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The Computer Audiophile

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  1. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from LarryMagoo for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  2. Like
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from BassFace for an article, Audiophile Style Podcast: Episode 23 | Audirvana Interview   
    Episode 23 is up and being delivered to all the podcast platforms right now. 
     
    In this episode I interview Damien and Manuel of Audirvana about their backgrounds, the beginnings of the application, and the ins and outs of the newest Audirvana Studio release. Audirvana Studio has a few features unavailable in any other app on the planet, and it was nice to talk about the implementation of these directly with the team. The guys also give candid answers to questions about the new subscription model, Musicbrainz tagging, and where the company is headed in the future. Enjoy :~)
     
    More from Audirvana here - https://audirvana.com
     
     
    Listen via the embedded player below or subscribe on any platform.
     

    As much as I'd love to deliver this show to everyone in lossless high resolution audio, the podcast platforms only accept MP3. So, I record everything as lossless WAV files using a Neumann TLM 103 transformerless cardioid condenser microphone, then convert to 320 Kbps MP3 to give everyone the best quality currently possible. Given that I'm using a Merging Technologies Anubis analog to digital converter to record, I technically could do everything at DXD (384 kHz) or DSD256, but that's a bit over the top, even for me.
     
    A big thanks to David Chesky for allowing me to use the track East Harlem, from the album The Body Acoustic. The album can be purchased and downloaded at 24/96 from the Chesky Records site here. 
     
    All AS Podcast episodes can be found here, or you can find / subscribe on every podcast platform known to man. If I missed a platform some people use, just let me know. Here are links to the most popular platforms.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     
     
     
             
  3. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from lucretius for an article, Audiophile Style Podcast: Episode 23 | Audirvana Interview   
    Episode 23 is up and being delivered to all the podcast platforms right now. 
     
    In this episode I interview Damien and Manuel of Audirvana about their backgrounds, the beginnings of the application, and the ins and outs of the newest Audirvana Studio release. Audirvana Studio has a few features unavailable in any other app on the planet, and it was nice to talk about the implementation of these directly with the team. The guys also give candid answers to questions about the new subscription model, Musicbrainz tagging, and where the company is headed in the future. Enjoy :~)
     
    More from Audirvana here - https://audirvana.com
     
     
    Listen via the embedded player below or subscribe on any platform.
     

    As much as I'd love to deliver this show to everyone in lossless high resolution audio, the podcast platforms only accept MP3. So, I record everything as lossless WAV files using a Neumann TLM 103 transformerless cardioid condenser microphone, then convert to 320 Kbps MP3 to give everyone the best quality currently possible. Given that I'm using a Merging Technologies Anubis analog to digital converter to record, I technically could do everything at DXD (384 kHz) or DSD256, but that's a bit over the top, even for me.
     
    A big thanks to David Chesky for allowing me to use the track East Harlem, from the album The Body Acoustic. The album can be purchased and downloaded at 24/96 from the Chesky Records site here. 
     
    All AS Podcast episodes can be found here, or you can find / subscribe on every podcast platform known to man. If I missed a platform some people use, just let me know. Here are links to the most popular platforms.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     
     
     
             
  4. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from jos for an article, Audiophile Style Podcast: Episode 23 | Audirvana Interview   
    Episode 23 is up and being delivered to all the podcast platforms right now. 
     
    In this episode I interview Damien and Manuel of Audirvana about their backgrounds, the beginnings of the application, and the ins and outs of the newest Audirvana Studio release. Audirvana Studio has a few features unavailable in any other app on the planet, and it was nice to talk about the implementation of these directly with the team. The guys also give candid answers to questions about the new subscription model, Musicbrainz tagging, and where the company is headed in the future. Enjoy :~)
     
    More from Audirvana here - https://audirvana.com
     
     
    Listen via the embedded player below or subscribe on any platform.
     

    As much as I'd love to deliver this show to everyone in lossless high resolution audio, the podcast platforms only accept MP3. So, I record everything as lossless WAV files using a Neumann TLM 103 transformerless cardioid condenser microphone, then convert to 320 Kbps MP3 to give everyone the best quality currently possible. Given that I'm using a Merging Technologies Anubis analog to digital converter to record, I technically could do everything at DXD (384 kHz) or DSD256, but that's a bit over the top, even for me.
     
