Spotify will roll out CD-quality audio streams later this year

Spotify HiFi is coming soon to "select markets," but there’s no word on how much the new audio tier will cost.

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Spotify is finally going the lossless way, with the streaming audio giant announcing that it will soon offer the option of CD-quality audio streams.

Spotify HiFi will arrive later this year in “select markets,” Spotify announced Monday during its online “Stream On” event.

Until now, Spotify’s music streams have topped out at 320Kbps in the lossy Ogg Vorbis format, although it has tested CD-quality audio streaming in the past.

Spotify has yet to say how much it’ll charge for its new Spotify HiFi tier, although during one of Spotify’s tests back in 2017, the company charged an additional $7.50 per month for CD-quality audio. Spotify currently charges $10 a month for individuals or $15 for families.

In its announcement, Spotify added that its HiFi streams will also be compatible with Spotify Connect-enabled speakers, and that it will be “working with some of the world’s biggest speaker manufacturers to make Spotify HiFi accessible to as many fans as possible.”

Now that Spotify is bowing a high-quality audio tier, it will join a select group of streaming services such as Amazon Music HD, Tidal, Deezer, and Qobuz, all of which offer CD-or-better audio streaming. Amazon Music HD, Deezer, and Qobuz charge $15 a month for their hi-fidelity music streams, while Tidal charges $20 a month.

Word of Spotify’s new HiFi tier is welcome news for those who’ve wanted higher-quality audio from the streaming service, but in terms of sheer audio quality, it still falls short of the high-resolution streams offered by the likes of Amazon Music HD, Tidal, and Qobuz.

While CD-quality music files are encoded with 16-bit resolution and 44.1kHz sampling rates, high-resolution audio is generally considered to be tracks encoded with 24-bit resolution and 48kHz sampling rates or higher. Of course, it’s debatable whether the human ear can tell the difference beyond a certain point—but most people can discern the difference between CD-quality and lossy music streams.

Now that Spotify has joined the lossless audio club, the pressure is on for such lossy-only competitors such as Apple Music, Napster, Pandora, and YouTube Music to step up their game. Given Apple’s strong presence in the earbuds and headphones market—we’re thinking of the $549 AirPods Max, of course—it’ll be interesting to see whether Cupertino takes the next step into the high-fidelity audio game.

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