Oh, my, CNN is really full of nitwits. They say: Apple Music will sound worse but save on your data plan. (To be fair, there are a number of tech websites, such as The Next Web, that get this wrong too.)
It just goes to show, digital music codecs are confusing. You can’t blame them for just looking at the numbers. But a bit of research would show that this is simply wrong.
Apple Music will stream music in AAC format at 256 kbps. CNN compared this to other services, such as Beats Music, which stream MP3 files at 320 kbps.
What they don’t consider, however, is that AAC – also known as MP4 – is a much better codec. It won’t sound worse at that lower bit rate; it will sound just as good, if not better, than 320 kbps MP3 files. And, it saves you money on bandwidth.
While they point out that Spotify only uses 320 kbps for paid subscribers (others get 96 or 160 kbps), they still manage to say that Apple Music will sound worse. And they don’t point out that Spotify uses Ogg Vorbis files, which are much lower quality than either MP3 or AAC.
Frankly, I think Apple Music should have an option to stream 128 kbps AAC files, when you’re using it on mobile devices. You don’t need the difference in audio quality between 128 and 256 kbps unless you’re listening in a quiet environment, at home, or on really good headphones.