AirPods does not support lossless music, but I still recommend you to upgrade Apple Music

When I get up every day, I will habitually open the daily recommendation of the music app, and use music to wake up the brain that is not in the state. An interesting fact is that although the way we get music has become easier, it has never been easier for the recording industry.

▲ Picture from: Statista

According to the latest "Global Music Report" of the International Recording Industry Association, global recording revenue in 2020 will reach 21.6 billion US dollars. This is the music industry after nearly 20 years of recession, and finally can barely keep the same as the industry level 20 years ago.

Compared with 20 years ago, you will find that the revenue composition of the music industry has been very different. In the past 20 years, the recording industry has experienced two great changes in which digital music challenged physical music and streaming music replaced digital music.

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What’s interesting is that at every turning point in the music industry, you can see Apple’s familiar figure-iPod directly impacted physical music, iTunes opened the era of digital music, Apple Music witnessed the take-off of streaming music, and Apple’s Music services have changed the way most people listen to music,

▲ Picture from: MacRumors

Apple announced on May 18 that it will bring Lossless music and Dolby Atmos services to Apple Music subscribers in June, and maintain the original subscription price unchanged.

In the introduction of Apple Music, Apple called this upgrade a "new music experience". Will this be a new chapter in the Apple Music story or the global music industry?

Maybe we should put aside "lossless worship"?

Unlike other music apps where you need to try your luck to listen to lossless music (only some music has lossless sound quality), Apple Music's lossless format upgrade is 75 million songs for the entire music library.

Song upgrades start from the CD-level 44.1 kHz/16 bit sound quality, and the higher level is 48 kHz/24 bit. For music enthusiasts, Apple also provides high-resolution lossless sound quality up to 192 kHz/24 bit.

It doesn't matter if you don't understand these complicated numbers, you just need to know that these standards are high enough to meet the needs of most equipment for high-fidelity audio sources. CD-like sound quality is our favorite standard when measuring songs, and Apple Music can bring music files that can match CDs or even exceed CDs.

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One regret is that the lossless music service supports most Apple devices such as iPhone, iPad, and Mac speakers, and also supports third-party headsets (non-Bluetooth), but does not support its own AirPods series and Beats series including AirPods Max. headset.

For the reasons, Ai Faner's "Apple also wants to play HiFi, will AirPods usher in a sound quality upgrade this time?" "It has been analyzed in the article. To put it simply, AirPods or any other wireless headsets could not exert the full power of lossless music before Apple updated the more efficient Bluetooth encoding format.

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But don’t get discouraged too quickly. AirPods may not always be lossless. According to AppleInsider’s revelations, Apple is likely to be developing a proprietary high-fidelity audio transmission format that will allow the AirPods series of headphones to get the ultimate sound quality performance.

If the news is accurate, then this will give the AirPods series a strong competitive advantage, because even the industry’s top LDAC protocol still cannot be regarded as a lossless transmission. By then, the sound quality will no longer be an obstacle to choosing a wireless headset. The powerful "scissors" cut the cord of the wired headset.

But before that, let us return to a more realistic question, do you really need lossless music?

We have an unspeakable admiration of losslessness. This is because we live in a world filled with "lossy compression"-compressed videos, pictures, music, every file we touch on the Internet is The compression is required to be as small as possible.

No one will deny that 1080P video is clearer than 720P and 480P, and there is a gap that can be recognized at a glance, but when the resolution comes to the comparison of 8K and 4K, sometimes we need to be more careful to distinguish their gap , This is not that 8K resolution is not clear enough, but that the resolution of 4K is not low.

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Unlike the unlimited growth of numbers, human perception has limits, and with the increase in clarity, perception will become less and less sensitive, and the same is true for audio clarity.

Whether we can hear the high-fidelity performance of lossless audio has a lot to do with our playback equipment and transmission. Take Apple Music's highest 192 kHz/24 bit as an example. Apple recommends playing with DAC equipment. This is for people other than audiophiles. For users, it is not a small threshold for listening.

If you can’t hear the difference in lossless music with the EarPods that come with the iPhone, please don’t blame yourself too much, it’s not the fault of your ears.

In other words, lossless sound quality is prepared for a very small number of music enthusiast users. For most ordinary listeners, providing lossless sound quality is actually more like a psychological comfort: "I can use it, you can't live without it."

In fact, you will find that Apple's lossless update of the 75 million songs in the entire music library is "light and windy" because these music have been uploaded to the library in strict accordance with the high-demand format standards.

▲ Picture from: The Gadgeteer

According to Apple’s latest "iTunes Video and Audio Material Guide", the minimum audio standard accepted by Apple is a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz and a resolution of 16 Bit. In other words, Apple has always had lossless resources in its hands. Why is it that for so many years? 20 years) has been providing compressed AAC music?

Going to the extreme in a field has never been Apple’s idea of ​​designing new products. Whether it is the first generation of iMac, iPod, iPhone or Apple Watch, AirPods, extreme performance has never been the primary issue they considered at the beginning of their birth. It is a unique creation. Sex is. Apple does the same with music.

Perhaps, the ultimate lossless music is not the focus of this update. The updated Dolby Atmos is the "groundbreaking" that Apple pays more attention to.

Dolby Atmos is Apple's bet on the "music future"

When it comes to Dolby Atmos, friends who love to watch movies should not be unfamiliar.

In theaters that support the Dolby Atmos system, we can hear bullets flying in front of us, helicopters whizzing overhead, and the air currents when they pass by the explosion. This sense of spatial distance is presented as Dolby Atmos The biggest improvement compared with traditional stereo.

