Become a MacRumors Supporter for $50/year with no ads, ability to filter front page stories, and private forums.

jazz1

Contributor
Original poster
Aug 19, 2002
4,560
18,547
Mid-West USA
I was wondering if I could use my 2021 iPad Pro's USB-C port to drive the AirPods Max headphones via a cable. In other words would the Lightening to USB-C cable that came with the Airpods Max work for a cable connection form the iPad Pro to these headphones?
 

jazz1

Contributor
Original poster
Aug 19, 2002
4,560
18,547
Mid-West USA
I was wondering if I could use my 2021 iPad Pro's USB-C port to drive the AirPods Max headphones via a cable. In other words would the Lightening to USB-C cable that came with the Airpods Max work for a cable connection form the iPad Pro to these headphones?
I guess I'll give Apple a call on Monday and let everyone who is interested know. I was thinking a direct cable connection to my iPad might come in handy. Though I doubt it overrides what Apple's built-in DAC/Amp (I assume the headphone has one).

I do have a Hyper-Drive USB Dongle for the iPad Pro that supports and regular old fashioned headphone cable plug-in. I could use that alone, or really go wild and plug in my AudioQuest DAC/Amp thumb drive into that dongle (using my already purchased Apple Lightening to 3.5mm Audio Jack cable. OMG, I'm overthinking this ? I'll probably use BT 99.999% of the time anyway. Forgive my ramblings friends!
 

arw

macrumors 65816
Aug 31, 2010
1,114
877
Save your time, it's not possible.
Given the limitation of Bluetooth or the double conversion via Apple's cable, this definitely should be an option - but it's not.
No digital data/audio connection to the Max via cable.
Not from an iPhone, iPad or Mac.
It only accepts "digital" data from the ADC in the Lightning plug of the audio cable.
When connected to my Mac via USB, they are recognized, but not for audio playback.
 

Attachments

  • Airpods.Max.USB.png
    Airpods.Max.USB.png
    155.6 KB · Views: 408
Last edited:

jazz1

Contributor
Original poster
Aug 19, 2002
4,560
18,547
Mid-West USA
Save your time, it's not possible.
Given the limitation of Bluetooth or the double conversion via Apple's cable, this definitely should be an option - but it's not.
No digital data/audio connection to the Max via cable.
Not from an iPhone, iPad or Mac.
It only accepts "digital" data from the ADC in the Lightning plug of the audio cable.
When connected to my Mac via USB, they are recognized, but not for audio playback.
Thanks, no problem, I suspected as much.

Well I guess I'll also be carrying my Bowers & Wilkins hard cabled P9's along with the AirPods Max headphones ?
 

bobmepp

macrumors regular
Jan 9, 2014
153
103
You can listen via cable by using the Apple usb c to 3.5mm adapter ($10), and then plug into the adapter with the Apple 3.5mm to lightning cable ($35). Not cheap but works well with no degradation in sound quality.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jazz1

venom600

macrumors 65816
Mar 23, 2003
1,304
1,107
Los Angeles, CA
You can listen via cable by using the Apple usb c to 3.5mm adapter ($10), and then plug into the adapter with the Apple 3.5mm to lightning cable ($35). Not cheap but works well with no degradation in sound quality.

You're introducing three conversions. The USB-3.5 adapter, the 3.5 to lightning cable, and the internal DAC in the headphones. You're definitely losing something everytime a conversion happens.
 
  • Love
Reactions: robotica

bobmepp

macrumors regular
Jan 9, 2014
153
103
You're introducing three conversions. The USB-3.5 adapter, the 3.5 to lightning cable, and the internal DAC in the headphones. You're definitely losing something everytime a conversion happens.
Don't hear it, at all. Could be, given that the Max is a "smart" or "computed audio" headphone, and that it is not passive in wired mode, that it is able to detect when the Apple converters are being used so that it does not do a conversion when the signal hits the lightning port on the phones. I suspect this because the only time I can hear a (slight) improvement in the sound of lossless is when I am using them in wired mode. However, I have found the bluetooth (or wired) sound to be so good with AAC files that I am gradually deleting my lossless downloads and re-downloading in AAC to save storage space.
 