    A big thanks to David Chesky for allowing me to use the track East Harlem, from the album The Body Acoustic. The album can be purchased and downloaded at 24/96 from the Chesky Records site here. 
     
    All AS Podcast episodes can be found here, or you can find / subscribe on every podcast platform known to man. If I missed a platform some people use, just let me know. Here are links to the most popular platforms.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

     
     
     
             
  5. Like
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from Bevok for an article, Meet The Audiophile Style Community | Volume 16   
    Welcome to the sixteenth installment of our Meet the Audiophile Style Community series. All previous installments can be found here, in the series index.
     
    Please send me a message, email, or telegram if you'd like to participate. The response so far has been wonderful. It ranges from hardcore audiophiles to those who are more interested in numbers and graphs, and even people in the industry are eager to participate. This series is all about getting to know everyone and sharing a bit about yourself that others will find interesting. 
     
    Thanks for participating. I look forward to publishing more of these in the coming weeks and months. 
     
    Thanks to Audiophile Style community member @marioed for participating in volume sixteen of this series. As always, I love reading this stuff even more than publishing it. I say to myself after reading each one of these, you guys are so much more interesting than me. 
     

    1. General area of the world in which you live?
     
    Northern Virginia in the USA
     

    2. General description of what you do or did for a living?
     
    Currently retired; For the previous 25 years I taught mathematics, geology & physics at a High School level. Prior to teaching I worked as a geologist for a museum & a mining company.
     
     
    3. What are your hobbies?
     
    Playing music on string instruments, primarily guitar, building acoustic guitars and general woodworking.
     
     
    4. When did you start this wonderful journey into music listening?
     
    Sometime in the 1950’s I don’t remember a time without music; my mom liked to listen to swing & classical music on the radio & dad liked swing and bluegrass. One of my sisters was into the folk revival and another was into the British Invasion so there was always some type of music playing when I grew up.

     
    5. What was your first “album?"
     
    It was either “The Doors” or Jefferson Airplane’s “Surrealistic Pillow”.
     
     
    6. What does your music collection look like, number of physical records, CDs, etc... and number of “favorited” albums streamed?
     
    At the moment all of my music is on hard drive, 5221 albums. Probably about 3700 of those are ripped from cd, 400 or so are transferred from lp or tape. The rest are digital downloads. The cd’s are in storage, I sold my lp’s & turntable sometime around 2003. I still have maybe another 250 tapes to transfer to digital.
     
     
    7. What was your first audio component / stereo?
     
    My first component was an all in one turntable, amp & mono speaker probably from Sears or Montgomery Wards. My first stereo was a Garrard turntable with a Radio Shack stereo receiver & Radio Shack bookshelf speakers.
     

    8. Is there one component that you no longer have that you wish you wouldn’t have sold or that you wish you still had?
     
    A pair of Klipsch Forte speakers. Damn those were nice speakers.

     
    9. Is there one current component that you wish you had in your system?
     
    A Decware CSP 3 preamp/headphone amp.
     
     
    10. How much time do you spend listening to music each week and on which systems does this listening take place (main system, car system, mobile system, office system, etc...)?
     
    Hmm, probably 25-35 hours a week. Most of that is through my Decware SE84ufo Zen triode amp into Omega Junior 8xrs speakers.
     
     
    11. What’s the first concert you ever attended, best concert you’ve ever attended, most interesting concert venue you’ve ever attended?
     
     
     
    First rock concert was Jimi Hendrix in DC. My dad used to take me to bluegrass shows in the DC area when I was growing up & I don’t remember the first time. DC was kind of the bluegrass capitol in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. Best concert is hard to say, I’ve seen a lot of great ones. Some of them would be the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks in Colorado, Bruce Springsteen in a bar near Ocean City Md, Charlie Byrd at his club in DC, Jimmy Buffett solo at a bar in Richmond Va in the early 70’s, Stanley Clarke at The Birchmere in Alexandria Va. Tony Rice at The Birchmere. Pat Metheny at The Birchmere. Heck pretty much everybody at the Birchmere, it’s a great venue. Joe Pass at a club in DC in the 70’s. Stephane Grappelli at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, The Allman Brothers in the late 70’s at a little club in Fort Collins Co. New Grass Revival at a bar in Crested Butte Co. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet band at Jiffy Lube Live in Manassas Va. The two most interesting venues for me are Red Rocks outside Denver CO and The Birchmere in Alexandria VA. The Birchmere is the best listening venue I’ve been to and Red Rocks is the most dramatic. My wife and I usually go to at least two concerts a month.
     

