Apple Music Lossless, Hi-Res & Atmos! How to Enjoy Every Bit!

Wayde Robson

Wayde Robson

Audioholics Anchorman
Last month Apple Music began streaming its entire library in lossless bit-rates with a couple of other tricks for select libraries. You'll also get some songs in Hi-Res Audio and its new Spatial Audio format, Apple's rendition of Dolby Atmos Music. All laudable accomplishments and frankly surprising coming from the company that has long given us 256-kbps AAC and called it a day. And yes, the origin of the article was me doing the math on the compromises required to drop Tidal and convert to Apple Music.

Okay, I know this article seems like the doctrine of a semi-religious stickler for details, pure numbers nerdism. In a way it's antithetical to how I like to listen to music. I prefer to listen deeply with a good pair of headphones and be carried away unworried about bit-rates and resampling. But, I have to admit I do all of that worrying before I start listening. I agree with Gene's Editorial note, 24-bit/48kHz is a fine sampling-rate and technically is high-resolution. But it's just not 24-bit/192-kHz and the goal of this article is to list the ways you can and cannot achieve the full resolution of all of Apple Music's source files using the most popular methods to stream.

I hope you enjoy and take my wisecracks about Apple with a grain of salt. I really am objectively glad Apple exists because... competition is good. And I'm certain that Apple's conversion to lossless for its base subscription price will set the standard industry-wide.

Apple Music Lossless & Dolby Atmos: How YOU Can Enjoy Every Bit of Resolution!

Apple-Music.jpeg
 
T

Trebdp83

Audioholic Ninja
Interesting information and much has been discussed elsewhere in the forum. Not sure about Airplay 2 at 24/48 as that info is different everywhere you look. At worst, it supports CD quality 16/44.1 as is mentioned in many articles such as this one. https://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/apple-airplay-2-explained/. Somebody looking for a lossless, 16/44.1 CD quality streaming service would not be wasting their time trying out Apple's service. If somebody also has an Apple TV 4K Gen 1 or 2, then the pot is sweetened with playback of atmos tracks. Unfortunately, Macs connected to an external component will not pass atmos metadata though the core multi channel info will be output. Anybody interested in hi-res two channel streams would do well to consider Qobuz as 24/192 streams are available without the need for external DACs such as Apple's service requires or certain MQA unfolding devices such as Tidal requires. If one is not hung up on the numbers, the Apple service is good though there is some cleaning up to do and not all atmos tracks available on Tidal are available yet on Apple Music. Some tracks are currently mislabeled and you never quite know what you will get until it plays. I wouldn't call Roon or Audirvana losers simply because they don't support Apple Music. For those interested in hi-res numbers and incorporating ripped libraries, Roon or Audirvana linked to Qobuz or Tidal and a local library are very viable options. I have not yet experimented with Roon but am sure I will at some point for the experience. Audirvana 3.5 was interesting and hi-res 24/192 via Qobuz was achieved through a Mac mini M1 as Audirvana works around Apple's barriers. I still need to try Audirvana Studio as the control app was finally updated for it this week. I believe Roon offers a seven day trial and Audirvana thirty days. Most if not all services are offering CD quality streaming now. For those interested in sampling different services and softwares, it can currently be done for very little and often no cost. Which service and or software is "better" will be determined by each subscriber as they consider any ecosystem they are already in and the layout of the service apps in their hardware. There is no shortage of options and many are already using hardware up for the task. So, have fun everybody!
 
Wayde Robson

Wayde Robson

Audioholics Anchorman
Anybody interested in hi-res two channel streams would do well to consider Qobuz as 24/192 streams are available without the need for external DACs such as Apple's service requires or certain MQA unfolding devices such as Tidal requires.
I'd love to test QoBuz, but we don't get it up here in the worker's paradise of Canada. I could pull off some VPN shenanigans but it's not worth it, I like the major streaming service's built-in "connect" feature. Right now I'm using Tidal and have been happy with it. I've only tested MQA's final unfolding on a couple of DACs and while the best equipment I've heard clearly doesn't need it, maybe there's a benefit when you're using portable or budget equipment. I look at it as a kind-of glorified DSP. I do love to take walks with headphones I probably shouldn't be taking outside and using a portable USB DAC, this is where MQA might have a benefit. Testing MQA's final unfolding on a relatively cheap portable DAC, toggling between Tidal's Exclusive Mode vs. not, clearly has an audible benefit, wider soundstage and a little resolving in the upper-end.