Last edited:

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
It only accepts "digital" data from the ADC in the Lightning plug of the audio cable.

This is quite true.

But wired lossless audio is hopefully something that could theoretically be address/fixed with a software update to both the AirPods Max and the iOS device, granted there is no lightning-to-lightning cable currently (and Apple may not feel it worthwhile to market one for such a niche need were it to come to pass ie. wired lossless audio for the AirPods Max/iPhone combo), there exists , as mentioned already , a USB-C-to-lightning cable for a potential AirPods max/iPad Pro wired lossless combo.

However , it is disappointing to me that over a year on since Apple Music lossless audio was released , wired lossless audio for the AirPods Max is nowhere in sight, which I believe should be do-able.

Most discussions in other places are focused on the prospect of wireless lossless audio. That would be great but would probably not be backward compatible with older devices - personally I still use a iPhone X. it seems to me, all that it may take to have wired lossless audio when AirPods max are connected to iPad Pro using just a lightning-to-usb-c cable is merely a software update to both devices.

I am currently using the workaround of the adapter with lighting to 3.5mm jack cable and I must say it is a definite upgrade over wireless to my ears, but I’m sure a pure digital pathway would have a discernible edge and I see no reason why a software update to both iPad Pro and AirPods max would not enable it.

The wired input into the AirPods max is already in the digital 24bit/48Hz format.
 
Last edited:

venom600

macrumors 65816
Mar 23, 2003
1,304
1,107
Los Angeles, CA
However , it is disappointing to me that over a year on since Apple Music lossless audio was released , wired lossless audio for the AirPods Max is nowhere in sight, which I believe should be do-able.

Ideally, you'd plug in a normal headphone cable and bypass the electronics in the headset entirely, like virtually every other headphone on the market. It is mind boggling that Apple designed the headphones this way.
 

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
Ideally, you'd plug in a normal headphone cable and bypass the electronics in the headset entirely, like virtually every other headphone on the market. It is mind boggling that Apple designed the headphones this way.

Yes and the Beats Studio 3 headphones which is an Apple product have basically the same issue. Even though it has a 3.5mm audio socket , I must still processes it via an analogue to digital converter, as the headphone must be powered on even to work with analogue sources, suggesting there is no passive mode for Beats Studio 3 either.

This frustration has prompted me to buy a couple of budget wired-only analogue headphones without wireless ability - Sony and Sennheiser.

But the AirPods Max sound better in wired mode with lossless Apple Music than those 2 budget headphones IMHO despite the Airpod Max’s workaround ADC > DAC converters . It is a testament to the quality of those Apple converters and the airpod max’s themselves, I feel it has to also be said.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: I7guy

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
Wouldn’t it be awesome if Apple released AirPods Max 2 with internal DACS that support Hi Res audio , as well as a lightning to lightning cable to enable a wired connection to iPhone and with software updated to support wired Hi Res audio.

Also with Bluetooth hopefully updated to 5.2 in AirPods Max 2 and LC3 codec supported , that would allow for wireless lossless audio up to 24bit / 48 KHz (but not Hi Res obviously) , assuming the forthcoming iPhone 14 has the hardware to support it too.
 
  • Like
Reactions: dhershberger

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
They could call it the AirPods Max Pro … if they released AirPods Max 2 with internal DACS that support Hi Res audio , as well as a lightning to lightning cable to enable a wired connection to iPhone and with software updated to support wired Hi Res audio.

As regards wireless , I think it’s unlikely that they are developing their own lossless codec.

In the above link , they say they would like more bandwidth. That means improved audio quality but , as I interpret it , not necessarily with lossless support. But as I understand it , LC3 audio codec will theoretically allow for lossless , though whether apple will actually implement the lossless aspect may not be a foregone conclusion if it impacts battery life , maybe they will determine that lossier implementation of LC3 codec that somewhat improves audio while still being able to boast improved battery life will be the take home message they want to send out.

We shall see.

Nevertheless, while very happy with the wired performance of the AirPods Max , I’m holding off purchase until the updated version is out hopefully before the end of the year.

