Apple Music fans with Roku devices were pleased to discover that they can now access the music streaming platform as an app in the Roku Channel Store. However, that excitement quickly turned to disappointment when they learned that Apple Music on Roku was missing the platform’s best feature, Spatial Audio.
While the Roku update brings over 90 million songs and 30,000 curated playlists to owners of the brand’s streaming TV devices (or those who own Roku TV), the omission of Spatial Audio is very unfortunate.
This means that anyone who wants to stream from Apple Music via their Roku device is missing out on the unique 3D sound provided by Apple’s Spatial Audio technology, and with the volume of content available in this format growing all the time, preventing users from accessing these tracks seems like an odd decision.
When done correctly, spatial sound can have a transformative effect on the way we perceive music—even albums we’ve probably heard hundreds of times. Placing different instruments inside a virtual ball—which is precisely positioned thanks to the clever head-tracking technology inside AirPods Max, AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro—gives every element of the track the space it needs to shine.
This means you can hear things you might not have noticed before, making your favorite songs sound brand new again. Sometimes the effect is so compelling that you feel like you’re sitting there in the studio with the bands you love.
Sure, Spatial Audio doesn’t work with every piece of music, but it’s a huge selling point for Apple Music, and something that sets it apart from other streaming services, like Spotify—and that’s not all Roku owners will miss.
There won’t be any support for Lossless Audio either, so you won’t get high-quality streams (even if you have a pair of high-end stereo speakers connected to your TV). Again, this means that you may not hear every element of the music you love, which is important for all music lovers.
These omissions are not exclusive to Roku. In 2021, the PS5 finally got support for Apple Music, as users were previously limited to Spotify if they wanted to choose their music for an audio recording of their gaming sessions.
Again, the Apple Music app on PS5 does not support spatial audio. Although Sony didn’t give us a reason for this, we speculated at the time that it probably felt there were too many technological hurdles to jump in in order to deliver spatial audio to Apple Music subscribers.
After all, you need to use a compatible pair of Apple or Beats headphones to enjoy the format, which requires connecting a Bluetooth adapter to your PS5 — you can’t simply connect a pair of wireless headphones to the original console.
It’s even easier to do with Roku devices thanks to a feature called Private Listening, which lets you hear your content through your wireless headphones using the Roku smartphone app—just pair the headphones with your smartphone via Bluetooth.
There’s a fairly simple solution for anyone who wants to use a pair of wireless headphones with their Roku device — which makes it very confusing because the company won’t make Spatial Audio available for the new Apple Music app.
Roku may have felt it was superfluous — after all, if you’re pairing headphones with your smartphone anyway, why not use the Apple Music app on your phone to access spatial audio tracks? Why bother doing this on your TV?
The answer lies in the speakers and Dolby Atmos amplifiers. You might have one connected to your Roku TV or streaming device, which means you need to be able to play spatial audio tracks from Apple Music out loud to get room-filling audio.
Well, you would have if Apple Music on Roku actually made this possible. For now, you’ll have to stick with the smartphone app – which makes the new Roku update seem useless at this point in time.