Every song on Apple Music can be streamed in lossless audio quality — where there’s little or no compression for high-fidelity audio.
The problem is that Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 doesn’t support it, and neither does its top-of-the-line AirPods Max unless tethered via the optional wire. Even then, Apple cautions it “will not be completely lossless.”
In an interview with our sister publication What Hifi?, Esge Andersen — an Apple acoustics team engineer with 11 years of service for the company — explained the company’s current thinking on the issue.
“It is important to understand that we can still make big strides without changing the codec,” he said. “And the codec choice we have there today, it's more about reliability. So it's about making something robust in all environments.”
Of course, codecs that support the streaming of higher bitrate audio via Bluetooth exist in the form of LDAC and aptX, but to date Apple hasn’t adopted them, preferring its own AAC format. But while Andersen states that “Apple is always open to change” earlier in the interview, it doesn’t sound like this is an area where we can expect anything imminently.
“We want to push the sound quality forward, and we can do that with a lot of other elements,” he continued. “We don’t think that the codec currently is the limitation of audio quality on Bluetooth products.”
No big loss?
It’s fair to say that while lossless audio is a big deal for audiophiles, most consumers don’t know what it is, and plenty won’t be able to tell the difference. Spotify — which remains as synonymous with music streaming as Apple’s iPod was with mp3 players back in the day — still doesn’t support lossless audio, despite promising it since last year.
Nonetheless, while Apple’s high-end AirPods offer excellent audio, it does feel like a strange mismatch with Apple Music, which makes a big play of its lossless credentials. As Nick Pino wrote in our AirPods Pro 2 review, “it does hurt to be paying for a service that we can’t fully appreciate with Apple’s own true wireless earbuds.”
Despite this, he still gave the AirPods Pro 2 a solid four-and-a-half star rating, securing their place on our list of the best wireless earbuds.
Describing them as “nearly perfect true wireless earbuds”, the only thing holding him back from the full five stars was the weak call quality, a couple of audio quibbles and the lack of lanyard to accompany the hook embedded into the case.