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What is Spotify HiFi? What we know so far about the lossless audio tier

It’s been more than two years since Spotify first announced plans to launch a Spotify HiFi tier back in February 2021, which begs the question: where is it? 

The company recently offered an update on the whereabouts of the elusive higher quality Spotify tier, confirming that it definitely hasn’t been cancelled. 

Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about Spotify HiFi, including what it is, how much it might cost and when you can expect it to arrive… 

What is Spotify HiFi? 

Spotify HiFi is Spotify’s long-awaited lossless audio tier. 

The feature will allow Spotify subscribers to listen to music at CD quality, meaning the resolution will be closer to that of the original recordings offering more depth and clarity compared to what you currently hear when streaming with Spotify Premium.

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 should be no loss of quality in the digital music file, but it does also mean it eats up more data to stream and if it’s streamed over Bluetooth, there’s likely be some compression happening anyway.

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 higher quality 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 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.

Sony WH-1000XM5 on grass
Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

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 higher levels of streaming quality but not necessarily lossless audio.

Sony’s LDAC and Savitech’s LHDC codec, which are used by a number of audio brands in Asia, open up the Bluetooth bandwidth to support higher quality streams, but again these aren’t truly lossless in terms of information.

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.

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.

Spotify Apple Watch Offline

This will obviously depend on the agreements it can reach with music labels, though apparently these are all in place. 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 slightly ahead of Tidal, based on current catalogue figures.

When is Spotify HiFi available?

During its original announcement at the beginning of 2021, Spotify said that Spotify HiFi would launch toward the end of 2021. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

What we did see around that time was a video on Reddit offering an early look at the supposed onboarding process for Spotify HiFi within the mobile app. We know now the service has already been built in the backend of the app and is being used by people working at Spotify. 

In early 2022, Spotify took to its forums to reassure users that Spotify HiFi was still on its way and that, while the company had no timing details to share then and there, it would update fans when the time came. 

So what’s the hold up?

Spotify HiFi Reddit post

The initial problem appeared to be issues in licensing content for Spotify HiFi but from what we’ve learned that appears to have been resolved.

2023 rolled around and, with no mention of Spotify HiFi at the company’s March Stream On event, fans began to wonder whether the service had been abandoned after all. 

This was when Spotify co-president and chief product and technology officer Gustav Söderström swooped in to reassure fans once again that Spotify HiFi is still in the works

“We announced it, but then the industry changed for a bunch of reasons”, Söderström told The Verge. “We are going to do it, but we’re going to do it in a way where it makes sense for us and for our listeners”. 

It looks as if pricing is the latest hurdle, as well as trying to offer a service that does something different from other lossless streaming tiers in the market.

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 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? Our presumption is that Spotify wants to price it more than the Tidal HiFi and Apple Music, as well as 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’re not sure we see Spotify going that far given it’s only offering lossless audio. Somewhere in between is another possibility, but Spotify will face accusations of being more expensive than its rivals.

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