Just days after Apple confirmed that Apple Music subscribers are set to get the Lossless Audio music and Dolby Atmos add-ons, Apple Music users in India are now getting access to the enhanced feature set. This indicates Apple has flipped the switch and the new set of options are now showing for Apple iPhone and Apple iPad users in India, as part of existing Apple Music subscriptions. At the Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) keynote, Apple had said that the Lossless Audio and Dolby Atmos options are now rolling out globally. We had reported then that this would be a server-side update as Apple enabled this option for users in a phased manner. The Lossless Audio format and Dolby Atmos will be available on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV 4K, and this makes Apple Music the first music streaming service in India to officially offer lossless audio.
You should keep an eye on Settings > Music on your iPhone or iPad, for instance, to see if the new options are indeed available for you. If you do, you’ll see three new additions to the options list here. First would be an option called Dolby Atmos. Tap on this and you can choose between Automatic, Always On or Off. Just below that would be another new option called Audio Quality. First, you need to toggle Lossless Audio and ensure it is set at green. Below that, you’ll see three options—cellular streaming, Wi-Fi Streaming and Downloads. You can choose from multiple streaming options for each of these, depending on what sort of quality and data usage you are okay with. For instance, for Wi-Fi Streaming, the options are High Quality (AAC 256 kbps), Lossless (ALAC up to 24-bit/48 kHz) and High-Resolution Lossless (ALAC up to 24-bit/192 kHz). The next option you’ll see is Download in Dolby Atmos—toggle this to on (green) in case you want to download Apple Music content for offline listening or not have to use cellular or Wi-Fi data every time.
Apple says that a three-minute music track would be around 6 MB when streamed or downloaded in High Quality Mode. And this is where you need to be careful not just about mobile data usage but also the storage space in your Apple iPhone or iPad, if you intend to download Lossless Audio files. The same duration music track in Lossless would be around 36 MB in size while the High-Resolution Lossless standard will take up as much as 145 MB for the same track. For my iPhone, I have set cellular streaming (for when I am out and about or driving) to High Quality standard since the in-car audio system wouldn’t do justice to lossless audio files, while Wi-Fi Streaming is set to get the best experience of High-Resolution Lossless (ALAC up to 24-bit/192 kHz), wherever the maximum quality option is available.
I have been experiencing Dolby Atmos with After Hours by The Weekend using the Apple AirPods Pro, with Spatial Audio enabled, and there is a new Dolby Atmos indicator just below the album art on the track playback screen. At this time, the AirPods wireless earbuds aren’t updated to reproduce Lossless Audio files, but Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos do seem to add a definite, if I can sound rudimentary here, width and depth to the overall sound. For instance, the wailing of the police car sirens in the background in the track Faith, are reproduced with a lot more richness and animation with Dolby Atmos, than without. As with most things sound, how you perceive elements will be very subjective. But what is Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio? Simply put, this is much like surround sound for home theater systems, where you place speakers at different places in the room for a feeling of being enveloped by sound and the finer elements within it. Except that there are no static speakers placed around you and you get the same element of experience from headphones and earphones such as the Apple AirPods Max and the Apple AirPods Pro. Sound doesn’t come across as if you’re being fed unintuitive singular feeds of sound to your left and right ears. The added goodness here being that the headphones track your head movement and link back to the position of the source device—your iPhone or iPad. You will notice the sound gently shift in direction of where your iPhone sits, if you move your head around perceptibly.
Apple has already said that more than 20 million tracks are available in lossless audio quality with the entire catalogue of 75 million tracks being made available in lossless by the end of this year. In India, Apple Music subscriptions start at Rs 49 per month for the Student plan, Rs 99 per month for the Individual Apple Music plan and Rs 149 per month for the Apple Music Family plan. It was last month when Apple confirmed the upcoming upgrade for Lossless Audio and Dolby Atmos for Apple Music, giving it an advantage over music streaming rivals including Spotify which is yet to roll out the lossless audio formats, and Amazon Music which has a lossless tier for subscribers in some countries. Amazon has since ended the extra subscription fees for HD music and integrated that within larger Amazon Music subscriptions. Apple Music is the first music streaming platform to offer lossless audio, officially to Indian users. Apple will use the ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) for high resolution tracks, and users will be able to choose between three quality standards for lossless audio as well. Update: Apple India website still says Lossless Audio and Dolby Atmos are “coming soon".