Spotify HiFi is the popular music streaming service's long-anticipated entry into CD-quality streaming. Set to launch in 2021 – fingers crossed, very soon – it will allow Spotify Premium subscribers to 'upgrade' their membership so they can listen to higher-quality, lossless audio streams.
According to Spotify, "high quality music streaming" has consistently been one of users' most requested new features. But after years waiting for Spotify HiFi to show up after an initial teaser in 2017, we recently wondered whether it would ever get the green light...
The question in the meantime, however, is how will it match up to existing lossless audio propositions such as Tidal, Qobuz, Amazon Music HD and Apple Music Lossless? After all, with Apple and Amazon offering lossless streaming for no extra charge, what now for their rivals?
Spotify is yet to share details such as price, launch date and full device compatibility, but we've pieced together all the latest news, tips and rumours to build a likely picture of Spotify HiFi. Here's everything we know so far...
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Spotify HiFi release date
Spotify has promised to launch Spotify HiFi "beginning later this year", but that's as specific as it has been. It hasn't said exactly when in 2021, but its phrasing perhaps suggests it will be nearer the end of the year rather than imminently. More recently, however, a Reddit user spotted a HiFi icon in their Spotify iOS app, which could be evidence that Spotify is hitting back against arch rival Apple's new CD quality, Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless tiers.
In a blog post announcing Spotify HiFi back in February, the company said: “Beginning later this year, Premium subscribers in select markets will be able to upgrade their sound quality to Spotify HiFi and listen to their favorite songs the way artists intended.”
The words that jump out there are "select markets". Spotify is currently available in some 180 markets and in 60 languages, so chances are Spotify HiFi will land in different territories at different points throughout the year and perhaps into 2022.
The good news for subscribers in the US and Europe is that Spotify typically launches new features in those key markets first.
In June, a Reddit user spotted a HiFi icon in their Spotify iOS app, which could be evidence that Spotify is hitting back against arch rival Apple's new Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless tiers.
And in August, a leaked video, posted online by a Reddit user, seemed to offer an brief tour of the streaming giant's much-anticipated lossless audio tier. The 57-second video suggests that Spotify Connect will be "the best way to listen to HiFi".
The Spotify HiFi release date could also depend on the type of device you use. Spotify HiFi will deliver higher quality streams through Spotify Connect, so it's possible that newer Connect-enabled devices (such as the PlayStation 5) could get the HiFi upgrade before certain older devices.
Spotify HiFi price
Plenty of rival music streaming services already offer their own CD-quality subscription tiers – and let's not forget, Apple's new Lossless tier is free to all Apple Music subscribers – so while Spotify's popularity and consequent existing subscription base could see Spotify HiFi front the pack before long, price will no doubt be a key factor in its uptake.
The veteran music streaming outfit is yet to announce the all-important monthly fee, although it recently hiked all of its prices. What we can do is speculate on what the company might charge, based on Spotify's new and daunting competition.
Amazon Music HD, the most affordable hi-res service before Apple's big announcement, used to cost £12.99 ($12.99) for Prime members and £14.99 ($14.99) for non-Prime members. Then, Amazon decided to make its Amazon Music HD plan free for all Amazon Music listeners, thus effectively slashing its prices by £5, to £7.99 ($7.99) per month for its Amazon Music Unlimited Individual Plan for Prime members and £9.99 ($9.99) per month for Amazon customers.
Could Spotify match or even undercut that temptingly low monthly fee? It probably should, considering the Amazon service also offers hi-res (higher-than-CD-quality) streams – something Spotify hasn't alluded to including in its HiFi offering.
Then again, Spotify is effectively the Coca-Cola of music streaming so there's no reason for it to get into a price war with Amazon, a company with some of the deepest pockets in tech.
Deezer announced a permanent price cut to its HiFi streaming tier back in May 2020. It now costs £14.99 ($14.99, AU$14.99) per month, whereas Tidal costs £19.99 ($19.99, AU$17.99) a month for its highest-quality subscription tier. Like Amazon, Tidal has CD-quality and hi-res streams, whereas Deezer has CD-quality only. So why would Spotify undervalue itself? Especially when some 150 million Spotify Premium users happily pay £9.99 ($9.99, AU$11.99) a month for standard-quality streams.
When you consider that context, you shouldn't be surprised to read that most analysts expect Spotify HiFi to cost somewhere between £15 ($15, AU$20) and £20 ($20, AU$25). Rival services will no doubt hope it's closer to the latter.
Spotify HiFi free trial
Good news: whatever the monthly fee, some sort of Spotify HiFi free trial is likely on the cards – most probably, we would imagine, for both Spotify Premium users looking to upgrade and new Spotify users who may have historically been put off the service due to its lack of higher-quality audio.
On the latter point, those who have found high-quality haven in rival services such as Tidal and Amazon HD may well need teasing away from their probably highly personalised profile.
