Apple’s $549 AirPods Max can’t play lossless Apple Music — even when plugged in – The Verge3 min read

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

Streaming music may be getting in a new age of hi-fi audio, but Apples AirPods Max arent technically ready to go along for the flight. The business has validated to The Verge that its premium noise-canceling earphones do not natively support playback of lossless music files.
” Lossless audio is not supported on AirPods, any model,” an Apple representative stated by e-mail. “AirPods Max wired listening mode accepts analog output sources only. AirPods Max currently does not support digital audio formats in wired mode.”
It makes complete sense that the AirPods and AirPods Pro have no chance of playing lossless audio. Theyre completely cordless, and Apple supports the AAC codec over Bluetooth. AAC sounds plenty great, however its no place near the bit rate of CD-quality or high-resolution tracks. To do any better, Apple would need to come up with some new cordless codec– its own variation of Sonys LDAC, sort of– or make these things play music over Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. When Apple Music will start providing lossless, none of that is occurring today or by June.
Things are a bit more complicated with the AirPods Max, which can be plugged into audio sources with a cable television. Nevertheless, it ends up that even if you have Apples $35 Lightning-to-3.5 mm cable television plugged into a device thats streaming lossless Apple Music tracks, youre not going to hear the complete audio fidelity of the source.

The AirPods Max do not support digital audio formats when tough wired.

Image by Nilay Patel/ The Verge

The natural concern becomes … well, what are you hearing in that scenario? Apple informs 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 factor that Apple cant state youre hearing pure lossless audio; its not an identical match to the source.
Is it still going to sound excellent? Practically certainly. The AirPods Max sound exceptional– even with AAC over Bluetooth, and plugging in can make the experience richer. If youre a stickler for the technical details, this is why the AirPods Max cant pull off lossless audio in the truest sense. It likewise leaves Apple in an uncomfortable spot where other high-end earphones that do support digital audio when hard wired– over USB-C, for example– might deliver the complete lossless audio that the AirPods Max cant.
The Apple Music spatial audio feature likewise announced today will work on the AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. I think Apple suspects spatial audio will be a larger deal for numerous clients than lossless quality– and it may be.

It makes total sense that the AirPods and AirPods Pro have no way of playing lossless audio. Apple informs The Verge that when you play a 24-bit/ 48 kHz Apple Music lossless track from an iPhone into the AirPods Max utilizing both the cable and Lightning dongle, the audio is converted to analog and then re-digitized to 24-bit/ 48 kHz. It also leaves Apple in an uncomfortable spot where other high-end headphones that do support digital audio when difficult wired– over USB-C, for example– might deliver the complete lossless audio that the AirPods Max cant.
The Apple Music spatial audio function also revealed today will work on the AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max.

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