What is Apple Lossless Audio?

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alex mathos25 May 2021Last Update : 1 year ago
What is Apple Lossless Audio?

After many leaks and speculations, Apple decided to waste the beans and officially announced two major upgrades to its Apple Music service. Apple Lossless Audio and Spatial Audio are the new audio weapons that are supposed to challenge Spotify and other platforms that offer high-resolution audio resolution.

The upgrade comes to all subscribers in June at no extra cost, and some pending questions just ask to be answered. What is Apple Lossless Audio? Is it better than MP3? Can you listen to lossless sound using your AirPods? Read on to find out!

What is lossless sound?

Let us first lay some foundation without being overly technical. The idea behind sound digitization dates back to the early 19th century, when the French mathematician Joseph Fourier devised some mathematical equations that can be used to describe any waveform as a series of numbers.

Sound is analog in its kind, and every digital music format is not lossless, at least in theory. Let’s take the sound quality of the Compact Disc as it is the widely accepted standard for lossless sound.

On many CDs you can see something like 16 bit / 44.1 kHz written somewhere. This means that the recording uses “snapshots” of the original sound 44,100 times per second. The 16-bit number shows only the audio palette that the system can distinguish between.

When this information is converted back to sound, it is assumed that the human ear cannot distinguish the result from the original. So far so good. Music files encoded in this way tend to be quite large – though not practical for streaming purposes, wireless transmission, etc.

Lost formats like MP3 remove unnecessary information such as silent passages, frequencies that the human ear just can’t hear, etc. Whether or not you can really hear the difference, it’s pretty subjective. You can take this test and see if you can spot the lossless sample.

Is Apple Lossless better than MP3?

Apple has developed its own lossless audio compression technology called the Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC), and it supports 16-bit / 44.1 kHz (CD quality) and even encoding up to 24-bit / 192 kHz (even more information is stored during encoding treat).

So the answer to this question is “Yes”. On paper, this new ALAC technology is better than MP3 when it comes to audio information preserved in the music file.

Is Apple Lossless as good as FLAC?

FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) is another coding technology that became popular among audiophiles within the last 20 years. It offers audio resolutions from 16-bit / 44.1 kHz up to 24-bit / 192 kHz, so it’s very similar to Apple’s own lossless format.

However, the algorithms behind Apple Lossless Audio are not as efficient as those used by FLAC, resulting in larger files in general. That said, the sound quality should be pretty similar, then another “Yes” on this.

Can you listen to Apple Lossless Audio using AirPods, AirPods Pro or AirPods Max?

Surprisingly, the answer to this question is difficult “None”. AirPods use Bluetooth connectivity and unfortunately Bluetooth just can’t handle the energy and bandwidth requirements of lossless audio formats.

How can you listen to Apple Lossless Audio?

You can listen to lossless on an iPhone or iPad updated to iOS or iPadOS 14.6 using their built-in speakers or by connecting to wired headphones / speakers. The same goes for your Mac, provided it is updated to macOS 11.4.

Lossless support is coming to Apple HomePod and HomePod mini in a future software update, so if you own one of these, stay tuned.

You can also enjoy Apple Lossless on an Apple TV 4K by connecting it to an AV receiver using an HDMI cable. Just make sure your system is updated to tvOS 14.6.
Another thing worth mentioning is that you will need to delete your music files and download them again from the Apple Music directory to get them in lossless audio.

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