Spotify already offers a 1-month free trial of Spotify Premium, while Amazon Music HD recently offered new subscribers a 3-month free trial. Tidal offers users a 30-day free trial, while Deezer dangles a 1-month free trial in front of visitors to its website.
Keep an eye on this page and we'll alert you if/when news of a Spotify HiFi free trial breaks.
Spotify HiFi quality
Streaming quality could be another dealbreaker, so just how good will Spotify HiFi sound?
So far, we know that the HiFi subscribers will be able to consume “music in lossless audio format, with CD quality”. Given that bitrates for lossless audio can be around 1411kbps, Spotify HiFi should be a big step up from existing Spotify Premium quality, which maxes out at only 320kbps. For the initiated, lossless audio files carry more data, consequently richer in detail. Check out our complete guide to high-resolution audio for a lowdown on bitrates and file sizes.
Spotify has yet to reveal the technical details of its higher-quality streams, but it's worth noting that when it first teased Hi-Fi way back in March 2017, Premium subscribers were offered 1411kbps streams. Fingers crossed that's the case when Spotify HiFi makes its official debut later this year. Again, however, it's also worth remembering that Tidal HiFi goes up to 9216kbps in the case of some of its Tidal Masters tracks, as does Qobuz. And Amazon Music HD also boasts a similarly hi-res catalogue too. It seems unlikely Spotify will commit to hi-res audio given that it has already pegged HiFi as "CD-quality", rather than higher-than-CD-quality.
Apple Music will offer 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'll be able to choose your quality through the Settings > Music > Audio Quality section of Apple Music. As of June, all of Apple Music's 75-million-strong music catalogue will be available in CD quality or Apple Music Lossless. At launch, 20 million tracks will be accessible in the highest quality Hi-Res Lossless format, with the whole catalogue following "by the end of 2021" – all at no extra cost to your Apple Music subscription fee. Oh, and there will be support for Dolby Atmos and Apple's proprietary 3D offering, Spatial Audio, too.
Spotify hasn't said whether it will follow in the footsteps of Tidal, Apple Music or Amazon Music HD in their support of new and immersive audio streams, such as 360 Reality Audio tracks and Dolby Atmos Music.
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Spotify HiFi device compatibility
Spotify has confirmed that those CD-quality streams will be compatible with Spotify Connect, which is an easy way of wirelessly playing streams from the native Spotify app on a phone or tablet to a Connect-compatible device over wi-fi. It cuts out convoluted Bluetooth pairing.
That said, Bluetooth aptX and aptX HD can stream in CD-quality, so as long as a user's source (say, the Spotify app and the phone it's playing on) and receiver (a Bluetooth speaker or pair of wireless headphones) both support that Bluetooth codec, that higher streaming quality should be upheld.
The finer details over Spotify Connect compatibility are yet to be revealed, but presumably Spotify HiFi subscribers will be able to easily play high-quality streams between their phone (via the iOS and Android apps) or computer (via the desktop app or web player) and the ever-increasing mass of Connect-enabled speakers, TVs and audio systems on the market. Spotify Connect really has become one of the most popular streaming features, so the majority of networked, streaming-savvy devices out there should support the protocol.
"We’re working with some of the world’s biggest speaker manufacturers to make Spotify HiFi accessible to as many fans as possible through Spotify Connect," reads Spotify's statement.
Could we even see Spotify HiFi launch alongside a high-end Spotify-branded speaker? We'll find out soon enough. In the meantime, here's a rundown of our favourite wireless speakers, many of which support Spotify Connect.
Spotify HiFi catalogue
Spotify Premium claims to offer access to "over 60 million songs" – but how many of those tracks will also be available in CD-quality to HiFi subscribers?
The company has yet to release any details as to which songs will be available in lossless CD quality, but it's likely to be in the tens of millions – figures it will share with its rivals. For example, Qobuz claims to offer the "biggest catalogue of CD-quality lossless and Hi-Res albums in the world", putting the size of its offering at 60 million songs, while Amazon Music HD claims "60 million songs in HD". There's no reason to think Spotify won't offer the most (or at least joint-most) streams in CD quality on the market.
Spotify isn't only reputed for the size of its catalogue, though; its catalogue is also among the smartest, most versatile and best presented. Its hugely popular "Discover Weekly" feature uses AI and machine learning to generate a playlist of 30 songs that are relevant to your listening habits, so no doubt that will be put to good use to highlight any exclusive, CD-quality content.
The company has also invested heavily in podcasts, including Renegades: Born in the USA, featuring Barak Obama and Bruce Springsteen.
We'll update you as soon as we know more about Spotify HiFi, but one thing's for sure: the competition isn't going away. Sonos recently announced Sonos Radio HD – an ad-free, CD-quality streaming tier – and rumours are picking up that Apple Music will launch a lossless streaming tier to complement its high-end AirPods Max headphones.