Roku update finally delivers Apple Music - but it's pointless without its best feature

Apple Music on Roku
(Image credit: Roku)

Fans of Apple Music with Roku devices would have been delighted to find out that they can now access the music streaming platform as an app on the Roku Channel Store. However, that excitement will have quickly turned to disappointment when they learned that Apple Music on Roku is 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 TV streaming devices (or those who own a Roku TV), the omission of Spatial Audio is a huge shame. 

It means anyone who wants to stream from Apple Music via their Roku device is missing out on the unique three-dimensional audio delivered by Apple’s Spatial Audio technology, and with the amount of content available in this format growing all the time, preventing users from accessing these tracks seems like a strange decision. 

A transformative effect

apple music

Spatial Audio is one of Apple Music's best features. (Image credit: Apple)

When Spatial Audio is done right, it can have a transformative effect on the way we perceive music - even albums we may have heard hundreds of times. Placing the different instruments within a virtual sphere - which are then accurately spatialized thanks to the clever head-tracking technology inside the AirPods Max, AirPods 3, and AirPods Pro headphones - gives every element of a track the room it needs to shine. 

It means you can hear things you may have never noticed before, making your favorite songs sound brand new again. Sometimes, the effect is so convincing, that it feels as though you’re sat right there in the studio with the bands you love. 

Sure, Spatial Audio doesn’t work for every piece of music, but it’s a huge selling point of Apple Music, and something that differentiates it from other streaming services, such as Spotify - and that’s not all Roku device owners will be missing out on. 

There won’t be any support for Lossless Audio either, so you won’t get the highest quality streams (even if you have a pair of high-end stereo speakers wired to your TV). Again, that means you may not hear every element of the music you love, which is a big deal for all audiophiles. 

apple music on the ps5

Apple Music on the PS5 also doesn't support Spatial Audio. (Image credit: Sony)

These omissions aren’t unique to Roku. In 2021, the PS5 finally gained support for Apple Music, with users having been previously limited to Spotify if they wanted to choose their own music to soundtrack their gaming sessions. 

Again, the Apple Music app on PS5 doesn’t support Spatial Audio. While Sony hasn’t given us a reason for this, we speculated at the time that it may have felt there were too many technological hurdles to jump in order to deliver spatialized audio to Apple Music subscribers. 

After all, you need to use a pair of compatible Apple or Beats headphones to enjoy the format, which would necessitate hooking up a Bluetooth adaptor to the PS5 - you can’t simply connect a pair of wireless headphones to the console natively. 

It’s a little easier to do this with Roku devices thanks to a feature called Private Listening, which enables you to hear your content through your wireless headphones using the Roku smartphone app - you just need to pair your headphones with your smartphone over Bluetooth. 

There is a fairly simple workaround for anyone that wants to use a pair of wireless headphones with their Roku device - which makes it all the more baffling that the company wouldn’t make Spatial Audio available for its new Apple Music app.

Perhaps Roku felt it unnecessary - after all, if you’re pairing your headphones with your smartphone anyway, why wouldn’t you simply use the Apple Music app on your phone to access Spatial Audio tracks? Why go to the bother of doing so on your TV?

The answer lies in Dolby Atmos soundbars and speakers. You might have one hooked up to your Roku TV or streaming device, which means you should be able to play Spatial Audio tracks from Apple Music out loud for room-filling sound. 

Well, you would have been able to if Apple Music on Roku actually made this possible. For now, you’ll have to stick to the smartphone app - which again, makes the new Roku update feel a little pointless at this moment in time. 

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.