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Article: Apple Music Lossless Mess Part 2: AirPlay


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I wonder two things: 
- What about third party Airplay 1 capabilities? I have a receiver with Airplay 1. It is not updatable (apparently). Same for some powered speakers. All stuck in Airplay 1 world. Are they ALAC exclusively? If so, maybe preferable going strait to the Airplay 1 devices versus playing to my Airport Express 2 via its update to Airplay 2 and then to better DAC? I rarely do multi-room via Airplay and, when I do, AAC is fine.

- The old AE2 has a very good AKM 4430 DAC in it (for the time and can handle AM Lossless fully). I wonder if that stays ALAC versus Toslink to an external DAC? To my ear, as usual, it depends on the music and system. My crap system shines strait from the 4430 in it. Incredible, really. (The speakers cost me $10 and the amp was free!) But my better system seems to prefer Toslink to newer AKM 4493 DAC. Note: the DAC in the AE1 is not a good DAC so, Toslink from that makes sense.

 

I think Apple just needs to clarify what can do what. If Airplay 2 is limited too AAC all around, that would kind of suck but for me, not at all. But if it works ALAC point to point, that would be fine and enjoyable. Also, if they mess with the data, they need to say where and why. 

However, hovering over all of this is the provenance of the recording. Really only newer post 1996 recordings should be in this discussion. Even then, only recordings that are known to be least messed with in editing, including after hand off to the streaming service. Most pop music for the past 20 years is so heavily edited and altered from the mic, you are lucky to hear 5 bit sections of any recording through a wall of noise. Louder sells more music, is the mantra.

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There is one more way to play Apple Music from Apple TV 4 and 4K to a system.
I have my ATV4 connected wirelessly (probably Airplay) to an Airport Express 2 which in turn, feeds directly to an amp via 3.5 to RCA. The AKM DAC in the AE2 is pretty good!
This was Apples solution to the missing 3.5/Toslink from ATV 4 onward. Presumably, this can also work with any Airplay receiver but, I've only used it in this instance.
I do not know if it is sending it ALAC or AAC. My guess is AAC as, it lists all the Airplay devices I own. However, some are not playable with others. IOW: Airplay 1.0 devices are listed. I wonder if those 1.0 receivers are ALAC since it is point to point and to v. 1.0? If so, this is an interesting option from ATV4 and 4K for those wondering how to do it with no Toslink or Aux. The AE2 DAC is an AK4430 192kHz 24-Bit. Should match up with Apple Music Lossless nice.

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17 hours ago, jjdnyc said:

Yeah. But, as Chris has figured out, even iOS to the CCK doesn’t deliver bit perfect.  So much for the Dragonly DAC that I just picked up…

Give it a try anyway. I think you will like the Lossless.

So, you can't get a whole wheat bun and Kobe beef on the incredible burger from your favorite burger place. It is still a damn good burger. :-)

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19 hours ago, Marco Klobas said:

 

Moreover he claimed two times that 48 kHz is possible via AirPlay which isn’t true for audio only streams.

I think some of the confusion in speaking about this topic, easily for anyone to make, is that the prefs for AM Lossless show it as up to 24/48. So, the MacOS or iOS will knock that down to 16/44.1 if it is sending to Airplay. Nobody will notice that at all.

I think Apple segregated Lossless from Hi-Res because most Apple users have no idea what a DAC is and have little understanding. Also, Apple TV is 48.
This is a non issue. If you know what a DAC is and have one and like Hi-Res, set it higher. If you are listing to 95% of the music made, most of which is pre digital or is badly edited and engineered as to be a whopping 6 bits, then 24/48 via DAC or Airplay will be fantastic. Set it and forget it no matter how you hear it.
As far as bit perfect from a Mac, my understanding is that if the Audio MIDI Setup is set to the same as the source, then it is bit perfect to a DAC. A PITA for sure. Hopefully this gets updated with soon to be new Mac OS update. On iOS, it is automatic.

