Back in February 2021, Spotify made a bold promise to roll out lossless music streaming before the year was out. Fast forward more than two years later, and there’s still no sign of Spotify HiFi.
So, what’s the deal? Spotify has let slip a few details about the missing service, but otherwise, the company has been frustratingly tight-lipped about the fate of Spotify HiFi. Meanwhile, rumors last fall suggesting that Spotify HiFi might soon see the light of day have thus far failed to pan out.
Here’s what we know–and don’t know–about when Spotify HiFi might finally arrive.
Updated April 25, 2023 with details of Spotify’s first-quarter 2023 earnings report, which skipped any mention of Spotify HiFi.
Spotify HiFi release date: Your questions answered
What is Spotify HiFi?
First announced back in February 2021, Spotify HiFi was described as a way for Spotify Premium users to “upgrade their sound quality” to a “CD-quality, lossless audio format.”
Typically, “CD-quality” means streaming audio encoded with 16-bit depth and a 44.1kHz sampling rate.
But the key term here is “lossless,” which means that the audio stream contains exactly the same sonic detail as its source.
The main selling point here is that you’d be hearing the music in the precise way the artist intended–and indeed, Spotify posted a video in which Billie Eilish and Finneas extolled the virtues of lossless audio streaming.
As it stands, Spotify streams audio at 320Kbps in the “lossy” Ogg Vorbis format, which means the audio stream has been compressed and is losing a fair amount of detail in the interest of conserving bandwidth.
When will Spotify HiFi come out?
The short answer is that we don’t know when Spotify HiFi will arrive, but according to at least one Spotify executive, the service is still coming.
Speaking with The Verge in March, Spotify co-president Gustav Söderström said that the company is “still going to do” Spotify HiFi, but that “we’re going to do it in a way where it makes sense for us and for our listeners,” adding that “the industry changed and we had to adapt.” We’ll discuss exactly how the industry changed in a moment.
Söderström didn’t offer a timeline for when Spotify HiFi might finally arrive, beyond a vague “at some point.”
Previously, the company offered a vaguely worded statement at the beginning of 2022 that offered scant details about Spotify HiFi’s fate:
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.
We reached out to Spotify shortly after that announcement, but a rep would only say that the company did “not have anything further to share on HiFi beyond the excitement for the future launch.”
Later, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek dodged a question about Spotify HiFi during the streamer’s third-quarter 2022 earnings call in October 2022, while the feature went entirely unmentioned during Spotify’s most recent “Stream On” event in March 2023. Spotify again failed to mention HiFi during its Q1 2023 earnings report on April 25.
There have been other hints about Spotify HiFi’s arrival. According to an October 2022 post on Reddit, a longtime Spotify user who had recently switched to Apple Music claimed they got a survey detailed a new plan–“Spotify Platinum”–that boasts HiFi, as well as other features such as “Studio Sound,” a “Headphone Tuner,” “Audio Insights,” “Library Pro,” “Playlist Pro,” and “limited-ad” podcasts, all for an extra charge (more on that in a moment).
The Redditor said the survey asked if they would switch back to Spotify “in the nest 30 days” for “one of [those] features.”
Well, here we are, six months following that Reddit post, and there’s still no word on Spotify Platinum.
Previously, a “HiFi” icon was spotted in the Spotify app back in May 2021 and a leaked “Hi, HiFi” video that made the rounds a few months later.
How much will Spotify HiFi cost?
While Spotify has never come out and said that HiFi would cost extra, the wording of its initial announcement–“Premium subscribers in select markets will be able to upgrade their sound quality to Spotify HiFi”–suggests that HiFi is either an add-on or included in a new plan, such as the possible Spotify Platinum tier.
According to the “Spotify Platinum” rumor detailed above, the purported survey pegged the price at $19.99 a month, or double the $9.99/month Spotify Individual plan. Ouch.
