio game to the next level. Audio is very important, next post we will cover more about audio as that’s the next area of improvement we’re focusing on.