The way I understood it, AirPlay 2 has a ceiling of 24-bit/48kHz, perhaps that's for video only. I've reliably read that it is capable of ALAC 16-bit/44kHz audio. Maybe I should clarify this in the article. I believe 48k audio is a theme with Apple, it's also the highest res of Apple TV 4K, which I assume is because it's a TV and film industry standard.

It's safe to say there will be a round of new Apple products and other updates aimed at its Lossless breakthrough. But honestly, I wouldn't blame Apple if it didn't do much for bit-perfect hi-res. There are liable to be extraneous costs to producing "hi-res capable" Apple equipment for such a niche audience. They can safely leave that to the aftermarket, as it has been opening the door a little on its walled garden.

Will we see an AirPlay3? Personally, I'd prefer an Apple Music Connect feature with the same broad compatibility as AirPlay 2. I personally don't care for any system of "casting" directly from a mobile device, at least when the receiver is itself a network-aware player. It might just be my own superstition but I feel better about a stream directly from the cloud to my media players rather than having my phone or tablet directly involved in the stream, outside the convenience of using it to point the cloud-stream.
 
T

Trebdp83

Audioholic Ninja
Interesting information regarding MQA and headphones. I also prefer to use a receiver's built in apps for streaming music. If I can use the receiver's remote control and not have to take out a Smart device, even better. But, I also like options. For sending music from my iPhone, I liked the DTS Play-Fi app. It supports 24/192 tracks from Qobuz in Critical Listening Mode and sent them to my Onkyo unaltered as it does not have it's own Qobuz app. For some without a Mac or Apple TV 4K, trying out Apple Music and sending lossless audio to a receiver via Airplay 2 is easy enough. If Apple does come up with Airplay 3, it would be cool if it supported hi-res and Dolby Atmos.
 
K

kilianGT

Audiophyte
I loved your article and like has been previously stated, there's no much information about this topic yet. Regarding that Chromecast audio quality, I've been testing my self and noted that on the apple music app, whenever I'm streaming to a Chromecast device the lossless logo disappears. I was wondering why, until i think I figured it out. Chromecast can't natively play ALAC files, so my guess is that apple music is automatically changing the streaming quality to AAC or mp3, so it's not lossless and that's why the logo disappears. What do you think? Did you test the sample rate output from Chromecast to a DAC via toslink?

Thanks!
 
S

steve.locantore

Audiophyte
Last month Apple Music began streaming its entire library in lossless bit-rates with a couple of other tricks for select libraries. You'll also get some songs in Hi-Res Audio and its new Spatial Audio format, Apple's rendition of Dolby Atmos Music. All laudable accomplishments and frankly surprising coming from the company that has long given us 256-kbps AAC and called it a day. And yes, the origin of the article was me doing the math on the compromises required to drop Tidal and convert to Apple Music.

Okay, I know this article seems like the doctrine of a semi-religious stickler for details, pure numbers nerdism. In a way it's antithetical to how I like to listen to music. I prefer to listen deeply with a good pair of headphones and be carried away unworried about bit-rates and resampling. But, I have to admit I do all of that worrying before I start listening. I agree with Gene's Editorial note, 24-bit/48kHz is a fine sampling-rate and technically is high-resolution. But it's just not 24-bit/192-kHz and the goal of this article is to list the ways you can and cannot achieve the full resolution of all of Apple Music's source files using the most popular methods to stream.

