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Article: Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess


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Auto Sample Rate switching was the very first thing I tested last night when I got it to work with High Res...  Exclusive Access to the DAC, for the Music app in macOS, is another.

No electron left behind...

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I didn't expect exclusive mode from iTunes, er, Apple Music, but I did expect bit rate switching on the Mac. I'm not going to say that flat-out makes things useless for my personal needs, but it makes things…wobbly. I'm not sure just setting it to stream "non hi-res" lossless and locking to 16/44.1 with Audio MIDI Setup is the right answer, either, because according to their own specs, Apple's non hi-res can still be 24/48. (Can I personally hear resampling going on if I just set it to 24/96, especially on my solid-for-desktop-but-still-desktop computer speakers? If I'm honest, I doubt it, but it's the principle of the thing.)

 

That Music on iOS does handle auto rate switching is interesting, though.

 

For the record, I just went to check my Apple TV, and there's now a setting for "Audio Quality" in the Music app setting -- but the choices are only "High Quality (AAC 256 kbps)" and "Lossless (ALAC up to 24-bit/48 kHz)", so no hi-res there. Since tvOS is based on iOS, it may do auto rate switching, although in extremely short testing it doesn't seem to have switched off 48K.

Life was so much cheaper when I couldn't hear a difference between these things.

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"Apple Music doesn't tel you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. "

 

This is not correct or at least it does tell you the "intended" sample rate on my iMac. See the screenshot below.

I still run into the problem though, where Apple Music defaults to the MIDI setting and even though the song is displayed at 24/96, it will output to the DAC at 16/44 (which is what the MIDI was set to).

 

Furthermore, if you use the Apple Cloud service iTunes Match, any streaming will default to those settings which are 256 kbs AAC. So for instance if you have a 20K library of mp3's that you've carried over through out the years, those will be limiting your streaming of those files on Apple Music to lossy.

 

 

Screen Shot 2021-06-08 at 8.18.13 AM.png

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I never thought to click on that! Thank you. (Silly me, I would have put that info in, I don't know, the window that comes up when you click "Get Info".)

 

I just commented to a friend that Apple has somehow managed to implement lossless audio -- something only audiophiles are likely to really care about  -- in the least audiophile-friendly manner possible. :)

Life was so much cheaper when I couldn't hear a difference between these things.

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4 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Ah thanks for the info!
 

Apple design has really gone to the “click around and find out” method. 
 

If I understand this correctly, you have to play the music, then click on the info button to get the sample rate, then change audio midi, then close & reopen Apple Music. 
 

So convenient :~)

 

 

Correct. And as far as the iTunes Match issue that prevents lossless streaming, Apple seems to not give a **ck.  Here is the response I got when I sent them the issue.  

 

Hi Ken,

Thanks for contacting us. I understand that Apple Music Lossless audio doesn’t work. I am happy to help you with this.

About lossless audio in Apple Music, see below mentioned article:

https://support.apple.com/kb/HT212183

If you have more questions about this issue, please reply to this email to let me know. I’m happy to help.

Thanks,
P******
Apple

 

 

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Just now, AudioDoctor said:

@The Computer Audiophile could the off and on light be due to the lack of exclusive access causing the OS to intermittently sample the file when the system needs to make another sound? This thought just hit me when an email beep came through my speakers.

 

Good thought, but very unlikely in my opinion. It's off 80% of the time, then pops back on. 

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I haven't gone near iTunes or Apple Music in over a decade. I know why. I am about to order a 16gb Mini M1 though to replace my trash can Mac Pro (w 64gb RAM!). Still make pretty fine hardware imo. 

SERVER CLOSET (in office directly below living room stereo):NUC 7i5BNH with Roon ROCK (ZeroZone 12V on the NUC)>Cisco 2690L-16PS switch>Sonore opticalModule (Uptone LPS 1.2)>

LIVING ROOM: Sonore opticalRendu Roon version (Sonore Power Supply)> Shunyata Venom USB>Naim DAC V1>Witchhat DIN>Naim NAP 160 Bolt Down>Chord Rumor 2>Audio Physic Compact Classics. OFFICE: opticalModule> Sonore microRendu 1.4> Matrix Mini-i Pro 3> Naim NAP 110>NACA5>KEF Ls50's. BJC 6a and Ghent Catsnake 6a JSSG ethernet; AC cables: Shunyata Venom NR V-10; Audience Forte F3; Ice Age copper/copper; Sean Jacobs CHC PowerBlack, Moon Audio DIN>RCA, USB A>C. Isolation: Herbie's Audio Lab. 

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This is a real disappointment! 
Seems like it’s more of a marketing ploy vs actually commitment and dedication for Apple to actually bring HiRes and lossless to the masses. 
They may realize 99% of their customers won’t realize the difference on their AirPods or tiny Bluetooth wireless speakers anyhow? 
So now Apple and Amazon can market to the masses “we play music in HD”, yet in reality, neither service is actually useful or fully operational in a system that can actually play bit perfect HiRes and Lossless audio, but the 99% of both of these giants customers will never even know or understand the difference because they all lack the ability to play audio at that level anyhow. 
The real negative (in my opinion) to this situation, is that Apple and Amazon will (or already have) captured so much of the consumer market that this will put real pressure on Qobuz and Tidal sales and memberships and subscription fees, that they may have a very difficult time staying in business in the long run? 

