Apple Music Lossless: What Devices are Supported?

Apple in June 2021 added new Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless tiers to Apple Music, but so far, it's a bit confusing trying to determine which devices support ‌Apple Music‌'s Lossless Audio and which devices do not.


This guide covers everything that we know so far about Lossless Audio, and we'll be updating it as we learn more.

What is Lossless Audio?

Apple upgraded its entire streaming music catalog to lossless audio using the ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) format. ALAC is a lossless compression format that lets Apple make smaller file sizes without impacting the integrity of the original audio recording.

Lossless means that after compression and then decompression, the audio that you're hearing is identical to the audio as it was recorded by the artist, preserving the texture, detail, and sound that went into the music when it was created.

With lossless audio, ‌Apple Music‌ subscribers can listen to songs exactly as the artists recorded them in the studio and intended them to be heard.

Lossless Device Support

Lossless Support Feature

Supported

According to Apple, lossless audio on ‌Apple Music‌ can be listened to on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV. Support for lossless audio will be added to the HomePod and HomePod mini via a future software update.

The ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌ are expected to gain lossless audio support with the launch of iOS 15. The ‌HomePod‌ 15 software that was released in July adds Lossless Audio support for the ‌HomePod‌ and ‌HomePod mini‌, and it will see a public release this fall.

Unsupported

None of Apple's headphones, however, work with lossless audio. The AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max are limited to the Bluetooth AAC codec and simply cannot support the ALAC format.

In regard to a wired connection for ‌AirPods Max‌, Apple says that ‌AirPods Max‌ can be connected to devices playing Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless recordings with exceptional audio quality, but because of the analog to digital conversion in the Lightning to 3.5mm audio cable, playback will not be completely lossless.

Lossless Audio Quality

The standard Lossless tier starts at CD quality, which is 16-bit at 44.1 kHz, and it goes up to 24-bit at 48 kHz. Apple is also adding a Hi-Res Lossless tier for audiophiles, which is available at 24-bit 192 kHz, but Hi-Res Lossless will require a USB digital-to-analog converter, or DAC.

Even when connected by a physical wire, the ‌AirPods Max‌ won't support true lossless audio.

It is not clear if ALAC support is something that Apple can add in the future because technically, Bluetooth 5.0 should support higher bitrates, nor is it known if Apple plans to add support to future audio devices.

Lossless Audio Songs

At launch, 20 million songs supported lossless quality, with Apple planning to bring support to all 75 million+ songs on ‌Apple Music‌ by the end of 2021.

The feature is limited to ‌Apple Music‌ streaming subscribers. Lossless quality will not be available for iTunes purchases and there is no way to upgrade owned music to lossless via iTunes Match.

Can You Even Hear Lossless Audio?

Lossless audio is not a new concept, and has in fact been supported via iTunes and the ‌Apple Music‌ app for Mac for years now. There is some controversy over lossless audio, and there are quite a few people out there who are unable to hear the difference between lossy audio and uncompressed lossless audio files.

There are also other considerations to take into account, such as the quality of the device that you're listening to music on. Lossless audio is designed for audiophiles and most people will not miss lossless quality on their ‌HomePod‌, ‌AirPods‌, ‌AirPods Pro‌, and ‌AirPods Max‌.

Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos

Apple's more notable ‌Apple Music‌ announcement has been somewhat overshadowed by the lossless music feature. The ‌HomePod‌, all ‌AirPods‌, and all Beats headphones with Apple's H1 or W1 chip automatically support a new Spatial Audio with Dolby Atmos feature that Apple is bringing to ‌Apple Music‌. Spatial Audio for other headphones paired with an Apple device can be enabled manually via the Settings app on your device.

imac spatial audio

With this feature, artists are able to record multi-dimensional audio that will make it sound like the music is coming from all around you.

Apple Music Lossless Launch Date

Apple laid the groundwork for the new ‌Apple Music‌ update in iOS 14.6, tvOS 14.6, and macOS Big Sur 11.4, then later enabled lossless quality in June.

Top Rated Comments

AngerDanger Avatar
10 weeks ago
No problem for me; lossy audio will go great with the miscalibrated colors on my TV!
Score: 85 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannys1 Avatar
10 weeks ago

Bro - you might be confusing high res and standard res. Most people can't hear that difference. However, most people absolutely can hear the difference between lossy and lossless, even on mid-grade systems.