I hope you enjoy and take my wisecracks about Apple with a grain of salt. I really am objectively glad Apple exists because... competition is good. And I'm certain that Apple's conversion to lossless for its base subscription price will set the standard industry-wide.

Apple Music Lossless & Dolby Atmos: How YOU Can Enjoy Every Bit of Resolution!
View attachment 48767
I guess I have a different view, I am not concerned about H 24\96(192) on my phone or in my car. their are too many diversions to the sound. I want it in my home where I have a sound system which can make use of the quality. The issue is connectivity, I have a windows 10 computer acting as a "jukebox" connected to my system (theil 1.2 speakers, class A tube amp, class A transistor pre amp) with an external DAC which is configured for 24\96. Apple music via either iTunes or web portal does not seem to suppoprt Hi-Res lossless. I just purchased a FiiO portable DAC to connect to a ipad (which supports apple lossless). I will see how that works.
 
Big-Q

Big-Q

Audioholic Intern
For listening to music on the go (car, plane, walking down the street, or anywhere besides a dedicated listening room) All this lossless talk is a moot point. Lossy is fine for those task. There are too many environmental constraints (outside noises interfering with the music). This is the bulk of the streaming listening with headphones taking place in the world. For my home I listen to red book or better quality music either from my ROON core or Quobuz. Mostly I listen to physical media (CD, LP, or cassette). As I side note, I prefer not to give money to Apple. Just saying.
 
S

snakeeyes

Audioholic Ninja
I’m enjoying Apple Music since the update, and I use my AppleTV 4K. I know it’s 48kHz but it sounds great to me! :)
 
F

Fernando89

Audiophyte
Hi!
Thanks for the article!
What about iPhone or iPad - hdmi output (using lightning to av digital adaptor) into an avr receiver?
It’s possible to configure an 2013 MacBook Pro with hdmi to deliver 192 kHz through its hdmi. Is is also possible with the new usb C MacBook port? I mean usb C - hdmi adaptor - hdmi into avr receiver…
 
Verdinut

Verdinut

Audioholic Ninja
Twenty four bit resolution and 192 kHz sampling rate are not necessary in a home environment:
 
T

Trebdp83

Audioholic Ninja
Well, neither are mother-in-laws and given the choice to stream 24/192 content or have that one over for dinner, I'll stream 24/192 content.:p Believing the mother-in-law will ever truly approve of you is the real delusion.;)
 
Old Onkyo

Old Onkyo

Audioholic General
For listening to music on the go (car, plane, walking down the street, or anywhere besides a dedicated listening room) All this lossless talk is a moot point. Lossy is fine for those task. There are too many environmental constraints (outside noises interfering with the music). This is the bulk of the streaming listening with headphones taking place in the world. For my home I listen to red book or better quality music either from my ROON core or Quobuz. Mostly I listen to physical media (CD, LP, or cassette). As I side note, I prefer not to give money to Apple. Just saying.
I always bristled at paying what I call the “Apple Tax”
 
J

jeffca

Junior Audioholic
Wayde, if you are using the optical output on a Mac (which is incorporated into the analog audio output jack), you can get hi-res stereo audio up to whatever the OS will support which is 24/192. This is what I do when hooking my MacBook Pro to my home theater.

It would be interesting to see if Spatial Audio can play through a set up like mine. Also, how about incorporating some type of spatial processing into Apple Music so I can get something like that effect with my music library on my iPhone.

As a designer who uses his Mac for business more than pleasure, I bristle a little bit when I hear that age old BS about an "Apple Tax" (no, Wayde, this wasn't you).

Any PC that's built as well as Apple's computers costs the same. If you want a plastic piece of junk, then, yes, that crap is cheaper because it's crap. Drop it from 4 feet and see if it still works or is in one piece. One other thing is that you never have to buy an OS upgrade so that will save you about $500 over a half decade or so compared to a PC. And, of course, Windows, in general, is at least 3 years behind the Mac OS (20 years later and MS finally plagiarized the OS10 dock to perfection).

