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Topic: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools (Read 4278 times) previous topic - next topic
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Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

For those that haven't heard, Apple is going to be offering lossless streaming starting sometime in June. You will be able to play music ay 16/44.1, 24/48 and 24/192.

I've been an Apple users since 1988 when I got my first Mac back in college. I follow Apple news. I read Apple blogs (and tech blogs in general, since I am in IT), and a listen to several tech podcasts.

And I would say every tech source I am reading is talking about the "huge leap" in quality that ALAC is going to give users over the 256K AAC that Apple offers now. No one is talking about lossy transparency.

And the people that discuss blind testing always have an excuse why they failed the blind test, and you won't. They're old. Or they have hearing loss. Or they were in a band in college and cranked their amps up too loud. Or their gear isn't good enough.

I feel like the entire tech press got turned into audiofools overnight. These same people were poo-pooing Tidal just a few short months ago.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #1
To be fair, what Apple are offering is excellent I think. The press are exposing themselves as morons (not news to anyone really).

AAC from Apple has always sounded fantastic to me - but I'd prefer lossless, especially when I'm paying. The HiRes stuff doesn't bother me either - if a studio want to supply it's customers with that then fair play, but it'll be downsampled to 44.1 before I hear it.

I fear there's going to be a lot of people buying silly external DACs now and placeboing their way to '3D' sound.

This is a step forward in reducing the pool of lossy codecs.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #2
To be fair, what Apple are offering is excellent I think. The press are exposing themselves as morons (not news to anyone really).

AAC from Apple has always sounded fantastic to me - but I'd prefer lossless, especially when I'm paying. The HiRes stuff doesn't bother me either - if a studio want to supply it's customers with that then fair play, but it'll be downsampled to 44.1 before I hear it.

I fear there's going to be a lot of people buying silly external DACs now and placeboing their way to '3D' sound.

This is a step forward in reducing the pool of lossy codecs.

Sure, if you're paying and get lossless for free, that's great. And there's a chance that using lossless over Bluetooth may offer some benefits, since you you're not transcoding a lossy codec.

But telling people they're going to hear a massive improvement in sound quality is doing them a disservice.

Apple really double down on wireless headphones and removed the headphone jack, and now they have to admit that their entire line of wireless headphones will not work with Apple Lossless.

TBH, I'm surprised no one has tried to fix the Bluetooth issue and come up with an audio only, low latency wireless protocol for headphones.

When Bluetooth 5.2 was being developed, a lot of audiofools were talking about how it was going to finally make lossless audio possible. They announced the LC3 codec and everyone cheered, because it allowed for independent streams of each channel, for truly wiress earbuds.  Then they announced the maximum bandwidth for LC3 is 345 kbps. [Insert sad trombone sound]

I feel that wireless audio needs to be decoupled from Bluetooth and made its own thing.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #3
On a sidenote lossless streaming these days from the Universal group still has the typical watermark and recent findings with Tidal content suggests the Warner group offers MQA crippled standard resolution without identifying it as such.
Is troll-adiposity coming from feederism?
With 24bit music you can listen to silence much louder!

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #4
For casual listening in a web interface high bitrate lossy is perfectly adequate. Lossless only becomes important if I can download, edit and transcode the material. It's wasteful to repeatedly download and delete hi-res. The quality of Web reissues suffers from multiple issues, such as removal of gapless transitions, loudness, ripping errors, watermark, poor tags, mixed sources, that they are not truly lossless with respect to the original in any case.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #5
For casual listening in a web interface high bitrate lossy is perfectly adequate. Lossless only becomes important if I can download, edit and transcode the material. It's wasteful to repeatedly download and delete hi-res. The quality of Web reissues suffers from multiple issues, such as removal of gapless transitions, loudness, ripping errors, watermark, poor tags, mixed sources, that they are not truly lossless with respect to the original in any case.

With respect to what original? I get the watermarks and tagging.  But what "ripping errors" are you taking about?  I would assume most lossless files on streaming services are not going to be ripped. They'll just be 16/44.1 FLACs generated from the digital masters.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #6
This whole issue seems to be reigniting the "WAV sounds better that FLAC" debate for some people. I'm sure some people will claim that ALAC is inferior to some other lossless codec, even though that's mathematically impossible.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #7
Old releases from the 80s and 90s and from small companies are often ripped from CD, and provide the best quality when that happens without remastering. Listen to "I Hear You Now" from this compilation for gross errors at 1:10 mark. This disc seems to have disappeared from YouTube and iTunes since, but it was on all platforms last year. I've encountered other examples too.

There was a thread on HA.org showing fadeouts applied to gapless transitions. Generally big labels rip and post with the setting "gaps left out", denying a continuous listening experience for the entire album.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #8
j7n, now that you mentioned Deezer, their compilations are not good.
A lot of them are mixes from different sources like you said in post above.
Everything above 16/44 is scam.
Always download first release, never remastered/HD release.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #9
To be fair, what Apple are offering is excellent I think. The press are exposing themselves as morons (not news to anyone really).

AAC from Apple has always sounded fantastic to me - but I'd prefer lossless, especially when I'm paying. The HiRes stuff doesn't bother me either - if a studio want to supply it's customers with that then fair play, but it'll be downsampled to 44.1 before I hear it.

I fear there's going to be a lot of people buying silly external DACs now and placeboing their way to '3D' sound.

This is a step forward in reducing the pool of lossy codecs.

Sure, if you're paying and get lossless for free, that's great. And there's a chance that using lossless over Bluetooth may offer some benefits, since you you're not transcoding a lossy codec.

But telling people they're going to hear a massive improvement in sound quality is doing them a disservice.

Apple really double down on wireless headphones and removed the headphone jack, and now they have to admit that their entire line of wireless headphones will not work with Apple Lossless.

TBH, I'm surprised no one has tried to fix the Bluetooth issue and come up with an audio only, low latency wireless protocol for headphones.

When Bluetooth 5.2 was being developed, a lot of audiofools were talking about how it was going to finally make lossless audio possible. They announced the LC3 codec and everyone cheered, because it allowed for independent streams of each channel, for truly wiress earbuds.  Then they announced the maximum bandwidth for LC3 is 345 kbps. [Insert sad trombone sound]

I feel that wireless audio needs to be decoupled from Bluetooth and made its own thing.

In all fairness, I've not seen anything from Apple that suggest they are telling people that there's a night and day difference between they 256kbps AAC and lossless - just some mentions of "preserve every single bit of the original audio file" which is fair enough.

I'm wondering if a firmware update will allow the latest generation of Apple headphones to support some sort of lossless BT connection. BT5.0 supports about 2mb/s I think, so it could be possible with some buffering. Also, can the big Apple headphones not be used with a wire? The over ear type...?

I don't see them selling snake oil, but they do seem to be pandering a little to the ill informed audiophile community. However, it could also be pressure from labels to support things like hires, there's a lot of fingers in this pie.

Either way, a focus on audio quality is not a bad thing in my book. I can't hear the difference in most lossy applications, but I also do not care about disc space or bandwidth.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #10
I'm wondering if a firmware update will allow the latest generation of Apple headphones to support some sort of lossless BT connection. BT5.0 supports about 2mb/s I think, so it could be possible with some buffering. Also, can the big Apple headphones not be used with a wire? The over ear type...?

Sadly no.  Even thought Bluetooth 5.o suppots 5 Mbit now.. A2DP is still limited to 768 kbps.

The upcoming Bluetooth 5.2 is going to introduce the LC3 codec, and that's a lossy codec limited to 345 kbps.

I'm not sure what the maximum bandwidth is for A2DP under Bluetooth 5.0. But it seems pretty clear that Bluetooth has no interest in natively providing lossless audio support.

And any bandwidth figures they quote is under ideal conditions.

The one thing I find interesting is that the Apple HomePod uses AirPlay 2 to play music, which is an application layer protocol riding on either WiFi or Ethernet. So, there should be plenty of bandwidth available for any kind of lossless audio. But the HomePod does not support lossless audio.

With Apple dumping the headphone jack years ago, I don't think they ever expected the market to move in the lossless audio direction ad kind of got caught with their pants down when Amazon releases lossless audio, and Spotify was rumored to release it soon.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #11
To know what Apple will do we will have to wait until June 7th. In my opinion they will allow iPadOS and macOS to use Airplay 2 in lossless, while they will not allow iOS and WatchOS. We already know that tvOS will be able to run in lossless mode.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #12
With Apple dumping the headphone jack years ago, I don't think they ever expected the market to move in the lossless audio direction and kind of got caught with their pants down...

hahaha

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #13
Audiofools can do what they want. I'm more than happy with my transparent lossy music.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #14
Apple's goal is to retain the audiophiles, who are migrating to other services that already offer lossless streaming/downloads. A low cost move to retain a small, but persistent and sometimes loud minority of users.
No matter how much you think AAC is already transparent, you're not going to convince the masses to perform blind tests. The audiofool magic propaganda is easier.

That said, I do think that if you're paying for music, you should get lossless, at least for the rare chance of a problematic sample or for conversions with more peace of mind. Even for streaming, nowadays we should be able to handle lossless audio, if we can handle video streaming. But I'd still make lossless streaming opt-in, because I don't think most people would care or notice anything if you didn't tell them and a lower bitrate stream is more reliable.

Lossless over Bluetooth is a different beast, though. Apple can't offer that, because it's just not part of the BT spec. And in my experience, maintaining a solid BT connection can be challenging when you're moving around and with obstacles and so on.
So I can see why the priority is towards lossy codecs and on lowering the latency, which the main shortcoming of BT right now, IMO. Version 5.2 is supposed to improve that (I have yet to see any real world tests).

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #15
This is very welcome news if true. You can use dual or  'hybrid' encoding to
satisfy everone. A zip file can include both aac and lossless versions.  You can move in
any direction as opposed to lossy only encodings.

Btw it has less to do with audiophile vs abx tests, but is a natural evolution long overdue.
wavpack hybrid 256k -hx4

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #16
But I'd still make lossless streaming opt-in, because I don't think most people would care or notice anything if you didn't tell them and a lower bitrate stream is more reliable.
According to what I've read, spatial will be automatic for Apple and Beats Bluetooth headphones, manual opt-in for any other headphone device. And lossless will be purely opt-in in all cases.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #17
Not that I use Apple Music, but if Spotify (which I use the Premium version of) adds lossless to premium at no additional charge, I'm still gonna stick with their "normal" quality which sounds perfectly acceptable to me on my gear.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #18
Maybe over wi-fi headphones.
exhaleFLAC

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #19
Audiofools can do what they want. I'm more than happy with my transparent lossy music.

How do you know it's transparent if you don't have the lossless original to compare? It's a slippy slope telling people that lossless is for 'audiofools'.

You seem really annoyed that Apple are giving people the option of lossless for no additional cost. I can't see a downside myself.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #20
I'm so excited and cannot wait for the lossless release. AAC is fine with the standard EarPods but not as great at home with my pro headphones. I can now delete my lossless local files and stream at home too.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #21
AAC is fine with the standard EarPods but not as great at home with my pro headphones.

256 kbit/s AAC is not good enough for your headphones? Nice. Do some ABX tests and then we can talk.
Everything above 16/44 is scam.
Always download first release, never remastered/HD release.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #22
Is it only streaming or also Apple Store ?

For streaming, HQ lossy is OK but when buying I prefer lossless.
wavpack hybrid 256k -hx4

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #23
Apple will offer lossless audio, period. They are not lying or anything.

You're correct the way they encode audio (Apple AAC at ~256Kbit/sec) is transparent for 99.9% of people out there but some people would still prefer to get the feeling they are listening to the pristine original audio and I cannot blame them for that.

Re: Apple moves to lossless audio is really making more audiofools

Reply #24
For casual listening in a web interface high bitrate lossy is perfectly adequate. Lossless only becomes important if I can download, edit and transcode the material. It's wasteful to repeatedly download and delete hi-res. The quality of Web reissues suffers from multiple issues, such as removal of gapless transitions, loudness, ripping errors, watermark, poor tags, mixed sources, that they are not truly lossless with respect to the original in any case.

With respect to what original? I get the watermarks and tagging.  But what "ripping errors" are you taking about?  I would assume most lossless files on streaming services are not going to be ripped. They'll just be 16/44.1 FLACs generated from the digital masters.

If you can verify a lossless download with AccurateRip (using say PerfectTUNES), then it was ripped. AFAIK many labels just re-ripped their own CDs, it was easier than re-mastering.

 
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