Also, pretty bold of you to make assumptions about my car audio setup or listening habits. I have high end speakers and a high end head unit, I drive an electric vehicle so there's no engine noise, and I do most of my listening in my 60-90 minute (depending on traffic) downtime between my two jobs. I'm parked, so no road noise. My head unit plays FLAC and WAV files via USB stick, not bluetooth. When I'm using my iPhone, it's using hardwired CarPlay, not bluetooth.
Listen, as a mix engineer who mixes the records you're listening to, I can confidently say I am not getting them mixed up and I confidently wager £50,000 that you couldn't tell the difference between a FLAC file and a 320kbit MP3 of the same source - so far no one has been able to do - as said, there's an entire blind test on the most detail speakers they could find in a fully audio treated room.

In the greatest respect I drive a Tesla with the premium audio system which has been further enhanced and it's still a million miles away from anything remotely capable of being able to recreate the audio frequencies you can't even hear anyway! As I said, you and neither do I have the best car audio system in the world and even if we did it'd be at the **** end of hi-fi speakers which are at the **** end of studio monitors.

I've got a pair of £1400 Sennheiser HD800s, with a £800 super flat amp to drive them and a £1000 DAC - that combo alone still can't let you hear the difference in compression between a 320kbit MP3 and it's lossless brother, so your car certainly can't - that's why I am able to be bold about my assumptions.
Score: 38 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sully54 Avatar
10 weeks ago
I expected AirPods to not support lossless. But what's baffling to me is that HomePod also doesn't. There doesn't seem to be a technical reason for it not to be able to support lossless playback. Seems like a marketing decision. Honestly, this whole thing is a mess.
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Coleco Avatar
10 weeks ago
So, theoretically, the original 15-year-old iPod Hi-Fi (which still sounds great) is more suited to lossless listening than any HomePod by using a 30-pin dock adapter, or the aux/toslink port.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fluxtransistor Avatar
10 weeks ago
For real - just try this: test ('http://abx.digitalfeed.net')

I guarantee you won't be able to hear a difference.
I bet Apple could say it works and nobody would even bat an eyelid.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Paint.It.Black Avatar
10 weeks ago
For your information, here are some facts for those interestred:

- In the audio world "lossless" typically refers to lossless relative to CD quality, which is 16/44.1 or a dynamic range of 16 bits and a sample rate of 44.1kHz.
- The sample rate determines the maximum frequency you can represent. A digital signal is a discrete (made up of samples) representation of a continues signal (waves). To reconstruct a sinus wave you need exactly two samples. This means that the maximum frequency you can reconstruct equals half the sample rate. This reconstruction is exact and not an approximation (as it is for image pixels). In other words, with a sample rate of 44.1 we can accuratly reconstruct frequencies up to 22kHz, well above the limit of human hearring. For reference, the highest note on a piano is 4286 Hz and most speakers will not be able to produce signals over 22kHz either.
- Does playing at 192kHz make sense? Yes, if you like to play music for your dog and you have very high-end speakers with no other bottlnecks in the connection chain. Otherwise, absolutely not.
- The dynamic range determines the number of different volume levels you can represent. With 16bit you can represent signals from wispering to over 90dB, enough to cause damage to your ears after long exposure.
- Is there an advantage of a dynamic range higher than 16bit? Yes, if you want to accuratly represent fine details ranging from whispering to explosions. For most pop/rock music there is no difference at all.
- Recordings are mostly done at higher sample rates and higher bit rates. Why? This is not because we can hear a difference in the recording, but because it gives additional headroom during production, changing a signal invitably results in some losses which can as such be minimized.
- Airplay does support ALAC 16/44.1, in fact if I am not mistaken, it transcodes all input to this format for transmission. I don't see any reason why HomePods would not be able to play lossless input streams. If you will hear a difference is another question...
- Some people seem to belief everything lossy is the same, this is obviously not the case, the codec and bitrate make a huge difference.
- Currently Apple uses 256 AAC, truth is, most people don't hear a difference with lossless (CD quality) either, especially with low end equipment like HomePods for example. However, there are definetly people who can hear a difference on high-end equipment. If you want to check for yourself with your equipment you can do an ABX test here: http://abx.digitalfeed.net/itunes.html
- There are many reasons why you can compress a PCM signal lossy without any perceptual difference at all. For example, our sensitivity does not only depends on the signal intensity but also on the frequency. For example, humans can not hear sounds at 60Hz under 40dB. While these signals are encoded in PCM, these can be removed without any perceptual difference for humans.
- Eventhough most people can't hear a difference in a scientific ABX test they still belief they do hear a difference. Why? One reason is because mostly they don't test blind. At the moment you have prior knowledge you can't do an unbiased test. Tests have been done with exactly the same equipment audio but different logo's (Bose vs B&O for example), the more premium brand will consistenly perceived better even if the hardware is exactly the same. Secondly, it is common to decode the signal sligtly different. For example, simply increase the volume with 1dB and almost all test subjects will perceive this as higher quality. Third, often tests are done where other factors or at play, such as the DAC, connections and so on.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Flat 2021 MacBook Pro Mockup Feature 1

What to Expect at WWDC 2021: iOS 15, macOS 12, watchOS 8, New MacBook Pro?