If the AirPods Pro 2 do indeed support lossless ALAC codec, then i really hope the strongly rumoured forthcoming colours refresh of the AirPods Max also gets the wireless lossless support.
 

jazz1

Contributor
Original poster
Aug 19, 2002
4,560
18,547
Mid-West USA
When the cable connection is used from the AirPods Max to a computer/iPad/iPhone is it using the heaphones’ DAC/AMP or source’s electronics?

Can I use these headphones cabled with my stand alone DAC/Amp. Is it safe? Will it sound better and support lossless assuming the music is lossless?
 
Last edited:

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
When the cable connection is used from the AirPods Max to a computer/iPad/iPhone is it using the heaphones’ DAC/AMP or source’s electronics?

- It’s usin both. The sources DAC is being used to convert the signal to analogue, of course . However the Apple cable’ has a built in ADC that converts the signal back to digital , so that it is compatible with the APM’s noise cancellation/ transparency mode. This is obligatory. And requires the APM to always have power and be switched on.

Can I use these headphones cabled with my stand alone DAC/Amp. Is it safe?

- yes you can , as long as the volume is not too high. But to be on the safe side , I suggest it’s best not to use equipment that drives high impedance headphones ! I suggest using the Apple lightning to 3.5mm adapter with iOS devices and the Apple Music service. The Apple adapter has a high quality DAC , in my opinion. And my obvsevation is that the Apple 3.5mm to lightning cable also has a high quality ADC.

Will it sound better and support lossless assuming the music is lossless?
-use the Apple cable , although it is not strictly lossless , it will sound way better than wireless AAC codec. But you have to run that cable in for about an hour before it starts to shine. In my opinion , it sounds excellent.

In fact , I have started using that cable with my Beats Studio 3. To me ,it sounds like a clear cut upgrade in audio quality , despite the DAC , then ADC conversion. The only disadvantage is that you will be having to use a cable. It’s a bit of a flimsy cable and will need to be treated with TLC. But it’s worth the price in view of the high quality ADC, in my opinion.
 
  • Like
Reactions: jazz1

R3k

macrumors 68000
Sep 7, 2011
1,511
1,481
Sep 7, 2011
-use the Apple cable , although it is not strictly lossless , it will sound way better than wireless AAC codec. But you have to run that cable in for about an hour before it starts to shine. In my opinion , it sounds excellent.
In no way will "burning in" a cable with A/D or D/A accomplish anything, im sorry.
 

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
and you have experience of this ?

I felt there was a significant improvement after 1 to 2 hrs of use of the cable, prior to that it was lacklustre. It may be related to the ADC break-in rather than the wire. It is a very high quality converter in my opinion. As is the DAC in the lightning to 3.5mm adapter. I have bought 3 other brands of adapter and the Apple one is the only one I will use.

I am not getting into comparison with outboard powered DACs, I have no experience with that.
 
Last edited:

R3k

macrumors 68000
Sep 7, 2011
1,511
1,481
Sep 7, 2011
and you have experience of this ?

I felt there was a significant improvement after 1 to 2 hrs of use of the cable, prior to that it was lacklustre. It may be related to the ADC break-in rather than the wire. It is a very high quality converter in my opinion. As is the DAC in the lightning to 3.5mm adapter. I have bought 3 other brands of adapter and the Apple one is the only one I will use.

I am not getting into comparison with outboard powered DACs, I have no experience with that.
Yeah, I do have experience, I record for a living. Converters don't need to be broken in nor do cables. The difference between good and average converters is mostly too subtle to discern on a single source and only really becomes aparant when combining many converted sources together such as in the recording process. What you are hearing could be bias on your part or even simple things as listening louder after the first hour or having the headphones positioned differently on your head.
 

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
If anyone subscribes to Apple Music and has it set to download lossless, and also has the Air Pods Max, I would urge them to try out the 3.5mm to lightning cable for a wired connection - you would also need to use the 3.5mm to lightning adapter with your iPhone , effectively making a lightning to lightning connection. Set the Music app audio EQ setting to off . And hear how these headphones sound. Heck , even any decent headphones with a 3.5mm input such as the Beats Studio 3 or Beats Solo or Sennheisers. This cable is maxing out close to lossless. I tried it with Bose QC35 and was not impressed with it on those however, but I never rated Bose headphones that much anyway.
 

arw

macrumors 65816
Aug 31, 2010
1,114
877
effectively making a lightning to lightning connection
The main complaint to Apple is, that it is actually:
[ iPhone source audio > Lightning > digital-to-analog > analog-to-digital > Lightning > Airpods Max ]
Despite this unnecessary double conversion - you're right - it's still the best way to go (compared to Bluetooth).
 

