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Apple in June 2021 added new Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless tiers to Apple Music, but so far, it's a bit confusing trying to determine which devices support Apple Music's Lossless Audio and which devices do not.


This guide covers everything that we know so far about Lossless Audio, and we'll be updating it as we learn more.

What is Lossless Audio?

Apple upgraded its entire streaming music catalog to lossless audio using the ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) format. ALAC is a lossless compression format that lets Apple make smaller file sizes without impacting the integrity of the original audio recording.

Lossless means that after compression and then decompression, the audio that you're hearing is identical to the audio as it was recorded by the artist, preserving the texture, detail, and sound that went into the music when it was created.

With lossless audio, Apple Music subscribers can listen to songs exactly as the artists recorded them in the studio and intended them to be heard.

Lossless Device Support

Lossless-Support-Feature.jpg


Supported

According to Apple, lossless audio on Apple Music can be listened to on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. Support for lossless audio will be added to the HomePod and HomePod mini via a future software update.

Unsupported

None of Apple's headphones, however, work with lossless audio. The AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max are limited to the Bluetooth AAC codec and simply cannot support the ALAC format.

In regard to a wired connection for AirPods Max, Apple says that AirPods Max can be connected to devices playing Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless recordings with exceptional audio quality, but because of the analog to digital conversion in the Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable, playback will not be completely lossless.

Lossless Audio Quality

The standard Lossless tier starts at CD quality, which is 16-bit at 44.1 kHz, and it goes up to 24-bit at 48 kHz. Apple is also adding a Hi-Res Lossless tier for audiophiles, which is available at 24-bit 192 kHz, but Hi-Res Lossless will require a USB digital-to-analog converter, or DAC.

Even when connected by a physical wire, the AirPods Max won't support true lossless audio.

It is not clear if ALAC support is something that Apple can add in the future because technically, Bluetooth 5.0 should support higher bitrates, nor is it known if Apple plans to add support to future audio devices.

Lossless Audio Songs

At launch, 20 million songs supported lossless quality, with Apple planning to bring support to all 75 million+ songs on Apple Music by the end of 2021.

The feature is limited to Apple Music streaming subscribers. Lossless quality will not be available for iTunes purchases and there is no way to upgrade owned music to lossless via iTunes Match.

Can You Even Hear Lossless Audio?

Lossless audio is not a new concept, and has in fact been supported via iTunes and the Apple Music app for Mac for years now. There is some controversy over lossless audio, and there are quite a few people out there who are unable to hear the difference between lossy audio and uncompressed lossless audio files.

There are also other considerations to take into account, such as the quality of the device that you're listening to music on. Lossless audio is designed for audiophiles and most people will not miss lossless quality on their HomePod, AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max.

Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos

Apple's more notable Apple Music announcement has been somewhat overshadowed by the lossless music feature. The HomePod, all AirPods, and all Beats headphones with Apple's H1 or W1 chip automatically support a new Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos feature that Apple is bringing to Apple Music. Spatial Audio for other headphones paired with an Apple device can be enabled manually via the Settings app on your device.

imac-spatial-audio.png


With this feature, artists are able to record multi-dimensional audio that will make it sound like the music is coming from all around you.

Apple Music Lossless Launch Date

Apple played the groundwork for the new Apple Music update in iOS 14.6, tvOS 14.6, and macOS Big Sur 11.4, then later enabled lossless quality in June.

Article Link: Apple Music Lossless: What Devices are Supported?
 
Last edited:

bommai

macrumors 6502a
May 23, 2003
666
312
Melbourne, FL
I don’t understand the need for usb Dac. My Mac mini has hdmi and it supports 24 bit 192khz. Should Apple Music be able to use this? Also iTunes used to use a single sample rate for all its output based on a system setting. I wonder if they would have a setting similar to Apple TV where they have a match frame rate so that we have a match sample rate setting.
 
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jmw1480

macrumors member
Jul 14, 2010
55
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Yes... but do you think the original HomePod (and/or perhaps other Apple audio devices) will play a "less loss" version of Apple Music streamed over Air Play 2? Let's stop talking about only total (Hi-Res) Lossless please; this shouldn't be thought of as just an 'all or nothing' improvement.
 
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krebphone

macrumors newbie
Mar 8, 2019
24
60
I don’t understand the need for usb Dac. My Mac mini has hdmi and it supports 24 bit 192khz. Should Apple Music be able to use this? Also iTunes used to use a single sample rate for all its output based on a system setting. I wonder if they would have a setting similar to Apple TV where they have a match frame rate so that we have a match sample rate setting.
Yes. HDMI is digital, you still need a DAC on the other side of the HDMI output. Whatever is on the other side of the HDMI cable has a DAC in it.
 
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marekkurlmann

macrumors regular
Mar 6, 2007
110
2
Will the hi-res work on Apple TV over hdmi to a DAC?
Good question. I believe that the current-get ATVs resample all audio to 16/48 (weird combination) no matter the source. So a 256kbps Apple Music stream gets upsampled to 16/48.

The bigger question for me is whether the new ATV 4K will support higher bitrates and sample rates.

I've got my ATV plugged in to some decent audio equipment. It would be nice to finally make use of it.
 
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munpip214

macrumors 6502
Feb 21, 2011
391
989
I expected AirPods to not support lossless. But what's baffling to me is that HomePod also doesn't. There doesn't seem to be a technical reason for it not to be able to support lossless playback. Seems like a marketing decision. Honestly, this whole thing is a mess.
Probably the same reason why they won’t call the AirPod max lossless when wired. There’s some extra processing going on so it can’t technically be lossless, although it might be closer than with Bluetooth.
 
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seinman

macrumors 6502a
Jun 15, 2011
547
644
Philadelphia
I expected AirPods to not support lossless. But what's baffling to me is that HomePod also doesn't. There doesn't seem to be a technical reason for it not to be able to support lossless playback. Seems like a marketing decision. Honestly, this whole thing is a mess.
Well let's see. HomePod: discontinued. New lossless music: introduced. So naturally, coming soon: HomePod Pro! $499 and supports lossless.
 
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dannys1

macrumors 68040
Sep 19, 2007
3,077
5,494
UK
Will we get lossless quality with a pair of high end wired headphones plugged into the lightening to 3.5mm audio jack?

Why would you be plugging high end headphones into a lightning to 3.5mm adapter which has the tiniest worst DAC ever - if you actually want to make use of lossless audio that you won't be able to hear anyway, at least invest in a £100+ DAC that'll retain the differences.
 
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