HomePods to Gain Apple Music Lossless Support

Posted on May 22, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Music + Videos with 20 Comments

The HomePod and HomePod Mini won’t be compatible with Apple Music’s coming Lossless offering, but a software update will fix that.

“HomePod and HomePod mini currently use AAC to ensure excellent audio quality,” An Apple support document explains. “Support for lossless is coming in a future software update.”

The news isn’t as good for Apple’s wireless headphones and earbuds, however.

“AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max, and Beats wireless headphones use Apple’s AAC Bluetooth Codec to ensure excellent audio quality,” the same document says. “Bluetooth connections don’t support lossless audio.”

Apple announced this past week that it is adding lossless and spatial audio playback capabilities to Apple Music at no additional cost. But fans were outraged to discover that lossless music isn’t compatible with its HomePod speakers, including the original model that Apple recently discontinued, or the expensive new AirPods Max headphones. Hopefully, there’s a coming solution for that latter product, which retails for an astonishing $549.

Tagged with ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (20)

20 responses to “HomePods to Gain Apple Music Lossless Support”

  1. toukale

    According to the rumor mill all of Apple wireless airPods with the exception of the original one will also get an update to be able to do the same. The airPods will not use Bluetooth but will create a private wifi between the iPhone and airpod to be able to do so. The cost of doing that will be battery life. Will have to wait and see which devices gets that firmware update.

  2. JH_Radio

    AptXHD or the LDAC Codec can support it on Bluetooth. The problem is that apple devices do not support AptX let alone ApdXHD. I think AptX can support CD quality (16-bit, 44100HZ) but believe AptXHD goes higher than that. E$Either way you'll have to be using devices that support all of this for this to work.

    • Scsekaran

      CD quality lossless(16bit 44.1khz) requires constant 1400kbps for consistent streaming. Bluetooth streaming capacity has theoretical peak bandwidth of 2000kbps but in practice due to distance and interference it won't go beyond 1000kbps on average. So currently bluetooth cannot transmit lossless CD quality audio and there is no bluetooth codec currently support it.

      There are multiple lossy bluetooth codecs which can can support 16bit 44.1khz or 48khz audio

      SBC(Common compulsory codec for all bluetooth devices) = 320kbps

      AAC - 250 kbps

      aptX - 352kbps

      aptXHD - 576kbps

      LDAC - 990kbps

      LDAC is closest to lossless CD quality bit cannot support fill CD quality audio. there are other codecs from Samsung and some codecs specifically designed for low latency at the sacrifice of audio quality. This is due to technological limitation of bluetooth. Wi-fi and wired connections can transmit lossy, lossless CD quality or H-res lossless.

      But in practice, it may be difficult or impossible to differentiate between different bluetooth lossy codecs and CD quality lossless music while using headphones especially using codecs such as LDAC or aptXHD. Both source audio file and DAC at the speaker end should support same codec natively-otherwise there will be further degradation due to re-encoding.

      In essence, if you are so specific about lossless audio or Hi-Res audio, the best option is wired headphones or dedicated Hi-fi equipment.

      • nbplopes

        Absolutely. Both AptX HD and LDAC are lossy.

      • bluvg

        Thank you for filling in the tech details. That confirmed my suspicions about Bluetooth (though Apple's 8 Mbps extension may be in play here).

        In practice, the whole "lossless" thing is rather silly. It was appealing in the day of 128 (or 64!) kbps mp3s, but for listening, it doesn't matter if modern codecs and bitrates are used (satellite radio, ahem). I don't doubt that some or most people can detect a difference between uncompressed and 320 kbps AAC--but I do seriously doubt whether almost anyone could consistently identify which was which. Uncompressed 16bit audio itself is also lossy compared to the original source or 24bit, but it is equivalent for even the most sensitive human ears (and not just the vast majority of humans that have lost some degree of hearing range; Rick Beato did a great video on this not long ago).

    • bluvg

      According to Wikipedia, Apple introduced their own 8 Mbps extension in 2019, so that might be their solution?

      Out of curiosity, do you know if AptX has enough headroom to support lossless 16-bit? Last time I looked at the AptX specs (it's been a while), I thought it didn't support the necessary bitrates.

      • Scsekaran

        AptX can support 16bit 44.1 khz or 48khz but only lossy compressed data over Bluetooth. I suppose they can support losses over wifi.

        Common lossless but compressed format is FLAC or ALAC which needs 1400kbps constant which will be impossible practically over Bluetooth but won't be a problem over wifi

  3. bettyblue

    So its a bluetooth limitation then? Meaning other platforms will have the same issue. Oh the OUTRAGE!

  4. iantrem

    "Hopefully, there’s a coming solution for that latter product" - The AirPods Max 2 ($599)???

  5. mikegalos

    If the AirPods Max use the same wireless protocol as the less insanely expensive wireless Apple audio devices how can there be a "coming solution" when Apple claims it's a limit in the protocol that prevents supporting lossless audio.

    Either it's the protocol that's limited and thus applies to all devices using the protocol or it isn't.

  6. bluvg

    “Bluetooth connections don’t support lossless audio.”

    Don't, or can't?

    • curtisspendlove

      I expect it’s a transcoding issue. Bluetooth audio devices are far better than they used to be; but the phone DAC still has to decide the lossless stream, potentially graft in phone audio (like notification muting or whatever, and transcode it to whatever protocol the Bluetooth headphones support. Then the headphones have to decode that to analog and do their thing to make sound waves.

  7. behindmyscreen

    "I'm mad that I can't listen to lossless audio files over a compressed wireless data connection!!!!"

    • Paul Thurrott

      Come on. First of all, no one thinks like that. More to the point, technology is supposed to fix problems and make things better. And it's reasonable to believe that high-end Apple headphones will support a high-end Apple audio format. And, apparently, they will, via a coming software update.
  8. red.radar

    I don’t see why people are fussing. None of the mentioned devices have the fidelity to benefit from a losses codec.

    maybe owners of the AirPod Max’s can balk a little…

    people that care about lossless usually have their own custom HiFi setup and this lossless codec is aimed at appeasing that space.

    lossless support for the HomePods and Airpods is laughably absurd

  9. winner

    Still no Bluetooth or auxiliary input. Still a walled garden. No thanks.