Apple Plans to Leverage Hi-Res Audio Format for Streaming

Apple Music subscribers are poised to enjoy the results of recent Apple development of the new Hi-Res Audio format with an expanded 96kHz, 24-bit sampling rate. The Hi-Res Audio format leverages the high fidelity audio output capability of Apple’s new Lightning ports, which were introduced last year and utilized by Philips, JBL and others for Lightning-equipped headphones. Japanese site Macotakara, with input from inside sources, says Apple Music will debut Hi-Res music streaming next year.

Apple Insider reports rumors that Apple’s next iPhone may switch to a thinner Lightning port as an audio output, further differentiating iPhones with high quality audio playback. The current deep, physical plug takes up space, makes devices harder to protect against water damage, and is limited to delivering roughly CD-quality sound.

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Lightning’s digital signals enable headphone makers to use 24-bit digital analog conversion (DAC) with low-noise amplification for an aural experience closer to the original studio recording. In addition to being the primary port for iPhones and iPad, Apple has already made Lightning a connector for charging Magic Keyboard, Magic Mouse 2, Magic TrackPad 2, iPad Pro Pencil and Apple TV Siri Remote.

Apple’s unique brew — Apple Music, which already has millions of subscribers, Beats hardware and Lightning Connector specs — are likely to popularize Hi-Res Audio; Apple can then leverage that popularity to sell iPhones, accessories and “subscription access to music labels’ content mastered in studio-quality sound.”

Earlier attempts to develop “better than CD” audio formats include “the optical disc formats Digital Audio Disc, SACD and DVD-Audio from the late 90s.” But, says Apple Insider, “new attempts to leverage Blu-ray Disc or digital distribution to deliver high-resolution audio have more recently failed to gain much traction.”