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am not a techie so, you will have to translate some terms here to jargon. This is an observation, not an argument.
So, the Apple TV 4 (HD) and 4K (old or new) are limited to 24/48. Since all lack Toslink out, you either have to send to an AVR or, an extractor. My AVR DAC is OK but, I have a better external DAC with a better AKM in it. 

Out of curiosity, I linked an Airport Express to the Apple TV (tested on both) using the tvOS Control Center. The control center is this: https://support.apple.com/guide/tv/use-tvos-control-center-atvb5f549664/tvos
So now I was playing Apple Music lossless 24/48 on the 4K to the AE which in turn sent it to better DAC. It did sound better, of course.
On the ATV4, I don't have a DAC and the AVR is just an R. I use the AE built in DAC (also an AKM) instead and then RCA it to the receiver. 
Uh, it sounded incredible. In fact, it sounded lossless!
So some questions arise using this “ain't got no Toslink from the ATV4 family” method of getting PCM stream to an external DAC via the Control Center.
- ATV4K: Does this method strip down the PCM in some way before it hits the DAC, making it 16/44.1? Because, on ATV4K, it sure does not seem to do that. 24/48 is fine by me to the better DAC. The 24 being the good stuff.
- ATV4: Does this method strip down the PCM in some way before it hits the DAC inside the AE, making it 16/44.1? Because, on ATV4, it sure does not seem to do that.
In any event, getting it any way you can to the better/your preferred DAC, seems to help Apple TV Apple Music playing in lossless from 4K and in, whatever state it is, via an ATV4K or, again, whatever state it is in, via a ATV4

I wonder if, deliberately or by accident, Apple sends, whatever, to a ATV4 and lets the chips fall as they may. By passing the raw PCM chips on to a DAC (via Control Center to Toslink to DAC or; via Control Center and then internal to AE DAC), you get, lossless when it is lossless. Even on a ATV4?

 

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  • 2 months later...

I got a Mac mini M1 a while ago and I installed all things “fresh” to start fresh on the new Apple chip. (I did not do this when Apple went to Intel and always regretted it.) Anyhow, it was a beast to do fresh installs. I am pretty much done. Leaving the high hanging fruit (little used apps) to last. One of the last apps I installed fresh (latest version) was Rouge Amoeba Airfoil. It allows you to send any audio from a Mac to Airplay, Chromecast, Sonos, and Bluetooth. I just used/use it for Airplay 1 and 2 devices. Yep, sends to multiple Airplay 1 AVRs or speakers. I have some non Apple powered speakers and an AVR that are Airplay 1 and never were upgraded by the makers. Too old.

Apple has since included this multi playback feature (but minus BT speakers which makes Airfoil unique as you could play music on Airplay speakers, a stereo with Airplay, an Apple TV 4K/HD, and maybe have a BT speaker in that mix). But I was curious, did Airfoil also bring it all down to AAC in doing so? (Minus the unavoidable BT compression on that device.)
The response from Rouge Amoeba was no:
“Airfoil sends 16-bit stereo audio at 44.1 kHz to AirPlay devices (including Airfoil Satellite), which usually means an Apple Lossless (ALAC) stream.”

I interpret “usually“ to mean; depends on the recording. But in time, end of 2021, all of Apple Music will be lossless. (Most of it is now.)
So Airfoil may be a way around the problem (if it is indeed a problem) of AAC intrusion. I can send Apple Music (or any app or web site on a Mac) to multiple Airplay 1 & 2 receivers, ATVs, and Airplay ready powered speakers as ALAC.
https://www.rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/mac/

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  • 1 year later...

- Has anyone compared choosing Airplay via iOS Control Center versus Apple Music app Airplay choice?

- Also, what about the Control Other Speakers & TVs (COST) option in iOS? Does choosing an Airplay receiver via Control Center COST button, not the Airplay list check option, result in a lossless 16/44 connection?

