Apple confirms HomePods will support lossless Music, but not AirPods

Joe White

Posts: 69   +0
Staff
Cutting corners: There was a fair degree of controversy when earlier this week, news hit that Apple Music’s upcoming high-resolution lossless streaming formats wouldn’t be supported by AirPods or HomePod speakers. Before you begin to spit features, though, fret not – because Apple has since confirmed that both the HomePod and HomePod mini will eventually support lossless audio.

When it launches in June, Apple Music’s lossless audio means listeners will be able to “hear the exact same thing that the artists created in the studio,” as opposed to compressed formats typically used to deliver streamed audio. With that said, some rivals already offer higher quality audio, Tidal and Qobuz are two good examples, while Amazon just made the move to offer HD music as part of their standard Music subscription, like Apple who doesn't plan to charge extra for the feat.

We also heard this past week – in a true facepalm move – that Apple’s AirPods and HomePod speakers wouldn’t support music played in ALAC (or Apple Lossless Audio Codec). Ouch.

However, there’s a dash of good news. Apple recently confirmed in an online document that both of its HomePod speakers – the original HomePod and the $99 HomePod mini – will support ALAC lossless streaming via a software update in the near future.

Apple also explains in the document why AirPods aren’t getting ALAC support. “AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and Beats wireless headphones use Apple’s AAC Bluetooth Codec to ensure excellent audio quality. Bluetooth connections don’t support lossless audio,” the support document notes.

For owners of Apple’s $550 AirPods Max headphones, a wired connection can allow ALAC support – at least partially. “The Lightning to 3.5 mm Audio Cable was designed to allow AirPods Max to connect to analog sources for listening to movies and music. AirPods Max can be connected to devices playing Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless recordings with exceptional audio quality. However, given the analog to digital conversion in the cable, the playback will not be completely lossless.”

Whether that’s a good enough consolation prize remains to be seen.

Apple adds that broadcast radio, live and on-demand content from Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits, and Apple Music Country, and music videos won’t be available in lossless formats.

Permalink to story.

 

Dimitriid

Posts: 716   +1,278
So the product that isn't doing as well on sales well we can entice you to get that, now featuring lossless!

Meanwhile the product that we sell millions and millions of units well no, you've gotta upgraded that one.

Glad to see how technology is so conveniently selective as to what works with what with Apple almost as if the obsolescence was you know...Planned...
 

Watzupken

Posts: 247   +227
They basically just shot themselves in both feet based on their explanations. Apple made the dumb move to remove the headphone jacks from their ultra expensive phones and tablets. Now they are saying that you can't play lossless music via Bluetooth and via the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. In short, no HD music for iPhone and iPad users.
 

Fearghast

Posts: 376   +285
Does not really matter since it's just a low-end speaker that will not benefit of better source.
It's like connecting $100 bookshelf speakers to a better DAC/AMP and expect better results.
 

Fearghast

Posts: 376   +285
So the product that isn't doing as well on sales well we can entice you to get that, now featuring lossless!

Meanwhile the product that we sell millions and millions of units well no, you've gotta upgraded that one.

Glad to see how technology is so conveniently selective as to what works with what with Apple almost as if the obsolescence was you know...Planned...
If you refer to Airpods, Aipods Pro or even Airpods Max it does not really matter - they would not benefit and provide better sound - they would even be worse as the battery life would drop and the range as well.
AAC is a good codec when you are connecting low-end audio equipment, and you want to prioritize range and battery life.

What would be awesome if iPhones and iPad gain support for LDAC, AptX HD, AptX LL, HWA and other formats that are actually used on decent sounding devices.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 716   +1,278
If you refer to Airpods, Aipods Pro or even Airpods Max it does not really matter - they would not benefit and provide better sound - they would even be worse as the battery life would drop and the range as well.
AAC is a good codec when you are connecting low-end audio equipment, and you want to prioritize range and battery life.

What would be awesome if iPhones and iPad gain support for LDAC, AptX HD, AptX LL, HWA and other formats that are actually used on decent sounding devices.
Fair enough, from a technical side I'll defer to you. But the question comes back the same: if it's a popular product, then even if those other protocols would benefit them Apple probably wouldn't just do a software/firmware update to support them even if they technically could, as any improvement to a product is always weighted as to whenever or not it's good enough for a stand out feature to push people to upgrade.

