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Apple finally announced their Apple Music streaming service at WWDC earlier this week, and it comes with a number of impressive features, including global radio stations and human-curated playlists. But one feature that may not impress audiophiles is the streaming quality of the service: Apple Music streams songs at 256 kbps, the company has confirmed.
256 kbps is the same bitrate Apple uses for standard iTunes tracks, so it's not hugely surprising that the company will use 256 kbps for streaming as well. What hasn't been confirmed, however, is whether Apple will use AAC or MP3 streaming technology, which will have a negligible effect on music quality.
With Apple Music streaming at 256 kbps, its competitors will have a one-up on streaming quality. Spotify, Google Play Music, Rdio, Rhapsody, and even the Apple-owned Beats Music stream at up to 320 kbps. Xbox Music matches Apple Music at up to 256 kbps, while Tidal allows you to stream lossless FLAC audio.
Although 320 kbps is generally regarded as the industry standard bitrate for high-quality audio files, Apple Music's use of 256 kbps instead will allow users to conserve bandwidth while streaming. There will be a slight difference in quality between the two bitrates, but 256 kbps streams will use 20% less data, which could be handy for those on low data caps.
Apple Music launches on June 30 for $9.99 per month (or for $14.99 per month as a family account) after a three-month free trial.