Not Quite Max

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 1 min read


Listening to lossless audio on an iOS device will require wired headphones compatible with the ALAC format, and possibly a digital to analog converter. That the $549 ‌AirPods Max‌ do not work with Apple lossless is sure to upset some fans, but there is debate about whether most people can even tell the difference between standard and lossless audio formats.

Apparently my Sony WH-100XM3 headphones won't work either, which is a bummer, too.

What if I told you this last year:

In 2021 Apple is going to release $549 over-the-ear headphones that are trumpeted as the greatest sounding headphones basically any consumer could ever buy. Then they're going to upgrade Apple Music to lossless quality music for free, and they're going to believe in it so much they'll take over the main page of the Music app to get people excited about it. Of course, those fancy headphones and that fancy audio will be incompatible with each other, even over a wire.

You'd say I was crazy! That's some classic Apple-style hardware and software integration, right!? Hell, I might have been pushed to start saving up for the AirPods Max if they could use this new feature! But alas, that's not a perk.

I am interested to see how Spatial Audio works for music. It's a cool surround-sound feature for movies and TV, but I'm not sure how relevant it is to music. Most music is mixed in stereo, so Apple Music already does that, and it's not like I'm looking for music to be swirling around me or anything, so I'm a bit perplexed what this will sound like. I do know a very select few records get mixed in 5.1 surround sound, but as far as I can tell they're very rare, so it's not like everything is instantly going to sound like the musicians are all around me (Apple does say more records in the future will be compatible, though).

Anyway, color me intrigued by Spatial Audio, and a bit let down by lossless not working on the AirPods Max (even if I also think lossless audio is basically a placebo for most people).