I’d prefer to keep my Airport Express gen 2s as Airplay 2 plus, I have other Airplay 2 AV gear, speakers, and Apple HomePod minis.

If simply always choosing Airplay from the macOS or iOS Control Center (or COST) and never via Apple Music app fixes the problem, then, we are done, right? Well, done for Apple Music app users.

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Just for giggles I downgraded to 7.6.9 on an Airport Express gen. 2 that I only use when in office and — after a strange warning, I did a power off by unplugging (because decades of using Apple stuff has taught me to never trust warnings like that and to just restart the device after any updating or downgrading glitch like that) — sure enough it came back on my network fine, and Airplay is the non circle check mark via latest iOS. So it is lossless 16/44 from Apple Music from iOS (latest) to this ancient relic.

To downgrade, open Airport Utility. I did it on mac mini on latest macOS but it would also be possible in iOS. On mac, click on the Express icon. Hold down option key while over the version. A drop down arrow appears. Click on that. Choose 7.6.9 and it will downgrade to Airplay 1. An unplug restart of the express may be needed if you get an odd failed warning. If like mine, it should just be fine.

I also tested via macOS latest version on M1 mini to it by choosing the AE from the Finder menu. It seems way snappier! With Airplay 2, it took the OS a few seconds to confirm the link from that menu. With the downgrade, it was instant. So something did happen for sure. 

Not that my next comment is reliable but, to my ears, it sounds like CD quality. I play CDs on that same system and, they sound great. Apple Music with this downgrade sounds great too. 

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11 minutes ago, tgp-2 said:

link to an updated version of what I shared in this thread earlier this year in pdf format ... added sections on AirPlay from a Mac and remote controlling lossless Apple Music playback on Apple TV ... note, for the Apple TV use case, my only HDMI connection is to a TV that I think only does 48kHz, so I'm not able to check for any sample rate conversion etc (will leave that to others here who are more experienced and better equipped) 🙂

 

The COST button comes in two flavors on iOS. One is the one you show. But it is the circle one that is accessed via Control Center that is the right one to use. After using the round one and selecting a device, launch Apple Music and a device will have been automatically selected as the device you control. This method seems to be a way to skip Airplay from playing from the iOS device and keeping an iPhone just as a “remote” so to speak. It is this that I wonder, maybe, that is not AAC when controlled this way. I dunno… This is not really even Airplay but is interwoven into the UI. Messy…

Note that, I have noticed if a device has not been used recently, it may not show up on this round COST option also, Apple confusingly tossed in a device that is getting data via the iPhone (Airplay) with devices that can independently play Apple Music (which for COST, seems right, not a mix). So, the device list can be a mix that changes. Ugh.

It is also all too easy to reflexively choose a device on the main layer/list of any of these. That is Airplay. Don't do that. Click on the COST button, then choose a device from the totally different looking stacked list of devices.
I think Apple should start over with Airplay and COST UI and make it simpler but clearer and not so many ways to find it and use it. Just one and done. Also, it should show unavailable stuff by making them grey. Not removing them entirely from the UI. 

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6 hours ago, MgP2804 said:

sideremark: what makes me personally upset, that Apple is able to play lossless using the new Airpods 2 Pro (USB Charger) to Apple Vision Pro. They have the technology obviously ready.

 

Well, when I dig into this, I decided to use Airport Express Gen2 for 44.1/16 lossless. But you need a certain firmware to my experience not the latest. Did post above here. By using old Firmware with Airport Gen 2 you force the higher quality. Simply because it can not do Airplay 2 but only Airplay 1.

- Tim Cook talked about this Vision Pro and audio in an interview and, I forget why but, it was expected and not upsetting. I think it boiled down to the Vision Pro was robust enough and close enough to Airpods for it to happen. The tech is ready but, is your wallet?