    12. What components are in your current audio systems?
     
    Ok, my systems. To start I’ve been using Roon for 3 years & subscribe to Qobuz. Prior to that I was using J River. I’m using an Intel nuc i5 with Roon Rock as the source for all my systems.
     
    The Decware setup that I listen to most is a Sonore Ultrarendu > Chord Qutest dac > Jolida Foz SS-X > Decware SE84 ufo super zen triode amp > Omega Junior 8xrs Speakers. For cables the ethernet is a Supra, the usb is a Curious Cable, the ic’s are Decware silver reference and the speaker cables are Audience ohno iii.
     
    I have a second system that uses a modified intel nuc I5 running Windows 10 with Roon & HQplayer as a server into a Wyred 4 Sound Reclocker into a W4S Dac1 le via Shunyata venom usb cable The rca outputs from the dac go to a modified Jolida JD102B integrated amp via Morrow ma3 ic’s which goes to a pair of Focal Chorus 716v speakers via Morrow sp4 sc’s. The balanced outputs from the W4S dac go to a Crown xls 1002 amp with the low pass filter set at 100Hz via Wireworld oasis xlr’s. The Crown is connected to a pair of Caintuck Audio Alpha 15” open baffle sub’s via Kimber Kable 8pr sc’s.
     
    My office system is using a pc into a W4S Reclocker into a Teac ud-301 dac into Adam A5X monitors. The usb cable is a Shunyata venom and the ic’s are Wireworld oasis xlr’s.
     
     
    13. Anything else you’d like to say?
     
    I play music for fun and I‘ve enjoyed listenIng to music for over 60 years. I’ve heard great guitarists make cheap instruments sound wonderful and bad guitarists make a $10,000 guitar sound like crap. Enjoy the music with whatever equipment you’ve got.
     
     
     
  6. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from happybob for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  7. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from Exocer for an article, Meet The Audiophile Style Community | Volume 15   
    Welcome to the fifteenth installment of our Meet the Audiophile Style Community series. All previous installments can be found here, in the series index.
     
    Please send me a message, email, or telegram if you'd like to participate. The response so far has been wonderful. It ranges from hardcore audiophiles to those who are more interested in numbers and graphs, and even people in the industry are eager to participate. This series is all about getting to know everyone and sharing a bit about yourself that others will find interesting. 
     
    Thanks for participating. I look forward to publishing more of these in the coming weeks and months. 
     
    Thanks to Audiophile Style community member @Blake for participating in volume fifteen of this series. As always, I love reading this stuff even more than publishing it. I say to myself after reading each one of these, you guys are so much more interesting than me. 
     

    1. General area of the world in which you live?
     
    Salt Lake City, Utah
     

    2. General description of what you do or did for a living?
     
    Attorney
     
     
    3. What are your hobbies?
     
    Avid skier (I am fortunate to have 7 world class resorts within a 45 minute drive from my house 😍), rock climbing, golf, cycling, private pilot, doing slickrock Moab trails in my Jeep.  Interests: music, film, modern art, modern architecture and furniture, typography and graphic art.
     

     
     
    4. When did you start this wonderful journey into music listening?
     
    Around 2000.  One of my first clients after graduating from law school was Al Eckilson, owner of one of the greatest (unknown hidden treasure) brick and mortar audio shops I have ever seen, Primus Audio Pleasure in Kansas City, Missouri. 
     
    Here is an article about the shop: LINK

     
    5. What was your first “album?"
     
    Devo - "Duty Now For The Future".
     
     
    6. What does your music collection look like, number of physical records, CDs, etc... and number of “favorited” albums streamed?
     
