Apple Music Classical: release date, price, Dolby Atmos support and more
Apple Music Classical has made its long-awaited debut on the App Store — and for Apple Music subscribers, the app is an exciting new way to explore the world’s largest catalog of classical music.
Right now, Apple Music Classical is an iPhone exclusive, but the company says an Android app is “coming soon.” If you’re an Apple Music subscriber ($10.99 / £10.99 / AU$12.99 per month). you can now download the app for free in the App Store (opens in new tab).
But should you download Apple Music Classical and how to use it properly? And why on earth did Apple create a separate app, instead of bundling all this classic goodness into the existing Apple Music app?
We’ve answered all these questions and more in this guide to Apple’s unique app, which gives Apple Music a unique edge in its battle against Spotify and the top music streaming services.
Apple Music Classic release date and price
Apple Music Classical is now available for download in every country where Apple Music is available. That includes the US, UK and Australia, although countries like China, Japan and South Korea are currently missing out.
To listen to Apple Music Classical you need an Apple Music subscription and there is currently no separate subscription available. Right now that costs $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$12.99 per month.
Considering Apple Music has over 100 million songs and Apple Musical Classical adds another 5 million songs to that, that’s pretty good value, especially if you have a broad taste, from pieces from classical to college rock.
Apple Music Classical: How to download it
There are a few boxes you need to check before you can start streaming Apple Music Classical. First, you need an individual, student or family subscription to Apple Music – unfortunately the cheaper Apple Voice subscription ($4.99 / £4.99 / AU$5.99) doesn’t include the new classic streaming service.
You may also need to update your iPhone’s software. While you don’t need to be running the absolute latest version of iOS 16, you’ll need a phone running iOS 15.4 or later. That means any iPhone from the iPhone 6S onward, including the iPhone SE.
Do you have both an Apple Music subscription and a relatively recent iPhone? You can download Apple Music Classical from the App Store (opens in new tab) straight away. Just sign in with the same ID you use for your Apple Music subscription and you’re good to go.
Unfortunately, there is currently no iPad app or Mac app for Apple Music Classical, which is a shame. But Apple has said an Android app is coming soon. We will update this page as soon as we know more about a date.
Apple Music Classic: what is it?
Apple Music Classic sounds like a simple concept: an Apple Music spin-off where you can stream about five million orchestral tracks from all kinds of composers, from Bach to Mozart. But its surprising depth, which builds on Apple’s purchase of the classical music app Primephonic in 2021, makes it suitable for all experience levels and shows why Apple decided to make it a separate app.
Apple calls the service “the world’s largest catalog of classical music,” but the real draw is the power of the search feature. Because classical pieces have hundreds of recordings from various orchestras and conductors, traditional streaming apps can be difficult to navigate.
Apple Music Classical promises to be an improvement thanks to the nuance of the Browse section, which lets you search by composer, period, genre, conductor, orchestra, soloist, ensemble, choir, instrument, or even the work’s opus number or nickname. That makes it easier to bring up Massenet’s movement, for example.
The app is also a pretty beginner-friendly introduction to the somewhat intimidating world of classical music. Apple has created more than 700 playlists, along with some helpful guides, such as The Story of Classical, that combine commentary with works and breakdowns of classic terminology. We’d like to see Apple do more of this for all music genres in its own Music app, but it’s certainly a nice feature here.
With a number of exclusive artworks, including high-resolution portraits of composers from Bach to Vivaldi, Apple Music Classical clearly aims to be as much a digital home for classical music fans (or budding fans) as it is a place to stream music. Fortunately, Apple hasn’t forgotten about sound quality either.
Apple Music Classical: Features and Design
As you’d hope for an app that tries to replicate the sound of a live orchestra at home — even if that’s not really possible — Apple Music Classical promises impressive sound quality for a streaming service.
The app offers lossless audio quality throughout its catalog up to 24 bit/192kHz, which is a blessing as there’s still no sign of equivalents like Spotify HiFi (the CD-quality lossless offering). However, the quality you ultimately get depends on whether you’re listening with wired or wireless headphones.
Part of the Apple Music Classical catalog is also available in Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, which gets a little closer to that 360-degree immersive live experience. You can find these pieces in the ‘Now in Spatial Audio’ section, which currently contains just over fifty works.
You’ll again need headphones or speakers that can handle Spatial Audio to take advantage of this. And it’s also worth bearing in mind that on Apple’s wireless Bluetooth headphones (like the AirPods Max) you’ll still only be able to stream Apple Music Classical in lossy quality, as lossless audio isn’t currently possible over Bluetooth on Apple headphones.
Do you have wired headphones or are you listening through a pair of speakers? You can enable lossless audio quality by going to your iPhone’s Settings menu and finding the Music app. From there, go to Audio Quality and tap “Lossless Audio” to enable it. Keep in mind that this uses a lot more data than usual, which means you may also want to turn off Cellular Data for the Music app (which also controls Apple Music Classical settings).
The overall design of Apple Music Classical is, as you would expect, clean and simple, just like the Apple Music app. There’s a refreshing lack of clutter compared to other music streaming apps like Spotify and the Browse section is particularly powerful for classical music.
You can add albums or playlists to your library section by tapping the “+” symbol in the top right corner of either one. But oddly, you can’t download these songs in Apple Music Classical for offline listening. Instead, you have to go to the default Apple Music app, find them there and then download them to your device.
Apple Music Classical: The Cons
Apple Music Classical is certainly not perfect. For starters, there are currently no dedicated apps for iPad, Mac, Apple TV or CarPlay, which is odd. There’s also no Android app yet, even though there’s “coming soon.”
It’s possible that this will change in the future, as Apple has stated that the current version of Apple Music Classical is “just the beginning”. But that does make it a little more limited than it could have been, even if AirPlay is a workaround for Apple TV owners.
There are also a few other restrictions. There’s no ‘shuffle’ option available for those who want more of a radio-style experience like the one offered by the default Apple Music app. And in general, the design is set up for those who already know what piece of classical music they are looking for.
It is also not possible to download songs in Apple Music Classical for offline listening. But while Apple previously confirmed to us that there wouldn’t be an offline listening option in the app, there’s an unexpected workaround: you can find songs stored in your Apple Music Classical library in the Apple Music app and download them from there. Not ideal, but better than nothing.
Apple Music Classical: early verdict
We’ve been quite impressed with Apple Music Classical so far. The streaming quality is good (especially if you use wired headphones) and the catalog has depth and variety. Its main advantage, however, is its powerful search function, which makes it much easier to browse classical music than on Spotify, for example.
It’s a shame there aren’t more apps available, especially for iPad and Mac. We hope this changes soon, as it does for Android fans. And the offline listening setup, which you have to do through the Apple Music app, is a bit complicated.
But for a first-generation offering, Apple Music Classical is a polished new experience for fans of the genre — and a unique differentiator for Apple Music when compared to Tidal, Amazon Music, and Spotify.