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Apple is said to be working on a proprietary high-fidelity audio format that enables lossless Apple Music streaming to AirPods.
Apple says that AirPods cannot stream lossless Apple Music files "currently," and prolific leaker Jon Prosser says that could change with an update. The AirPods, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max use the lossy AAC format over Bluetooth to stream audio and have no way to stream lossless ALAC or FLAC files.
First reported by AppleTrack, Jon Prosser shared that Apple could reveal a new audio format for improved lossless streaming. If correct, the strategy seems to mimic Apple's move with AirTag and Find My — introduce third-party compatibility first, then release the proprietary option.
Technically, it is impossible to broadcast a truly lossless audio file over the AAC Bluetooth connection that Apple uses. Furthermore, the limitations of a USB to Lightning cable for AirPods Max preclude it on that platform as well.
Unless the protocol is changed, AirPlay 2 can't be used for AirPods, as Apple's earbuds and headphones lack Wi-Fi — and that can't be added by a firmware update. A new high-fidelity format built with Bluetooth 5.0 and AirPods would have to be implemented. WWDC starting in June seems like a likely place for an announcement, should the report be accurate.
Prosser previously hinted at the potential update on Twitter, telling his followers to "wait for it" regarding lossless support for AirPods.
Apple announced multiple new features coming to Apple Music via a press release. Not only is there lossless and Hi-Res audio coming to the service, but Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio as well. The new features will arrive alongside the iOS 14.6, iPadOS 14.6, tvOS 14.6, or macOS 11.4 updates in June.
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