Apple Music adds Spatial Audio and lossless listening at no extra cost

The new features are rolling out from June

Declan McGlynn

Monday, May 17, 2021 – 14:26

Apple Music has added lossless mode to its streaming catalogue at no extra cost. The music streaming platform is also adding support for Spatial Audio with support for Dolby Atmos, a kind of 3D sound that was introduced in AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. Not all music will work with Spatial Audio at first, with Apple name-checking the likes of Arianna Grande, The Weeknd and J Balvin supporting the feature from the off. We reported on the new feature rumours earlier today

Apple is making its whole catalogue of 75 million songs available as lossless audio using Apple’s own ALAC codec, with the tech giant saying the lossless “tier starts at CD quality, which is 16-bit at 44.1kHz, and goes up to 24-bit at 48kHz. For the true audiophile, Apple Music also offers Hi-Resolution Lossless all the way up to 24-bit at 192 kHz.” It’s not clear if those extra, higher-quality versions are also included at no extra cost. 

The new features will be available to users from June. Find out more on Apple’s website.


UK Government will not consider festival insurance until lockdown ends, culture secretary says

The UK Government will not consider festival insurance until lockdown ends, according to culture secretary Oliver Dowden. 

Speaking at a Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee meeting on 13th May, Dowden clarified the position, suggesting insurance support would only be considered as an option after Stage Four of easing lockdown restrictions on 21st June, at which point it would be clearer whether planned events can take place. 

“It has to be the case first that we know something can go ahead,” he said, adding that he is confident the roadmap to reopening will go ahead as planned. “I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect the taxpayer to provide a full indemnity for all the events if it’s not possible for them to happen.” 

Heather Wheeler, Member of Parliament for South Derbyshire, expressed  concerns at the plan.  “This would have been a very cheap deal to have been done, because the government are confident that 21 June is D-Day… in which case, you didn’t need to spend any money on insurance,” she explained. “But it’s too late for the planning for so many of these summer festivals. It’s just too late.”

The news will come as a blow to the events sector, which has been lobbying for targeted support for the industry, including government underwritten insurance to safeguard against cancellations resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Several European countries have similar systems in place, including a €300million scheme partly set up to protect the Dutch festival season. 

Earlier in May, DJ Mag reported on a statement by the Association of Independent Festivals, warning that up to 76% of remaining events scheduled for the UK in July and August could be cancelled by the end of May this month due to uncertainty as to whether all restrictions would be removed in time for them to run, and the lack of government-backed protection. 22% of festivals tracked by the organisation had already moved dates to later in the year. 

In more positive event news, Festival Republic has announced plans for a new pilot camping weekender in the UK to test COVID-19 protocols, following trials held in Liverpool earlier his month, including legal rave The First Dance

Apple Music goes Lossless, Spatial, Dolby Atmos

Apple will update its Apple Music subscription service in June with a no-cost addition of new sound features. But more than that, it hints at a world of music listening generally that dumps lossy compression and embraces spatial sound. And you can get started mixing for it right away.

So what’s it about? Basically, the existing Apple Music subscription and streaming gets a sound update, without changing the price. (That of course may rankle producers who hoped premium sound would command a premium price or more royalties – it seems not so much.)

The sound quality news at least is good. And Spatial Audio may well be the future, even if the listening hardware and distribution mechanisms are still uncertain.

The big breakthrough here – Dolby just got a huge leg-up with Apple Music and Apple hardware. So you might want to know how to mix for it.

Lossless and Spatial Audio, now on Apple Music – meaning also a delivery option if you’re making spatial sound with Dolby Atmos. Photo courtesy Apple.

Lossless Audio

The easy part to understand: every track on Apple Music instantly gets lossless playback. Lossy compression (like MP3) adds some audible artifacts – subtle, but sometimes detectable. It’s debatable whether you can hear that at different encoding rates – you can do double-blind A/B tests – but mathematically, the difference is there. Apple Lossless saves on file size but has the same information encoded as a larger uncompressed file (like your WAV or AIFF).

