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An Apple engineer has addressed the lack of lossless audio support in the second-generation AirPods Pro in a new interview.

airpods-pro-2.jpg

Current Bluetooth technology in the AirPods lineup means that Apple's audio products do not support Apple Music Lossless audio. Apple has previously hinted that it may develop its own codec and connectivity standard that builds on AirPlay and supports higher quality audio streaming, but so far has not made any such move. ‌

Apple Music‌ offers lossless streaming which is 24-bit and up to 48KHz, and high-res lossless which goes up to 192KHz and requires an external digital-to-analog converter.

In an interview with What Hi-Fi?, Apple engineer Esge Andersen, who works on the company's acoustic team, said that Apple does not believe that current Bluetooth technology is a limiting factor in audio quality for the AirPods. Anderson added that even with current Bluetooth technology and codec standards, Apple can still make improvements in audio quality while the company's focus remains on reliability.
Andersen remains coy, saying that while audio quality is always a priority, "it is important to understand that we can still make big strides without changing the codec. And the codec choice we have there today, it's more about reliability. So it's about making something robust in all environments."

"We want to push the sound quality forward, and we can do that with a lot of other elements. We don't think that the codec currently is the limitation of audio quality on Bluetooth products."
During the interview, Anderson also offered an interesting look into how Apple developed the new second-generation AirPods Pro and how it validates sound quality. Anderson revealed that Apple has a panel of "sound experts" that offer Apple's engineers feedback on audio quality. "And at the end of the day, there is somewhat of a compromise, because you can't make it perfect for everybody yet," he said.

One of the most considerable improvements with the new second-generation AirPods Pro is better Active Noise Cancellation. Apple says that ANC on the new AirPods Pro is up to 2x better than before. Anderson said Apple was pushed to make this large improvement because it wanted "to give everybody an AirPods Max in their pocket."

Article Link: Apple Engineer Addresses Lack of Lossless Support on New AirPods Pro
 

ian87w

macrumors G3
Feb 22, 2020
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When Apple introduced the original Airpods and announced the W1 chip (and later the H1 chip), I thought Apple was going to use their own proprietary ways so they can deliver the best audio quality possible, and maybe even lossless. But I guess not?
 

MrRom92

macrumors 6502a
Sep 30, 2021
500
978
While it is a bummer that the AirPods can’t support lossless yet, there is no legitimate reason that FLAC support on their devices is practically nonexistent as it currently is.

Why? What is preventing them from enabling a standardized file format that NO OTHER modern device manufacturer has trouble handling?

FLAC is the format that the people who actually care about using lossless audio are using - ALAC is a joke, not an equivalent or an appropriate substitute by any means if you are maintaining a library.

Why actively block people from adding these files to their music library?

I get they have priority focusing on their own streaming services, but don’t treat the people who’ve spent years building their own lossless library like 2nd class citizens. Not everything is available on streaming services.
 

AppleTO

macrumors 6502a
Oct 31, 2018
616
1,354
Toronto, Canada
Apple says that ANC on the new AirPods Pro is up to 2x better than before.
This confuses me, because I keep reading everywhere that the first gen AirPods Pro had had really great ANC for the first month or so (like the second gen), and then it was greatly reduced, for unknown reasons.

Is this true or are people exaggerating? I have the second gen but didn’t have the first.
 

JulianL

macrumors 65816
Feb 2, 2010
1,482
452
London, UK
During the interview, Anderson also offered an interesting look into how Apple developed the new second-generation AirPods Pro and how it validates sound quality. Anderson revealed that Apple has a panel of "sound experts" that offer Apple's engineers feedback on audio quality. "And at the end of the day, there is somewhat of a compromise, because you can't make it perfect for everybody yet," he said.

So I read this as saying that, no surprise, these “sound experts” sometimes differ on which potential final tuning is the best. So why oh why does Apple not offer the ability to select between alternate tunings (other than by using the rather crude EQ settings in the Apple Music app) but instead only offers a single “our way is the right way” unalterable tuning when, reading between the lines of that quote, some of its own sound experts might think it isn’t the one they prefer the most? Apple often gets dinged in comparative reviews about the inability to customise the sound and with all the DSP magic going on, and this panel of sound experts, it really shouldn’t be impossible to come up with at least 2 or 3 tunings to at least get closer to satisfying everyone.

I use AirPods Max for listening on my balcony and I like them a lot but if it wasn’t for the fact that I use Roon to listen to music at home and so can use the Roon DSP capabilities to EQ the sound to my liking my Airpod Max would have gone back within the return period since, for my tastes and genres of music that I listen to, the default tuning to my ears sucks the life out of the music and removes a lot of excitement and rhythmic drive Particularly around the rhythm section (drums and bass guitar).
 
