We'll get straight to it: this is our pick of the best lossless tracks we've been enjoying on Apple Music since support for CD (and above)-quality arrived on the service in the summer. Some we stumbled upon during product testing, others were eagerly suggested by our hi-fi-devoted readership (thank you for that, by the way).
If all of these words make sense to you in the order in which they are written, scroll on down and get to streaming, friend.
If, however, you're wondering what on earth Apple Music lossless actually is and how to get it, all is revealed in our Apple Music Lossless explainer.
In short, though, lossless audio is generally defined as CD (and above) quality music that's compressed in a way that it doesn't lose quality (is 'lossy'). And to enjoy such tracks on Apple Music, you will need an Apple Music subscription, an Android or iOS device, and any wired headphones – or, thanks to the most recent HomePod 15.1 update, an Apple HomePod. (For those with wired headphones and an iPhone, know that the Apple 3.5mm headphone jack adapter (opens in new tab) supports Apple's lossless streaming too.) Of course (and it has to be said), the better your equipment, the more you'll benefit from this jump in audio quality.
In the Apple Music app in your phone's settings, you can choose the audio quality for streaming and downloading audio – 'Lossless' for a maximum resolution of 24-bit/48kHz, or 'Hi-Res Lossless' for a maximum resolution of 24-bit/192kHz. The latter requires extra hardware in the shape of an external DAC, such as the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt.
Partly because of this, we are concentrating on Apple Music's 'Lossless' files for our recommendations here. That said, if you find yourself listening to a 'Hi-Res Lossless' file with simply a wired-headphones-and-device setup (look for the little icons under the track in the app), rest assured that you will hear it in lossless quality.
So, let's get to it!
Les Gordon – Flirting with June
As the kind reader who suggested this track ventures, perhaps we should curate a playlist specifically intended for the AirPods Max. Get this eye-opening vocal electronica going through Apple's What Hi-Fi? Award-winning, ground-breaking wireless over-ears and wait for the 'ah's to come at your ears from all directions in a remarkably immersive mix.
In lossless quality, this Les Gordon track is a rare treat. Percussion instruments snap, crackle and jingle around you as the leading edges of notes burst in like sharp, angular sonic towers in the otherwise juicy, undulating soundscape.
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis – The Road
If you've never read Cormac McCarthy's terrifying 2006 post-apocalyptic novel The Road, made into a movie in 2009 (for which this Nick Cave & Warren Ellis track was created), put this on, close your eyes, and imagine walking down a long, grey, desolate road, clouds of ash swirling behind you, ready to run if you must. McCarthy is not afraid to glimpse into the abyss and record his predictions. It takes a special musical composition – and special treatment of it – to recreate that feeling sonically. And that is what we have here.
Lady Gaga – Million Reasons
Such is Gaga's attention to detail concerning every aspect of her art that, occasionally, those production-heavy music videos, outfits and interviews have obscured the fact that first and foremost, this is an incredibly talented stand-and-deliver singer. Here, Mark Ronson lets Gaga's vocal cords do the heavy lifting, accompanied by a pared-back piano and guitar – sometimes strummed, sometimes used as percussion. Later, a crescendo builds, but never at the expense of the detail and texture within her inimitable power-house vocal. The extra space and insight you get from the lossless delivery are truly laid bare here.
Trashlagoon – Feel
Listening to slow-tempo music helps release the neurotransmitter largely responsible for mood (Serotonin, aka the 'happy hormone') while increasing the one (Dopamine) that helps us feel pleasure and simultaneously reducing the stress hormone (Cortisol). All of which is a roundabout way of saying "it's important to have a lossless go-to chill track for the end of a hard day".