What Apple calls it: Lossless Audio (ALAC or Apple Lossless Audio Codec)

When the format arrived: 2004, actually; plenty of us have been using it ourselves in iTunes for years and it’s open-source

How to get it: It’ll just happen in June for all 75 million + sounds in the catalog, because Apple required you upload lossless masters from the very start

Where: Settings > Music > Audio Quality, then select Apple Lossless and 16-bit 44.1 kHz, 24-bit 48 kHz, and Hi-Resolution Lossless up to 24-bit 192 kHz.

Wait, hi-resolution? Yes; Apple says this is for “the true audiophile” which is I presume – not any of us who actually work in music, since we’re generally fine with the other settings. (Sorry, audiophiles.) True, you can use that with external DACs for better quality but – you can do exactly the same with 16-bit/44.1 and have the same quality as the master. (Ducks… .)

Apologies to our bat audience; I know this matters to you.

But anyway, the other Lossless formats are great!

Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos

Here’s the slightly more confusing part of this story, but it’s also the most interesting.

Apple has been pushing “Spatial Audio” for some time, and now it’s onboard with the Dolby Atmos Music experience.

Dolby Atmos is the proprietary Dolby surround technology for cinemas, and it’s also been extended to other Atmos-branded consumer listening experiences. Here, it does really mean spatial sound – so a three-dimensional encoding technology for multichannel mixes that’s related to what Dolby sells for movie theaters and whatnot.

Think multiple channels, x + y + z space info, and then a 360-degree mix. When we’re talking Dolby Atmos Music, that information is encoded with the mix and either played back on a real multichannel surround system at home, or a headphone mix using some machine interpolation meant to simulate 360-degree immersion.

Dolby has been putting the Atmos brand on sort of everything. And that is a slightly weird decision, because it dilutes the brand. Atmos in cinemas is pretty amazing, if pricey and proprietary – Dolby even showed up at an Ableton Loop event, equipped with plug-ins. But as you imagine, taking surround sound and delivering it through stereo headphones is a totally different animal, and often disappointing. It’s the difference between a Ferrari, and … a keychain with the Ferrari logo.

But Dolby have certainly been trying. There is spatial sound processing in the latest Xbox platform and accessories, the Windows platform, and for some reason a bunch of phones.

We’ll have to see how Apple delivers this experience, but they promise use of their AirPods and all H1/W1-equipped recent Beats headphones. They also offer support for internal speakers, though why you’d want to use internal speakers to listen to 360-degree audio, I have no idea.

But don’t get me wrong – there’s potential here. Being able to know that a consumer is listening through Apple’s integrated OS and headphone experience could make this more predictable. And while Tidal already had Atmos, this is of course a bigger audience with Apple – and the promise of a deeper implementation, with directly integrated hardware.

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It also could trickle up to more advanced spatial audio experiences, depending on how the creator and hardware accessory and platform are handled. Though in that event, of course, you might also just give up and use ambisonics … and I wonder what may happen soon with game tools. (Imagine that you might deliver music as an AV experience through Unreal Engine and some as-yet-unseen integration with Apple headphones and iOS, for instance… let’s see.)

For now, I expect a lot of us with an iPhone and some AirPods Pro will just be curious to try it out and let our ears be the judge. And fortunately, if Maroon 5 aren’t exactly your speed, the “thousands” of launch tracks also include things like the LA Philharmonic and producing work by Giles Martin, and yeah, I’m also curious what J Balvin and The Weeknd sound like.

I have a lot of questions – like whether you’ll be able to use third-party home equipment, whether Apple will try to get into that home game and real multichannel, and whether Apple will dig into Atmos authoring with Logic.

For now, many people are mixing Dolby Atmos with Steinberg Nuendo, the DAW from Apple’s old Hamburg rival:

But yeah, you can totally use Logic for Apple Music – Dolby quietly introduced how back in January, so let’s watch:

Atmos Music How-to

If your eyes glazed over with the Apple stuff, spatial audio fans will love the actual mixing experience. And this is wild – think about having the usual spatial tools, but being able to deliver to a broad array of listeners with your actual 360-degree mix, not just a stereo version.

Dolby Atmos Music Quick Start: Getting Started with Logic Pro

The Atmos Renderer has come a long way, and will look instantly familiar to anyone working with spatial sound:

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Any spatial tool will have a panner.

And you can use this with any DAW you want – here it is as AAX in Pro Tools, but there are VST and AU version, too.

