Apple’s $549 AirPods Max can’t play lossless Apple Music — even when plugged in

Streaming music may be coming into a brand new period of hi-fi audio, however Apple’s AirPods Max aren’t technically able to go alongside for the experience. The corporate has confirmed to The Verge that its premium noise-canceling headphones don’t natively help playback of lossless music recordsdata.

“Lossless audio isn’t supported on AirPods, any mannequin,” an Apple spokesperson mentioned by e mail. “AirPods Max wired listening mode accepts analog output sources solely. AirPods Max at present doesn’t help digital audio codecs in wired mode.”

It makes full sense that the AirPods and AirPods Professional don’t have any manner of taking part in lossless audio. They’re completely wi-fi, and Apple helps the AAC codec over Bluetooth. AAC sounds lots good, but it surely’s nowhere close to the bit charge of CD-quality or high-resolution tracks. To do any higher, Apple would want to give you some new wi-fi codec — its personal model of Sony’s LDAC, form of — or make this stuff play music over Wi-Fi as a substitute of Bluetooth. None of that’s occurring at present or by June when Apple Music will begin providing lossless.

Issues are a bit extra difficult with the AirPods Max, which might be plugged into audio sources with a cable. Nonetheless, it seems that even when you have Apple’s $35 Lightning-to-3.5mm cable plugged into a tool that’s streaming lossless Apple Music tracks, you’re not going to listen to the complete audio constancy of the supply.

Apple AirPods Max in case with iPod and AirPods Pro

The AirPods Max don’t help digital audio codecs when arduous wired.

Picture by Nilay Patel / The Verge

So the pure query turns into… effectively, what are you listening to in that state of affairs? Apple tells The Verge that when you play a 24-bit / 48 kHz Apple Music lossless monitor from an iPhone into the AirPods Max utilizing each the cable and Lightning dongle, the audio is transformed to analog after which re-digitized to 24-bit / 48 kHz. That re-digitization step is the explanation that Apple can’t say you’re listening to pure lossless audio; it’s not an an identical match to the supply.

Is it nonetheless going to sound superb? Virtually actually. The AirPods Max sound distinctive — even with AAC over Bluetooth, and plugging in could make the expertise richer. However in the event you’re a stickler for the technical particulars, that is why the AirPods Max can’t pull off lossless audio in the strictest sense.

The Apple Music spatial audio function additionally introduced at present will work on the AirPods, AirPods Professional, and AirPods Max. So any songs which have these Dolby Atmos mixes are going to really feel extra immersive than their stereo counterparts. I feel Apple suspects spatial audio shall be an even bigger deal for a lot of clients than lossless high quality — and it might be proper. However hopefully the corporate has a long-term plan for growing the constancy on its wi-fi headphones, particularly now that lossless doesn’t price something additional.

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