- Yes, I post above that that is what I did. Downgraded to 7.6.9 to get 16/44 lossless. But, that Toslink to AVR with MusicCast allowed me to hack it to send it via MusicCast. Enabling me to play 16/44 from Apple Music to Express to AVR to my MusicCast speakers, which can get and play up to 24/192. Which otherwise, as thier own Airplay receivers, are just Airplay 2 and probably not 16/44 but AAC.

If only Apple would let its Airplay companies like Yamaha, etc. do the same, have an Airplay 1 option, so to speak, we could skip this extra step with old Airport Expresses.

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  • 1 month later...

I play Music to a system via the Finder Sound menu on latest macOS on a Mac Mini. I had been playing to an Airport Express 2 (flat, like a white Apple TV 2) with it set to fully updated firmware to Airplay 2 since playing Music from the Mac via the finder Sound menu, results in the best outcome. But I recently hooked up a Belkin Soundform Connect (which I think had a stumble out of the gate but, other than the NFC tag not working, requiring me entering the code, boo hoo, went on to my network as well as Home app east peasy). 

The Belkin Soundform Connect is fine. It is Airplay 2 but, when playing via the Mac Mini, it is identical to the Airport Express. Which makes sense. So, I can play 16/44 Apple Music from Mac to the Soundform Connect. It is most likely not bit perfect but it is lossless if the volume on all but the amp is set to max. When I switch over to latest iOS, I can sense a slight decline. Probably now, it is, AAC 256. But, you know, I am OK with that! It gives my ears a break.
When I open the iTunes Remote app  on iOS and play my ALAC files from my Mac, it is back to superb CD quality again. Well, because, I control it from iOS but the data is coming from the Mac. 

Note that the Soundform app is helpful to link to the Connect. It does not do much but it seems to have a somewhat separate volume control (what is that, number 3?!) Even though I had all volumes, except my amp, up all the way, upon adding it to the app, the volume was about 30%. Maybe Belkin does this to not blast the inexperienced. But, when I turned it to full, it did seem to bring it all back to a really good amount of gusto (sorry, whatever the term is for that).

I also suspect that since the Soundform Connect is simply a newer device, it seems more robust with audio. 
I buried the lead until the end: On that ancient iTunes Remote app on iOS, when you bring up the Airplay menu, it shows the Connect and my other airplay devices. Since I am just playing in one room, it is single check mark to that device. But in the upper left, is an option for Multiple. When you choose that, the app becomes like an Airplay 2 only app. Allowing you to play to multiple devices. With a check mark in a circle! Hmm, so the second I choose Multiple and other Airplay 2 devices, does the music change from ALAC to AAC? This is the question and would answer other questions here too.

 

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One small mystery: all my HomePods are missing from Remote. Will have to figure out why.

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  • 1 month later...

I decided to set up all my Apple Expresses V2 as Airplay 1 receivers via ethernet. This forces 16/44 lossless from iOS, my main player of Apple Music streams. I also turned off wi-fi and; made it static IP and ipv6 as link local only in the hopes that I could voice control it via Siri.

But I think the last firmware Airplay 2 update seems to be the only option to use voice. The Expresses do show up on the Home app in iOS and iPad OS with volume and other controls but show the no response message. Which I think is the problem with Siri voice control on them. 

Since I prefer to just know they will always be 16/44, and I have no need for Airplay 2 in various rooms at once in a small home, I'm just leaving them set as Airplay 1 and, as for Siri, oh well… will just have to use my fingers on a screen. No biggie.

