Lossless Audio is heading to Apple Music in June, adding higher-quality streaming to the app. That is, for everyone except AirPods & HomePod users.
Apple recently announced that Lossless Audio is coming to Apple Music; however, that news comes with a big catch. For users listening to Apple Music on AirPods or HomePod devices, Lossless Audio isn’t supported at all.
Next month, Apple Music will be updated with Lossless Audio to support two types of higher-quality music streaming — CD-quality and Hi-Resolution Lossless. The former will play music at a minimum bitrate of 1411 Kbps, whereas the latter cranks things up to 9216 Kbps (higher Kbps count translates to better-sounding music). As it currently stands, Apple Music has been maxing out at just 256 Kbps. It’s perfectly fine for casual listening, but it’s inherently limited compared to what Lossless Audio will bring to the table.
This is good news for all Apple Music users, many of which are likely listening to the service using AirPods and/or HomePods. Unfortunately for them, they won’t be able to take advantage of the Lossless Audio feature at all. Shortly after announcing the higher-quality streaming, Apple confirmed that none of its AirPods or HomePod devices will support Lossless Audio in Apple Music. This includes AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, HomePod, and HomePod mini. Even worse is that this isn’t something a future software update can fix.
Why AirPods & HomePod Devices Don’t Support Lossless Audio
In the case of AirPods, Lossless Audio isn’t supported because of the Bluetooth codec used in the devices. Bluetooth codecs are what allow digital music files to be sent to headphones/earbuds wirelessly, with this process requiring the files to be compressed and decompressed — thus resulting in parts being ‘lost’ and not truly lossless. AirPods uses the AAC codec for playing music via Bluetooth, which doesn’t currently support the ALAC codec Apple’s using for its Lossless Audio feature. While HomePod and HomePod mini don’t rely on Bluetooth codecs to stream audio files, Apple has said Lossless Audio isn’t supported with them, either.
While this is a crummy situation for all of these devices, it becomes especially frustrating for AirPods Max. Not only do the wireless headphones cost a hefty $549, but they also have the option of being plugged into an iPhone using a Lightning cable. Surely this would allow the headphones to support Lossless Audio, right? Wrong. When using the Lighting cable between AirPods Max and an iPhone, music files are converted to analog and then reformatted to be digital. Because of this transition that has to happen, users won’t hear the full lossless file as it’s intended.
So, where does Apple go from here? One possibility could be to add ALAC support to future AirPods devices. One would think that Apple could have planned for this ahead of time and futureproofed existing AirPods with it, but for whatever reason, that didn’t happen. Apple could also allow AirPods to stream over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth, but there’s no sign of that happening any time soon. Ultimately, that’s where things are at right now. Lossless Audio is an extremely welcome addition to the Apple Music ecosystem, but as fate would have it, the best way to experience the new format will be with non-Apple headphones.
Next: Spotify Vs. Apple Music Vs. YouTube Music
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