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Boidem

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Nov 16, 2022
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The problem with 'lossless' music, is that to listen to it in order to really hear the benefits, you need some pretty decent kit. Either a decent hi-fi set up, or some very good earphones. IE; stuff that's superior to pretty much any wireless ear of headphones. I have done my own 'trials' with MP3 files at various quality, and 'lossless' music via CD. And above 192Kbps, you need progressively higher quality hi-fi gear to actually discern any difference at all. By 320Kbps, I could not tell the difference. Now that's entirely subjective and everyone's ears are different, but I'd be confident that not many people over 30, or even 20, could tell the difference either.

The next, and possibly most important factor, is 'does it actually matter'. For the vast majority of people, I'd say no. A lot of my older MP3 collection is pretty poorly encoded by current standards, but I can still enjoy the music. I'm fairly fussy about sound, yet I enjoy my APP2s, even though I know they are some way off 'proper' ear/headphones (ie stuff that costs many hundreds, if not thousands of pounds). At home, I have a lot of music ripped as lossless files, though some fairly decent speakers, and that experience is improved by having better quality source files. But for just walking about in a noisy environment, then APPs or indeed most basic ear/headphones are fine. Because I just enjoy the music.

'Lossless' audio is pretty much a gimmick. It has potential for high end systems, and multi channel recordings, but tbh for the vast majority, it's like having a car that can drive at 150mph, whilst most people have neither the skill nor the suitable environment to use the vehicle to anywhere near its true potential. Actually, not even like that most of the time. The average set of ear/headphones sold will be some way below the 'hi-fi' standard, very much in the 'consumer' range, so more like say a basic lower end Ford or whatever.
 

dmylrea

macrumors 601
Sep 27, 2005
4,219
5,918
The problem with 'lossless' music, is that to listen to it in order to really hear the benefits, you need some pretty decent kit. Either a decent hi-fi set up, or some very good earphones. IE; stuff that's superior to pretty much any wireless ear of headphones. I have done my own 'trials' with MP3 files at various quality, and 'lossless' music via CD. And above 192Kbps, you need progressively higher quality hi-fi gear to actually discern any difference at all. By 320Kbps, I could not tell the difference. Now that's entirely subjective and everyone's ears are different, but I'd be confident that not many people over 30, or even 20, could tell the difference either.

The next, and possibly most important factor, is 'does it actually matter'. For the vast majority of people, I'd say no. A lot of my older MP3 collection is pretty poorly encoded by current standards, but I can still enjoy the music. I'm fairly fussy about sound, yet I enjoy my APP2s, even though I know they are some way off 'proper' ear/headphones (ie stuff that costs many hundreds, if not thousands of pounds). At home, I have a lot of music ripped as lossless files, though some fairly decent speakers, and that experience is improved by having better quality source files. But for just walking about in a noisy environment, then APPs or indeed most basic ear/headphones are fine. Because I just enjoy the music.

'Lossless' audio is pretty much a gimmick. It has potential for high end systems, and multi channel recordings, but tbh for the vast majority, it's like having a car that can drive at 150mph, whilst most people have neither the skill nor the suitable environment to use the vehicle to anywhere near its true potential. Actually, not even like that most of the time. The average set of ear/headphones sold will be some way below the 'hi-fi' standard, very much in the 'consumer' range, so more like say a basic lower end Ford or whatever.
This is some great information and makes a lot of sense in that people who wear AirPod Pro's do so in environments that eliminate whatever benefit they think they would hear in a lossless source, not to mention the actual AirPod Pro tiny drivers can't even replicate a live experience one would want while listening to lossless.

It's one thing to wish for it, but another for it to actually be useful.
 

ian87w

macrumors G3
Feb 22, 2020
8,043
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It’s almost 2023. Headphones with the word Pro in it should have pro audio. What’s the point of even offering lossless audio if none of the hardware is going to take advantage of it?
I think it's well established that Apple's "Pro" branding has no correlation with "pro" features. Eg. iPhone Pro with USB2.0 wired speed, 13" M1/M2 Macbook Pro, etc etc.

The Pro branding is simply a higher tier lineup.
 

wanha

macrumors 6502a
Oct 30, 2020
800
2,197
This was a really interesting interview to hear, because it puts a lot of things into perspective.

I don't think I have EVER seen reliability mentioned as a key metric for wireless headphones here.

I'm also glad to hear that sound quality is of importance to Apple, although probably not at the rate that true audiophiles would wish.
 
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MrCrowbar

macrumors 68020
Jan 12, 2006
2,157
413
Why actively block people from adding these files to their music library?

I get they have priority focusing on their own streaming services, but don’t treat the people who’ve spent years building their own lossless library like 2nd class citizens. Not everything is available on streaming services.
You're supposed to buy the same music you already have over and over again every time a new format is out. Vinyl, CD, iTunes music, now streaming.

It's not like Apple is still selling a device that can hold your whole library... I'd love a simple player where you just slide in a standard SSD drive in and just have simple file browser and playback buttons. Like an updated version of an old iPod really.
 
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