    Currently around 300 CD's, 50 vinyl albums (I don't really listen to them anymore as I now almost exclusively stream, so I gave away most of my physical music collection). I have lots of streaming playlists with thousands of songs.  I am constantly on the hunt for new music and artists.  I mostly listen to lesser known, underground type electronic music (i.e. not the fist-bumping, cheezy DJ stuff like Skrillex...  aka "brostep"), but I do mix it up with alternative, new wave, vaporwave, goth, and reggae/dub like King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Basic Channel, etc. 
     
     
    7. What was your first audio component / stereo?
     
    My first audio system was an "all-in-one" disco console that my dad won in a golf tournament, that he gave to me- a record player, 8-track, receiver and adjustable disco lights that would pulse to the beat of the music (I think it was the basically like the model pictured below).
     

     
     
    Later in life, I basically had an assortment of boom boxes. Once I had enough money to move up from ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches I transitioned from a boom box to my first real system: Totem Arro speakers, Classe CA-100 Amp, Classe CP-45 Pre, YBA Integre CD player, Miller & Kreisel VX-100 Sub, purchased from my friend/client Al Eckilson at Primus Audio Pleasure.  
     

     

    8. Is there one component that you no longer have that you wish you wouldn’t have sold or that you wish you still had?
     
    No. 
     
    9. Is there one current component that you wish you had in your system?
     
    No.
     
     
    10. How much time do you spend listening to music each week and on which systems does this listening take place (main system, car system, mobile system, office system, etc...)?
     
    I was a new wave, punk, alternative scenester in my youth.  First Concert: at the Indian Arts Center here in Salt Lake City (a Native American cultural center that would rent out a room with a stage to punk bands to make money), headliner:  Black Flag!  I was a young teen and had no idea what I was in for as I'd never been to a concert.  Henry Rollins was a beast on stage.
     
    Here is a YouTube video with someone showing off the unique transparent ticket for this show:  
     
     

     
     
    11. What’s the first concert you ever attended, best concert you’ve ever attended, most interesting concert venue you’ve ever attended?
     
    Most Interesting Concert:  I moved to London, England with some friends after high school and my friends and I went to this infamous 1985 concert by The Jesus and Mary Chain, where a riot ensued, bobbies showed up and shut it down.  The atmosphere was bonkers.      
     
    Old video on YouTube about the show:
     
     

     
    12. What components are in your current audio systems and can you provide a photo?
     
    Various bits and bobs.  At home I have a 2-channel set up in a dedicated audio room (I have a nice wife), and in my home office I have a separate headphone setup  Office at Work: Desktop speakers/small sub.  
     
       
     

     
     
     
    13. Anything else you’d like to say?
     
     have been a member here on AS since around the first year of its existence.  Ah the old days!!  We had a few real crazy characters participating back in the day.  Anyone remember the member "prot" and his other-wordly DIY power cord experiments?  
  8. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from Stereo for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  9. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from B&WQuad for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  10. Like
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from KingfishL for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  11. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from nichino for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  12. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from Gavin1977 for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  13. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from simone for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  14. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from wklie for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  15. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from Teresa for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  16. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from Currawong for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  17. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from orresearch for an article, Introducing Hang Loose Convolver From Accurate Sound   
    Many people in the Audiophile Style community are familiar with Mitch Barnett's fantastic articles about digital signal processing, room correction, loudspeakers and their measurements, and many other topics. Mitch is a multi-talented guy who started his company Accurate Sound to offer a calibration service. I used his services extensively when setting up my Wilson Audio Alexia Series 2 speakers in my new listening room (link). Now, Mitch has put his software development expertise to work to expand the offerings of Accurate sound, with a product called Hang Loose Convolver. 
     

    What is Hang Loose Convolver and why do you need it? 
     
    As this is just an introductory article, I'm not going to go all-in on DSP or even the full product at this time. That's a great topic for another article. 
    I look at Hang Loose Convolver as a software product that serves two different sets of people. The first I'll call music lovers and the second I'll call geeks. No calls or nasty emails please, these are just rough generalizations and I know full well that many people here are in both camps. Splitting the audience into two camps will help me explain why I think this product is game changing for almost everyone in HiFi. 
     

    The Music Lover
     
    I'm using the term music lover to describe people who don't know / care much about software, measurements, or how they are derived, and they just want to listen to music that sounds as good as possible. I have many friends who are in this camp. 
     
