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Apple services chief Eddy Cue says that Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos could be the "game-changer" that the music industry has been waiting for, while lossless audio will be a much more niche feature.
Apple on Monday launched Spatial Audio and Lossless Audio content, bringing immersive 3D streaming and higher-quality audio to Apple Music. A day after the launch, Cue spoke with Billboard to discuss the release of the new Apple Music features.
On lossless audio quality, Cue admits that only a "small set of customers" would actually be able to tell the difference between a normal track and a lossless one. He says some customers who have "incredibly ears" and "very, very high-quality stereo equipment" could tell the difference. For most people, "our ears aren't that good," he said.
"It's a small set of customers, but they want it and we'll certainly give it to them, and they'll have it as part of this. The good news is they'll have lossless and they'll have Dolby Atmos and Spatial," Cue said.
Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos, on the other hand, could be a true "game-changer," the Apple services chief added. Cue likened the quality to HD television — pretty much any person can immediately tell a difference.
"And so, when we listened to it for the first time, we realized this is a big, big deal. It makes you feel like you're onstage, standing right next to the singer, it makes you feel like you might be to the left of the drummer, to the right of the guitarist. It creates this experience that, almost in some ways, you've never really had, unless you're lucky enough to be really close to somebody playing music," Cue said.
Cue said that Apple spent time talking to labels and artists and educating them on Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos. This step was necessary because converting a song to Spatial Audio requires an in-depth process. It's not a "take-the-file that you have in stereo, processes through this software application and out comes Dolby Atmos," he said.
Because of the additional steps necessary, Spatial Audio and Dolby Atmos is launching with a limited set of artists initially. Apple Music offers more than 75 million songs. As of writing, Spatial Audio is only available on "thousands."
Cue does believe that this is just the beginning. He says that, eventually, "every new song that comes out" will support Dolby Atmos.
On the subject of support in CarPlay or third-party speakers, Cue says that he believes Spatial Audio "will go everywhere." Although support within a vehicle is not simple, he believes there's no doubt the platform will become available more broadly in the future.
When asked about the fact that Apple's AirPods Max didn't support lossless, Cue acknowledged that it's a problem, but only a minor one.
"So, yeah, I think there's a small problem with that, but it's a niche problem because, again, most people never have even heard of lossless to begin with and it's only when you tell them [they acknowledge it]. When they hear Spatial Audio and they get to listen to it, I think it's game over," Cue said.
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