Some of the original excitement surrounding Apple Music lossless is starting to wear off, as it slowly emerges most of the company’s flagship products don’t and won’t support the Hi-Res feature natively.
Reports, some confirmed by Apple, have pointed out that none of the AirPods devices, even the more expensive AirPods Pro and over-ear AirPods Max will not support the CD-quality audio because of an incompatible Bluetooth codec. Likewise with the HomePod speakers.
Even if you add the cable to the AirPods Max, you still won’t get genuine lossless audio because of the way the files are encoded. A report from The Verge pointed out that playing a track on an iPhone to AirPods Max with a 3.5mm jack as well as a lightning dongle requires the file to be converted to analogue and then re-digitised to 48Hz. It may sound as good, but Apple can’t call this “lossless” officially.
Even the newest iPhones won’t support the full Hi-Res lossless files natively meaning users will need an iPhone/Mac with Digital to Analogue Converter and use some good wired headphones in order to get the best of the admittedly free upgrade.
So what’s the solution? Well, it could be that the next-generation of Apple hardware is the first to fully support the new standards, as galling as that would be to anyone who has forked out over £549 for the new AirPods Max over-ear headphones.
We’d expect the AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro 2 (whatever they end up being called) will find a way to support lossless audio over a wireless connection, which would probably require some proprietary connectivity tech from Apple to ensure it works wirelessly. If Apple adds new over-ear headphones either from Beats or a next-gen AirPods Max we’d expect it to do so too.
Is it possible the iPhone 13 supports a higher-end audio codec or internal tech that negates the need for an additional DAC? Apple boost the HomePod next year to ensure that’s also the case? Again, it’s not great news for those who’ve already invested in tech that should last years, but surely it will have to if Apple is to enable users to get the most out of the new streaming tech.