Spotify’s high fidelity audio tier was expected to be one of the biggest developments in music streaming last year, but it failed to materialize — and don’t plan on it coming soon.
According to a status update posted to Spotify’s community board, Spotify HiFi is now on hold. “We know that HiFi quality audio is important to you,” the statement reads. “We feel the same, and we’re excited to deliver a Spotify HiFi experience to Premium users in the future. But we don’t have timing details to share yet. We will of course update you here when we can.”
Announced in Feb. 2021 during the company’s Stream On event and promoted by Billie Eilish and Finneas, the industry juggernaut was working to launch the high fidelity tier at an undisclosed additional price to premium subscribers “later [that] year.” However, 2021 came and went with no further details of the launch, apart from an app glitch, caught by Reddit user “themonarc,” who posted a screenshot of a HiFi button displayed on his screen.
The February announcement included “five things you need to know” about the forthcoming experience:
- High-quality music streaming is consistently one of the most requested new features by our users.
- Spotify HiFi will deliver music in CD-quality, lossless audio format to your device and Spotify Connect-enabled speakers, which means fans will be able to experience more depth and clarity while enjoying their favorite tracks.
- Ubiquity is at the core of everything we do at Spotify, and we’re working with some of the world’s biggest speaker manufacturers to make Spotify HiFi accessible to as many fans as possible through Spotify Connect.
- HiFi will be coupled with Spotify’s seamless user experience, building on our commitment to make sure users can listen to the music they love in the way they want to enjoy it.
- Spotify HiFi will begin rolling out in select markets later this year, and we will have more details to share soon.
Spotify’s plans for a hi-fi tier were in keeping with industry trends, beginning in 2015 when Tidal launched with a hi-fi audio plan for $19.99 a month. Amazon followed in 2019 when it launched Amazon Music HD, a new high definition tier that offered 50 million songs in what they called “HD” (16 bit, 44.1kHz, similar to the audio quality of a CD) and “millions” in Ultra HD (24-bit and up to 192 kHz) for an additional cost of $5 per month for existing Amazon Music subscribers.
Soon after Spotify’s Stream On event, however, Apple Music entered the high fidelity race by announcing its “Spatial Audio” tier with Dolby Atmos on the morning of May 17, 2021. The lossless service, notably, came at no additional cost to its users and began the following month. Later that day, Amazon Music followed suit, declaring that its HD tier would now also be free for all users.
By the end of last year, Tidal announced that it would rearrange its offerings, creating a three-tier system: a free tier for regular listening with interspersed ads, a Tidal HiFi tier for $9.99 per month which was comparable to the offerings of Amazon and Apple, and a Tidal HiFi Plus plan for $19.99, complete with all of Tidal’s HiFi features and high-resolution Master Quality Authenticated tracks. For MQA tracks, the only offering of its kind, the quality goes up to 24-bit, 192kHz and spatial audio support, including Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.
Though the wording is ambiguous, Spotify’s pledge to deliver “a Spotify HiFi experience to Premium users in the future,” may imply that it is also willing to offer the high-quality listening service for free as well, given recent changes in the market — but when that might happen is unclear.