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Article: Apple Music Lossless Mess Part 2: AirPlay


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On 7/9/2021 at 1:20 AM, omahapianist said:

Ok, even with all these set-ups and findings, everyone has to ask themselves - can you really, genuinely hear any differences? Or is it simply knowing that you are listening to music "bit-perfectly" that makes it "better"?

 

And even if one could actually hear any differences between a bit-perfect file and not a bit-perfect file, what does that really mean in the end, especially if a vast majority of people (audiophiles included) can't perceive any true differences. The biggest perceptible differences anyone would be able to hear is in the quality of the recordings themselves. 

 

That would all be fine if Apple wasn't selling the service as high resolution music, implying it's better.

 

Chris isn't saying we've all got golden ears, he's asking for truth in advertising.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical Ethernet to Fitlet3 -> Fibbr Alpha Optical USB -> iFi NEO iDSD DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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32 minutes ago, Jud said:

 

That would all be fine if Apple wasn't selling the service as high resolution music, implying it's better.

 

Chris isn't saying we've all got golden ears, he's asking for truth in advertising.


I’m not sure that Apple is lying. They provide high resolution music that’s at higher sampling rate than the CD and with more than 16 bits. They provide up to 23 bits out of 24 based on my testing. While it’s not bit-perfect, it is certainly high resolution and not lossy-compressed… at least up to 23 bits.

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11 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:


I’m not sure that Apple is lying. They provide high resolution music that’s at higher sampling rate than the CD and with more than 16 bits. They provide up to 23 bits out of 24 based on my testing. While it’s not bit-perfect, it is certainly high resolution and not lossy-compressed.

 

Some clever marketing staffer could give it the slogan, "Not your ordinary high resolution music!" 😉

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical Ethernet to Fitlet3 -> Fibbr Alpha Optical USB -> iFi NEO iDSD DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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13 minutes ago, pkane2001 said:


I’m not sure that Apple is lying. They provide high resolution music that’s at higher sampling rate than the CD and with more than 16 bits. They provide up to 23 bits out of 24 based on my testing. While it’s not bit-perfect, it is certainly high resolution and not lossy-compressed… at least up to 23 bits.

This is why I went down this road. Without looking into it, one has no clue if it’s MP3 or ALAC or where some DSP is taking place. 

Founder of Audiophile Style | My Audio Systems AudiophileStyleStickerWhite2.0.png AudiophileStyleStickerWhite7.1.4.png

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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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Don't get confused - FLAC and ALAC are lossless, they're simply compressed for storage purposes (usually - they can actually be uncompressed as well, which is sometimes done with FLAC because WAV doesn't have a standard way of storing metadata).

 

I'm really less concerned about any acoustic results of 16th or 24th bit alteration (though if there would be audible results from altering the 16th bit, I of course wouldn't like it) than I am about commercial/proprietary shenanigans.  Not only wouldn't I like having my use of the product limited; the history of these efforts shows they usually result in a fragmented market and consumer hassle. (Think of UPnP/DLNA non-compliant implementations, iTunes' lack of compliance with metadata standards, or various proprietary drivers for PC components and the hassles this has caused through the years.)

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical Ethernet to Fitlet3 -> Fibbr Alpha Optical USB -> iFi NEO iDSD DAC -> Apollon Audio 1ET400A Mini (Purifi based) -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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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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I think I understand all of this, but if I'm absolutely honest I have to admit that I can't hear a difference. I've got a MacBook Air M1, Cyrus Soundkey DAC and wired B&W P7 headphones but my ears can't distinguish between Qobuz Hi-Res and Apple Music's. Okay, so I've not got high end audiophile equipment but I'm just not hearing anything superior from Qobuz no matter what the science says.

And while I'm here, I can't understand the anger some audio enthusiasts are aiming at Apple Music, which is actually a general market consumer product. It's not as if they're charging extra for it, and it does actually work well, albeit with some bugs and flaws. If people are happy to pay the premium for Qobuz, Roon et al for their listening, that's great, but Apple are delivering Lossless and Hi Res to the masses, not the enthusiasts. (And don't expect Spotify Hi-Fi to be any different.)

Personally, I would have been happy if they'd limited AM to Lossless at 16/44 at launch then introduced the higher res service later, but they went for it, and all credit to them for lifting the bar and starting to retire 256k streaming. 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. 

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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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Since AirPlay ain't any good, would DLNA stand a chance or maybe it's just as bad?

 

This app NePLAYER costs a whopping $20.99 (Lite version of the same app doesn't support DLNA at all, duh) and not sure if lossless streaming via Apple Music were even supported yet

 

https://www.radius.co.jp/en/app/neplayer/

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/hi-res-music-player-neplayer/id970389374

Yz9UoKJ.jpg

 

Hard to tell why they're able to access Apple Music and how they're getting things done in the first place, given the fact that most apps out there could only support TIDAL and Qobuz etc.

