Apple has finally flipped the lossless switch on Apple Digital Masters playback

Yesterday I updated to the newest iOS and today I noticed something interesting when playing a album from Apple Music. It had a logo that said “lossless”! Finally, they stated years ago that Mastered for iTunes or Apple Digital Masters as they call it now, were lossless, but none of our phones could play it, but now they can. They also have something about spatial audio. I hope we don’t have to worry about a whole new type of release with this, are they different if they have the same barcode. Are the recordings different mixes, i.e. 5.1, etc. I haven’t run across a spatial audio release yet, (but I haven’t looked). Anyway, here’s the press release on this from last month that I missed.

Apple Music announces Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio - Apple


I think they might actually have to be new recordings looking at this Apple article. Famous engineers, Giles Martin & Manny Marroquin, both state, when I MIX in Dolby Atmos for Spatial Audio. This to me seems to indicate it’s a different mix from the standard stereo mixes.


I detect a little confusion over Apple’s terminology. Just to clarify,

  • "Lossless Audio" isn’t the same as “Apple Digital Master”. Apple says their “entire catalog” of 75 million songs is here, and we know their entire catalog doesn’t qualify for “Apple Digital Master” status. According to this, “Lossless Audio” includes both 16-bit/44.1kHz and 24-bit/48kHz.
  • "Hi-Res Lossless", according to this, does NOT include 24-bit/48kHz, but rather everything higher than it (i.e., 24bit/96kHz).
  • "Spatial Audio" isn’t stereo by definition. Apple just has “thousands of songs” here.

And yes, “Spatial Audio” is a separate set of recordings per normal MusicBrainz rules on channels.


Thanks for the links. I just looked at the “spatial audio” release that they mention which is on MB already as Release “Colores” by J Balvin - MusicBrainz I actually edited this release previously and was surprised when I saw that. Now on the Apple page it mentions this spatial audio addition, but the barcode & Apple ID have NOT changed from before they offered this format. So, now I’m very confused. The attached articles above indicate some sort of surround sound like recording, but technically, I suppose it’s still only 2 channels if you can hear it with only 2 air buds or special Apple speakers with the appropriate technology.

It is “hi-res” lossless. It clearly shows on your link 24-bit/192 kHz ALAC streaming. And all I was stating about the Apple Digital Master thing was that I’ve read several articles in the past that the whole Mastered for iTunes/Apple Digital Master was done in preparation for an eventual switch to lossless, but done with some sort of mastering that Apple said was better for playback on their devices. Of course there could be many lossless releases that aren’t Apple Digital Masters. On iTunes, starting about 6 month ago, I’ve only been able to convert to lossless. I haven’t been able to convert to a standard Apple music file since. (not that I want to, but many might). It shows create a iPhone version, but it’s always greyed out now. I flipped the switch on my phone and it does state in order to play content at hi-res lossless at full resolution, you will need an external digital-to-analog converter, but I figured I wasn’t getting lossless quality directly out of my phone. But wouldn’t you need that with any site if you were using your iPhone?

Apple describes how to create compressed (lossy) files here.

Cool. So those who want that feature still can do it. I guess I was just pointing out how Apple does seem to be transitioning to lossless.

That is just the method for noobs to create AAC-files. Here is the method how Apple itself creates high quality AAC files from the hi-res masters they ingest (and archive) from producers:

Mastered for iTunes (notice that they provide a droplet (as a free download) which produces the exact same high quality AAC-256 files from hi-res wave-files for proof listening, they themselves generate and distribute. So, everyone can try it for themselves – but unfortunately all tags get lost in the process.)

Further reading from the perspective of a producer:
Mastering for iTunes


FWIW, the same ISRCs are used on the Spotify release (different UPC though). So presumably they’re the same recordings.

They are the same recordings. Mastering is irrelevant for MB recordings. However, still not clear on how to handle “Spatial audio” when the releases were available before they were marked as such and they have the same ISRCs & barcodes as those on Spotify, etc.

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For now, I’m just going to mention in the annotation and not treat it as anything different as far as recordings, etc.

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