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1 hour ago, agladstone said:

This is a real disappointment! 
Seems like it’s more of a marketing ploy vs actually commitment and dedication for Apple to actually bring HiRes and lossless to the masses. 
They may realize 99% of their customers won’t realize the difference on their AirPods or tiny Bluetooth wireless speakers anyhow? 
So now Apple and Amazon can market to the masses “we play music in HD”, yet in reality, neither service is actually useful or fully operational in a system that can actually play bit perfect HiRes and Lossless audio, but the 99% of both of these giants customers will never even know or understand the difference because they all lack the ability to play audio at that level anyhow. 
The real negative (in my opinion) to this situation, is that Apple and Amazon will (or already have) captured so much of the consumer market that this will put real pressure on Qobuz and Tidal sales and memberships and subscription fees, that they may have a very difficult time staying in business in the long run? 

 

I chose to look at this as "glass half full". The fact that we have lossless and hires lossless at all is a huge win, even though that we don't have things like rate switching on MacOS or the holy grail of bit perfect communication. We have been waiting for this for many years. Auto rate switching has worked on iOS for many years now....it's just not been a priority on the Mac. I'm sure if this group is politely loud enough that we might get that feature. But there also has to be a legacy reason as to why CoreAudio on the Mac with the Audio Mini app works the way it does. There are still a fair amount of professional music apps that depend on this thing and you don't want to break it just because of needy audiophiles. :) So yes, some more bugs to fix but we're very close now.

 

One more thing I did notice....if you have chosen "HiRes Lossless" in Mac Apple Music preferences, then play through to an Airplay endpoint, it obviously won't stuff a 24 bit/48khz+ file down that pipe since I don't think it works (yet). But Apple Music instead of downrezzing the sound to 16/44.1, it instead gets the lossy AAC version and upsamples it to 16/44.1. This is a little strange since Apple Music/iTunes has been downrezzing HiRes ALAC stored in iTunes databases for many years now when Airplay is the destination.

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3 hours ago, ted_b said:

I've not tested any of this, but for us multichannel fans the new benefit of Apple Music is the lossless Atmos releases.....and especially a VERY rare one indeed..Sgt Pepper!!  Dolby and Apple Ltd (not Apple Music) used an unreleased version of Sgt Pepper to demo Atmos a few years ago, but it never reached release status.   Now the folks on the Quad forum are saying that, indeed, Sgt Pepper is streaming in Atmos!!  Whether it's the same mix, that is currently undetermined (strangely enough, the arguably greatest Beatle song ever, Pepper's closing track, A Day In The Life, is NOT in Atmos).  Apple TV box required.

 

There's another unicorn recording out there I'm dying to hear again. There is an unreleased multichannel version of Michael Jackson's "Thriller". I got a chance to sample it briefly when on a tour of one of Nashville's pre-eminent recording studios. Sadly, i don't have my own copy.

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Hi all,

Thanks Chris for taking the time to do these tests. I tend to think that this lack of bit perfect playback is more a technical issue that eventually could be solved, and not a sort of "plot" by Apple to avoid giving away the crown jewels...

Could it be that the flag is removed for some reason during the streaming without actually modifying the digital audio content?

Perhaps this is a naive idea, and don't know if technically meaningful at all: I think there are apps that can capture system audio, so it would be nice if a "fair length" of audio from a supposedly lossless audio stream from Apple Music could be digitally captured and recorded as an audio file, and having that compared with a null-test against a file of the same music obtained from Qobuz or other source.

The idea is try to see if the audio bits of the stream are modified, besides the mere removal of a flag. Does this makes sense?

Regards,

Jorge

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I remember Queens - A Night at the Opera on Multichannel DVD-A. I wonder if that will make it's way toward Atmos - that would be interesting.

Current:  JRiver 24 on Win 10 PC (AMD Ryzen 5 2600 with 32 GB RAM) or Daphile on an I5-2500K with 16 GB RAM

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Don't have Apple Music here @The Computer Audiophile, but just to double check...

 

Toneff's Fairytales (mQa) is "bit perfect" enough as a 24/48 stream to decode which we know can lose the lowest few bits and still be recognized, but a true 16/44.1 HDCD which has the 16th bit containing the HDCD stream has been altered and thus not recognized.

 

Is that what you think is happening here?

 

Archimago's Musings... A "more objective" audiophile blog.

Free The Music - No MQA!  :nomqa:

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14 minutes ago, Archimago said:

Don't have Apple Music here @The Computer Audiophile, but just to double check...

 

Toneff's Fairytales (mQa) is "bit perfect" enough as a 24/48 stream to decode which we know can lose the lowest few bits and still be recognized, but a true 16/44.1 HDCD which has the 16th bit containing the HDCD stream has been altered and thus not recognized.

 

Is that what you think is happening here?

 


Hi Arch, what’s happening is that the test isn’t apples to apples. Yes, mQa can lose some bits and still light the mQa light. I also don’t know how long it can lose the bits for and still light the light and if this varies between devices.
 

HDCD can’t lose anything and will immediately lose the light upon anything messing with the LSB. 

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I'd forgotten about using HDCD as a test for bit perfect output! I remember doing that on a previous receiver. (Originally by accident. "Wait, why is the HDCD light on? I'm playing a ripped…oh, I get it.") I'm pretty sure I no longer own anything that can decode HDCD, though.

Life was so much cheaper when I couldn't hear a difference between these things.

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