It's not the protocol itself, it's the reasoning behind not implementing it for strategic financial reasons weighting in at least as heavily as the technical ones, if not more so.
 

Hardware Geek

Posts: 360   +385
Don't worry. Apple will conveniently offer new headphones and speakers that do support the new lossless audio, and Apple users will undoubtedly buy them without a second thought.
 
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duckofdeath

Posts: 427   +575
If you refer to Airpods, Aipods Pro or even Airpods Max it does not really matter - they would not benefit and provide better sound - they would even be worse as the battery life would drop and the range as well.
AAC is a good codec when you are connecting low-end audio equipment, and you want to prioritize range and battery life.

What would be awesome if iPhones and iPad gain support for LDAC, AptX HD, AptX LL, HWA and other formats that are actually used on decent sounding devices.
It's the amp that draws the power in a DAC, not the digital conversion. That part is comparatively low effort work for a modern processor. The amp doesn't have to do anything different, whether the source audio is 2-bit or 32-bit.

To me, it's a weird limitation they put on a pair of 550 buck headphones. It's not like 24-bit/96KHz is a new thing. Losing half of that audio data should be noticeable on headphones costing over half a grand, or the headphone itself doesn't deliver half of what you're paying for.
 

Fearghast

Posts: 376   +285
It's the amp that draws the power in a DAC, not the digital conversion. That part is comparatively low effort work for a modern processor. The amp doesn't have to do anything different, whether the source audio is 2-bit or 32-bit.

To me, it's a weird limitation they put on a pair of 550 buck headphones. It's not like 24-bit/96KHz is a new thing. Losing half of that audio data should be noticeable on headphones costing over half a grand, or the headphone itself doesn't deliver half of what you're paying for.
It's a nice theory, but it does not work like that.
https://helpguide.sony.net/mdr/wh1000xm3/v1/en/contents/TP0001703144.html
Even if we would to ignore battery life for a second, there is still the issue of lower range and signal stability in general.
Edit: Airpods Max are far from a decent value proposition as the Anker Q30 for $80 sounds even better and are better balanced with basic EQ. The ANC on the Ankers is nowhere close to Apple ones through.
 

duckofdeath

Posts: 427   +575
It's a nice theory, but it does not work like that.
https://helpguide.sony.net/mdr/wh1000xm3/v1/en/contents/TP0001703144.html
Even if we would to ignore battery life for a second, there is still the issue of lower range and signal stability in general.
Edit: Airpods Max are far from a decent value proposition as the Anker Q30 for $80 sounds even better and are better balanced with basic EQ. The ANC on the Ankers is nowhere close to Apple ones through.
What are you on about? There is zero range issues with a physical cable. Everything on that link is nonsense in the context.
 

texasrattler

Posts: 1,172   +555
Isn't the HomePod are ready officially discontinued? I don't even think you can buy them in any retail store, maybe online.

I haven't seen them in stores in a long while. It's always been the mini since like the beginning of the year.

Only hard-core fans of apple would even care. Everyone else who owns one will just move on to the mini or a newer versions in the future. That's how it always is with electronics.
 

Fearghast

Posts: 376   +285
What are you on about? There is zero range issues with a physical cable. Everything on that link is nonsense in the context.
That was meant as a reaction to "It's the amp that draws the power in a DAC, not the digital conversion." which I assumed was related to BT audio transfer as the wireless headphones do integrate DAC and AMP.
I was not referring to a wired solution which is obviously superior to any BT codec, even LDAC or HWA.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 716   +1,278
That was meant as a reaction to "It's the amp that draws the power in a DAC, not the digital conversion." which I assumed was related to BT audio transfer as the wireless headphones do integrate DAC and AMP.
I was not referring to a wired solution which is obviously superior to any BT codec, even LDAC or HWA.
Oh ok, well just a small sidetrack on my part then but oh well.
 

pcnthuziast

Posts: 1,090   +793
Oh how I would love to see a company like Apple wither and die. Fortunately for them, consumers just keep getting dumber and more willing to be played and milked.
 

