For audiophiles in Sri Lanka, Apple breaks new ground

It’s arduous being an audiophile in Sri Lanka because of the difficulties to build a decent music collection. A wide selection of music recorded overseas isn’t available here, in CDs. Vinyl fans have absolutely no hope of buying any records here.

Long neglected audiophiles, however, now have a good reason to cheer. Apple Music, the audio streaming service of the company behind the iPhone, is available in Sri Lanka. The service here was launched along with its global launch in June 2015. Apple Music’s availability here is significant for two reasons. Firstly, it’s the only major music streaming service available to Sri Lanka. Secondly, at $2.99 a month, it’s far cheaper than any other major streaming service – which are typically priced at $9.99 monthly and aren’t available in Sri Lanka anyway.

Despite some drawbacks, streaming music is likely to surpass owning copies in the future. There are plenty of reasons to think music aficionados will be won over. Major service providers have catalogs that include almost every significant piece of global music ever recorded. For sheer variety and the ability to discover new music, the service is difficult to beat.

Apple Inc. for instance has made its entire library of over 30 million tracks and videos available on all iPhones, iPads and iPod touch models that run an updated version of its operating system and on Macs and PCs via iTunes. A subscriber can select and stream on demand any music that Apple has in its library.

The tech giant has announced that Apple Music will be available on Android phones and Apple TV in Fall 2015. Apple device users – who have a credit card registered with their account – are automatically offered a three-month free trial of the service. Not everybody will be won over by the notion that they don’t have to somehow own the music they like to listen to.

Other major streaming services Spotify, Tidal, Rdio and Google Music can’t be subscribed to from Sri Lanka. French music streaming service Deezer has been accessible here for some time but its music collection is comparatively limited. Deezer’s contemporary pop and rock collections are comprehensive, but classical, jazz and fans of other genres may find that the catalog is limited.

The major drawback for audiophiles is the quality. At 256 bit/second, Apple streams have the same quality as music downloaded from iTunes, an online store that sells music. On all but the most expensive music systems, tracks streamed at a 256 bits rate (called AAC format by Apple) will sound just fine. Tidal offers a high resolution (CD quality) streaming option (not yet available from Sri Lanka).

The other drawback is the need to be connected to the Internet to listen to music. Even for someone listening everyday, this need not be a debilitating cost on broadband. However, streaming services – including Apple Music – offer an option to save some music on to a mobile device to listen when the Internet is unavailable.

Apple Music has additional features in the form of Beats 1 and Connect. What was formerly Beats Music was merged with iTunes following Apple’s acquisition of the former to launch Beats 1, a 24-hour, 7-day live radio station that broadcasts DJs based in Los Angeles, New York and London. Beats radio does not require a subscription to access. Connect is a social networking feature where fans can follow updates from their favourite artists.