One thing, and I knew this but forgot, is that when you do a bunch of changes like this you must do a hard restart and reload in your settings. Hard restart is the middle option where it stays plugged in but you press the small button in for 5-6 seconds. Soft and Factory are not what you need to do. So if you are messing around, after each firmware update or changes where the Express is amber light as it loads them in, once you get the green light, do a hard restart. More amber, some green, then amber and finally solid green. This means it is most stable and set up to work right.
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201945

And finally, again, the macOS Airfoil app overcomes most of this since it is an exclusive mode app. So, I can play to Airplay 1 and Airplay 2 speakers at the same time from a mac. The developer wrote this to me: “Airfoil transmits audio using the standards of each protocol: AirPlay specifies a 16-bit stereo Apple Lossless stream, at a 44.1 kHz sample rate, and Chromecast devices need us to send it 48 kHz PCM audio so it's properly received and played back there. So Airfoil will use as lossless an audio format as you could hope for while remaining compatible with any device you're connecting to.”

Why Apple cannot do this is a mystery.
I returned the Soundform Connect. I just did not need it.

 

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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.

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9 minutes 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).

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.

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19 hours ago, Bevok said:

 

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 :-)

As usual, forums mess up intended textual communication. Was not directed at you. Just a general PMA comment. I got you are not a PMA…
BTW: Where is a good chart or source for seeing how up or down sampling impacts audio for troglodytes? I may have transposed them. But my understanding is that (PMA trigger warning!), it really does not matter for non PMAs, especially in the case of the Apple audio chip set that handles it. Superbly, apparently.

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Interesting article from Darko that relates.

“We should remain cognizant that the Apple TV resamples all audio to 48kHz before it exits the HDMI port on the back. And if it didn’t, most TV operating systems would. That strikes hi-res streams from the menu. However, we should not let bit-perfect idealism cloud our judgement: any hit to sound quality wrought by the resampling of 44.1kHz CD-quality audio to 48kHz will be dwarfed by changes to room acoustics, loudspeakers, loudspeaker position and amplifier.”

I agree.

https://darko.audio/2023/12/why-bother-with-apple-music-when-we-have-tidal-qobuz/

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I'm still messing around with my 2022 Apple TV 4K with maximizing audio out of it (other than Atmos). I think Apple might have made Apple TVs a bit smarter with audio. Maybe in a recent update? It has been gospel that ATVs set all audio up or down to 48 kHz. As Mr. D said. But (and maybe this was always the case or with an update) if I play Apple Music ATV app on my ATV 4K, it seems to send the PCM as it is. So if it is 16/44, that is what you get. If it is 24/48, you get that. 
As long as it is strait HDMI to an AVR which in turn plays it out.
I bet if it detects a TV, it does a resample to match TV land.
Of course, if it is a 24/96, then it will play as a 24/48. Since most Apple songs are 16/44 or 24/48, this kind of makes sense and was easy enough for the Apple Music on ATV OS developer to implement.
I also recently played a rare AAC version of an album on ATV Apple Music too. I guess they never got a lossless version… 
But I do not have the right equipment to unequivocally confirm this. I am going by what my various systems are saying and what Apple Music is reporting via Control Other Speaker option on iOS and via Apple Music on ATV OS.

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  • 1 month later...

Did Apple just remove the ability to downgrade Airport Express v2 firmware from macOS on Airport Utility? I went to show someone how to downgrade to Airplay 1 and, it was missing this option. It just updated it to latest. When you click on Version number, no menu to downgrade to older version appears. Just more current version digits.

So I went to iOS and it still had that option (a menu of all the previous firmwares) and I downgraded to 7.6.9 for Airplay 1.

It was weird. Well, whatever you do, don't assume clicking on update firmware option on the Mac version will give you options. It won't. Stick with iOS Airport Utility for now.

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  • 2 weeks later...
16 hours ago, tgp-2 said:

summary in above linked Apple forum post is based on output from third party app using BluOS API, not direct observation of network traffic etc.

 

i checked again ... as far as i can tell, there's been no change ... Airplay 2 buffered streams are still lossy AAC 256kbps

 

for reference, my latest summary linked below ...

 

tgp-2 Airplay summary

Well, this is what I thought! Thanks for checking. I think Apple will not fix this and, if they do, it will be Airport 3.

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