AirPods Max won't support Apple Music lossless over Lightning, HomePod also left out

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 18
Apple's top-of-the-line AirPods Max won't support Apple Music lossless audio over wireless or wired connections, while the company's HomePod and HomePod mini won't support the new audio format at all.

Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider
Credit: Andrew O'Hara, AppleInsider


The Cupertino tech giant on Monday announced new audio formats for Apple Music, including Spatial Audio powered by Dolby Atmos and higher-resolution lossless audio streaming. However, there are a number of Apple products that won't be able to take advantage of the latter feature.

While AirPods Max and HomePod will both be able to support Spatial Audio, they won't be compatible with lossless streaming in certain circumstances.

For example, AirPods Max won't support lossless streaming qualities over a Lightning cable, Apple confirmed to Billboard. An AirPods Max in wired mode is limited to analog output sources and isn't natively compatible with digital audio formats, Apple says. Lossless over Bluetooth is an obvious no-go due to bandwidth limitations.

Additionally, MacRumors on Monday received confirmation that neither the HomePod nor the HomePod mini will support lossless streaming.

Apple Music's lossless streaming options will be available in two tiers. The normal lossless will provide audio up to 48kHz, while the "Hi-Res Lossless" format will offer audio ranging from 48kHz to 192kHz. The latter option will require an accessory like a USB digital-to-analog converter.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 54
    EsquireCatsEsquireCats Posts: 1,165member
    The higher-end lossless options will have data rates that exceed a lot of peoples peak broadband internet speed.
    edited May 17 jahblade
  • Reply 2 of 54
    Maybe?

    96k 24bit is 4.6mbits/sec

    96k 16bit is ~3mbits

    i dunno, most people I know these days have at least 5 down if not 10. Rural areas not withstanding. 


  • Reply 3 of 54
    ITGUYINSDITGUYINSD Posts: 268member
    The higher-end lossless options will have data rates that exceed a lot of peoples peak broadband internet speed.
    Not sure the point of this comment.  I guess the same could be said of 4K video streaming, yet I'm guessing that every 4K set sold today includes that capability.
    kfury77BeatsiHybyronlrepressthis
  • Reply 4 of 54
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,287member
    I’m surprised Lightning doesn’t carry digital audio. I wonder why I thought it did.
  • Reply 5 of 54
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 331member
    This is almost completely useless to the vast majority of current Apple tech. Very disappointing. 
    Scot1zeus423hcrefugeeBeatsbyronlchemengin1repressthisdee_dee
  • Reply 6 of 54
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,958member
    I am surprised anyone thinks a Bluetooth device could play lossless. Not possible.  

    That said, I am surprised that the APM can’t play lossless over a wire. It suggests the APM was designed a long time ago and was not developed with lossless Apple Music in mind. The release must have been delayed as Apple couldn’t work out how to market it.  Which, considering its overall design issues, suggests it was an Ive era product after he no longer had Jobs about to keep him grounded.  

    It doesn’t seem like Apple to announce some great new software product without at the same time releasing hardware to take advantage of it. The intersection of software and hardware is as important as the intersection of liberal arts and engineering in Apple’s DNA.  This seems like something is missing. Like a decent HomePod replacement, and a headphone actually capable of taking advantage of it.
    canukstormScot1diz_geekBeatsmuthuk_vanalingambyronlrandominternetpersonrepressthiscaladaniandee_dee
  • Reply 7 of 54
    entropysentropys Posts: 2,958member
    dysamoria said:
    I’m surprised Lightning doesn’t carry digital audio. I wonder why I thought it did.
    Might be a new, extra special DAC dongle away. You never know. Although in a sensible world if that was the case the dongle would have been part of the announcement.
    iHyrepressthis
  • Reply 8 of 54
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 1,013member
    Has it been confirmed that AppleTV 4K will stream the full lossless data rate and send it on via HDMI to the DAC in my receiver?
    Scot1gregoriusmBeatsrezwitsbyronlrepressthis
  • Reply 9 of 54
    Is the airpods max compatible over wifi? I can understand Bluetooth. 
    Beatsrepressthis
  • Reply 10 of 54
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,147member
    dysamoria said:
    I’m surprised Lightning doesn’t carry digital audio. I wonder why I thought it did.
    It does, that's the issue. The DAC in the AirPods Max apparently can't do 24 bit @ 96kHz. If it relied on an external DAC it could do any frequency and bitrate, as it would just be an analog signal. Seems like a bit of an oversight considering the price and audience. 
    edited May 17 viclauyyciHyrepressthis
  • Reply 11 of 54
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,479member
    entropys said:
    I am surprised anyone thinks a Bluetooth device could play lossless. Not possible.  

    That said, I am surprised that the APM can’t play lossless over a wire. It suggests the APM was designed a long time ago and was not developed with lossless Apple Music in mind. The release must have been delayed as Apple couldn’t work out how to market it.  Which, considering its overall design issues, suggests it was an Ive era product after he no longer had Jobs about to keep him grounded.  