    Without turning this into a how-to or academic article, I'll briefly say that a convolution engine is a piece of software that processes convolution filters. Convolution filters are created for several reasons, among them room correction. Applications such as Roon and JRiver have built-in convolution engines to which a zip file of convolution filters can be added. Once the filters are enabled, the convolution engine processes the audio behind the scenes when the listen presses play. There's nothing to do but listen. 
     
    DSP and room correction have come a VERY LONG WAY over the years and now offer performance beyond what most audiophiles have ever heard. However, there are still holes in many convolution solutions offered by the main playback and library management applications. This is where Hang Loose Convolver takes us to another level. 
     
    I'll cut to the chase for music lovers. With Hang Loose Convolver, we can now use high end room correction while streaming audio from services such as Qobuz and Tidal, to DLNA renderers (endpoints). The last sentence needs a bit more explaining though. For years I've been searching for an application that supports streaming services, DLNA, convolution filters, and can use the convolution filters while sending audio over DLNA. There are a few terrible solutions out there that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Now, using Audirvana or the new Audirvana Studio in combination with Hang Loose Convolver, it's finally possible to use room correction / convolution filters with DLNA audio endpoints and audio from both local and streaming services. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!
     
    Of course Hang Loose Convolver isn't limited to only DLNA. I just get excited about that because it's a first. HLC also works with any audio component that one's playback application can send audio to over USB, DLNA, or whatever other means one uses. 
     
    When I worked with Mitch to create my convolution filters for room correction, he sent me several different filters to listen to before I decided on my favorites. There is not a single best filter. Listening to different filters wasn't a completely seamless process because switching between them involved stoppages in playback. Hang Loose Convolver solves this issue because it can load up to six different filters and enable the listener to easily switch between them, all level matched, in real-time, without a hiccup. Just click the big buttons and the filter switches. Extremely simple.
    On the Hang Loose Convolver site there are images of it being used with Audirvana, Roon, JRiver, and HQPlayer to name a few. I've personally tested it with both Audirvana 3.5 and the new Audirvana Studio. 
     
    Again, there is so much more to cover that this introductory article glosses over. Much more to come at a later date. 
     

    Geeks
     
    I'm using the term geek to describe those who understand more about the whole convolution process, what's required, how it works, and the pitfalls pf previous products. Readers in this camp will certainly hop over to the Hang Loose Convolver website and understand most of what I'm about to say and obtain much more information. 
     
    HLC's key features include: Seamless real-time switching between filters Autogain level matching  with manual gain adjustment Import Acourate, Audiolense, Focus Fidelity, REW filters Supports stereo 32-bit float wav FIR filters in a zip file Automatic filter switching  based on host  sample rate 6 Filterbanks x presets = dozens of FIR filters System-wide and app specific convolution capabilities Zero latency, uniform partition convolution engine Standalone application mode and VST3/AU plugin mode  
     
    Wrap Up
     
    There's much more to come here at Audiophile Style about Hang Loose Convolver. I have a good feeling that tons of AS readers can benefit greatly from it. If you don't quite understand it or don't see how it can help you, I know @mitchco will be here to answer all your questions in the comments below. This brings me to another point, Mitch Barnett is one of the nicest, most helpful, and honest guys in the audio business. I recommend his services and now his application without a scintilla of hesitation. I say this both for end users and for audio companies. I think many audio companies could use Hang Loose Convolver in their products because it's extremely light weight and runs on nearly any platform in use today. I'm looking at you music server manufacturers who really should have convolution engines in their products :~)
     
     
    Product: Hang Loose Convolver
    Price: $129
    For more information see - https://accuratesound.ca/
     
     
     
  18. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from Calvin & Hobbes for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  19. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from orresearch for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  20. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from GoldenOne for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  21. Like
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from R1200CL for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  22. Upvote
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from JoshM for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  23. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from RickB68 for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  24. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from ASRMichael for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
  25. Thanks
    The Computer Audiophile got a reaction from tapatrick for an article, Apple Music's Lossless and Hi-Res Mess   
    This morning I've been testing Apple Music's new lossless and Hi-Res offerings on both my iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and my Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4. In my tests, I'm only concerned with playing the music bit perfectly, in other words without making any changes to the audio. If Apple Music says it's streaming lossless audio, then I want to stream that audio losslessly, rather than accidentally converting it to lossy AAC or MP3 etc... Whether or not people can hear the difference is a topic for another discussion. I'm just making sure I can play the music in its original form and that Apple is sending true lossless and Hi-Res to my audio devices. 
     

