Apple HomePod and HomePod Mini will get lossless audio after all

Apple HomePod
(Image credit: Future)

While AirPods may not benefit from Apple Music’s new lossless audio tier (for the moment, at least), another product from Apple’s audio hardware range is getting upgraded to take advantage. 

The company has published a new support document indicating that both the original HomePod and more recent HomePod mini will be updated to support Apple Music’s new audio tier in future. “HomePod and HomePod mini currently use AAC [Advanced Audio Codec] to support excellent audio quality,” a section in the FAQ reads. “Support for lossless is coming in a future software update.” 

While no release date is given for the update, it remains a pleasant surprise and an about-face from what Apple said previously. While we’d heard that Apple Music’s new spatial audio would be supported by HomePod, there was no indication that Apple would be taking the steps to support lossless on its smart speakers. 

For the original HomePod, it’s a pretty impressive show of support, given the speaker was officially discontinued just two months ago. Just earlier this week, Apple also updated the HomePod so that you can use it as the speaker for all your TV input sources, provided you also have a second-gen Apple TV 4K. That hopefully indicates that the discontinuation isn’t the end of the road for the larger speaker, and that something will make use of the same technology in future. 

Back to the support document, and Apple clarifies which other devices can enjoy the new lossless tier. Firstly, Apple TV 4K “currently doesn’t support Hi-Res Lossless”, with only audio up to 48KHz supported, though the word “currently” suggests that won’t be the case forever. 

The document also confirms the reason that AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max and Beats don’t support lossless is thanks to their reliance on Bluetooth connections rather than a weakness in the hardware. “We will deliver music using lossless audio compression to your iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV,” the company writes. “Lossless will play back normally on Bluetooth speakers and headphones. However Bluetooth connections don’t support lossless audio.”

With that in mind, there’s good news for people who don’t mind a wire. The official Lightning to 3.5mm headphone jack adapter, for example, contains a digital-to-analog converter that supports up to 24-bit/48KHz lossless audio. Sadly, while AirPods Max get some benefit by attaching a wire, it’s not perfect. “AirPods Max can be connected to devices playing Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless recordings with exceptional audio quality,” Apple writes. “ However, given the analog to digital conversion in the cable, the playback will not be completely lossless.”

Apple Music’s lossless tier will emerge in June at no extra cost to those on the $9.99 per month subscription. At launch, the company says there will be over 20 million songs with lossless quality, reaching 75 million by the end of the year.

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.