Friday June 4, 2021 12:40 pm PDT by
Apple's 32nd annual Worldwide Developers Conference will continue to be held in a digital-only capacity much like the 2020 WWDC event, which means it's free for all developers worldwide to attend. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Apple is holding a virtual keynote that will take place on Monday, June 7, with the event set to give us our first look at new operating...
14

iOS 14.4 Features: Everything New in iOS 14.4

Tuesday January 26, 2021 10:11 am PST by
Apple today released iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 to the public, introducing some notable new bug fixes and feature tweaks. We've highlighted everything that's new in the update below, so you can get a quick overview of what to expect after installing it. Security Vulnerability Fixes It's important to update to iOS 14.4 and iPadOS 14.4 on all of your devices as soon as possible because the...
spatialaudiofeature

All the Apps That Support Apple's Spatial Audio Feature

Friday March 5, 2021 9:06 am PST by
Spatial audio is a sonic feature exclusive to AirPods Pro and AirPods Max that adds surround sound to Apple's premium audio wearables. By utilizing dynamic head tracking, it brings a theater-like audio experience to the movie or video you're watching, so that it seems as if the sound is coming from all around you. The feature works by comparing the data from your iOS device's gyroscope and...
Apple TV 4K 1 vs 2

Old Apple TV 4K vs. New Apple TV 4K (2nd Gen) Buyer's Guide

Thursday May 13, 2021 11:07 am PDT by
In April 2021, Apple revealed the second-generation Apple TV 4K (2021), bringing high framerate HDR to the Apple TV for the first time and the A12 chip for improved performance, alongside a redesigned Siri Remote. This model replaced the first-generation Apple TV 4K released in 2017. Although the first-generation Apple TV 4K has now been discontinued by Apple, it is common to find it...
m2 feature black

Apple M2 Chip: Everything We Know

Friday April 30, 2021 12:06 pm PDT by
Apple is developing a next-generation version of the M1 Apple silicon chip, which will tentatively be called the "M2." The M2 is believed to be shipping as soon as 2021, and we're already hearing a limited number of rumors about it. What We Know There are actually several successors to the M1 chip in the works at Apple's labs in Cupertino, and though we don't know the name of the...
AirPods Max new feature

AirPods Max vs. Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Friday January 15, 2021 7:49 am PST by
AirPods Max, Apple's first over-ear headphones, seem to be positioned as direct rivals to the popular Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones and Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700. When announcing AirPods Max, Apple boasted that the headphones bring "the magic of AirPods to an over-ear design with high-fidelity sound." With a custom acoustic design, dual H1 chips, and advanced software to power...
maxresdefault

iPad Pro 2020 vs. iPad Pro 2021 Buyer's Guide

Wednesday May 5, 2021 6:19 am PDT by
In April 2021, Apple updated its popular iPad Pro lineup, introducing a faster M1 chip, a Liquid Retina XDR display, a Thunderbolt port, and more, replacing the previous models from March 2020. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Although the 2020 iPad Pro models have now been discontinued by Apple, it is common to find them available at discounted prices with...
Beyond iPhone 13 Feature2

Beyond iPhone 13: Long-Term iPhone Rumors

Saturday March 27, 2021 10:00 am PDT by
As we get closer to the launch of the 2021 iPhone lineup, rumors surrounding what may come after the iPhone 13 have already begun circulating. Apple is believed to plan its new iPhones several years in advance of their release, so it is highly likely that plans for 2022 and 2023 iPhone models are well underway at Apple. There have now been a sufficiently large number of reports from reliable ...
iPhone Free Up Storage Feature

How to Free Up Storage Space on iPhone and iPad

Thursday April 15, 2021 11:23 am PDT by
If your iPhone or iPad is full, there are several things you can do to claw back storage space. In this guide, we run through several options and methods available to free up storage on iOS devices. Keep reading to learn what they are. Every iPhone and iPad comes with a set storage capacity ranging from 16 GB to 512 GB for iPhone, and 16 GB to 1TB for iPad. While it's always a good idea to...
iPad pro top feature

What to Expect From Apple's April 20 Event: New iPads, AirTags and More

Friday April 16, 2021 12:11 pm PDT by
Apple Event Happening Now April 20 Event Day! Follow along with our live blog for the latest updates, and we're also live tweeting the event on Twitter. Apple is planning to hold its first event of 2021 on Tuesday, April 20, and it's looking like it will be an iPad-centric event. There are several iPad refreshes rumored to be coming for the iPad Pro, iPad mini, and low-cost iPad. Subscrib ...