AirPods Pro and Max won't support lossless Apple Music — here's why

Apple AirPods Max review
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Apple has announced its music streaming service, Apple Music, will be adding lossless sound to its entire catalog, along with spatial audio and Dolby Atmos support this June — only one of these features will work with AirPods.

As previously reported, Apple Music's new hi-fi music streaming tier will be available to all subscribers at no extra cost. However, if you're a fan of lossless audio and use the tech giant's AirPods Pro or its pricey AirPods Max, prepare for some disappointment. 

According to Apple (via The Verge), lossless audio won't be supported on any AirPods model, even if the AirPods Max are plugged in. While Apple only supports Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) over Bluetooth, meaning its wireless earbuds weren't expected to support lossless audio, its more expensive headphones can be connected via Lightning-to-3.5mm adapter cable.

Even when plugged in, Apple's premium pair of cans won't be able to play any of the 75 million songs in true lossless audio. The announcement states the tech giant will use ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) to "hear the exact same thing that the artists created in the studio."

In terms of quality, the lossless tier starts at "CD quality", which is 16 bit at 44.1 kHz (kilohertz), and goes up to 24 bit at 48 kHz. While Apple devices can play this natively, including the Apple AirPods Max, it won't be able to support the "Hi-Resolution Lossless" that goes up to 24 bit at 192 kHz.1.

While unfortunate, AirPods are known to get updates. If Apple figures out a way to deliver its high-quality lossless tier, such as developing a new wireless codec, we may expect to see it in an upcoming firmware update. It could also be an upcoming feature to be introduced to new products, such as the rumoured AirPods Pro 2.

Apple Music spatial audio with Dolby Atmos

It isn't all bad news. Apple Music subscribers will get a spatial audio feature with support for Dolby Atmos. Don't fret, as Apple Music will automatically play Dolby Atmos tracks on all AirPods and Beats headphones with an H1 or W1 chip. Even better, it will also work with the built-in speakers in the latest versions of iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

The spatial audio feature aims to deliver an "immersive audio experience" to subscribers, with Apple stating thousands of songs from big artists will support the new feature. Fresh Dolby Atmos tracks will constantly be added to the music streaming services library, too.

The Apple Music upgrade is expected to land at the beginning of June. If you are looking for a killer pair of cans and aren't too fussed about lossless audio, check out the best wireless headphones

Darragh Murphy

Darragh Murphy is fascinated by all things bizarre, which usually leads to assorted coverage varying from washing machines designed for AirPods to the mischievous world of cyberattacks. Whether it's connecting Scar from The Lion King to two-factor authentication or turning his love for gadgets into a fabricated rap battle from 8 Mile, he believes there’s always a quirky spin to be made. With a Master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from The University of Sheffield, along with short stints at Kerrang! and Exposed Magazine, Darragh started his career writing about the tech industry at Time Out Dubai and ShortList Dubai, covering everything from the latest iPhone models and Huawei laptops to massive Esports events in the Middle East. Now, he can be found proudly diving into gaming, gadgets, and letting readers know the joys of docking stations for Laptop Mag.