Hearing is an important part of human perception of space. Our ears can judge and locate the sound source in the mind through the size and direction of the sound, providing clues for the formation of a sense of space. Therefore, the spatial surround effect of Dolby Atmos can be stronger. Of immersion.

In analogy with the visual experience, the difference between Dolby Atmos and stereo is like 3D movies to 2D movies, bringing more dimensional creative possibilities in space, and this diversified possibility is not only aimed at movie sound effects, For music artists, this also means more musical possibilities.

The recording of sound has undergone the development of mono (MONO), stereo (Stereo), and panoramic sound. Each change is accompanied by more creative possibilities.

In the 1960s, most people's playback devices were still single big speakers, and mono was the mainstream format for recording and playing music.

▲ Picture from: Unsplash

When you put on headphones and listen to The Beatles’ early music, you will find that the vocals and accompaniment are divided into different left and right ears. This is because The Beatles uses mono instead of stereo mixing when recording CDs. They will Layers of sounds are superimposed into the same audio track.

As stereo equipment became popular and mature, musicians such as The Beatles and Elvis also used stereo standards to create music. Music began to become familiar to us. The multi-channel surround effect allows us to hear creators creating music. More thoughtful time.

For example, "Bohemian Rhapsody" composed by Queens in 1975 is still one of the most elaborate and complex works in the history of popular music.

▲ Stills of "Bohemian Rhapsody"

There is a detail in the movie of the same name released in 2018. In order to create the feeling of an opera choir in "Bohemian Rhapsody", band members May, Mercury and Taylor sing their voices continuously for 10 to 12 hours a day. 180 separate recordings were created, which were then combined into successive sub-mixes, finally creating a magnificent sense of opera.

When the stereo is upgraded to Dolby Atmos, the richness of this creation will be further improved. In 2019, Dolby has worked with many musicians such as Coldplay to explore more expressive music. With the blessing of Atmos, the sound It is no longer from the left and the right, but may exist in all directions of a space.

Unlike the high threshold of lossless music, Dolby Atmos is a new experience suitable for the public. Most people can hear the sound from a flat surface to a three-dimensional space. This may be the "groundbreaking experience" Apple wants.

Going back to Apple Music’s Dolby Atmos service, it is applicable to all Apple’s own headset products such as AirPods, Beats, etc. It is also applicable to speakers such as iPhone, iPad, Mac, and even third-party headset devices. You can experience Dolby Panorama Sound spatial audio.

The audio file size of Dolby Atmos is about 3 times that of ordinary AAC audio files, and lossless music is about this level, and the similar bandwidth burden is also doubtful. Apple may have brought losslessness because of the introduction of Dolby Atmos. Music, although most people care more about the latter.

Will Apple change the music industry again?

Dolby Atmos is not the only technology that focuses on future audio trends. It is also the "top player" in the music industry Sony has also introduced a similar spatial audio standard-360 Reality Audio.

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Sony also wants to use 360 ​​Reality Audio to enhance the expressiveness of music in space for creators and listeners, but it is still a little bit behind Dolby Atmos in terms of the popularity of channels and equipment.

For example, the number of tracks (approximately more than 1,000), the volume of streaming partners (Deezer, Tidal, Amazon Music HD, and nugs.net) have some gaps compared with Apple Music, in terms of the convenience of obtaining spatial audio , Apple Music may be the most convenient way.

▲ Picture from: Sony

However, for the moment, whether it is 360 Reality Audio, Dolby Atmos or other spatial audio standards, it is still too early to tell which platform is better or worse by the number of songs. These "new music" seem to have just been buried. If you want to see how tall they can grow in the future, the seeds in the ground have to be watered.

Recently, Dolby has cooperated with Universal Music Group. In addition to releasing and producing thousands of songs in Dolby Atmos format, Dolby Atmos recording is also provided for famous music studios including Capitol Studio and Abby Road Studio. Standards promote the popularization of spatial audio production.

And Apple Music brings new Dolby Atmos content every week. It can be seen that Apple is actively bringing new forms of music into the mainstream vision, and the new music experience is likely to stimulate the growth of Apple Music subscriptions.

Lossless allows people to hear more "sound details", while spatial audio allows people to hear more "sound possibilities." The latter gives creators a huge creative space.

Apple is betting on space audio, and because the interaction of audiovisual content is changing, AR and VR content is gradually maturing, and virtual concerts have become more and more normalized. We are not only satisfied with "what we hear" when we listen to sound, but we are changing our sense of hearing. To build a part of the virtual space, it becomes what we feel.

Travis Scott’s 27.7 million concert in "Fortress Night" was a turning point for virtual content. It proved that virtual content can bring unprecedented influence and appeal, and spatial audio is an indispensable component of immersive virtual experience a part of.

Just imagine, close your eyes and listen to Jay Chou singing "Cute Woman" slowly walking towards you, open your eyes, and see a virtual "he" standing in front of you with a microphone through the VR glasses. The sense of presence is something a 5MB MP3 file cannot provide.

So the question is, will Apple change the music industry again?

Apple’s attention to Dolby sound effects may inspire musicians’ enthusiasm for spatial audio creation, which may not necessarily create higher income for the streaming music industry, but it may create more creative and infectious musical work.

You know, the most important thing about music is creativity. Just like in the mono era, no one had imagined the birth of "Bohemian Rhapsody."

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