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 at least half a year.
Why hasn’t Spotify HiFi come out yet?
Good question. Back in February, 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.
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.
How much will Spotify HiFi cost?
Again, we don’t know, although Spotify did suggest–at least initially–that Spotify HiFi would cost something extra.
Here’s the not-so-subtle hint, bolded for emphasis: “Premium subscribers in select markets will be able to upgrade their sound quality to Spotify HiFi.”
So from the language in the original announcement, it sure sounded like Spotify intended Spotify HiFi to be an add-on, and not a feature that’s already included for Premium subscribers.
Again, though, Spotify never went into detail about how much–or even if–it would charge more for Spotify HiFi. And even if Spotify had initially been set to charge extra for lossless streaming, it could have changed those plans in light of the subsequent announcements from Amazon and Apple.
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.”
Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since 2014, Ben joined TechHive in 2019, where he covers smart speakers, soundbars, and other smart and home-theater devices. You can follow Ben on Twitter.