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Where is Spotify HiFi?

Where is Spotify HiFi?

2021 may have been the year that Apple finally embraced lossless music streaming and Amazon and Tidal slashed prices for hi-fi listening. But the biggest subscription music service of all, Spotify, is likely to miss its original goal of launching a high-quality streaming plan.

Spotify HiFi, which was first announced back in February, hasn't rolled out yet, despite the company's initial estimate that it will debut "later this year." At the time, Spotify said that HiFi would be available in select markets and the company "will have more details to share soon."

Over the next 10 months, those details never came.

Meanwhile, Spotify's competitors can't wait. Apple Music introduced lossless and high-resolution playback in June, offering superior audio quality at no extra charge. Prior to that change, services like Amazon Music Unlimited and Tidal were demanding an additional premium for the feature. But on the same day that Apple announced its plans for lossless streaming, Amazon said it would drop the higher subscription price and include HD quality as part of the regular premium plan. It's now officially table steak.

There have been occasional signs of Spotify HiFi throughout the year; A "HiFi" button (very briefly) can be seen in the app in May - complete with lecturers on how to use the feature. And in August an onboarding video for HiFi was leaked.

As 2021 progressed, Spotify had a lot to say about the podcast, but remained silent on the topic of HiFi and declined to comment whenever The Verge asked about its status. Barring a last-minute holiday surprise, it looks like we'll be waiting until sometime in 2022 for Spotify HiFi. Extremely popular platforms tend to avoid launching major new features at the end of the year.

It's possible that Spotify has second thoughts about launching the feature — or at least isn't in a hurry to deliver it now. You could argue that the company doesn't need to bother with HiFi at all. Spotify already enjoys powerful mindshare with consumers thanks to its playlist algorithm and user experience; The recent wave of Spotify Wrapped posts on social media was another fresh reminder of the same.

Plus, there is no financial incentive anymore. Apple has essentially forced Spotify's hand to offer CD-quality streaming without charging customers more money. And if it's not contributing to the bottom line, what's the point? There is also the possibility that Spotify may get bogged down in a legal quagmire trying to update its music deals for HiFi.

Lossless music is basically a distinctive feature that differs from the way music is consumed these days. In the world of Bluetooth headphones and earbuds, Apple and Amazon are far more interested in hyping spatial Dolby Atmos audio than the high-bitrate streams that only linger on expensive gear. Still, some people can't separate it from the standard, damning quality they've been hearing for years. Spotify hasn't confirmed yet whether it will also offer Atmos tracks – or even hi-res audio that exceeds 16-bit/44.1kHz.

Personally, I'm still hopeful that Spotify HiFi will eventually launch. There's a significant ecosystem of speaker hardware that's compatible with Spotify Connect, making it easier and more convenient to enjoy the added fidelity. And as we move into the streaming age, it seems like the option of enjoying high quality music is a must for those who want it.

The Verge has reached out to Spotify for an update on where things stand with HiFi as 2021 approaches.

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