Apple music lossless has been introduced (already rumored heavily) and it will be available for all Apple Music subscribers at no extra cost! Whoa! I’m really glad that I did not give in to temptations for buying the AirPods Pro, believing that I would buy it later when they get cheaper after the newer variant gets launched. No more! Neither AirPods Pro nor AirPods Max support the new HiRes category of Apple Music! How devastating would it have been for me, had I purchased the Pros a few months ago!?
Now this is a good thing because Spotify is also launching a HiRes option, Tidal, having built their entire customer base on HiRes Audio is reportedly having UI issues too but now Apple is competing in that space. So it’s great that Apple is competing for better services, for a change, that too at no extra cost.
With the current format of AAC in Apple Music, bluetooth earbuds do fine. In the next CD quality lossless format, a decent set of beginner audiophile wired headphones would do well when connected via a 3.5mm to lightning dongle, I think. However, to take advantage of the HiRes option, the internal DAC on current Apple devices aren’t sufficiently powerful. You will need to connect an external DAC and good quality audiophile headphones to use it.
It is weird that Apple introduced a software feature that their hardware does not support out of the box, making us use inelegant solutions as dongles and wired headphones. This makes me wonder if Apple would release a new iPod with the HiRes capabilities with a headphone jack, how many people would buy it? I for one would definitely buy it if priced reasonably around $150-200 without any earphones (there are plenty of high quality audiophile grade headphones to choose from right now). That would make it so much more convenient to listen to good music without the mess of dongles, all the while reviving one of the most iconic gadgets of all time. It gets me excited to even imagine a new iPod with HiFi Apple Music support + other audio apps, a headphone jack, maybe even a balanced output, physical buttons, good battery life and long term Apple support. I can still dream, right?
People are too used to their phones now being super powerful to do everything on a daily basis and so it makes less sense to have a separate device to listen to music. I for one, love the idea of separate devices for everything, but I do get that the convenience of one device doing it all is quite appealing and will suit most people. Then what will Apple do with their next iPhones to support HiRes audio? Will they come with 3.5mm audio jack? That would mean Apple admitting their mistake in removing the headphone jack so it’s not gonna happen. Perhaps they will include a better DAC in iPhones and provide a wired lightning to headphone connection for good quality. This seems more likely than going to the 3.5mm jack. The AirPods Max supposedly has a way to play music like this, but Apple has confirmed that it would not be able to play HiRes.
What will be the future of wireless audio then? Apple created the future of audio consumption by creating good quality wireless earphones but now they fall flat entirely when talking of HiRes? I know bluetooth tech of today is not capable of transmitting the HiRes signal. Would Apple develop a better bluetooth technology then? Will WiFi enabled wireless headphones become the future? Is the WiFi technology there yet?
Android version of Apple Music Beta has also been found to have some code for lossless audio. So Android devices may support CD quality, at the least. The question is whether Windows PCs will allow lossless via iTunes because lot of us who do have a decent desktop DAC use it on PCs and not phones. This has not been clarified yet, but I believe PCs will be supported because the audiophiles who will make use of the HiRes format will be using desktops for the most part.
There are too many questions without answers at this point of time so we have no option but to wait and see what happens. The software update will be released sometime in June for the higher quality audio. As for us existing subscribers of Apple Music, this is great because we can get a higher CD quality playback of our music using a wired connection, a dongle, for no extra cost. HiRes enthusiasts will figure out ways to get more out of it but for us beginner audiophiles, the CD quality should suffice. Just get the lightning to 3.5mm jack and a decent set of headphones like the KZ ZSN Pro X or the Samson SR 850, both of which are excellent and I use them on a daily basis. Android users having a headphone jack should rejoice. Special kudos to those Android users having a quad DAC inbuilt like those models by LG. There are a few HiRes players with a good DAC inbuilt but I’m skeptical about them since their Android versions are not up to date and they are primarily built to play offline downloaded tracks, not stream via apps.
As of now, I am happy that even with my current set of earphones, I can connect to the headphone jack on my Android phone or to my iPhone with the lightning to 3.5mm converter, I can still get a bump up in from basic streaming quality to CD quality. Best of all, Apple has made this upgrade free! Whoa. Only time will tell if Apple has compatible headphones or something else in store. As music afficionados, it’s time to rejoice!