“Dear John”. I have been asked about Apple Music and hi-res more than any other topic in 2023. The general gist is always the same: “How do I get hi-res audio out of Apple Music and into a hifi or headphone system? And how do I do so losslessly?” It’s generally accepted that hi-res audio means 48kHz and above with most audiophile-aimed content coming in at 96kHz or 192kHz. Furthermore, those higher sample rates almost always come with 24 bits per sample — eight more than CD-quality’s sixteen.
We made a video about Apple Music and hi-res audio a couple of years ago. In fact, we made two. Back then, we learned that: 1) the Apple TV is capped at 48kHz and resamples all incoming streams to 48kHz; 2) Sonos devices can go no higher than 48kHz; 3) MacOS’s Audio Midi Setup offers no automatic sample rate switching (we have to do it manually); 4) Bluetooth is always lossy with hi-res audio. The only way to get hi-res audio out of Apple Music without concerning ourselves with resampling or transcoding was with an iPad or iPhone USB connected to an outboard DAC.
More recently, we have seen that streaming Apple Music from an iPhone to an AirPlay receiver produces some unexpected results. If the network endpoint is AirPlay 1, we get the lossless transmission of CD quality — but no higher. Hi-res audio? Nope. We might expect AirPlay 2 endpoints to right that wrong but they don’t. They force the iPhone app to first downconvert the stream to lossy AAC (256kbps) before sending the data their way. And let us not forget: on the source side, AirPlay is supported only by Apple devices.
What about Android? Recent experiments with Android smartphones (a Sony and a Pixel) revealed that 24bit/192kHz and 24bit/96kHz content ‘sent’ wirelessly to Google’s Chromecast Audio from the Apple Music app were down-converted to 24bit/48kHz by the Chromecast puck before being fed to the downstream DAC. The WiiM Pro Plus’s built-in Chromecast support takes this down conversion a step further: to 16bit/44.1kHz. I had to double-check that the WiiM’s digital outputs were set (in the WiiM Home app) to 24bit/192kHz. They were.
It’s been suggested to me that Chromecast not supporting ALAC – the codec favoured by Apple for lossless music delivery – might be causing Chromecast-equipped streaming endpoints to pull down AAC streams from Apple Music servers instead. I cannot confirm or deny this but Google’s support page on Chromecast’s audio codec usage puts scaffolding around the idea.
Despite offering it at no extra cost to subscribers, hi-res audio doesn’t seem to factor into Apple Music’s worldview. Everywhere we look we find leaky plumbing. Per the above video, two relatively new Android devices, that each sells for iPad money, remind us that we don’t have to live with the drip-drip-drip.
🎥 Camera: John Darko / Olaf von Voss
🎬 Editor: John Darko
🌈 Colour: Olaf von Voss
🕺🏻 Motion GFX: John Darko
💰 Ad segment: Jana Dagdagan
🎵 Song IDs? Playlists of all music heard in this video – and other videos – can be found on PATREON: https://www.patreon.com/johndarko
👉 As seen in this video…
We need to talk about APPLE MUSIC & hi-res audio (2021)
HI-RES AUDIO and APPLE MUSIC done right! (2021)
No, Bluetooth cannot deliver hi-res audio
Podcast: Bluetooth STILL can’t do hi-res audio BUT…
Sonus faber Duetto
Streaming platform by Roon
Cables and power products by AudioQuest
Hi-fi furniture and speaker stands by Solid Steel
Room treatment by Vicoustic
Darko.Audio may earn a small commission from items purchased via affiliate links, which are indicated with a ‘🛒’.