Apple Clarifies Lossless Audio Support Details
Apple’s announcement of support for lossless audio in Apple Music was welcome but sparked confusion over what devices it would work with (see “Apple Takes Apple Music Sound Quality to the Next Level,” 17 May 2021). Apple has now published a support article offering more details:
- If you have already downloaded a song, you’ll need to delete it and redownload it to get the lossless version.
- On a Mac, you can listen to lossless audio with speakers or wired headphones, but you’ll need an external digital-to-analog converter to listen to songs at sample rates higher than the 48 kHz that Apple labels as Hi-Res Lossless.
- The Apple TV 4K will support lossless playback, but not at rates higher than 48 kHz.
- The HomePod and HomePod mini will gain lossless playback in a future software update.
- Lossless audio will play over Bluetooth but will not be lossless because, as some technical wags have noted, Bluetooth is inherently lossy. Sadly, this limitation includes the AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max.
- Apple’s Lightning to 3.5mm Headphone Jack Adapter supports lossless audio up to sample rates of 48 kHz.
- The AirPods Max can play lossless audio with the optional Lightning to 3.5mm Audio Cable, but it will not be completely lossless.
Wow, this is truly an Apple first. They have released “software” that their own current hardware can’t even handle.
Granted, I don’t know who needs to listen at 96 KHz. But still, this is a philosophical departure. “Go buy your own hardware from somebody to get the best experience!”
Lots of people have been using outboard DACs connected to Apple’s digital dig-out of the time, with the DAC connected to their stereo, since at least when iTunes was introduced and downloads/CD ripping became possible. 2001, right?
Yes, but it was generally not necessary to roll your own to get Apple’s quality level. That’s why AirTunes came out early. They didn’t want you using a wire. They felt the best experience was going wireless (AND having great sounding audio).
A bunch of us musicians have used A/D and D/A converters for many years to record and mix with GarageBand. But that was clearly encroaching territory that was out of scope to Apple.
But music payback quality has been one of Apple’s purported core competencies.
My guess is that soon their AppleTV and headset lineup will all support lossless, somehow. But they felt strong enough competition now that they couldn’t hold up releasing the music until the hardware was all ready.
I don’t know if these middle-aged eardrums can fully detect all the nuances but I finally got around to checking out lossless (not that pushed) and spatial audio / Dolby Atmos (very much into) off Apple Music on my iMac and a DragonFly Red DAC/Sony Studio headphones combo. And I did have a very good time.
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