 


 

It's free to try AirMusic on Android but most likely rooted devices are required for Apple Music

 

https://www.airmusic.app

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=app.airmusic.trial

https://www.reddit.com/r/Android/comments/krq85e/airmusic_lets_you_use_apples_airplay_on_android/gibd2cr/

Quote

If you use AirMusic on a rooted Android, you can stream any app directly. Otherwise you need Android 10+ and the app you want to stream must be up to date and not disallow to get recorded. Amazon Music, YouTube, Deezer and others can be streamed directly, Spotify or Apple Music require either the usage of their web-player inside eg. the 'mi browser' or a rooted Android.

 

Of course either NePLAYER or AirMusic would require another DMR (Digital Media Renderer) that's genuinely able to support bit-perfect output, there's stuff like USB Audio Player Pro that promises everything but sometimes they might end up delivering nothing

 

https://www.extreamsd.com/index.php/products/usb-audio-player-pro

Quote

With the custom HiRes audio driver inside USB Audio Player PRO, you can utilize these chips to their fullest, with bit-perfect 24-bit audio playback and all sample rates that the chip supports without resampling.

 


 

BTW, I hope that NePLAYER would actually support lossless streaming in the future if the latest version were only good for streaming the lossy AAC format. Even NePLAYER Lite could access Apple Music as shown below but it's only good for 44.1KHz by default, still good enough for testing one of those (redbook) HDCD music tracks with a direct wired connection to USB DACs instead of AirPlay / DLNA

 

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/music-player-neplayer-lite/id1047053453

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All I can say is "thank you" Chris, Jud, et al. for putting such time and effort into Red Apple Red Book streaming from the elephant's garden.

 

As usual, I type out a long description of my experience and then delete it because "thank you" is really the point. Digital hardware and software combos are endless and yes there are still some of us using Apple hardware and software upstream. You might, I think, be surprised or even amazed at how outstanding it sounds coming out the speaker end of things!

 

Regardless, thanks for doing the thorough testing you do, both high and low practical end.

Sum>Frankenstein: JPlay/Audirvana/iTunes, Uptone EtherRegen+LPS-1.2, Rivo Streamer+Uptone JS-2, Schiit Yggdrasil LiM+Shunyata Delta XC, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, ModWright LS 100, Pass XA25, Tellurium Black II, Monitor Audio Silver 500 on IsoAcoustics Gaias, Shunyata Delta XC, Transparent Audio, P12 power regenerator, and positive room attributes.

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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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  • 1 month later...

Thanks again for all the tests done but I still have a doubt regarding Apple TV.

According to my information, via Airplay version 1 any audio format is converted to ALAC 16 / 44.1 by the sending device before being sent to the receiving device.
Also based on my information, the Apple TV 4K has a fixed audio output at 16/48.

 

Apple Music sends in ALAC format up to 24/48 if lossless audio quality is selected on Apple TV 4K.

To listen to Apple Music on my Apple TV 4K I don't use the HDMI audio output but I use Airplay version 1 + Airport Express version 1.

 

I also use Apple Music + Phone X + Airplay 1 + Airport Express 1 (bitperfect at 16 / 44.1 according to the tests done here) but I prefer to use Apple TV to not drain the battery of the iPhone.

[[I use iPhone to control Apple TV remotely with the Music app (it is a pity that through the iPhone Music app it is not possible to select Airplay 1 devices available for Apple TV .. it is not even possible to select an Airplay 1 device as default audio output but only HomePod = Airplay 2 .. every time you need to turn on the TV and use the Apple TV control center to select an Airplay device 1)]]

 

My question is:

 

What happens when I receive a lossless 16.44.1 format from Apple Music on my Apple TV 4K which I then send via Airplay 1 to my Airport Express 1?

Airport Express 1 receives from Apple TV 4K lossless bitperfect ALAC 16 / 44.1?

Apple Music on tvOS, is it bitperfect like iOS at 16 / 44.1 using Airplay 1?

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 6/26/2021 at 6:05 PM, Marco Klobas said:

Since you stream from your iPhone and being the Yamaha WXC-50 an AirPlay 1, it will get a 44.1 kHz bit perfect audio, which is the maximum for AirPlay 1.

 

The AirPlay icon on iOS/iPadOS is currently always shown as AirPlay 2 even when an AirPlay 1 device is involved.

 

I used both AirPlay logos to make visually a better distinction.

 

I have an update on this subject. Introducing a DAC in the audio chain, it looks like WXC-50 (using AirPlay1) don't deliver 44.1 kHz bit perfect, will upsample to 48 kHz. I've done a few tests with Yamaha in Player mode which suppose to bypass all the internal DSP settings and so on.

 

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