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

2

Comments

  • Reply 21 of 54
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,453member
    Nice planning Apple.

    HomePod I understand

    HomePod Mini.. ehhhh I’d let it slide.

    But AirPods Max?!?!

    Hopefully WWDC will be full of new audio gear announcements. Apple will destroy competitors if they announced:

    Beats line with Apple Music lossless support and spatial audio

    AirPods/Pro/Max with Apple Music lossless support

    HomePod with Apple Music lossless support

    I understand most people won’t tell the difference but it will be marketing genius for both hardware and Apple Music. 
    williamlondonbyronlelijahgScot1
  • Reply 22 of 54
    iadlibiadlib Posts: 75member
    Of all the stupid things... Here buy these devices, the most advanced headphones and home speakers around, whiz bang all this cool stuff... unless you're an audiophile, then you're SOL....
    Scot1
  • Reply 23 of 54
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,589member
    MplsP said:
    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. 
    There's one thing missing here: the content.

    Lossless/high-definition audio is mostly useful for certain types of music, essentially classical for the most part. Of the AI writers' test article, none of the songs used were classical so it's no wonder than the five writers couldn't hear a difference.

    Lossless doesn't really benefit the standard stuff you hear on the radio: contemporary rock, pop, rap, hip-hop, whatever.

    It does make a difference for playback of something like remastered albums of historic recordings like Wagner's Ring Cycle (Sir Georg Solti, late '50s) or Tristan und Isolde (also Solti from this era). Both are considered by recording engineers to be amongst the finest ever made.

    Regular contemporary music doesn't have the dynamic range to truly benefit from high-bitrate playback. Worse, most listeners are doing so in environments not ideal for music listening are are using music as a background soundtrack, not something they are focusing on.

    If you care about sitting on the living room couch and listening to Sir Andras Schiff playing the Goldberg Variations or a Beethoven sonata on a two-hundred year old piano (or the Bosendorfer he travels with), yeah, you might get something out of lossless audio. If you are just listening to whatever Top 40 [email protected] on your AirPods while you're out for a run, forget about it.

    For typical people (Joe Consumer) listening to typical music (mundane radio stuff) on typical equipment (mass market hardware) in typical situations (while you are doing something else), 256Kbps AACs are quite sufficient.
    edited May 17 MplsPcg27CloudTalkinElianGonzálezdewme
  • Reply 24 of 54
    doggonedoggone Posts: 290member
    It's funny that the Apple devices that can play lossless are the ones people never use to listen to music. Certainly not the iPhone with its small speakers, generally not an MacBook Pro.  Maybe an iMac but even that is a stretch.
    Not coming up with a cable that can connect an iPhone to a IPM to play lossless is amazing

    What if Apple were to provide the capability to transmit to a headset via wifi?  Better bandwidth compared to BT.  Sure you would lose battery life but it would be worth it.  
    byronlScot1
  • Reply 25 of 54
    elijahg said:
    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. 
    “ apparently can't do 24 bit @ 96kHz”” — Apparently may be a key word here. 
    Maybe there is a firmware update for APM coming at WWDC that will unlock the “apparent” APM DAC limitation.  Or the firmware update is imminent in the next day or two?

    So why on earth would Apple have put that limitation on the DAC? Perhaps to stall APM users from looking to other music providers that serve lossless already. They may not have been ready to announce lossless ability at the time of the APM announcement.

    It’s more like Apple to surprise us than to disappoint us. 
    But if that is not the case here and it turns out the APM can never play the lossless music, I think it’s a PR fail. And that is despite the fact that spatial sound will impact the average and even above average music listener more than lossless.
  • Reply 26 of 54
    PdybmanPdybman Posts: 9member
    Appleish said:
    This is almost completely useless to the vast majority of current Apple tech. Very disappointing. 
    Guess what comes next: new Apple gear that does support those features!
    muthuk_vanalingamiHyScot1
  • Reply 27 of 54
    mpantone said:

    For typical people (Joe Consumer) listening to typical music (mundane radio stuff) on typical equipment (mass market hardware) in typical situations (while you are doing something else), 256Kbps AACs are quite sufficient.
    This bit of news is most distressing for techie boyz, who fashion themselves as audiophiles of the highest caliber (and not Joe Consumer), who would never buy AirPods Max because they're ridiculously expensive as any audiophile of the highest caliber content with $200 headphones will attest.

    The lack of irony of many commenters here is quite dee-lish. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 28 of 54
    suddenly newtonsuddenly newton Posts: 13,780member
    Huh. Apple's usually more organized than afterthought. You'd think if they were planning to productize lossless audio + spatial audio, it would be baked into the HomePod mini as the launchpad.
  • Reply 29 of 54
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 354member
    Pdybman said:
    Appleish said:
    This is almost completely useless to the vast majority of current Apple tech. Very disappointing. 
    Guess what comes next: new Apple gear that does support those features!
    Hey six-month old top of the line AirPods Max owners. Toss them out. Keep up, peasants!  That’ll be $999 for AirPods Max+!
    dysamoriawilliamlondonelijahg
  • Reply 30 of 54
    michelb76michelb76 Posts: 259member
    Appleish said:
    This is almost completely useless to the vast majority of current Apple tech. Very disappointing. 
    Pretty sure this high-end audio is a reaction to other brands introducing or having introduced lossless audio. Can't have a service without it or you lose subscribers. Apple should have had this a long time ago, but they dropped the ball on music and now have to follow.
  • Reply 31 of 54
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,832member
    "Lossless over Bluetooth is an obvious no-go due to bandwidth limitations".