Whoa, dig the elevator music, Dolby.

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Here’s how to work with Logic Pro – and we’ll see if Apple offers up some unique integration for their platform, as they do often do. (Most of what’s unique here has to do with Logic’s peculiar mixing engine architecture and Objects.)

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And here’s how you make a master, in Ableton Live:

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Watch this space to see what happens next.

But it does push Apple forward with stuff producers like – meaning, Spotify, your move.

PS – if you’re interested in spatial sound, we’re hosting a free event in June on the topic for all levels alongside Your Mom’s Agency, so join in:

Arts Technologist KamranV (aka CyKiK) builds bridges between the real and the ideal. Current interests include holograms, automation, and quadraphonic music. Recent explorations include developing the PHONOCUT home vinyl recorder, reimagining Moogfest, co-creating the SONOS studio and producing Suzanne Ciani’s LIVE Quadraphonic, the first quadraphonic vinyl release in over 30 years.
In this workshop, Kamran reviews the state of immersive/3d/spatial sound and how a quadraphonic music production workflow using the Quadraphonic Universally Accessible Resource Kit (QUARK) can open up current and future creative opportunities.

And more on our partner, KamranV:

Unlike Dolby’s offering, QUARK is available free:

And yeah, that means also independent distribution (not just streaming) is an alternative. But more on that another time.

Hospitality In The Woods Label Takeover live stream this Friday

Hospitality In The Woods will takeover our social media channels this Friday

Euan McGraw

Monday, May 17, 2021 – 12:18

This Friday, we’re delighted to announce we are teaming up with the London-based D&B label Hospital Records to bring you an evening of live streamed DJ sets. 

Hospital will showcase some of their artists across DJ Mag’s channels ahead of Hospitality In The Woods in September.

Friday’s line-up includes Fred-V, Unglued, Winslow, Stay-C and Double O & Chickaboo.

You can catch the Hospital Records DJ Mag Label Takeover live stream this Friday from 18:00 (GMT) on our FacebookYouTube and Twitch channels. 

Check out the full list of set times below.

Nic Earley gives us passion in “Hindsight”

NY-based Nic Earley releases soulful new single “Hindsight,” a lovely song showcasing his sweet vocals and the heartfelt poetry exemplified through the words. 
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Nic Earley is known for his catalog of songs where his voice never fails to touch our soul. “Hindsight” is just one example, being sonically pleasing with the beautiful piano keys in the background powerfully accentuating the message this song carries. Nic Earley’s angelic voice and the high notes that he effortlessly hits are extraordinary, making for the perfect love song. Every poetic word uttered is with such conviction yet is gently delivered by his smooth voice. The catchy chorus is intense, evoking our emotions deeply. The neon colors reflect the emotions impeccably as the changes in the colors ignite even more feeling. Press play and listen to this flawless song to play when you’re with the love of your life. 



SOPHIE’s collaborators and friends launch art auction for Trans Justice Funding Project

Collaborators and friends of the late visionary experimental pop musician, producer and cultural icon SOPHIE have launched an art auction, God Is Trans, to raise money for the Trans Justice Funding Project, a U.S. organisation that works for equality and justice alongside grassroots groups across America.

Items up for bidding include an Eckhaus Latta white silk dress and photos captured by Renata Raksha and Zoe Chait, alongside a number of original art works including a print by Nick Harwood, who directed the video to the hit single ‘It’s OK To Cry’. 

“As friends and collaborators of Sophie’s in the US, we have organized [sic] this online auction and sale of editions to honor [sic] her radical generosity, artistic vision, and commitment to the trans community,” a statement on the auction website reads. 

“One hundred per cent of the proceeds from this auction and sale will benefit the Trans Justice Funding Projet, via the Tides Foundation, their fiscal sponsors. TJFP is an American organisation established in 2021 to directly fund grassroots trans justice groups across the US,” it continues. “Since its inception TJFP has distributed more than $4.5million in unrestricted grants to projects combating racism, economic injustice, transmisogyny, ableism, incarceration, and other intersecting oppressions.” 

SOPHIE was tragically killed in an accident in Athens, Greece, in January 2021, aged-34.  You can give directly to the TJFP here, or head to God Is Trans for more details on the auction. Read DJ Mag’s cover story with SOPHIE from July 2019 here.