This one, from German duo Sebastian Welicki and Niklas Freund (aka Trashlagoon) actually has a mid-tempo time signature, but it is layered with juicy chords, calm key progressions, reverb, sonic articles reminiscent of late-night crickets that meander slowly between your ears, a breathy treble vocal and a celebrated lo-fi background hiss. Sit back and let it wash over you.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Maps
This New York trio (sometimes quartet) typically delivers an indie rock masterclass whether gracing a stage or a recording studio, and this emphatic declaration is no exception. Some love-song lyrics are implored, the stanzas pored over then belted to the heavens after countless bedroom rehearsals and refinements. But when Karen O's vocal finally rises from the raucous guitar and drums with "Wait! They don't love you like I love you...", it feels as if she's only just understood the depths of her emotion – and why she needs to say these words, even though they should have come earlier. A superlative track that sounds extra special in lossless quality.
John Frusciante – Omission
Probably best known as the on-off guitarist for Red Hot Chili Peppers, Frusciante's solo work is both plentiful and covers a huge variety of genres, including experimental and acid house. This track, for example, is taken from Shadows Collide with People, just one of six (six!) albums Frusciante released in 2004 alone, each exploring different genres and recording techniques.
Frusciante has said that this was his most expensive album to date, costing about $150,000 to produce (his earlier albums had been recorded at home, on multitrack recording devices). On being asked why he chose to lay this one down in a proper Hollywood studio, Frusciante said, "I was sick and tired of people dismissing my records as being fucked-up and unprofessional." Fair enough – and this track is neither of those things.
Omission was written by Josh Klinghoffer, who would go on to become a guitarist for Red Hot Chili Peppers – and then leave in 2019, when Frusciante would rejoin the band. Again.
Roberto Cacciapaglia – Universal Dance
Cacciapaglia is celebrated by symphony orchestras and listeners worldwide for his innovative, bold compositions exploring the power of sound – and here we see him work out where classical piano meets experimental electronica. For this 2009 track, the former is the star, but the soupçon of the latter (alongside an occasional wave of strings) is beautifully executed and makes for a rousing piece that leaves you feeling much better after it than you did when it began.
Backroad Gee – Live in the Flesh
Backroad Gee (real name still unknown) is an East London-born rap/grime/alternative sensation. While still only 23 years old, he's already recorded with Jay-Z and Kid Cudi – for Netflix’s upcoming Western The Harder They Fall – and this opening track from his debut mixtape, Reporting Live (From the Back of the Roads) is about as strong a first impression as any rising star could ever hope to make.
BRG recently told Apple Music: "This is a statement piece. It’s a song I made from my slogans and ad-libs, and it gives me the feeling of [the 2007 film] 300. You know, when they’re about to go to war with spears out? That’s why I had to go with this first – it’s straight to the point.” And true to that inspiration, the timbre and depth of BRG's off-the-cuff battle cries here are emphatic.
Alfa Mist – Keep On
Another first track from an inspired debut album, this time from British keyboardist and producer Alfa Mist. Think seductive, jazz-meets-soul horns, drums, guitar, bass and keys, chock-full of improvisations. These musicians have plenty to say and they clearly felt compelled to do so here.
If you have the time and inclination, the entire 2017 album, Antiphon, is a compelling, multi-layered and often brooding listen that emphatically deserves to be heard in lossless quality.
Vessels – Elliptic
Vessels were considered a post-rock band until 2015, when the Leeds five-piece's third studio album, Dilate, was released. It's a hulking great beast of a techno record and this track hones in on dance-floor euphoria in no small way, with electronica segments, driving dance beats and even an African drum section.
Again, we recommend listening to the whole album – it's all available in lossless quality on Apple Music – but if you need eight minutes and 48 seconds of escapism, get this on your phone, move away from your desk, and dance.
And now, here's the playlist. This is our pick of the best lossless tracks to stream on Apple Music right now, all in one place. As long as you have an Apple Music subscription, you're all set. Enjoy!
Want to suggest a few Apple Music Lossless audio tracks we really ought to add? Please do. A love of music is a prerequisite for a job at What Hi-Fi? and we are always receptive to new artists, as well as established acts whose music has, on streaming services such as Apple Music, Tidal and Qobuz, been opened up and should be celebrated anew in lossless quality.
Looking to buy hi-res? Read Where can you buy hi-res music? Here are the top download sites
Not sure which streaming site to go for? Read hi-res music streaming services compared: which should you sign up for?