Some Apple Music Hi-Res Lossless content is already showing up on the service

Hi-Res Lossless and Dolby Atmos icons spotted in Apple Music
(Image credit: 0gniRincha, Twitter)

While Apple Music Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless streaming has been announced for a June launch, we don't yet have a specific release date. The launch of Apple's lossless audio quality catalogue, which is coming to Apple Music subscribers for no extra cost, could arrive very soon, though. Certain users have reported seeing lossless and hi-res icons appear on the service.

As first reported by Apple Insider, keen-eyed users hoping to spot a few early access Easter eggs have allegedly discovered albums showing labels for Lossless or Dolby Atmos, and others have apparently been prompted to re-download albums for new formats. What Hi-Fi? tried to follow suit but is unable to replicate any of these experiences. 

A user in Japan was apparently able to see a video EP with the labels for Dolby Atmos, Hi-Res Lossless, and Apple Digital Master (above, @0gniRincha) while another subscriber in the Netherlands was prompted to download an album to experience it with Dolby Atmos with Lossless audio – although they claim that when they tried to do this, it didn't actually download.

With Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) kicking off in just days, on 7th June, Apple may well be readying hi-res content for a big launch then and leaving a few early treats for its loyal users. 

The new features will require iOS 14.6 or later to work. Apple will actually 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 will be able to choose your preferred quality through the Settings > Music > Audio Quality section of Apple Music.

At launch, all of Apple Music's 75-million-strong catalogue will be available in CD quality or Apple Music Lossless. 20 million tracks will be initially accessible in the highest quality Hi-Res Lossless format, with the whole catalogue following "by the end of 2021".

With thousands of tracks arriving in Dolby Atmos too, could a few have slipped through the net and been leaked to some users early doors?

Apple Insider has also reported a fresh new discovery: all music videos in Apple Music now signify that they are playing with Apple's proprietary Spatial Audio immersive audio technology within the Apple Music app – and the label for Dolby Atmos or Spatial Audio doesn't have to appear for it to work. To try it out when wearing your AirPods Max or AirPods Pro, listen to a music video and check the Spatial Audio setting in Control Center. If Spatial Audio is playing, the icon will be animating.

To see this icon, AI says to swipe down on the top right corner to reach Control Center, and long-press on the volume slider. The icon should then appear in the bottom right of the display. 

We tested this and were unable to find the icon anywhere in Music or the control centre using the AirPods Max, but the music videos are definitely playing with Spatial Audio in that there's a heightened sense of surround-sound and the audio is moving as we move our head. This has been the case with every video we’ve tried so far.

Apple has told What Hi-Fi? that, post-launch, Apple Music Dolby Atmos will also work with third-party headphones – so long as you manually enable it. To do this, go into Settings on your iPhone or iPad and then to Music. A new Dolby Atmos option will be available. This is set to Automatic by default (which means Dolby Atmos tracks will play correctly when you're listening via any W1- or H1-enabled pair of Apple or Beats headphones such as the AirPods Max, AirPods Pro or standard AirPods), but not when you're using third-party headphones. However, if you switch this option to Always On, even these non-Apple headphones will play back the Dolby Atmos tracks correctly.

There's still no official date on the Apple Music Lossless launch, but Apple Music subscribers should mark the 7th-11th June in their diaries – and keep checking for those icons in albums from big-hitters such as Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X or Drake.


Further good news: HomePod and HomePod Mini will support Apple Music Lossless

Check out 30 Apple Music tips, tricks and features

See also 10 Apple Music playlists to listen to right now

Becky has been a full-time staff writer at What Hi-Fi? since March 2019. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, she freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 20-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance is of course tethered to a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo, This is Cabaret and The Stage. When not writing, she dances, spins in the air, drinks coffee, watches football or surfs in Cornwall with her other half – a football writer whose talent knows no bounds.