“Dear John”. I’ve been asked about Apple Music and hi-res more than any other topic in 2023. The gist is always the same: “How do I get hi-res audio from Apple Music and transfer it to a hifi or headphone system?” And how do I do it without loss?” Hi-res audio is generally accepted to mean 48kHz and above, with most content aimed at audiophiles coming in at 96kHz or 192kHz. Furthermore, these higher sample rates almost always come with 24 bits per sample – eight more than the sixteen in CD quality.
We did an Apple Music video and high definition audio a few years ago. We actually did two. Then we learned that: 1) Apple TV is limited to 48kHz and upconverts all incoming streams to 48kHz; 2) Sonos devices cannot exceed 48kHz; 3) Audio Midi Setup on MacOS does not offer automatic sample rate switching (we have to do it manually); 4) Bluetooth is always lossy with high resolution audio. The only way to get hi-res audio from Apple Music without dealing with resampling or transcoding was with an iPad or iPhone USB connected to an outboard DAC.
Most recently, we saw that streaming Apple Music from an iPhone to an AirPlay receiver produced some unexpected results. If the network endpoint is AirPlay 1, we get CD-quality lossless transmission — but no higher. Hi-res audio? no We might expect AirPlay 2 endpoints to fix this bug, but they don’t. They force the iPhone app to first convert the stream to lossy AAC (256kbps) before sending the data on its way. And let’s not forget: on the source side, AirPlay is only supported by Apple devices.
What about Android? Recent experiments with Android smartphones (Sony and Pixel) revealed that 24bit/192kHz and 24bit/96kHz content “sent” wirelessly to Google’s Chromecast Audio from the Apple Music app was down-converted to 24bit/48kHz by the Chromecast puck before be fed to the downstream DAC. The WiiM Pro Plus’ built-in Chromecast support takes this conversion one step further: up to 16-bit/44.1kHz. I had to double check that the WiiM digital outputs were set (in the WiiM Home app) to 24bit/192kHz. They were.
It’s been suggested to me that Chromecast, which doesn’t support ALAC—Apple’s preferred codec for lossless music delivery—might instead cause Chromecast-equipped streaming endpoints to pull AAC streams from Apple Music’s servers. I can’t confirm or deny this, but Google’s support page on Chromecast audio codec usage puts some scaffolding around the idea.
Although available at no extra cost to subscribers, high-resolution audio doesn’t seem to be a factor in Apple Music’s worldview. Everywhere we look we find a broken water pipe. According to the video above, two relatively new Android devices, each selling for iPad money, remind us that we don’t they have to live on a drip-drip-drip basis.
🎥 Camera: John Darko / Olaf von Voss
🎬 Editor: John Darko
🌈 Color: Olaf von Voss
🕺🏻 Motion GFX: John Darko
💰 Advertising segment: Yana Dagdagan
🎵 Song IDs? Playlists of all the music heard in this video – and other videos – can be found on PATREON: https://www.patreon.com/johndarko
Additional information: FiiO | Eversolo
👉 As seen in this video…
We need to talk about APPLE MUSIC and Hi-Res Audio (2021)
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Podcast: Bluetooth STILL can’t do hi-res audio BUT…
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