    Let's Dig in

    What is bit perfect and why should I care? In the simplest terms, bit perfect means that the audio hasn't been changed. The music sent, in this case from Apple Music, into the playback device hasn't been altered. The source is what has been delivered to Apple by the record labels. Apple is just the delivery company.
     
    If you care about high quality, getting the lossless streaming you're paying for from Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, Amazon Music, etc... then you should care about bit perfect because without it you have no idea what's happening to your audio. If this isn't a concern for you, no worries. 
     

    Testing Methodology 
     
    Device 1
    My Apple iPhone 12 Pro running iOS 14.6 and the Apple Music app. I connected the newest version of the Apple Camera Connection Kit to the iPhone, so I could attach a USB Audi interface, and feed power to the phone and interface. 
     
    Device 2
    Apple Mac Mini (M1) running macOS 11.4, and Apple Pro Display XDR, and USB audio interface connected to the ports on the back of the display. 
     
    I use the following testing methodology to test Apple Music. 
     
    The USB audio interface is a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha USB that accepts USB input and outputs audio over AES/EBU or S/PDIF (BNC). 
     
    I use a Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC Reference Series 3 that identifies and decodes HDCD on all sample rates from 44.1 up through 192 kHz. When an unaltered HDCD music track is played, the HDCD indicator on the DAC is illuminated. The HDCD flag is on the 16th bit for lossless CD files and the 24th bit for high resolution files. Any alteration, DSP, volume leveling, etc... changes this least significant bit and won't enable the HDCD indicator to illuminate on my DAC. Apple Music's lossless audio that I tested was 16 bit / 44.1 kHa and the Hi-Res audio was both 24 bit / 176.4 kHz and 24 bit / 192 kHz. That's the hardware piece. 
     
    With respect to source files, here's what I do. 
     
    I have a list of roughly ten known HDCD albums (although I could use more if needed). Many of these albums were only released as HDCD encoded CDs/files. There is no alternate lossless version. For example, Reference Recordings only releases CDs that are HDCD encoded. Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs was only released as an HDCD master for its lossless CD version. 
     
    I set a baseline by playing my own local copy of the albums and make sure the HDCD indicator illuminates. I played some Reference Recordings albums through Apple Music on macOS and made sure the app could handle bit perfect playback. All was good there. On iOS, I used used other apps such as Qobuz, to play the identical music through the identical hardware. All was good through the Qobuz app. Again, there are no alternative versions of these lossless albums. It's the same music on all the services that offer lossless streaming.
     
    Absolutely there are possible holes in my methodology, but I believe I've minimized them as much as possible. If anyone can identify a hole, please let me know and I will retest. 
     
     
    Test Results
     
    On macOS, I found no way to play bit perfect lossless or Hi-Res audio from Apple Music. In addition to a couple other nonsensical issues that I'll get into later, Apple is doing something to the music it streams. 
     
    Test 1, streaming Pearl Jam's Live On Two Legs release I was able to illuminate the HDCD indicator for the first couple seconds of playback. After this, the light went out for good, even if I skipped to the next track. When I clicked the play button to start the entire album over again, the HDCD indicator illuminated again for a few seconds. If I had to guess, I'd say this is because of watermarking mandated by the major record labels. Apple has a perfect copy of the album on its servers, the perfect copy starts, but then something changes in the stream that causes the music to not be bit perfect. I'm open to all input on what this could possibly be, but watermarking is my best educated guess for now. 
     
    Test 2, streaming the Reference Recording's album Exactly Like This from Doug MacLeod, displays different behavior and bolsters my aforementioned watermarking theory. This album, from a very small independent record label that I don't believe watermarks it's music, alters between bit perfect and not bit perfect. Upon playback, the HDCD indicator is on sometimes then off for a period of time, then back on etc... I really don't have a good guess for why this happens. I originally thought maybe an adaptive bit rate issue caused it, but even after downloading the tracks to my device offline and playing them, the problem remained. 
     