    For standard Bluetooth that is true but
    Huawei has been doing high definition audio over Bluetooth since 2019 via a codec (BT-UHD) which I believe is propietary and a custom chipset (Kirin A1) 

    It means you have to have a Huawei phone and Huawei earphones with the chipset but that is precisely where Apple shouldn't have any issues.

    I can only assume this lossless move wasn't expected so soon and wasn't a consideration when recent Apple headphones were being designed.

    That said, I can get by with SBC and if other more efficient codecs are available, then it's a plus. I don't need lossless and I think most users will be fine without it too. 

    The simple answer to those that bought AP Max is that if they met your needs at time of purchase, that is all that matters. I can understand the possible frustration of some of those buyers, though.

    If a competitor managed to increase Bluetooth bandwidth issues years ago via a customised yet fully compliant/certified Bluetooth 5.1 BLE chipset, then Apple could have done the same.

    https://www.mobilescout.com/android/news/n114126/huawei-kirin-a1-chip-wearables-earbuds-details.html
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 32 of 54
    citpekscitpeks Posts: 145member
    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."


    That helps clarify things.

    The takeway is that the constraint lies with the APM's wired connection, which appears to only support analog input, at least for the time being, forcing the additional conversion cycle.

    However, that does not affect, nor support the contention that "the Lightning port is limited to analog output sources and isn't natively compatible with digital audio formats."

    That is objectively false, and supported by the fact that the 3.5mm dongle has a DAC, and is not simply an analog adapter connecting the relevant Lightning pins to the standard 3.5mm TRRS connector.
    gregoriusm
  • Reply 33 of 54
    chasmchasm Posts: 2,372member
    Don’t give a flying crap about lossless audio. Too many loud concerts with minimal protection in my misspent youth. There is no chance I could tell the difference between 256kbit AAC and lossless.

    I care a great deal about spatial/Atmosphere audio working with my HomePods and AirPods Pro, so I’m very pleased with this news.
    williamlondoniHyWgkruegerrandominternetpersonScot1
  • Reply 34 of 54
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,398member
    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.
    So I wasn’t wrong. What’s with this line in the article:

    That's because the Lightning port is limited to analog output sources and isn't natively compatible with digital audio formats.”

    ??
  • Reply 35 of 54
    crowleycrowley Posts: 8,288member
    MplsP said:
    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.
    I really can't understand why Apple aren't charging a premium for lossless, given all the extra effort they're going to have to go to in order to deliver it to those three groups of bozos.

  • Reply 36 of 54
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,314member
    I think, on balance, that the big story here is not lossless, but Dolby Atmos. Lossless really requires an audiophile setup to enable someone to actually notice the difference and even then not every can.

    Spatial Audio is immediately apparent to anyone that hears it, I think that as this roles out Dolby Atmos will be the true star of the show.
    thedbarandominternetpersonScot1patchythepirate
  • Reply 37 of 54
    entropysentropys Posts: 3,016member
    Pdybman said:
    Appleish said:
    This is almost completely useless to the vast majority of current Apple tech. Very disappointing. 
    Guess what comes next: new Apple gear that does support those features!
    No doubt. But then the new Apple Music feature would have had a couple of months of negative press which is a tad undesirable. It is better to launch them together, which has usually been Apple’s MO.  
    Scot1
  • Reply 38 of 54
    thedbathedba Posts: 651member
    elijahg said:
    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.
    Not that any of this will make a difference to 99.9% of us, this feels like your typical big corporation where the Apple Music group wasn’t talking to the hardware/AirPods group. At the very least we would’ve expected that AirPods Max would be able to play this back from the source unchanged, since it is not even a year since their release. 
  • Reply 39 of 54
    thedbathedba Posts: 651member
    saarek said:
    I think, on balance, that the big story here is not lossless, but Dolby Atmos. Lossless really requires an audiophile setup to enable someone to actually notice the difference and even then not every can.

    Spatial Audio is immediately apparent to anyone that hears it, I think that as this roles out Dolby Atmos will be the true star of the show.
    I agree with this. Spatial audio is going to be the big thing here not necessarily the lossless STEREO music which will only appeal to a tiny sub fraction of the population. 
  • Reply 40 of 54
    xbitxbit Posts: 298member
    I guess I'll be retiring my APM and moving back to my B&W PX - headphones that are significantly less comfortable to wear but sound fantastic with higher bitrate audio over USB.
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