Apple confirms none of its AirPods support its upcoming lossless audio format

Cal Jeffrey

Posts: 2,978   +794
Staff member
Facepalm: If you are an Apple Music subscriber, you might have been excited to hear that lossless audio (ALAC) is coming in June. However, chances are that you listen to Apple Music using your AirPods. Unfortunately, the company confirmed that none of its wireless headphones support ALAC.

Starting in June, Apple Music will allow users to stream songs in ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) format in various resolutions. When Apple announced the news, it did not explicitly mention that some of its most important audio accessories would not support it—namely the AirPod line.

That's right. AirPods, AirPods Pro, and even Apple's $550 high-end over-ear AirPods Max don't support Apple's own lossless codec. instead they use the AAC codec when paired with an iPhone. Apple confirmed this caveat with lifestyle website T3 but downplayed it saying that all Apple headphones, including AirPods and Beats brands with the H1 or W1 wireless chips, would support the Dolby Atmos Spatial Audio, also arriving in June.

Apple did not specifically mention that its wireless headphones did not support lossless audio in the press release. However, it did state in the fine print that "Hi-Res Lossless (up to 24 bit at 192 kHz) also requires external equipment, such as a USB digital-to-analog converter (DAC)."

While lossless audio will be available at no extra cost to subscribers, enabling ALAC without the proper equipment will only needlessly chew up more bandwidth. It'll be best to leave it off unless you know your receiving device supports ALAC output.

Image credit: Nikkimeel

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toooooot

Posts: 1,469   +736
I am not angry. Unless they could do it at no extra cost and physically cut support for older devices.
Besides, Apple's ALAC is probably just slightly modified lossless formats available now.
 

madboyv1

Posts: 1,678   +589
This is not surprising at all, if you consider that bluetooth by nature of it's design can only transmit/receive compressed streams. There are no bluetooth codecs that deal in lossless data.

As long as Apple explicitly tells it's users about this limitation (they won't) then this would have been pretty much a non-story.
 

GettCouped

Posts: 17   +46
TechSpot Elite
I mean, with the in ear Airpods, the quality isn't good enough to really benefit from Lossless. I haven't heard the headphone Airpods, but that is a kick in the nuts for people who spent $500 on them. Not terribly expensive for audiophile, but it is one of the most expensive wireless models.
 

negroplasty

Posts: 538   +32
Of course they wont: why would Apple pass on the opportunity of sequestering a new feature behind a new device for you to buy? They don't call it planned obsolescence for nothing.

This is hardly planned obsolescence. Existing devices will work as they always have, if not better with the added Atmos/Spatial sound capability being added... adding new features for free years after products were originally released somehow makes them obsolete now? Because they can't magically support something no current generation wireless hardware standard can? Lack of true lossless over wireless on AirPods is a limitation of the Bluetooth standard and it can't be magically overcome on existing hardware... unlike your poor understanding of this subject if you did five minutes of research before regurgitating the same old cliche that you and many others don't actually understand.

Not all technology advances at the same pace. Nobody is going to hold off on supporting lossless codecs until there's a wireless standard that can support the bandwidth requirements... if anything, adding support in this way pushes the hardware industry to come up with new standards to keep up. Queue Bluetooth 6.0, or if it doesn't happen fast enough maybe Apple will come up with some proprietary solution. When there is finally a consumer friendly wireless set of earbuds or headphones that support lossless, they will be an industry first and feature brand new wireless hardware... it's not planned obsolescence, it's called progress. Get back on your horse and carriage and move along.
 
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trgz

Posts: 341   +113
I am not angry. Unless they could do it at no extra cost and physically cut support for older devices.
Besides, Apple's ALAC is probably just slightly modified lossless formats available now.
Actually ALACs are over 10 years old now, and have been used to play lossless files on iPod Classics (probably for the same length of time).
I actually use ALACs on my FiiO X5 player (with wired Sennheisers) but I'm kinda tied into my old Classic iPods (for the car) and so I've kept with an old iteration (10.7) of iTunes and organise my library in it. I have to use FLACs for the 5.1 and Quad recordings in my collection (and manage them seperately).
I will say that I rather dislike all other Apple products and hype, but the iPod Classic was once the only decently large, and sensibly priced, music player.
 

