AirPods Max Won't Directly Support Lossless Apple Music Over Lightning
Earlier today, we confirmed that AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max will not support lossless audio over Bluetooth because of Bluetooth limitations, and it turns out there's no direct wired lossless option for the AirPods Max either.
Apple's AirPods Max headphones are equipped with a Lightning port, but it is limited to analog sources and will not natively support digital audio formats in wired mode.
Apple told The Verge that when a 24-bit/48 kHz Apple Music lossless track is played to an iPhone into the AirPods Max using a Lightning cable and a Lightning-to-3.5mm dongle, the audio is converted to analog and then re-digitized to 24-bit/48 kHz. The re-digitization is not an identical match to the source and Apple is not able to say that it's lossless audio.
Apple has confirmed that lossless audio can be listened to on an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV, but the higher quality audio is not available on AirPods, AirPods Pro, or AirPods Max. Apple lossless is also not available on the HomePod.
Listening to lossless audio on an iOS device will require wired headphones compatible with the ALAC format, and possibly a digital to analog converter. That the $549 AirPods Max do not work with Apple lossless is sure to upset some fans, but there is debate about whether most people can even tell the difference between standard and lossless audio formats.
Though the AirPods Max headphones do not support lossless audio, they are compatible with Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos, another new feature that Apple is bringing to Apple Music. Spatial Audio will allow artists to create multidimensional music that sounds like it's coming from all around you, and this feature is available on all AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip.