So I gave Apple Music streaming a try. Being able to just search for music and add it to my playlists sounded like a good idea. After a while the recommendations becomes rather good as well, giving me some tips of other bands I might like. But here’s the problem I have with Apple Music. When you sync your music via iCloud, you can no longer sync music via iTunes! And to be able to download music locally from Apple Music to your phone, you must use the “in the iCloud” solution. Catch–22 anyone?
I like to encode some of my favourite albums in ALAC (Apple’s lossless format.) I also make excellent sounding variable bit rate 320kbit AAC lossy songs from 24-bit 96–192kHz sources using 48kHz instead of the standard 44.1kHz. You might argue that I can’t hear the difference from Apples AAC compressed music, but I have a rather nice pair of headphones (Oppo PM–3 headphones with an Oppo HA–2 DAC/amplifier), so I like to feed it with the best quality possible. And I have tried to compare AAC files created from 16-bit, 44kHz and from 24-bit, 96kHz using ABX Tester, and get 100% correct results every time. Well, except for one song by The Clash from their first album, when they still where a punk band. Considering that I’m over 50 years old and can’t hear a beep over 16.000Hz, it’s kinda strange. I guess I have to try just 16-bit vs 24-bit to see if that’s the thing that makes an audible difference. And before you comment that the reason I can hear a difference in audio quality is that the high resolution version is mastered differently, I can debunk that immediately. I downsampled the music from 24-bit, 96kHz to 16-bit 44.1kHz myself using one of the best down samplers available, the venerable iZotope RX 4.
The Problem with Apple Music
But here’s the snag I have. If songs I have in iTunes are available in Apples music library, it downloads a compressed, lossy version from their archives onto my iPhone and I can’t upload my music in full resolution via iTunes because of the iCloud sync. Totally fucking stupid! Naturally I could just upload it to the Onkyo HF Player app, which I use when uploading and listening to really high resolution audio (both FLAC and DSD), but then I can’t listen to music that’s been downloaded from Apple Music, because only Apples own music player can play that music. Because It’s copy-protected. The Onkyo app doesn’t have Apple Watch support yet, which is another good reason for me to want to use Apples music player. Having to take out an iPhone 6 Plus and a DAC out of my pocket every time I want to change a song is kind of a chore. So I did the only thing left to do. I cancelled my subscription to Apple Music and turned off iCloud Music sync. Somehow iTunes managed to mess with my ranking of songs, but it wasn’t to bad. Now I’m back to encoding my music the way I want and can upload it without problem.
I’ve been thinking of going the Spotify route, but they screw the independent artists too much by paying them next to nothing. I guess Apple doesn’t fair much better either when it comes to paying the not so popular musical artist. Tidal has lossless FLAC as an option, but It feels like it’s more for the top 10 kind of music and my taste differs a lot from the mainstream. And no, I don’t have a neck beard…
If only Apple could upload the music to iCloud if it is higher than their 256kbit AAC, or let the user upload music to a device without going through iCloud, they would have a happy customer. But until then, close but no cigar…