Fearghast

Posts: 355   +255
Year 2016 is finally catching up with Apple decision to kill jack and still have the worst BT audio on the market :-D
 

BabyFaceLee

Posts: 143   +53
OK, so am I right in presuming that if I get a Lightning to USB C cable I could use my B&W PX7s with my iPhone 12 and get ALAC?
 

Fearghast

Posts: 355   +255
OK, so am I right in presuming that if I get a Lightning to USB C cable I could use my B&W PX7s with my iPhone 12 and get ALAC?
You can BUT that dongle can't transfer HD audio - Apple dongle is 24b/48kHz max.
You have to use something like Tempotec Sonata HD Pro, so you won't get any downsampling.
As a "sarcastic audio guy" you know I am having a ball with this topic.
 

Dimitriid

Posts: 558   +956
This is hardly planned obsolescence.

You can't really prove a negative now can you? We don't know their plans so we're both speculating. I just think that given Apple's track record and the proximity of their last airpods refresh in 2019 they probably already knew they were going to go to lossless and decided to still release the new airpods without support for the new lossless change they were planning on anyway.

It's likely they'll just position this as a "Pro" feature and introduce "Studio quality new pro airpods" along with lossless.

But again, at most the only thing you can really claim here is that we're both speculating and neither of us really know their plans, I don't know them to confirm planned obsolescence and you don't know them either to categorically deny it could be happening.
 

BabyFaceLee

Posts: 143   +53
Thanks Fearghast. (y) (Y) I do own an Astell & Kern HiRes audio device but it would still be good to use my iPhone and get decent audio so I'll look into this a bit more. :cool:
 

trgz

Posts: 341   +113
Just use FLAC oh wait that would require breaking the DRM. We can't have that.
Apart from a couple of classic iPods, I'd pretty well agree with your Apple sentiment in your other comment, but FLAC and ALACs (and WAVs too) would suffer equally as we're talking about a bandwidth that is simply too much for the current iteration of Bluetooth. It's 'affected' others too, including Sony with their 'HD' wireless claims that have to resort to lossy compression to transmit over Bluetooth (I think it's called LDAC?)
 

trgz

Posts: 341   +113
You can BUT that dongle can't transfer HD audio - Apple dongle is 24b/48kHz max.
You have to use something like Tempotec Sonata HD Pro, so you won't get any downsampling.
As a "sarcastic audio guy" you know I am having a ball with this topic.
Ah, but if the definition of HD is 'greater than 44.1 kHz sample rate or higher than 16-bit audio bit depth' (from Wikipedia) then 24bit/48kHz exceeds both criteria, if only just. Sure, it's not wireless, and it isn't the really HiRes that a 'proper' player/headphone combination can easily cope with, which will remain conveniently invisible to Apple until they discover it for their clientele ;-)
 

captaincranky

Posts: 16,796   +5,545
And you all wonder why I still buy CDs, and only listen seriously on loudspeakers.

Unfortunately, I'll never be able to replace my JBL D130 w/ 075 ring radiator tweeters. The D130s had a efficiency rating of 105 DB @1 watt @ I meter. So you can just imagine what it must have been like when you got the pair going..:eek:

Anyway, I suddenly got the itch to, "build one more set of cabinets before I die" So, I hunted down this set of Beyma 15" co-ax:

Not altogether top tier, but I figure I could get by with them.

beyma-15xa38nd-size375.gif

At the very least, I figure I won'r be walking out in front of a car while I'm trying to hear the difference between PCM stereo, MP3, FLAC, or whatever Apple is going to shove down your throats,or rather ears,

What Apple should really be working on selling you, is a sub woofer in the form of a suppository. (IMO a rather more visceral approach to "bass you can feel, while altogether.falling into Apple's marketing strategies in general ). :rolleyes: