A rumored update would let your AirPods support Apple Music’s lossless audio after all

A leaker claims that Apple is working on a future software update that will enable you to stream high-fidelity audio in the lossless formats on your AirPods after all.


STORY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • AirPods currently don’t support any lossless audio formats.
  • AirPods have Bluetooth, but no Wi-Fi.
  • Lossless audio streaming requires lots of bandwidth.
  • An AirPods update could implement AirPlay lossless streaming.
  • This would let AirPods stream lossless audio wirelessly.

Lossless audio may come to AirPods with an update

The era of high-fidelity audio on Apple Music is upon us, but there are still some unknowns.

For instance, will people be eventually able to enjoy Apple Music’s increased sound quality on their AirPods? Some folks were afraid that appreciating these lossless Apple Music formats will require brand new AirPods hardware because of demanding audio processing.

According to prolific leaker Jon Prosser, an upcoming update from Apple will bring the ability to wirelessly stream lossless audio encoded as ALAC or FLAC files on your AirPods. He went on to claim that the update will enable lossless audio compatibility for all three models of the earbuds: the original AirPods, the AirPods Pro and the AirPods Max.

How Apple could fix AirPods not accepting lossless audio

According to Prosser and shared by AppleTrack, low Bluetooth throughput basically acts as a bottleneck preventing your AirPods to receive a lossless audio stream from their host device. For reference, all AirPods models use the lossy AAC format over Bluetooth to stream audio.

How to use your AirPods Pro like a pro

What this update will do, the leaker says, is add a new audio format that Apple reportedly specifically created for wireless streaming of lossless audio over Bluetooth. This will be accomplished by enhancing Apple’s AirPods feature on the AirPods.

Wait, AirPods have Wi-Fi?

From Prosser himself:

I’m being told that with a simple update at any time Apple is working on allowing AirPods to work over AirPlay instead. With AirPlay, your device would use Bluetooth to discover the AirPods as devices, but once connected it would then create a personal Wi-Fi connection to stream the audio between devices. And, boom, just like that, AirPods are the first wireless headphones that stream lossless audio.

There’s just one problem with that: the AirPods don’t have Wi-Fi. The only logical explanation for Prosser’s claim is that the AirPods include Wi-Fi functionality waiting to be enabled through software, but wouldn’t the repair wizards over at iFixit have already discovered it?

On top of that, Wi-Fi is a much bigger battery suck than Bluetooth 5.0. Another possibility is that Prosser meant “personal wireless connection” instead of “personal Wi-Fi connection.”

Or, maybe he simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

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AirPlay is Apple’s device-to-device streaming technology that in its current form requires Wi-Fi for data transfer while Bluetooth is only used for device discovery. A version of AirPlay optimized for lossless streaming over Bluetooth 5.0 would be much appreciated, indeed!

Why AirPods don’t work with Apple’s lossless audio

Folks were perplexed when it was discovered that Apple’s pricey over-ear headphones, the $549 AirPods Max, cannot play the new lossless Apple Music formats. Apple later clarified that the inability to stream lossless audio pertains to all AirPods models, not just the AirPods Max.

As explained by an Apple spokesperson:

Lossless audio is not supported on AirPods, any model. AirPods Max wired listening mode accepts analog output sources only. AirPods Max currently does not support digital audio formats in wired mode.

If Prosser is right, lossless audio will soon be supported across all AirPods models.

iDB suspects this functionality builds on top of the features provided by the dedicated Apple W1 and Apple H1 chips in the AirPods. Which is to say, support for lossless audio may also be coming to certain Beats headphones that are powered by those chips, like the Powerbeats Pro.