Viewed from a strictly audiophile perspective – better sound quality – Apple Music doesn’t offer much to write home about. Its streams are strictly lossy (256kbps AAC) with the qualitative shortfall readily exposed by a half-decent audio system.
Then there’s Apple’s beyond-rudimentary invitations for new signees to select a few of their favourite genres and artists before getting to the good stuff – the music itself.
However, I find myself warming to Apple Music’s distilled simplicity. The UI is covert art heavy, as every good record store should be, and its suggestions of what to play (“For You”) are surprisingly spot on. Like Roon’s ‘Discover’ panel, Apple Music helps us unearth forgotten gems; it’s great for bringing forth those “Oh man, I’ve not heard that in years” moments.
As you can see from the screenshots here, I favour the likes of Aphex Twin, Sarah Blasko and The The over more traditional audiophile music.
And as of right now, Apple Music is the only streaming service available on the 4th generation Apple TV.
If Tidal Hifi brings the CD store home, Apple Music is an album DJ for when sound quality doesn’t matter quite as much as knowing what to listen to. Even the most hard-nosed audiophiles must concede that ease of use and library depth can sometimes trump the need to optimise every last piece of the playback chain.
And nowhere does this point prod us more sharply in the ribs than when we’re out in the street or on public transport. Higher background noise erases much of our efforts to keep source files lossless, our decoding state of the art and our headphone amplification beyond reproach. Ditto headphone choice.
Audiophiles are outnumbered and outgunned beyond the confines of their cosy listening rooms. Out there (!), folk use smartphones as audio playback devices.
Since launching four months ago, Apple Music was strictly an iOS affair. Today the coders from Cupertino launch the Apple Music app for Android. Bring out the Bollinger and balloons, we’re gonna have a street party.
Tread with some caution though, the app remains Beta-stamped so expect some bugs. It can’t be easy coding a single app for multitudinous hardware and software combinations. As AURALiC’s Xuanxiang Wang commented recently after pulling the pin on his own Android app development, “Android is the master of pain”.
I’ve thus far experiences zero speed bumps on a Google Nexus 5 but the more audiophile-centric spin on today’s events is that Apple Music will now be playable from any DAP that runs Android and offers access to the Google Play Store e.g. Sony ZX-1/2 and newbies from Pioneer and Onkyo (among others).
If you find yourself staring at wall of CDs or vinyl, or a music music server, paralysed by choice, then Apple Music might be just enough separate the trees from the forest.
Subscriptions start at US$9.99/month for individuals, US$14.99/month for a family (of up to six people).
Further information: Apple Music on Google Play