    It doesn’t seem like Apple to announce some great new software product without at the same time releasing hardware to take advantage of it. The intersection of software and hardware is as important as the intersection of liberal arts and engineering in Apple’s DNA.  This seems like something is missing. Like a decent HomePod replacement, and a headphone actually capable of taking advantage of it.
    100%.  Hit the nail on the head.
    Beatsrepressthis
  • Reply 12 of 54
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,147member
    entropys said:
    I am surprised anyone thinks a Bluetooth device could play lossless. Not possible.  

    That said, I am surprised that the APM can’t play lossless over a wire. It suggests the APM was designed a long time ago and was not developed with lossless Apple Music in mind. The release must have been delayed as Apple couldn’t work out how to market it.  Which, considering its overall design issues, suggests it was an Ive era product after he no longer had Jobs about to keep him grounded.  

    It doesn’t seem like Apple to announce some great new software product without at the same time releasing hardware to take advantage of it. The intersection of software and hardware is as important as the intersection of liberal arts and engineering in Apple’s DNA.  This seems like something is missing. Like a decent HomePod replacement, and a headphone actually capable of taking advantage of it.
    The custom chip Apple uses could in theory do lossless if the bandwidth was enough - again it could be more than the standard 2-ish mbps that BT5 supports due to the custom silicon. 

    I agree though the whole loss of the HP and then introduction of the supposedly top-end APM without lossless, only to announce a lossless service a few months later is pretty disjointed and un-Apple. There was an article somewhere that said the APM were supposed to have some kind of touch surface on the large flat sides which never materialised for some reason, perhaps cost or development time. Maybe the APM hit some R&D deadline that required its release or axing, since lossless support and the APM would almost certainly both been in development at the same time, unless as you say the APM finished development a fair while ago. I am kind of glad Ive isn't in the picture anymore, since as you say without Jobs to rein him in there have definitely been more questionable design choices.
    canukstormmuthuk_vanalingamviclauyycbyronlrepressthis
  • Reply 13 of 54
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 657member
    The higher-end lossless options will have data rates that exceed a lot of peoples peak broadband internet speed.
    Like what?? My internet download speed is at 400 mbps on wifi6, is that not enough???
    rezwitswilliamlondoniHybyronlrepressthis
  • Reply 14 of 54
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 132member
    dysamoria said:
    I’m surprised Lightning doesn’t carry digital audio. I wonder why I thought it did.
    It does.  The Lightning to 3.5mm dongle is actually a DAC (and a good one, as well as one of the cheapest things Apple sells(!)), so it's receiving digital output from the port.  The constraint is either in the maximum bitrate it, or the APP's DAC supports.

    Either Apple is being disingenuous with its statements, or there is some sloppy reporting occurring.  Maybe both.
    edited May 17 cgWerksgregoriusmdysamoriabyronlrepressthiscaladanian
  • Reply 15 of 54
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,147member
    Kuyangkoh said:
    The higher-end lossless options will have data rates that exceed a lot of peoples peak broadband internet speed.
    Like what?? My internet download speed is at 400 mbps on wifi6, is that not enough???
    400Mbps is much faster than average. Some rural people may not get lossless streaming, not sure about a lot. Uncompressed 12 channel Dolby Atmos is about 27Mbps (24648*96000)*12. Lossless FLAC is usually about 60% of uncompressed, so 16Mbps. Probably faster than a lot of mobile connections, but even Alaska has an average of 56Mbps.
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 16 of 54
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 2,479member
    citpeks said:
    dysamoria said:
    I’m surprised Lightning doesn’t carry digital audio. I wonder why I thought it did.
    It does.  The Lightning to 3.5mm dongle is actually a DAC (and a good one, as well as one of the cheapest things Apple sells(!)), so it's receiving digital output from the port.  The constraint is either in the maximum bitrate it, or the APP's DAC supports.

    Either Apple is being disingenuous with its statements, or there is some sloppy reporting occurring.  Maybe both.
    When used with the Lightening to 3.5mm adapter, Apple gave a little more detailed explanation to The Verge

    "So the natural question becomes... well, what are you hearing in that scenario? Apple tells The Verge that when you play a 24-bit / 48 kHz Apple Music lossless track from an iPhone into the AirPods Max using both the cable and Lightning dongle, the audio is converted to analog and then re-digitized to 24-bit / 48 kHz. That re-digitization step is the reason that Apple can’t say you’re hearing pure lossless audio; it’s not an identical match to the source."

