In 2021, Apple will have finally accepted lossless music streaming, and Tidal will have lowered its pricing for hi-fi listening. However, Spotify, the world’s largest subscription music service, appears to be on track to miss its original deadline for offering a higher-quality streaming option.
Despite the company’s early expectation that it would launch “later this year,” Spotify HiFi, which was first announced in February, has yet to launch. Spotify announced at the time that HiFi will be accessible in a limited number of markets and that it would “have additional specifics to share soon.”
Those details never emerged during the next ten months.
Meanwhile, Spotify’s rivals didn’t waste any time. In June, Apple Music introduced lossless and high-resolution playback, which comes at no extra cost. Previously, services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal demanded an additional fee for the feature. However, on the same day that Apple unveiled its plans for lossless streaming, Amazon said that it would no longer charge a higher membership fee and would offer HD quality as part of its standard premium plan. It’s now officially a game of chance.
Throughout the year, there have been sporadic glimpses of Spotify HiFi; in May, a “HiFi” button was temporarily visible in the app, replete with instructions on how to use it. In August, a HiFi onboarding video was leaked.
Spotify had a lot to say about podcasts as 2021 progressed, but remained silent on HiFi and declined to comment when The Verge inquired about its future. Unless there’s a last-minute holiday surprise, we’ll have to wait until 2022 for Spotify HiFi. Major new features are rarely released near the end of the year on hugely popular platforms.
It’s possible that Spotify is reconsidering deploying the feature, or at the very least isn’t in a hurry to do so. You could argue that the corporation doesn’t need to worry about HiFi in the first place. Spotify already has a stronghold on customers’ minds with its playlist algorithms and user experience, as evidenced by the recent flurry of Spotify Wrapped posts on social media.
Furthermore, there is no longer any financial incentive to do so. Apple has effectively pushed Spotify to deliver CD-quality streaming without charging customers additional money. What’s the point of it if it doesn’t help the bottom line? It’s also possible that Spotify’s attempt to alter its music deals for HiFi resulted in a legal snafu.
Lossless audio is a rare feature that goes against how music is typically consumed these days. Apple and Amazon are significantly more interested in marketing spatial Dolby Atmos audio than higher-bitrate streams that only shine on pricey hardware in a world of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds. Even so, some individuals can’t tell the difference between it and the lossy quality they’ve been listening to for years. Spotify hasn’t said if it would sell Atmos tracks — or even hi-res audio over 16-bit/44.1kHz — yet.
Personally, I’m still hoping that Spotify HiFi will be released at some point. Spotify Connect is compatible with a large ecosystem of speaker gear, making it easier and more comfortable to enjoy the higher fidelity. And, as we move more into the streaming era, it seems like individuals who want it should have the option to listen to the music of higher quality.