Apple confirms that Apple Music will stream at 256kbps

“Apple has confirmed Apple Music’s streaming bitrate is 256kbps,” Nate Swanner reports for TNW. “That’s Apple’s standard playback rate for existing iTunes tracks, but below some of the competition.”

“It’s even below Beats Music’s threshold of 320kbps — the company Apple purchased last year,” Swanner reports. “Spotify, Google Play Music and Tidal all stream at ‘up to’ 320kbps, too.”

“Higher bitrate streaming leads to more data consumption,” Swanner reports. “There’s been no lavish outcry for better iTunes playback quality, suggesting users either can’t tell the difference between 256kbps and 320kbps — or just don’t care.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: 256kbps will sound fine and, importantly, keep cellular data consumption in check. We still do not know if it will be AAC vs. the inferior MP3 (Beats Music uses) or what the format/bitrate will be for Apple Music or Connect content that Apple Music members save for offline listening.


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  1. AAC is a more modern and efficient codec than MP3, and 256 AAC is probably higher quality than 320 MP3.

    The whole idea that users would hear an advantage either way is ridiculous, and would quickly be dispelled by A-B testing.

    1. You are mistaking file size with data content. Efficient packing does not make up for lack of data points. The more samples per second, the more accurate your music. Granted, you don’t tell much difference with the huge distortion that cheap speakers offer, but if you listen to reasonably good home audio equipment, even the average listener can tell the difference. Listen to an SACD compared to any other format and you will be shocked at how bad compressed music is.

  2. Bitrate is only one factor in sound quality.

    In my experience, 256 Kbps AAC sounds fine. There is no reason to stream at a higher rate, although I suppose that Apple could offer that option for customers with large or unlimited data plans.

    1. The best part of the T-Mobile plan!

      It has been more than a year since T-Mobile started this and no other carrier has noticed. In addition to getting a generous 2GB LTE throttling threshold, many music streaming services (Spotify, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Rhapsody, iTunesRadio and many others) do NOT count towards this 2GB limit. I stream music on my bus commute every day (that’s more than an hour of daily streming), in addition to many other times when outdoors with a phone in my pocket.

      Once Apple’s music steaming goes live, the T-Mobile free music streaming service will be worth its weight in gold.

  3. Do I have this right or am I off by a factor of 8 or more? 256kbps is 109 megabytes per hour. If you stream 1 hour a day, you’ll blow through over 3Gigabtyes per month of cellular data.

    If true, a bunch of people are going to be surprised at their first cell phone bill during their 90 day free trial of Apple Music. Also, if you are doing this on an iPhone at home thinking you are on wifi and it “falls off” you home network and connects without you knowing it to the cellular data network, you are going to be in for a rude awaking.

    I’m using 1.5 to 2 gigs per month using web surfing, maps, mail, sports and the weather. No downloads.

    1. My numbers apparently are correct.

      Warning: Verizon’s online data usage calculator understates this by 50%. AT&T’s online data usage calculator understates this but 66%.

  4. Oh great, now a bunch of clueless bloggers are running with this fallacy. Headlines abound…Apple to stream lower quality vs >insert competitor here with 320kbs vs Apple 256kbs< versions. Stupidity running amuck on the internet.

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