Watch a new documentary drama about electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire

‘Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes’ is now available to watch in BBC iPlayer

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Monday, May 17, 2021 – 13:50

A new documentary drama film about the life of electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire has been aired on BBC Four, and is now available to watch again via the BBC’s iPlayer on-demand service.

Written, directed by and starring Caroline Catz, ‘Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes’ premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in 2020 and chronicles both the musician’s experiments in sound and emotional connection to “another realm” created through her work setting out early blueprints for synthesised sonics. Archive videos, including interviews, are juxtaposed with re-enactments to help tell the story.  

The film features a soundtrack by Cosey Fanni Tutti and original recordings by Derbyshire, who was also featured in another recent documentary, ‘Sisters With Transistors’, which celebrates a number of female electronic music pioners including Suzanne Ciani, Laurie Spiegel and Pauline Oliveros, and debuted at London’s Barbican Theatre last November. 

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DMX’s posthumous album will feature Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nas, more

Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher and Usher are also on the credits

Martin Guttridge-Hewitt

Monday, May 17, 2021 – 12:46

DMX’s posthumous album will feature guest appearances from Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, Nas, Griselda, Bono, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, The LOX, Usher and the rapper’s own son, Exodus Simmons. 

Full details of the forthcoming 13-track record, ‘Exodus’, were confirmed by close friend and executive producer, Swiss Beatz. Arriving on 28th May, it marks the artist’s first work in 18 years for the legendary Def Jam imprint, which previously carried some of his most acclaimed releases including the 1988 debut ‘It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot’ and 1999’s ‘And Then There Was X’, his biggest-selling LP. 

DMX died on 9th April 2021 after being hospitalised seven days earlier following a reported drug overdose and heart attack. His funeral was broadcast to the world with millions watching in a bid to pay their respect, while 28th December has been declared Earl ‘DMX’ Simmons Day by New York State.   

Apple says “music is about to change forever” in new teaser

A cryptic video teasing a major update was found on the tech giant’s website

Declan McGlynn

Monday, May 17, 2021 – 09:25

Apple has made the bold statement “music is about the change forever” in a new teaser first uncovered by The cryptic message is displayed alongside a video of a spinning Apple Music logo, implying the new update will be centred around Apple’s Spatial Audio feature found in their AirPod Pros and AirPod Max headphones. 

There have also been rumours circulating around a lossless audio alternative subscription for Apple Music that would see the whole catalogue upgraded to a high-end listening experience via a ‘lossless’ and a ‘hi-res lossless’ mode. The Verge reports: “According to code in the Android app, the lossless tier will support music streaming at 24-bit/48Hz (a small step up from regular CD-quality 16-bit/44.1kHz), while the hi-res lossless tier will stream at 24-bit/192 kHz”. 

No official announcement has been scheduled but some rumours suggest an announcement could be made by Tuesday May 18th. 


Bleu Clair and Matroda execute a nostalgic merger that supplies the ultimate ‘Disco Tool’

Bleu Clair and Matroda execute a nostalgic merger that supplies the ultimate ‘Disco Tool’Screen Shot 2021 05 16 At 11.19.56 PM

When Bleu Clair posted a puzzle-piece teaser to his social platforms in a bid for listeners to decode whom his next original would pit him alongside, a surplus of tempting pairings immediately came to mind. One of Dancing Astronaut’s Artists to Watch in 2021 has now unmasked the name, disclosing that he would partner with none other than Matroda for “Disco Tool” to outstretch a crushing train of big-ticket releases that have trailed his induction into our annual collective of skyrocketing production minds.

“Disco Tool” resets the clock all the way to pre-pandemic times. Worth noting is its initial awakening, achieved through Bleu Clair’s debut edition (from January of 2020) of his ongoing BLEUPRINT mix series, which has remained the breeding grounds for some of his most sought-after IDs in the last year-plus. Wearing its name on its sleeve and already earning some well-deserved praise from the likes of Martin Garrix and Zedd, “Disco Tool” hops into a time machine back towards the ’70s, palatably aligning Bleu Clair’s nostalgically inspired DNA of tech house with Matroda’s forward-looking finesse.

Featured image: Bleu Clair/Instagram

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