It’s also worth noting that Spotify tested CD-quality audio streams as early as 2017, and at that time, it charged an extra $7.50 a month for the privilege.
When was Spotify HiFi supposed to come out?
Spotify never gave a precise release date for Spotify HiFi, but during its 2021 announcement, it said the feature would arrive “later this year” in “select” markets.
Of course, it’s fair to say that Spotify HiFi missed its launch window by a fairly large margin.
Why hasn’t Spotify HiFi come out yet?
Good question. Back in February 2022, Spotify CEO Daniel Ed blamed “licensing” issues when asked about the fate of Spotify HiFi during a company earnings call. Here’s the exact quote, as reported by TechCrunch:
“Many of the features that we talk about and especially that’s related to music ends up into licensing,” Ek told investors. “So I can’t really announce any specifics on this other than to say that we’re in constant dialogue with our partners to bring this to market.”
There is another reason that Spotify might have delayed Spotify HiFi: because it got caught flat-footed by Apple and Amazon, a development that Spotify’s Söderström referred to (“the industry changed”) earlier.
Just three months after the Spotify HiFi announcement, Amazon and Apple both announced (separately, but on the same day) that they would begin offering lossless, high-resolution, and spatial audio music tracks, all for no extra charge. (Apple was completely new to lossless and spatial audio streaming, while Amazon had previously been charging extra for lossless and spatial tracks.)
Following the Amazon and Apple announcements, the prospect of paying extra (most likely) for only CD-quality music and (probably) no spatial audio began to lose its luster, so perhaps Spotify chose to retreat and regroup.
Will Spotify HiFi offer high-resolution music streaming?
Plenty of Spotify’s streaming music rivals, including Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Qobuz, and Tidal, offer “high-resolution” music streaming–that is, audio that’s encoded at a higher resolution and sampling rate than CD-quality 16-bit/44.1kHz audio tracks.
Most industry types agree that 24-bit/48kHz is the threshold for high-resolution audio, and those streamers that support it deliver high-res streams all the way up to 24-bit/192kHz.
But Spotify never said anything about high-resolution audio in its initial Spotify HiFi announcement; all it promised was “CD-quality” audio, which qualifies as “hi-fi” but not “hi-res.”
As for the “Spotify Platinum” rumors, the purported survey makes mention of a “Studio Sound” feature in addition to HiFi. Could “Studio Sound” mean hi-res music? Hmmm.
In any event, it’s a matter of heated debate whether the human ear can actually tell the difference between CD-quality and high-resolution audio–or for that matter, whether most folks can discern the difference between lossy and lossless. We won’t dive into lossy-vs.-lossless rabbit hole here.
Will Spotify HiFi offer spatial audio?
As with high-resolution audio, Spotify never said anything about spatial audio–that is, music tracks that have been mixed with 3D surround effects–in its Spotify HiFi announcement.
Meanwhile, Spotify competitors Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Tidal do offer spatial audio tracks in such formats as Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.
Again, Spotify might actually have spatial audio plans in the works–and perhaps that’s what the “Studio Sound” and/or “Headphone Tuner” features from the Spotify Platinum rumors are all about.
Will Spotify HiFi get cancelled?
Well, anything’s possible, and Spotify has been known to nix high-profile features that never quite took off.
For example, Spotify recently pulled the plug on Car Thing, a small touchscreen display that you could install on a car dashboard for on-the-road Spotify streaming.
For its part, Spotify said that while Car Thing “worked as intended,” it chose to halt production of the $80 device due to “product demand and supply chain issues,” among other factors.
Spotify also has a history of testing, teasing, and rolling out new features that later disappear–or even reappear–without explanation.
But while Spotify seems willing to cancel features that aren’t working, it also likes to experiment, and Spotify HiFi could be a project that Spotify is content to tinker with indefinitely.
For what it’s worth, the official Spotify HiFi announcement is still live on Spotify’s website.
Updated on April 25, 2023 to add new developments and analysis.