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Article: Apple Music Lossless Mess Part 2: AirPlay

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I think it’s great that this info is out there to see and ensure a good implementation of lossless for playback over hifi systems. We shouldn’t get too excited yet I think as the lossless rollout has only just begun and like any streaming service it will take a while for the hardware stack to catch up. Given we aren’t paying any extra I don’t see any issues with this. I think it’s worth also bearing in mind that on Apples official support page for lossless last updated June 10 there is no mention of Airplay as a method of listening to lossless. 
Still really appreciate this as based on the forums I assumed Airplay would be valid. That said my 2 main systems are Airplay 1 so in a way I am getting lossless anyway by the sounds of it! I bought an Apple TV for the spacial audio, wonder if that does bitperfect (specced up to 24/48 in the settings).


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Introducing lossless to Airplay 2 with its multiple speaker support is certainly a big call with a lot of headwind in getting this to work robustly on wireless networks or Internet connections with a lot of latency or lack of bandwidth. I think it will be a while coming or have to use some kind of adaptive resolution ala Netflix rather than a straightforward bitperfect Alac. Not stating lossless support for Airplay in the official information and streaming AAC to airplay 2 devices may be quite intentional. A good robust listening experience I’m sure will be Apple’s number one priority. 


That said I’m a bit confused by that Roon forum post as although the Cambridge reports AAC it also says 16/44.1 (ie CD quality lossless) which is also what my Apple TV streams that album at (sounds wonderful by the way!).

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The masters is a bit of a confusing word considering how it’s used elsewhere. It is music certified as built using Apples mastering process and tools aimed at getting a consistent and predictable final output for iTunes and Apple Music - in AAC. https://www.apple.com/itunes/mastered-for-itunes/


I’m not as knowledgeable as some contributors but I was struggling to understand the changes in the final bit. I guess if that doesn’t happen with Qobuz over USB or on AirPlay with Apple Music then it must be something being deliberately introduced on the lightening interface. The question then is - is the music still lossless? To me bitperfect and lossless are potentially different things. If we are changing some bits in a file that don’t contain audible content (and I acknowledge we haven’t proved that is the case) surely it is still lossless albeit not bitperfect. Also what is our goal? To me it’s not that interesting being bitperfect with the file the record company is distributing. What we want presumably is a very accurate copy of the original studio master , probably in aiff or WAV format. In a sense flac then is not bitperfect, and certainly not a file with a bit changed to turn on a HDCD light? 
As I’ve said before in no way am I doubting the value of actually investigating this and finding the cause of the discrepancy. However I do think it’s wrong to chastise Apple for somehow not delivering what they’ve promised. We haven’t yet shown that any actual audio information has been lost and we absolutely aren’t in MQA territory of audio changes here.

Commercially I can absolutely understand a signature being placed in the lightening output as that would be the most vulnerable point for piracy by data capture. 
In terms of audibility I’m afraid I’ve never been able to pass a lossless/AAC blind test anyway :-)

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Yes I agree with those and it’s good that at least ALAC is (now) an open and transparent format. I think with streaming however there is probably a fine line with allowing flexible use of the product and a verifiably lossless audio output when that’s being sold (especially in cases where a subscription and or audio hardware price premium is being charged for the privilege) and the reality that we can’t ever have a digital copy of the file presented without some kind of encryption or DRM.

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6 hours ago, Nialli said:

It's new and imperfect (ha ha) but Apple has elevated the standards for consumer streaming services even if there's plenty of room for improvement and enhancements to the product's first release. It will get better. 

I've even seen some people saying Spotify is so much better going for CD quality and with their more robust and functional Spotify Connect product - this for a product that hasn't even made it to market!

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  • 1 year later...
3 hours ago, tgp-2 said:

First post here on Audiophile Style 😀 ... See attached summary ... I recently looked at various combinations of Airplay-enabled apps, receivers, etc. to verify for myself which support lossless vs lossy transmission ... a lot of overlap with info from the original article here and the discussion thread, but I thought it might be useful for some to see a summary of how things look as of May 2023 ... I tried most of the combinations listed here, and those that I didn't try, I indicate with a "?" (I'm sure folks here can point out any errors or help me fill in the blanks).

Airplay vs Airplay 2 for audio streaming May 3 2023 tgp-2.pdf 58.08 kB · 9 downloads

Thanks for that useful study.

I actually plan on doing some benchmarking soon on Airplay battery use - I’ve always heard that as a negative feature but haven’t particularly noticed it myself. Will advise on my findings if I get time to do it (compare phone airplaying Qobuz for 1 hour vs sitting idle).

I was interested to see that ALL airplay 2 is AAC as I had understood it could take Redbook quality and had thought the aac was a specific choice by Apple Music. How did you determine that? I did a recent data throughput test using an Apple TV (comparing playing a track losslessly using the built in app vs playing the track via Airplay from my phone) and noted over twice the amount of data via the built in app backing up your summary. 

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  • 7 months later...
2 hours ago, actuel audio said:

Just another side note trick on this.
I was wondering, how can I get 24 bit recordings from Apple Music to my Yamaha MusicCast speakers. Sometimes I just want them and not the whole blasted system. I don’t have a server, other than iTunes Remote app from Mac which is 16/44. From iOS to MusicCast speakers it is the same problem as written about here.

The solution is to send it from another device. But not Apple iOS as that will likely be AAC 256…. Instead, I play Apple Music on my Apple TV 4K to my Yamaha via HDMI and then link my MusicCast speakers. I can silence the main AVR speakers. Presto, 24/48 recordings playing from Apple Music via MusicCast to the 20s as stereo pair.
Most importantly, I can control the Apple TV with my phone, just like Spotify Connect, using Apple Music Control Other Speakers option.
I bet this method could be used on other systems that allow above 16/44 like Denon, et all.

I could also just plug an iOS device strait into a DAC and then RCA into the AVR and then out via MusicCast but, then, no remote control. But I would get 24/96 or 24/192 to the MusicCast speakers. If the recording is at those.

The Apple TV is a great streaming experience and for me the best part is the Atmos content. Just be aware that it resamples everything to 24/48, no issue for me but it bit perfect is important to you might be a factor, and you won’t deliver the higher sample rates (need to use usb from iOS etc).

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2 hours ago, Bevok said:

The Apple TV is a great streaming experience and for me the best part is the Atmos content. Just be aware that it resamples everything to 24/48, no issue for me but it bit perfect is important to you might be a factor, and you won’t deliver the higher sample rates (need to use usb from iOS etc).


2 hours ago, actuel audio said:

Did you not read what I wrote? Not about Atmos. 24 bit is not a resample if the source was that. Since it does not upsample, no problem for 14. The advantage is convenience at 24 bit wireless via MusicCast from Apple Music. I am not a pedantic martinet audiophile.

I did read what you wrote. You are incorrect in that it does upsample to 24 bit. Not sure what you mean by 14? I agree on convenience - as I said resampling is not an issue for me. I'm not a pedantic martinet audiophile either, as you'd have noted if you had read what I wrote :-)

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