    Test 3, streaming the Reference Recording's album Break The Chain from Doug MacLeod produced the identical behavior. The only difference here was that the album was Apple's Hi-Res offering at 24 bit 176.4 kHz. Again, no solid bit perfect playback. Something is happening to the music. 
     
    A note about Apple's Hi-Res offerings that makes this a real mess. On Macs running macOS / OS X, the Apple Music app looks at the sample rate in Audio Midi upon the app's launch. Whatever same rate is set there, is the sample rate that Apple Music will use for playback as long as the app is open. OK, fine you say, Apple Music lossless is probably 16 bit / 44.1 kHz and that can be set in Audio Midi. Sure, now for the mess. Apple Music Hi-Res is be definition not 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. It go up through 24 bit / 192 kHz. OK, you can run through the whole dance closing Apple Music, manually setting the sampan rate in Audio Midi, then reopening Apple Music and off you go. Oh no you can't. Apple Music doesn't tell you what the sample rate of its Hi-Res music albums. Thus, you have no idea at what sample rate to set Audio Midi. 
     
    UPDATE: To find the sample rate of the album and play it correctly you have to play a track, click the info button to reveal the sample rate, change Audio MIDI to correct sample rate, restart Apple Music, play the track again. 
     
    How did I find the same rate? Fortunately, the Apple Music app on iOS has auto sample rate switching, which enabled me to get the rate, then sixth back to my Mac to run the tests. This was good because I could see the bit perfect audio stream for the first few seconds once I had the correct sample rate set. 

    Note: the Qobuz app plays this music bit perfect on my Mac.
     
     
    On iOS, as I just mentioned, we have the high benefit of automatic sample rate switching when playing music in Apple Music. The results for Test 1, 2, and 3 were identical on iOS as they were on macOS. Bit perfect for the first few seconds of major label albums. Bit perfect on and off for Reference recordings' albums. Apple Music on iOS switched between outputting 44.1 to outputting 176.4 without an issue. If only the audio would remain bit perfect during playback, it would be a great solution. 
     
    I will note that the Qobuz iOS app played everything bit perfect, but there needs to be an asterisk. For some reason Qobuz resamples the 176.4 Doug MacLeod album Break The Chain at 192 kHz on iOS rather than 176.4. I checked Neil Young's greatest hits to make sure I cold stream 192 material bit perfectly from Qobuz and succeeded. iOS and iPhones are fully capable of bit perfect audio at 176.4 kHz, so I'm not sure why Qobuz is resampling the RR releases. 
     

    What About mQa?
     
    There is interesting news on this front. Some labels have snuck mQa material into Apple Music just like they have on other services. Users of Apple Music can search for mQa and they'll see some albums such as the Radka Toneff Fairytales album. The albums playback as mQa on a DAC in my system that is a full mQa decoder. 
     
    I checked a number of other albums that have appeared on Tidal as mQa only and didn't find mQa for these releases on Apple Music. 
     
    As readers of Audiophile Style know, I'm no fan of mQa and am very pleased it hasn't made its way into more releases or officially into Apple Music. Those who may be reading this as fans of Apple Music, rather than typical audiophile offerings, and aren't familiar with mQa, can get the gist of it and the company from the following videos.

    Part 1 - https://youtu.be/pRjsu9-Vznc
    Part 2 - https://youtu.be/NHkqWZ9jzA0
     

    Wrap Up
     
    As it stands now, Apple Music's lossless and Hi-Res offerings are a bit of a soup sandwich. You can't really stream the audio without some type of DSP going on that makes the music different from the lossless version on CD and on other lossless services. My guess is digital watermarking. In addition, it's not possible to get a consistent lossless or Hi-Res stream for other music that I tested, such as that from Reference Recordings. When I ran into similar issues with Amazon Music HD, using its apps just like I used the Apple Music apps, I was happy to find the Amazon Music HD streams lossless and Hi-Res through third party devices from Bluesound. Given that Apple doesn't integrate with Bluesound, I can't test this. Apple does integrate with Sonos, but as I found previously (link), the new Sonos Port can't stream bit perfect either, so a test on that platform would be useless. 
     
    I will happily update this article if there are holes in my tests or something else changes. As it stands now, I don't know of any holes and I stand by these conclusions. 
     
     
     
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