Apple Music bitrate reported to be 256kbps

There was no hint of Apple Music's sound quality at the Apple launch event on Monday, with no mention of CD-quality, lossless audio, let alone high-res audio streams.

Instead, we presumed Apple's streaming service would fall in line with the industry standard compressed audio streams, set by the likes of Spotify. And it seems that will be the case.

Slashgear reports confirmation that Apple Music will deliver 256kbps streams, though Apple hasn't confirmed whether these are in the AAC or MP3 format.

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iTunes currently offers downloads in 256kbps AAC form, so it's fair to assume Apple would stick to its own audio coding standard. That said, Beats Music, which operated as a streaming music service in the US until Beats was acquired by Apple, offered 320kbps MP3 streams.

The likes of Deezer, Rdio, Spotify and Tidal all offer 'up to 320kbps' streams in AAC, MP3 or Ogg Vorbis formats on their premium subscription services. Tidal, like Qobuz, also offers a higher bitrate, lossless audio tier for £20 per month rather than the £10 per month industry standard (which is also the Apple Music price).

AAC is widely regarded as a superior codec to MP3, with 256 AAC files seen as broadly comparable to 320 MP3s when it comes to audio quality. The Apple Music streaming service is due to launch on 30th June with the latest iOS 8.4 update on Apple devices. An Android app will follow later in the year.

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Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is Content Director for T3 and What Hi-Fi?, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for more than 15 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).