GregonMaui

Posts: 284   +101
They basically just shot themselves in both feet based on their explanations. Apple made the dumb move to remove the headphone jacks from their ultra expensive phones and tablets. Now they are saying that you can't play lossless music via Bluetooth and via the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter. In short, no HD music for iPhone and iPad users.

Did you read it? Bluetooth headphones cannot play lossless because, well, Bluetooth doesn't have the bandwidth - period. As for the AirPods Max: "However, given the analog to digital conversion in the cable, the playback will not be completely lossless." they can play lossless, but not hires lossless because the DACs in the standard cable are limited to the lower resolution. apple also explains you need "external equipment" to play hires lossless, like a better DAC, so the limitation is not in t"he cable".

Finally, even those who claim to hear the difference are fooled in blind tests, so the difference is miniscul and beyond most of our ability to hear. If you are one of the tiny fraction of people who actually can hear the difference, I have no idea what that must be like.
 

GregonMaui

Posts: 284   +101
Does not really matter since it's just a low-end speaker that will not benefit of better source.
It's like connecting $100 bookshelf speakers to a better DAC/AMP and expect better results.

wow, funny all the professional audio testers disagree with your assessment, but hey, you said it, it must be true.
 

GregonMaui

Posts: 284   +101
Don't worry. Apple will conveniently offer new headphones and speakers that do support the new lossless audio, and Apple users will undoubtedly buy them without a second thought.

Not bluetooth devices, obviously. the AirPods Max sound like they can support it with a high quality DAC, they do support lossless, just not high res lossless with "the cable". and the HomePods do support it, they already support ALAC and FLAC https://9to5mac.com/2018/01/24/homepod-flac-support/. Airplay 2 supports it
 

GregonMaui

Posts: 284   +101
It's a nice theory, but it does not work like that.
https://helpguide.sony.net/mdr/wh1000xm3/v1/en/contents/TP0001703144.html
Even if we would to ignore battery life for a second, there is still the issue of lower range and signal stability in general.
Edit: Airpods Max are far from a decent value proposition as the Anker Q30 for $80 sounds even better and are better balanced with basic EQ. The ANC on the Ankers is nowhere close to Apple ones through.

and EQ is a poor man's version of dynamic EQ, which I'll take every time. EQ used to be needed because there was no way to adjust sound quality and tones from the various components and the room, now better quality speakers (HomePods, newer Sonos, etc), and headphones AirPods Max, and AirPods Pro have microphones and digital algorithms to dynamically balance what the sound is being produced to the way it is supposed to be. Modern!
 

Fearghast

Posts: 376   +285
and EQ is a poor man's version of dynamic EQ, which I'll take every time. EQ used to be needed because there was no way to adjust sound quality and tones from the various components and the room, now better quality speakers (HomePods, newer Sonos, etc), and headphones AirPods Max, and AirPods Pro have microphones and digital algorithms to dynamically balance what the sound is being produced to the way it is supposed to be. Modern!
Dynamic EQ is used because of low dimensions, effort to minimize the distortion and to control "base bouncing off the walls" - it is not needed on big speakers because they actually can play those frequencies without distorting on higher volumes and the sound flows towards listener not in 360 space.
Microphones on Airpods are for ANC and to combat design flaw with in ear echo due to faulty design of Airpods Pro - it is well documented and one of the reasons of massive recall in past year.
TBH I am not even sure how you could come up to the conclusion you wrote, I would advise you to open your ears and expand your horizon; its very rewarding when it comes to audio.
 

GregonMaui

Posts: 284   +101
Dynamic EQ is used because of low dimensions, effort to minimize the distortion and to control "base bouncing off the walls" - it is not needed on big speakers because they actually can play those frequencies without distorting on higher volumes and the sound flows towards listener not in 360 space.
Microphones on Airpods are for ANC and to combat design flaw with in ear echo due to faulty design of Airpods Pro - it is well documented and one of the reasons of massive recall in past year.
TBH I am not even sure how you could come up to the conclusion you wrote, I would advise you to open your ears and expand your horizon; its very rewarding when it comes to audio.
"isn't that precious!" Churchlady