Music Updates

Apple’s Eddy Cue Believes the Future of Music Isn’t Lossless — It’s Spatial Audio

Billboard had a chance to listen to Spatial Audio in Apple Music before it was released, and the quality of its offering exceeds similar services from Tidal and Amazon Music, which both offer 3D Audio tracks from Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio. But Apple has an uphill battle on its hands to make surround sound in music stick. With a limited selection of Spatial Audio tracks (Apple says Spatial Audio tracks number in the thousands, while the service offers over 75 million tracks in total) and a lot of work to do to convince the public that there’s a leap to be made in music outside of better audio quality.

Billboard spoke with Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, whose responsibilities include Apple Music to discuss the streaming service, lossless music, and what Spatial Audio may mean for the future of music consumption.

Courtesy of Apple

Eddy Cue

We saw some of your competitors launch their own versions of immersive music, which have had varying levels of success. What makes Spatial Audio different?

I’ve been waiting for something in music that was a real game-changer. The quality of audio has not been able to really rise because there hasn’t been anything out there that when you listen to it, it truly is differentiated to everybody. It doesn’t matter whether you’re eight years old or 80 years old, everyone can tell the difference and everyone knows this one sounds better than the other one.

And the analogy to that is obviously the first time you ever saw HD on television: you knew which one was better because it was obvious. And we’ve been missing that in audio for a long time. There really hasn’t been anything that’s been substantial. We’ll talk about lossless and other things, but ultimately, there’s not enough difference.

But when you listen for the first time and you see what’s possible with Dolby Atmos with music, it’s a true game-changer. 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.

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