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Here’s why Apple Music could sound worse than Spotify

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Apple has been loud and proud about the imminently-launching Apple Music streaming service, but it hasn’t really detailed what sort of quality we can expect from the audio.

Fortunately, a new report claims to have insider knowledge of the fledgling music platform’s inner workings.

According to Mashable, Apple Music will stream music at a bit rate of 256 kilobits per second (kbps) using Advanced Audio Coding (AAC).

For clarity, bit rate is how much data is processed over a period of time. In this case, every second of a song contains 256 kilobits of information.

This means that higher bit rates equate to more detailed songs, which translates to better sounding audio – although how much us simple human folk really notice these small differences is open to debate.

For instance, Tidal offers a HiFi tier which streams at an incredible 1,411kbps using the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) format. That’s the equivalent of CD quality audio.

Spotify, by contrast, streams at 320kbps, as does Google Play Music, and Rdio. Xbox Music, however, streams at just 192kbps.

Related: Apple Music vs Spotify

But why has Apple seemingly chosen to fall in the middle? Apparently, it’s because songs downloaded from iTunes are also encoded in 256kbps AAC.

It’s important to note that most people won’t be able to tell the difference between 256kbps and 320kbps, so Spotify isn’t necessarily an inherently better proposition than Apple Music because of its higher bit rate.

That's especially true because AAC is a codec that was specifically designed to retain better audio quality than its MP3 counterpart at the same bit rate.

This means that even if an MP3 track has a higher bit rate than the same song in AAC, it might not nnecessarily sound better.

Don’t forget that Apple hasn’t actually officially confirmed the Apple Music bit rate yet, so we’ll have to hold off on judgement until the launch.

Apple Music goes live across 100 countries today, June 30, at 4pm (BST), bringing with it Apple’s 24/7 Beats 1 radio channel.

Would a 256kbps bit rate put you off Apple Music? Let us know in the comments.

Also, if you still need a device to listen to Apple Music on, check out our iPhone 6 video review:

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