Apple Music library received a big upgrade this week. However, none of the premium wireless headphones that Apple offers, including the $550 AirPods Max, are compatible with the lossless audio versions of songs.
Apple’s famous ‘It just works’ tagline, seems to have suddenly become a moot point with the new lossless audio versions of every single track in its 75-million-plus-song Apple Music library. It seems none of Apple Inc.’s wireless headphones support these new iterations of songs.
No Apple wireless headphone can stream the new lossless audio format on Apple Music Library:
Apple Inc. acknowledged that none of its wireless headphones are currently compatible with the new lossless audio versions of songs available in the Apple Music Library.
The iPhone maker has launched a lossless audio version of every single audio track of the 75+ Million songs Apple Music library. Strangely, lossless audio works with just two wireless standards available in the commercial space. And Apple’s headphones don’t offer either of them.
AirPods and HomePods can't stream the new lossless Apple Music – BGR https://t.co/pijby0sO2I
— Addie (@adtea) May 21, 2021
It is not immediately clear how Apple intends to address this strange situation. However, the company does need to ensure its own products support premium quality of audio.
Although pure speculation, it is quite possible that Apple Inc. might be going to the core of the wireless communication standards.
Is Apple going to ditch Bluetooth in favor of Wi-Fi audio transmission for AirPods?
Streaming media wirelessly between devices generally takes place over Bluetooth wireless technology. Presently, the majority of smartphones, including Apple’s own iPhones, rely on Bluetooth. However, there’s Wi-Fi too.
Companies readily adopt or stick to Bluetooth primarily because the technology uses less energy. Needless to mention, this is very helpful in extending the battery life of wireless headphones.
Wi-Fi has a much broader scope and data-carrying capacity than Bluetooth. However, the technology needs a lot more power to function reliably. Simply put, streaming audio over Wi-Fi needs the receiver to have a stable source of power, like a wall plug.
— 🇮🇪All Things TechIE Podcast 🇮🇪 (@avtechjunkies) May 21, 2021
Premium wireless speakers from Sonos, Denon, and Apple use Wi-Fi for streaming audio between devices. But when it comes to wireless headphones, all companies use Bluetooth.
Incidentally, companies like Qualcomm and Sony have created high-quality audio codecs like aptX HD and LDAC. These new wireless communication standards manage to increase data bandwidth. And overcome the primary limitations of Bluetooth.
There’s much debate on if the HomePod can play Lossless files. Well this is a screenshot of me using Airplay 2 from iMac to HomePod – Amazon Music. Sure sound good but is it actually playing at these rates? #AppleMusic #Lossless #HomePod pic.twitter.com/87B9DgxLR8
— nonsuchandy (@Ips65) May 21, 2021
Apple Inc. could try and incorporate these technologies within its products. However, this would mean the company must rely on third-party, proprietary technologies.
Historically, Apple has been apprehensive about licensing technology. The company prefers to develop technologies for its own devices.
A thought about Apple Music lossless not being possible over Bluetooth because of bandwidth limits. But, surely the pathway for the AirPods Max is USB-C to Lightning cable? Digital direct to the DAC in the headphones? @gruber @stroughtonsmith @siracusa
— Alastair Jardine (@aj_ux) May 21, 2021
This leaves Apple with AirPlay. Interestingly, AirPlay creates seamless wireless links between Apple devices such as an iPhone and an Apple TV for both audio and video.
AirPlay can deliver lossless audio at up to 24-bit/48kHz. However, this is a “middle-level” quality for lossless music.
Lossless music is the next big thing in streaming, with Apple Music now upgrading.
— Bloomberg (@business) May 21, 2021
Incidentally, AirPlay transmits audio using Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC). But the core technology currently uses Wi-Fi as the wireless networking delivery system, not Bluetooth.
It is quite likely that Apple might rework AirPlay to make it work over Bluetooth. This appears the most straightforward method of delivering the lossless audio versions on Apple Music Library.