Apple announced a major upgrade to Apple Music is coming in June that includes lossless audio and spatial audio from Dolby Atmos. The new features will be available to all those who subscribe to the service and subscribers will have 20 million to enjoy now and over 75 million lossless audio tracks by the end of the year. Along with the news of these great features, one thing became alarmingly clear, Apple’s entire line of AirPods that includes Airpods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max have no way of playing lossless audio.
Apple’s new premium headphones sell for $549 and yet do not support Apple’s new high-quality lossless audio feature. So why do Apple’s AirPods line of headphones not support lossless audio? Long story short, because the AirPods and AirPods Pro are wireless only and Apple supports the AAC codec (on par with CD quality) over Bluetooth. In order for AirPods and AirPods Pro to support lossless audio, music over Wi-Fi support would somehow need to be added. It is unclear if AirPods and AirPods Pro even have Wi-Fi radios; but if they do, perhaps Apple could enable the feature by June. But what about AirPods Max’s audio input jack, could you listen to lossless audio over the lightning connector with a lightning to 3.5mm cable?
Even if you have one of Apple’s fancy $35 Lightning to 3.5mm cable plugged into a device streaming lossless audio tracks, you still will not get a completely lossless audio experience. Unfortunately, when using the cable, the track is converted to analog and re-digitized which slightly degrades the audio. The audio experience will still be better than streaming the track over Bluetooth but not quite as good as a true lossless audio experience. This is perhaps why Apple chose to give lossless audio to all subscribers, rather than make lossless audio a high subscription tier. Even with the bad news surrounding lossless audio, the immersive experience that spatial audio delivers will surely make up for that.