It’s taken mainstream music streaming services more than a decade to catch up with high-resolution entertainment. While HD video streaming started to become the norm around the late 2000s, mainstream audio services have only now started to become more prominent. You started to get more options like Qobuz, and Tidal, but they were considered more niche services. Now with Amazon Music HD, Apple Music, and soon Spotify going lossless, we’re finally starting to see high-resolution audio streaming become more universal. No more compressed audio files! So long mp3s and 320kps streaming! I certainly won’t miss you.
So What’s The Difference Again?
Here’s a quick refresher on what’s going on with Apple Music. Back in June, Apple made a surprising rollout to all of their Apple Music subscribers. Before that, Apple music could only support 256kbps streaming quality, which uses a compression algorithm that forgoes certain frequencies. In effect, the algorithm sacrifices fidelity to make way for more memory. However, that doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore. Apple Music has adopted a new algorithm that adapts its selection of over 75 million songs into ALAC(Apple Lossless Audio CODEC). This makes their library of music listenable in CD quality, 16 bit 44.1kHz, and can go up to 24 bit 192kHz.
In a sense, a simple stream of any song will lay everything out on the table. Hearing all the potential details in a track is not possible with Apple Music, so long as you have the right headphones to hear them. Mainstream Hi-Fi streaming is now accessible for everyone to enjoy, and that’s something to celebrate. So, let’s celebrate by naming a few albums available on Apple Music that might make the most of lossless streaming.
What Makes An Album Good For Lossless?
If we’re not talking about pure noise, then most albums you’ll hear will sound great in a lossless file format. Whether you’re a fan of pop, hip-hop, electronic, ambient, or good ol’ rock n roll, lossless streaming will offer something different compared to the compressed format you might be listening in. If you’re new to Hi-Fi streaming, then this selection of albums could provide a good test for your ears, while at the same time offering interesting musicality that benefits from the depth lossless streaming can bring you.
You might be familiar with some picks here, while others might be considered a little unconventional. However, each album makes a great case for lossless streaming, as a loss in any detail would be considered doing it a disservice. To get the best out of lossless all you have to do is make sure you’re listening on a good set of headphones, earbuds, or IEMs that have a wide frequency response. The wider the range the more you’ll get out of the music.
George Harrison “All Things Must Pass” 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe
Let’s start off by presenting a pick you’ll most likely be familiar with. Everything that made George Harrison the incredible songwriter he was is contained on this phenomenal album. Containing hits like “My Sweet Lord,” “What Is Life,” and “Isn’t It A Pity” there’s no denying the impact this album has. Recently it was the 50th anniversary of that album, and to celebrate, a brand new remaster was released. It features brand new masters of each track and includes a wealth of bonus demos and outtakes culminating in a four and a half-hour, 70 track collection of George Harrison bliss.
The tracks here are so much more clear than they were on the original release, which suffered from a crowded mix that was saved by the exquisite songwriting. Some tracks came off as distant, with the heavy production coming off like it had a bit too much reverb. Here the instrumentals are so much more clear, and the vocals so much crisper. The separation of these elements is felt a lot more, culminating in a cleaner mix that makes each element shine through all the more. Tracks like “Awaiting On You All” appear more articulate in the mix, showcasing George’s vocals atop the more spread-out instrumentation. Comparing the differences on both masters works best when in a lossless format, featuring those details with a lot more clarity.
Daniel Hart “The Green Knight(Original Soundtrack)”
Like the film itself, this wonderfully composed score by Daniel Hart assures you this isn’t going to be your standard fantasy fare. In the past, we’ve gotten grandiose orchestral soundtracks from films like The Lord of The Rings, Harry Potter, and Game of Thrones, but the music for the Green Knight isn’t what you’d expect. Hart uses many instruments that signify the classic fantasy feel, but with a more warped tone. The strings are a lot more aggressive, the woodwind off-tune, and the angelic choir more haunting. In tandem, these elements are used to create a fantastical atmosphere with a layer of dread. The way these instrumentation are performed is heavily improved when heard in their intended sound quality. Without a lossless environment, these tracks lose some significant gravity. The choir section requires extra roominess and the woodwind that extra tail in the high frequencies. For those who love movie soundtracks, I’d recommend this as your first lossless experience.
Black Midi “Cavalcade”
It’s going to start to get a bit weird here. However, if there’s any type of music to start listening to in lossless, it’s the weird kind. The first time I listened to this album I found it quite hard to get through, but I couldn’t escape the incredibly technical performance and production featured on this album. Although it didn’t seem my thing at first, it started to become undeniable the more I listened to it. Part of what makes this album worth listening to in its highest possible fidelity is being able to truly hear all its elements so that the listener may dissect them and try to make sense of these warped tracks.
Alonefold “Strange Lights & Other Sky Ghosts”
I understand if it isn’t your thing, but I personally don’t think there’s any other genre that takes advantage of high-fidelity quite like ambient music. Many of the intricacies that go into creating the textures that resonate through an album like this. It’s the selection with the least amount of press, but if you really want to get the feel for lossless, listen to something like “Strange Lights & Other Sky Ghosts.” It begins with these misty wind effects that travel through the left and right channel, while transmission signals go in and out of the mix. In their highest fidelity, and with a good set of headphones, these tracks can hold greater weight, as drones and other effects are able to touch on details that are able to engage you as a participant in the album’s soundscape rather than a spectator. With those details being potentially lost in the translation of compression, lossless is the most effective way to experience an album like this.
Hans Zimmer “The Dune Sketchbook”
I had a few albums in contention for my final spot, but then I heard this and became immediately infatuated with it. I have not seen the actual film prior to writing this but being a fan of both the novel and the works of Zimmer…..and the David Lynch adaption, this collection of tracks undoubtedly sparked my curiosity. Zimmer is known for his bombastic film scores, with his influence becoming a sort of cliche in almost all movie trailers since the release of Inception. Every time you hear a BWAAAAAM effect in a movie score, you can thank good ol’ Hans for that. Since then, Zimmer has broken out of that mold and adopted a more unconventional style of orchestration blending synths and other effects in order to create a unique sense of scale.
This works phenomenally with these track selections, which help communicate that world without even having to see a single frame. You don’t even need to think about Dune specifically when listening to this album, as the epic sense of wonder can be associated with a number of ideas. Listening to this album immerses you in its otherworldly textures mixed with more classical leitmotifs. I couldn’t imagine experiencing this album with any detail missed. Listening to this album through the lossless and the Meze Elite put me straight on Arrakis with tracks like “I See You In My Dreams” which introduce almost hypnotic instrumentals, effects, and choirs that paint such an incredible soundscape. Losing any of its intricate details would be to lose some of the grandiose nature this album provides.