Apple recently gave us the surprising announcement of a new streaming app for classical music. This new service will offer one of the world’s most extensive catalogs for classical music, all in 192kHz/24bit high-res. If you’re already subscribed to Apple Music, then Apple Music Classical will come at no additional charge. Thousands of select tracks will also be available with Dolby Atmos integration, offering a more immersive classical experience.
This looks like a new way for beginners and classical music enthusiasts to have more accessibility and discovery with the genre. Unlike other genres and sub-genres, classical music can be a whole different animal. Having the ability to sort through specialized metadata is what’s going to separate Apple Music Classical from other streaming services. Searchability becomes the main focus, as sometimes finding specific movements and compositions can be difficult on other platforms.
Back in 2021, Apple actually bought out another classical music streaming service called “Primephonic,” so many of the ideas featured there will be present here. However, Apple Music Classical will be its own separate application, making use of the already established user interface that we see with many Apple programs.
Although lossless audio playback will be supported, you will need an external DAC to be able to experience any track in a resolution greater than CD quality(16bit 44.1kHz). So if you want that 192kHz/24bit hi-res, you can use an assortment of devices that you can pair with your source running Apple Music Classical. You can find some of those external DAC recommendations here. There is also the new Astell & Kern HC3 that would be perfect for those looking to spend a little more to get the best playback quality. If you’re more interested in a desktop setup, the iFi Zen DAC V2 is a good economical option.
Along with a good DAC, you’ll also probably want a good set of headphones if you don’t own a set already. There are a ton of options in a wide range of budgets that are great for classical music. Here are a few we would recommend:
Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro
Those who would like to experience all of the characteristics open-back headphones can bring, but at a more practical price point, then the DT 990 Pro is a fantastic headphone. You’ll most likely need an exterior DAC/Amp to be able to drive these efficiently, but you don’t need to break the bank on that either. What the DT 990 brings is high accuracy and an appropriate soundstage that has no problem articulating each instrument in its intended space. Performances can be enjoyed with reference-level detail, as well as slight coloration in the bass and treble. Classical arrangments should appear lush, with room to fill out a lively experience.
Sennheiser HD 800s
Classical music aficionados with no limit on how much they can invest in a pair of headphones should look no further than the HD 800s. These have been a staple for audiophiles, and for good reason. The purity of its sound is hard to match, with a level of clarity that will reveal so much about your music that you may not have noticed before. It’s a realistic timbre that houses one of the widest and most open soundstages you’ll encounter. It’s a perfect choice for classical music enjoyers, as the HD 800s masterfully weaves through dynamic layers of instrumentation that will make you feel like you’re the conductor and the symphony is being performed to you. This is a 300 Ohm headphone, so you’ll need something more heavy-duty to drive it efficiently, but you won’t need to spend too much to get something just right.
There is an open and closed-back versions of these planar headphones, and they both work great for classical music listening. Both versions have a similar tone to them, with the closed Sundara having a more prominent bass. What makes the Sundaras great for classical music is their airy and gentle response. The texture of the instruments comes out strong here, and they appear with a delicate timbre. You’ll get less impact but more buttery smoothness, with a soundstage that reaches far for its generous price.
If I had to go with a high-end audiophile closed-back option, the Meze Liric would be my personal choice. Other closed-back like the Focal Celestee are good options too, but the Liric sounds a bit more natural for classical music. The soundstage has a great sense of dimension to it, and the details within the midrange are super clear and revealing. What’s also great about the Liric is its impedance. This is one of the few high-end headphones that is really easy to drive. You can use anything from a DAC dongle to a budget desktop amp, and you’ll be able to get a ton of efficient volume out of the Liric with headroom to spare.
Apple Music Classical Launches on March 28th, 2023.