Apple Music Classical, the company’s big venture into a dedicated platform for classical music, finally went live on the App Store Tuesday. It’s only available on iPhone currently, and though it bears many features that classical fans have been clamoring for, it takes a bit of extra work to listen to classical songs offline.
The app was spun out of Apple’s purchase of Primephonic back in 2021, though the company missed its expected release date of 2022. Apple Music Classical finally reared its head earlier this month, promising more than 5 million tracks with 192 kHz, 24-bit Hi-Res lossless audio as well as Apple’s Spatial Audio feature. Users need an Apple Music subscription to access Apple Music Classical, but do not need to pay extra for it. It’s limited to iOS currently, though an Android version is on its way in the near future.
The music list is extensive, with the company advertising there’s 20,000 composers, 115,000 works, and 350,000 movements found within the app. The application is laid out into four sections, with its “Browse” tab showcasing a curated selection based on artistic periods such as Baroque or modern, “moods,” and music lists created by some modern artists and composers. The dedicated classical search function can look up by composer, instrument, artist nicknames, and more. The search can be further broken down by tags like release date and duration. Each composition displays multiple recording options from different orchestras, with some songs featuring dozens or even hundreds of separate recordings (hence that 5 million track number). The app also includes some composer bios and descriptions for some of history’s major pieces.
Though you need an Apple Music subscription to access the ad-free classical music selection, Apple Music Classical is a separate app. According to Apple’s own support page, the reason for this app being separate from Apple Music is to “support the complex data structure of classical music.” Classical listeners often search for music via decades, themes, and more, something most music apps don’t take into account. There’s also that business of there being many multiple recordings of the same composition. Back in its heyday, Primephonic talked up how it would input all the metadata “by hand,” a laborious process but one that classical music connoisseurs know is so important to searching for Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor versus his Piano Concerto No. 5.
“Classical music is different. It has longer and more detailed titles, multiple artists for each work, and hundreds of recordings of well-known pieces,” Apple’s support page explains.
At the same time, Apple Music Classical does rely on the standard Apple Music app for some functionality. Users can track their Classical albums, playlists, and tracks in the regular Apple Music app, though none of the new playlist features showing recordings, works, or composers will appear on the mainline music application. You also can’t shuffle music in Apple Music Classical, but you can in Apple Music.
There’s also a bit of a process if you want to listen to classical music offline. The support page notes you can’t download any music from the Classical app. Instead, you have to pop back into Apple Music to download tracks from your Classical playlists.
There’s enough that Apple Music Classical can do on its own to make classical fans jump on. That said, it’s clear that there’s still room for Apple to expand Apple Music Classical’s standalone features in the future, which will help justify its nature as a separate app more. It’s also a bit of shame that Apple Music subscribers on Android will have to wait to access Apple Music Classical.
Want more of Gizmodo’s consumer electronics picks? Check out our guides to the best phones, best laptops, best cameras, best televisions, and best tablets and eReaders. And if you want to learn about the next big thing, see our guide to everything we know about the iPhone 15.