Apple Is Reportedly Developing a Hi-Res Audio Format

Apple Music on an iPhone
Sebastian Kahnert/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

A report in the Japanese blog Macotakara has sparked rumors that Apple is preparing to release a new audio format that has more than twice the sound quality of a CD. The blog cites "several insiders familiar with Apple" as saying that the company "has been developing hi-res audio streaming up to 96kHz/24-bit."

By comparison, the audio found on CDs -- and hi-res streamers Deeezr and Tidal -- is sampled at 44.1KHz/16-bit. As for Apple Music, its current streaming bitrate is set at 256kbps. Chief rival Spotify offers a slightly higher quality bitrate of 320kbps.

According to the report, the better-than-CD format would be available to Apple Music subscribers some time in 2016. The format would be compatible with the now-standard Lightning ports on all new Apple devices. An earlier rumor (also via Macotakara) started a discussion on whether Apple was doing away with the 3.5mm headphone jack in favor of the digital Lightning port. 

Rumor Mill: Apple May Ditch Headphone Jack for Next iPhone

There are complications if the new audio format does become available: streaming at or near 96kHz/24-bit would require a much better internet connection and the files generated would be far larger than the AAC files that iTunes currently sells (that 15GB iPhone isn’t going to cut it). The tradeoff, of course, would be higher-quality audio.

Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.