Apple’s own headphones, including the expensive AirPods Max, don’t support Apple Music Hi-Fi streaming
If you’d been sitting on the fence about buying Apple’s expensive US$549 AirPods Max headphones and thought that the news that it has launched a new lossless Hi-Fi music tier would be a good reason to pull the trigger you might be best to wait it out. Apple has revealed that none of its AirPods will support CD-quality wireless streaming as many had either expected or hoped would be the case. AirPods, AirPods Pro and AirPods Max will, however, support the new spatial audio feature, which represents an upgrade of the listening experience.
In a statement to The Verge, Apple had this to say:
Lossless audio is not supported on AirPods, any model. AirPods Max wired listening mode accepts analog output sources only. AirPods Max currently does not support digital audio formats in wired mode.
It’s common knowledge that Apple’s AirPods support Bluetooth wireless streaming using the AAC codec and it produces a near CD-quality listening experience at remarkably low bitrates. However, there had been an expectation among many that the introduction of Apple Music Hi-Fi would see support for higher bandwidth (thus higher quality) streaming added via a firmware update -- if not for the Airpods and AirPods Pro, but at least for the flagship AirPods Max.
It is quite likely that Apple’s hardware for the AirPods Max, at the very least, could support substantially higher bitrate Bluetooth codecs like Qualcomm’s AptX HD/Adaptive or Sony’s LDAC. However, this would result in Apple having to pay royalties to those companies, unless it were to develop its own proprietary streaming codec. Even a wired connection using the included Lightning connector with built-in DAC won’t get you lossless Apple Music audio using Apple’s AirPods Max -- a third-party solution is required.
The matter has certainly sparked a lot of discussion on the blogosphere. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.