Spotify announced plans to launch a Spotify HiFi tier for Spotify Premium subscribers back in 2021, but it’s still yet to arrive.
Music streaming services are offering tracks in better quality than ever, with move to higher quality music on the up. Spotify has announced plans to offer its subscribers a higher quality audio tier, but what is Spotify HiFi and when is it due to arrive?
What is Spotify HiFi?
Once it arrives, Spotify HiFi will offer CD-quality, lossless audio. This means audio that will be much closer in quality to the original recordings, so listeners will be able enjoy more depth and clarity, provided they have headphones and speakers good enough to take advantage of the increased bitrate.
What audio quality is Spotify HiFi streaming at?
It’s important to note that Spotify will be offering audio at CD, lossless quality, not to be confused with high-resolution audio, which is considered to be audio quality higher than 16-bit/44.1 kHz (which is what Spotify HiFi will stream at). Lossless audio ensures that there is no loss of quality in the digital music file, but it does also mean it eats up more data to stream.
For a number of music streaming services, digital music files are compressed in order to keep the file sizes down. For a 3.5-minute song, a standard compressed audio file is around 2mb. The same file size for a hi-res track can be around 20Mb. For example, Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis, which is said to deliver high quality sound relative to the bandwidth needed to stream it.
Which audio codec will Spotify HiFi use?
There are various formats providing high-resolution audio, and Spotify hasn’t made clear which format it will use as yet. Tidal HiFi uses the FLAC format at 16-bit / 44.1kHz and MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) for higher-resolution files (branded as Tidal Masters) such as 24-bit / 352kHz. We wouldn’t expect Spotify HiFi to go that far.
Right now, the most Spotify Premium can offer is 320kbps MP3 on desktop, mobile and tablet, so whether the service uses FLAC or something else, the audio quality the HiFi tier will (eventually) be much better than what is currently available.
Will I need new speakers or headphones?
Spotify says that it is working with “some of the world’s biggest speaker manufacturers” to ensure that Spotify HiFi can be accessed through the Spotify Connect.
It is yet to reveal the technical requirements for Spotify HiFi, but given the ubiquity of Spotify on devices around the world, we’d imagine it’ll be made widely available. Spotify Connect streams direct from the music service over Wi-Fi, so higher-quality sound should be possible with devices that support that feature.
Over Bluetooth there’s a potential question mark over whether you’d truly be getting Spotify HiFi quality. aptX, aptX-HD and aptX-Lossless Bluetooth should facilitate these levels of streaming quality, while Sony’s LDAC and Savitech’s LHDC codec, which is used by a number of audio brands in Asia, open up the Bluetooth bandwidth to support higher quality streams.
For wired headphones, it’s worth considering a Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) to give audio files a bigger boost. After all, wired listening is still better and more consistent than listening over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
When is Spotify HiFi available?
Spotify said the HiFi tier would be available towards the end of 2021. That date came and went with Spotify not offering any concrete details on its possible entrance into the market.
Some crumbs of detail appeared towards the end of 2021, with a video on Reddit revealing the onboarding process for Spotify HiFi in the mobile app, indicating that the service has been built in the back-end of the app.
We got a clearer but still foggy idea of what’s going on in early 2022, when a response to a thread on the Spotify forums responded: “We know that HiFi quality audio is important to you. We feel the same, and we’re excited to deliver a Spotify HiFi experience to Premium users in the future. But we don’t have timing details to share yet. We will of course update you here when we can.”
The issue is that Spotify has run into issues with licensing content for its HiFi tier. Speaking to analysts and investors in 2022, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek admitted that he didn’t know when the tier would launch.
“Many of the features that we talk about and especially that’s related to music ends up into licensing. So I can’t really announce any specific on this other than to say that we’re in constant dialogue with our partners to bring this to market.”
All signs point to Spotify HiFi being indefinitely delayed until more details are announced. At this moment in time, it’s not expected to launch in 2022 as Spotify continues to talk to with music labels. It’s not great for Spotify given Tidal, Apple Music, Amazon Music HD and Qobuz already got there much earlier.
What tracks will be in Spotify HiFi?
Spotify is said to have a music catalogue in the region of 80 million tracks, which apparently isn’t as much as Apple Music’s 90 million+ catalogue, so the question is how many tracks will be available in HiFi quality.
This will obviously depend on the agreements it can reach with music labels. Amazon Music HD says it has 90 million tracks in High Definition (which translates to CD quality) and 9 million in Ultra HD (High Resolution). Apple says all of its catalogue is available in lossless or more.
Those are massive figures to hit, unless Spotify can unlock its entire library at launch. It would still be behind Apple and Amazon but would be slightly ahead of Tidal, based on current catalogue figures.
How much will Spotify HiFi cost?
We can only predict what Spotify HiFi will cost at this moment in time. It will only be available to Spotify Premium subscribers, who’ll be able to upgrade their sound when the feature launches in their market.
Does that mean it’ll cost the same as Spotify Premium does right now at $9.99 / £9.99 per month? Possibly, given Tidal HiFi and Apple Music costs the same amount, as does Amazon Music HD for Prime subscribers. For non-Prime users its £12.99 per month.
Tidal goes as far as $19.99 / £19.99 per month for its higher quality Masters tier, but we can’t see Spotify going that far given its only offering lossless audio. Somewhere in between is another possibility, but Spotify will face accusations of being pricier than its rivals.