Does Apple do things that annoy me (laptops that can't be upgraded)? Sure. Are a few of their products a bit overpriced? Yes (the $1K display pedestal).

If somebody comes up with products that are drastically better, I'll switch to them. If you prefer their competitors, go for it. Personally, I've found that, for the most part, they make the best stuff.
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Ninja
...
As a designer who uses his Mac for business more than pleasure, I bristle a little bit when I hear that age old BS about an "Apple Tax" (no, Wayde, this wasn't you).
Had to Google that one most results was about Apple not paying taxes.

Any PC that's built as well as Apple's computers costs the same.
Nope.

If you want a plastic piece of junk, then, yes, that crap is cheaper because it's crap.
You are confusing expensive with quality.

Drop it from 4 feet and see if it still works or is in one piece.
Why would I do that? Have you tried it? My PC is on the floor and has been so for many years.

One other thing is that you never have to buy an OS upgrade so that will save you about $500 over a half decade or so compared to a PC.
Nope.

And, of course, Windows, in general, is at least 3 years behind the Mac OS (20 years later and MS finally plagiarized the OS10 dock to perfection).
Nope.

Your stated reasons for choosing Apple for a workstation does not seem professional at all, and you sound just like a designer, oh wait!
 
T

Trebdp83

Audioholic Ninja
Moving on from the pro/anti Apple arguments:rolleyes:, I would be interested to hear from those who have tried the new Apple Music with an optical connection. It’s a shame that Apple left the feature behind.
 
J

jeffca

Junior Audioholic
You have not done your research. You are wrong on every point. As to dropping the computer, I should have stated a laptop, not a desktop, but I'm pretty sure that the Mac "cheese grater" desktop could easily stand that test. I doubt that many PC's could.

The MacBook Pro I'm writing this on was a scratch and ding special when I bought it that has a small blemish on one corner from a drop. Obviously, it works perfectly 6 years later.

I learned a long time ago to never argue with imbeciles or crazy people. Enjoy you substandard computer.




Had to Google that one most results was about Apple not paying taxes.



Nope.



You are confusing expensive with quality.



Why would I do that? Have you tried it? My PC is on the floor and has been so for many years.



Nope.



Nope.

Your stated reasons for choosing Apple for a workstation does not seem professional at all, and you sound just like a designer, oh wait!
 
Trell

Trell

Audioholic Ninja
You have not done your research. You are wrong on every point. As to dropping the computer, I should have stated a laptop, not a desktop, but I'm pretty sure that the Mac "cheese grater" desktop could easily stand that test. I doubt that many PC's could.

The MacBook Pro I'm writing this on was a scratch and ding special when I bought it that has a small blemish on one corner from a drop. Obviously, it works perfectly 6 years later.

I learned a long time ago to never argue with imbeciles or crazy people. Enjoy you substandard computer.
:rolleyes:
 
T

Trebdp83

Audioholic Ninja
:oops: Yeah, anyway, here's hoping Apple does a few things. With lossless and hi-res finally a thing with Apple Music, optical ports and 3.5mm ports with optical supporting 24/192 need to come back. Yeah, they had 'em once. Airplay 2 or new version needs to support atmos and hi-res. Mac mini M1, and other Macs that don't, need to support atmos. Bitstream everything already and stop forcing the 24/48 conversion. Some info on that potential headache can be found in the Audirvana Owners thread. Lossless and Hi-res playback on Apple devices is currently a mess and far too many setting adjustments are involved to get best results. I know, you can't hear above 16/44.1 but that doesn't mean a device isn't doing a sh$%ty job of converting other bits and rates.
 
J

Joshua Gordden

Audiophyte
Thank God! Apple Music provides us lossless music, but we can only listen to high quality Apple Music tracks within the Apple Music App. TunesBank Apple Music Converter is a good assistant to help you download and convert Apple Music to MP3, AAC, AC3, AIFF and more audio formats without hurting any audio quality. Thus, you can keep lossless Apple Music on your local drive permanently even if you cancel the subscription.
 

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