It’s like Radio 1’s Live Lounge (if you’re British) or MTV’s Unplugged (if you’re old enough to remember the early ’90s), but this time, we can enjoy it in the glorious, immersive Dolby Atmos of Apple Music. Enhanced spatial audio.
What is the problem? Good question – and if you’re an Apple Music subscriber, you need to keep reading.
Apple has just released Apple Music Sessions. The free release gives Apple Music subscribers, who number around 98 million or more (my membership is proudly within that number) exclusive access to live releases featuring some of the world’s most prolific artists and emerging artists, all on Spatial Audio.
Apple explains that the sessions are being recorded at Apple Music studios around the world, giving artists the opportunity to reimagine and recreate hits from their catalog and create new creative covers.
And one of the best parts is that these unique performances are also filmed, resulting in a live collection comprised of new Spatial Audio music tracks (Apple technology that recently celebrated its first anniversary for music) and live performance music videos.
The initial releases have a country flavor as they come from Carrie Underwood and Tenille Townes, recorded at Apple Music’s new state-of-the-art studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Both releases include three audio tracks and three videos – and after listening to them, I can say there’s a lot to celebrate.
Opinion: Apple Music is just making Spotify look bad right now – and so is Netflix
Netflix recently launched Spatial Audio – but like Dolby Atmos (whose badges seem to be popping up with alarming regularity on tablets like the Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus, where the ability to deliver truly immersive aerial sound from those tiny integrated speakers cannot correspond to that of a recording studio or theater 9.1.7) not all spatial audio is created equal.
This is because Netflix delivers its spatial audio content using AMBEO 2-Channel, a technology it licenses from Sennheiser that allows sound mixers to adapt Dolby Atmos soundtracks to present spatial audio over stereo speakers.
Meanwhile, Apple’s Spatial Audio system uses a 5.1, 7.1 or object-based audio track such as Dolby Atmos, and as we know, Apple also manufactures the hardware with which to enjoy its Spatial Audio offering more fully. . Whether you’re listening to Apple Music Sessions on the Cupertino giant’s own AirPods Pro, AirPods Max or AirPods 3, these headphones take the recording of Dolby Atmos music and process it on the device for a leveled, tracked sound experience.
And let’s not forget, Apple’s original HomePod also supports Spatial Audio – although not the HomePod mini. If the long-awaited and yet unofficial HomePod 2 supports Apple Music’s Dolby Atmos-enhanced music, we’re all in for a rare treat.
Now Spotify. The whole concept of Apple Music Sessions feels like Apple’s answer to the Spotify Sessions (opens in new tab) (hardly subtle, eh?), but let’s be honest – we know who wore it best. Spotify has yet to release its high-res Spotify HiFi tier (which it promised to reveal by the end of 2021, but hasn’t) or add any Dolby Atmos-enhanced music to its oeuvre.
Despite recently raising the prices of its student plan, Apple Music is, in my opinion, a cut above the rest and now superior even to longtime audiophiles’ choice, Tidal. And with custom spatial audio on the horizon and more sessions promised, the Tim Cook giant has just presented the best case for switching music streaming services yet.