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
Thanks.

Roll on 7th Sept, at the earliest.

I am very interested to see if
- wireless lossless will be announced for AirPods Pro 2 , which it almost certainly will
- and if so , if the current Airpods Max will be able to support it
-or it will require a 2nd gen AirPods Max.

If Apple devices’ Bluetooth 5.0 can be upgraded to 5.2 by software update (??) , then theoretically they and the iPhones X upwards will be able to support lossless wirelessly. And therefore so would the current AirPods max.

I hope Apple do not reserve iPhone BT 5.2 exclusively for the iPhone 14 purely in a bid to boost iphone 14 sales.

Of course it’s not just Apple devices that stand to gain from LE Bluetooth , are there any android devices that already support lossless wirelessly by LE /LC3 codec ?
 

puggsly

macrumors member
Sep 9, 2003
78
58
San Diego
Save your time, it's not possible.
Given the limitation of Bluetooth or the double conversion via Apple's cable, this definitely should be an option - but it's not.
No digital data/audio connection to the Max via cable.
Not from an iPhone, iPad or Mac.
It only accepts "digital" data from the ADC in the Lightning plug of the audio cable.
When connected to my Mac via USB, they are recognized, but not for audio playback.
I hear you but something doesn't make sense. You can use the 3.5mm cable to lightning to plug into an analog source and that cable will convert that analog audio to a digital signal that transmits to the AirPods Max over lightning. This implies to me that if I could just encode audio the same way as the ADC chip in the cable does before sending it to the AirPods Max, it would just play it.
Now it is possible that the DAC in the AirPods max simply don't support the decoding of any lossless or very high quality audio (although that seems unlikely) but as long as you can format the data properly and handshake correctly with the headphones it would seem that there must be a way to send digital audio over USB directly to the lightning port.

Someone, please hack this together so Apple realizes they simply need to make a cable.
 

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
The iPhone will go USB-C as early as next year.

I think this makes the prospect of a lightning to lightning cable even more unlikely.

The sliver lining is that a lightning to USB-C cable already exists. Hopefully it will simply be a matter of enabling lossless wired digital support through software, as you implied.

I think the wording Apple used in regard to the APM was they do not support lossless audio “ currently”.

Also there may be a 2nd gen APM released next year and if so, it will certainly support Bluetooth 5.3 which has the potential benefit of higher bitrate support wirelessly with LE codec , if not lossless audio wirelessly.
 

puggsly

macrumors member
Sep 9, 2003
78
58
San Diego
The iPhone will go USB-C as early as next year.

I think this makes the prospect of a lightning to lightning cable even more unlikely.

The sliver lining is that a lightning to USB-C cable already exists. Hopefully it will simply be a matter of enabling lossless wired digital support through software, as you implied.

I think the wording Apple used in regard to the APM was they do not support lossless audio “ currently”.

Also there may be a 2nd gen APM released next year and if so, it will certainly support Bluetooth 5.3 which has the potential benefit of higher bitrate support wirelessly with LE codec , if not lossless audio wirelessly.
But the question goes deeper than this. I already have a lightning to USB A or C cable that could plug into my mac or iPad. Sure, the idea of lightning to lightning is interesting but not necessary today to allow for a direct digital to digital connection to these headphones. I'm just totally lost as to why it hasn't been enabled. Lots of people use higher end over the ear headphones with laptops, and desktops. Baffled!
 

Microbe

macrumors newbie
Jul 20, 2022
21
10
Yes obviously that would be nice . It won’t be enabled until there is a usb-c iPhone , apple probably see little point or they would have done it by now. Once they support it over usb-c and lightning is obsolete, no one will be asking them to make a lightning to lightning cable , something that will not sell in high volumes anyway. There exists a workaround that already works quite well anyway , though apple rightly admit is technically not lossless. This is all a bit of a nonissue.
 
Register on MacRumors! This sidebar will go away, and you'll see fewer ads.