Understanding Lossless Music Streaming Bit Rates

I stumbled on a slide-show type article on techrader today, where one Stephen Lambrechts discusses “5 issues we want Apple Music to fix.”

Mr. Lambrechts has a tenuous understand of bit rates, music formats, and their quality. He repeats the foolish idea that CNN was bandying about, saying that:

Apple Music streams at a bitrate of 256 kbps, which is lower than most of its competitors. Spotify, Rdio, MOG and even Beats Music, which Apple Music’s streaming foundation is built on, all stream at 320 kbps

Well, I’ve already debunked that, but Mr. Lambrecht goes on to say:

And then there’s Tidal, which manages to stream its music at the lossless FLAC bitrate of 1411 kbps. So what gives, Apple? Why is the biggest and baddest new streaming service on the block peddling inferior audio quality?

CDs are 1411 kbps; FLAC files are not. They are compressed – that’s the C in the acronym – so they are usually somewhere between about 400 and 800 kbps. They don’t stream at 1411 kbps; your music player hardware or software decompresses them to that bit rate. It’s not a big deal, but if you’re comparing numbers, you at least need to get the numbers right.

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