    "Is it still going to sound very good? Almost certainly. The AirPods Max sound exceptional — even with AAC over Bluetooth, and plugging in can make the experience richer. But if you’re a stickler for the technical details, this is why the AirPods Max can’t pull off lossless audio in the truest sense. It also leaves Apple in an awkward spot where other high-end headphones that do support digital audio when hard wired — over USB-C, for example — could deliver the full lossless audio that the AirPods Max can’t."


    https://www.theverge.com/2021/5/17/22440788/apple-airpods-max-lossless-music-explainer-spatial-audio

    edited May 17 cgWerkshcrefugeegregoriusmITGUYINSDRayz2016roundaboutnowmuthuk_vanalingambyronlrandominternetpersonrepressthis
  • Reply 17 of 54
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,809member
    So who exactly is this lossless nonsense for then?
    zeus423hcrefugeeelijahgBeatsRayz2016rezwitsmuthuk_vanalingamchasmiHyrandominternetperson
  • Reply 18 of 54
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,038member
    crowley said:
    So who exactly is this lossless nonsense for then?
    3 groups:
    1. A select group of audiophiles with both the equipment and the ears to hear the difference and who actually care about the difference.
    2. People who like to think they are more discriminating than they are and want 'pro quality audio' so they can feel like they're listening to the best quality.
    3. People who compare Apple's streaming service to Amazon, Spotify, etc.

    I have a suspicion that group 1 is dwarfed by groups 2 and 3.

    AI has a post describing how to take tell if you can actually tell the difference: How to find out if Apple Music Lossless streaming will make a difference for you 0 of 5 writers who took the comparison test could tell a difference. 

    Most people just want to listen to music and enjoy it while they work, write, bike, or do other activities. If you're happy with the quality of your music that's all that matters.


    gregoriusmmuthuk_vanalingambala1234thedbarandominternetpersonrepressthisStrangeDays
  • Reply 19 of 54
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 2,147member
    citpeks said:
    dysamoria said:
    I’m surprised Lightning doesn’t carry digital audio. I wonder why I thought it did.
    It does.  The Lightning to 3.5mm dongle is actually a DAC (and a good one, as well as one of the cheapest things Apple sells(!)), so it's receiving digital output from the port.  The constraint is either in the maximum bitrate it, or the APP's DAC supports.

    Either Apple is being disingenuous with its statements, or there is some sloppy reporting occurring.  Maybe both.
    When used with the Lightening to 3.5mm adapter, Apple gave a little more detailed explanation to The Verge

    "So the natural question becomes... well, what are you hearing in that scenario? Apple tells The Verge that when you play a 24-bit / 48 kHz Apple Music lossless track from an iPhone into the AirPods Max using both the cable and Lightning dongle, the audio is converted to analog and then re-digitized to 24-bit / 48 kHz. That re-digitization step is the reason that Apple can’t say you’re hearing pure lossless audio; it’s not an identical match to the source."

    "Is it still going to sound very good? Almost certainly. The AirPods Max sound exceptional — even with AAC over Bluetooth, and plugging in can make the experience richer. But if you’re a stickler for the technical details, this is why the AirPods Max can’t pull off lossless audio in the truest sense. It also leaves Apple in an awkward spot where other high-end headphones that do support digital audio when hard wired — over USB-C, for example — could deliver the full lossless audio that the AirPods Max can’t."


    https://www.theverge.com/2021/5/17/22440788/apple-airpods-max-lossless-music-explainer-spatial-audio

    Hold on - I assumed AirPods Max used a lightning to lightning cable to send digital audio from iPhone (or presumably Mac with a USB to lightning cable) to the DAC in the AirPods. Is the the only way to get wired audio into the AirPods Max via the ADC in the 3.5" connector? If so that's ridiculous.

    With normal headphones the audio follows this path:
    • source instrument/voice > ADC > DAC > ears. 
    With Airpods Max in wireless mode you'd go
    • source > ADC > BT compression > DAC > ears. 
    With the wired 3.5" connection you'd go 
    • source > ADC > DAC > ADC (in 3.5mm to lightning cable) > DAC??
    That's absurd, no wonder they don't claim lossless support over a cable. The doubling of quantisation steps would almost certainly incur a loss worse than the AAC Bluetooth compression. In signal theory you need twice the sample rate that the signal is played at to avoid quantisation error (known as the Nyquist frequency), so the ADC in the 3.5mm jack would have to sample at 96khz to avoid sampling errors. And apparently it does not.
    MplsPmobirdmuthuk_vanalingamthedbabyronl
  • Reply 20 of 54
    silvergold84silvergold84 Posts: 100unconfirmed, member
    We will see if that is true. I have absolutely trust in Apple. I got AirPods Max and HomePods. Both give me back a pure audio like never heard so good before. Spatial audio and Dolby will be awesome on AirPods Max. I think it will be great also on AirPods Pro. Computational audio is superior to the simply numbers. It’s like computational photo : the lens of iPhone are smaller that a digital camera, but it have better results in many situations (Night Mode ecc).  
    williamlondon
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