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Apple announces lossless HD audio at no extra cost, then Amazon Music does too. The ball is now in Spotify's court

You can't hear the difference anyway

Shots have been fired in the audiophile world as Apple announced today that lossless audio was on its way to the fruity firm's entire catalogue of 75 million songs.

In a surprising move for customers accustomed to the company's usual methods of extracting cash from pockets, the upgraded sounds (due from next month) will not incur an additional cost.

It'll be an opt-in thing "due to the large file sizes and bandwidth needed," according to Apple, and the new lossless tier will start at CD quality before going up to 24 bits at 48kHz. High-resolution lossless goes all the way to 192kHz, although needs some external hardware (such as a USB digital-to-analogue converter) to make it work.

Those with recent Apple hardware will also get the Spatial Audio treatment (with support for Dolby Atmos) for "thousands of songs." The tech "gives artists the opportunity to create immersive audio experiences for their fans with true multidimensional sound and clarity," according to Apple. Sounds splendid.

Arch-rival Amazon Music sought to deaden Apple's announcement somewhat by making its own HD plan available to subscribers in the US, UK, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, and Spain for no extra cost. Amazon Music HD has a library of 70 million lossless songs at CD quality. 7 million songs are available in what the company calls "Ultra HD" with a bit depth of 24 bits and a sample rate up to 192kHz.

Up until today Amazon Music subscribers were expected to pay another $5 a month for HD. As of now, upping the quality is free (and existing subscribers will lose the charge in their next billing cycle).

An individual plan for Amazon Music Unlimited starts at £7.99 per month for Prime Members (£9.99 otherwise) with the first three months free. Apple also has a £9.99 per month tier with a three-month free period at the start.

Or maybe support your favourite artists by buying their stuff direct if possible? Plus, there's always Bandcamp, which takes a much smaller cut and offered lossless files from day one.

The big beast of the music streaming world, Spotify, is due to unleash its own take on HD later this year in the form of Spotify HiFi, also described as a "CD-quality, lossless audio format".

Dates and prices have yet to be set, although Apple and Amazon's move will certainly give the giant pause for thought. ®

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