Apple Music lossless via S2?

  • 8 November 2021
  • 66 replies
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I know this question has been asked (but apparently not answered) previously, but I thought I’d try again.

When listening to music directly through Apple Music on my Sonos speakers (via Airplay), I definitely notice improved quality with the new “lossless” quality offered by Apple. My ears, however, seem to think that the quality isn’t as high-fidelity when I listen to the same music via the S2 app (which, of course, is pulling the same music from my Apple Music subscription). However, I’m willing to admit that this perceived difference in quality may be psycho-somatic (since I’m still confused as to whether the S2 app is capable of accessing lossless files when it queries the Apple Music database).

Any chance either Apple or Sonos have provided an authoritative answer to this question? I.e. when S2 streams a file from Apple Music, is Apple giving them access to the lossless files? Or is Apple reserving those files for customers who are using the Apple Music interface? (For what it’s worth, I’ve noticed that music that I’ve listened to recently via the S2 app is showing-up on my Apple Music widget as “recently played”; so there’s definitely some background dialogue happening between the two apps).

Ps: the reason this matters— I would much rather use the S2 app to control music, as Airplay has unfortunately proven very unstable on my Sonos system (especially across multiple speakers) since moving to a new apartment—whereas S2 (for the most part) has been stable/reliable.

 


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66 replies

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The music from the Appel Music App plays via Port.

In the iPad's Music quality setting, you simply switch Lossless on or off.

The music plays all the time with the same volume.

You just turn the Lossless stream on or off.

When you do this, the Music continues to play, except that it is very briefly muted when you switch from the standard sound to Lossless or the other way around.

Hope this makes sense.

 

Yes, understood. So what you should get is the same volume level - but I have seen reports that Apple Music has its lossless streams play a little louder than lossy streams. Perhaps it is to get to sound better, perhaps it is some other reason. But if that were the case, that may well be the reason you are getting the effect of better sound via lossless.

 

See one link on this:

https://markellisreviews.com/apple-music-lossless-sounds-better-because-its-louder-a-follow-up/

 

I do not know if this is the case, what has made me suspicious was that my iPad gets hotter when playing with Lossless on.

It seems like the iPad is working with larger files and this is also what I think I could hear, a better sound with Lossless on.

If this is not the case then Appel has a problem with the power consumption.

Just to be devil’s advocate, the iPad could be working harder because it’s converting lossless to AAC on the fly. That would require more computing power than just passing a lossless signal.

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Just to be devil’s advocate, the iPad could be working harder because it’s converting lossless to AAC on the fly. That would require more computing power than just passing a lossless signal.


 

Correct we do not know for sure.

Therefore, it would be interesting if there was someone, as Ratty has previously suggested in this thread, who could measure the bandwith on the AirPlay2 stream.

Ps. It is possible to try Appel Music 3 months for free.

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In a not completely scientific test (other data could have been downloading at the same time), I played a 3’12” long track, indicated as lossless, 24-bit/48kHz ALAC, in the Music app (iOS 15.1), and used Airplay 2 to send that to a Beam (running S2 13.4).

I skipped ahead in a playlist so that the phone wouldn’t have already downloaded and cached what I was playing.

The phone was logged by my WiFi AP as having downloaded approx 55MB, and the Beam received 6.2MB in the same time.

The order of magnitude difference strongly suggests to me that the Music stream was received by the phone, and re-encoded on the fly for Airplay to the Beam. But 6.2MB for 3 minutes also indicates a lossy codec.

Greetings folks.  This has been confirmed through tests and confirmed by Apple this is how it works

  1. Apple Music app cannot stream lossless to Airplay 2, it converts to 256AAC
  2. Apple Music app can stream lossless to Airplay 1
  3. Apple Music app can send lossless to Airplay 2 if ALAC is saved on hard drive (self ripped DRM-free CDs)
  4. Apple Music also cannot send lossless to chromecast (for android users)

https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/bits-and-bytes/apple-music-lossless-mess-part-2-airplay-r1026/

What that article is missing is a non-Apple device. In the past, Apple has streamed different streams between their own devices than they have with devices not made by Apple. That article does not address that, one way or the other. 

That is true.  I have found most of these focus on apple devices and also too many of them are on headphones, very few on AVRs and DAPs (I have been trying to establish which DAP has bitperfect USB output and allows installation and operation of Apple Music - no luck so far)  I subscribed to Apple music for a bit on android.  I used Airplay 2 and chromecast (and a USB DAC).  I wasn’t able to measure, but I was convinced I was getting 256AAC in both cases.  I am trying to find a workaround (someone in here posted something similar which I thought was quite smart - checking router data vs Airplayed data and comparing the two.  I have installed Glasswire - not sure if it will do what I want, but worth a try.

I wish someone would simply measure the bandwidth of the Airplay stream sent by Apple Music when playing lossless (as I did with Deezer). That would confirm it one way or the other.

As I have a trial subscription to Apple Music I got around to measuring it.

When ostensibly playing ‘Lossless’ on the iPad Apple Music app the AirPlay stream to a Sonos player averaged only ~300kbps over 10 minutes. It was also pretty steady, not rising and falling with the music complexity. It looks like AAC256. 

By contrast the AirPlay stream from the Deezer app when playing lossless is around 1Mbps, i.e. ALAC.

That is foolproof

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I wish someone would simply measure the bandwidth of the Airplay stream sent by Apple Music when playing lossless (as I did with Deezer). That would confirm it one way or the other.

As I have a trial subscription to Apple Music I got around to measuring it.

When ostensibly playing ‘Lossless’ on the iPad Apple Music app the AirPlay stream to a Sonos player averaged only ~300kbps over 10 minutes. It was also pretty steady, not rising and falling with the music complexity. It looks like AAC256. 

By contrast the AirPlay stream from the Deezer app when playing lossless is around 1Mbps, i.e. ALAC.

This is pretty confusing - why would Apple allow a rival music service to send superior quality audio than their own Music app over their own protocol?

 

Is there no way then to get lossless Apple Music to a AP2 enabled Sonos Amp either via iOS or S2 app?

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I wish someone would simply measure the bandwidth of the Airplay stream sent by Apple Music when playing lossless (as I did with Deezer). That would confirm it one way or the other.

An easier and more conclusive way would be if anyone has a DAC that shows the incoming bitrate to just run this test? Many DACs do.

I wish someone would simply measure the bandwidth of the Airplay stream sent by Apple Music when playing lossless (as I did with Deezer). That would confirm it one way or the other.

An easier and more conclusive way would be if anyone has a DAC that shows the incoming bitrate to just run this test? Many DACs do.

Which DAC has this capability - to show incoming bitrate?  I have searched extensively and have been unable to find one.

I wish someone would simply measure the bandwidth of the Airplay stream sent by Apple Music when playing lossless (as I did with Deezer). That would confirm it one way or the other.

An easier and more conclusive way would be if anyone has a DAC that shows the incoming bitrate to just run this test? Many DACs do.

A DAC connected where exactly? A Port outputs 24/44.1 PCM on its S/PDIF regardless of the original source content. 

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I wish someone would simply measure the bandwidth of the Airplay stream sent by Apple Music when playing lossless (as I did with Deezer). That would confirm it one way or the other.

An easier and more conclusive way would be if anyone has a DAC that shows the incoming bitrate to just run this test? Many DACs do.

Which DAC has this capability - to show incoming bitrate?  I have searched extensively and have been unable to find one.

 

Check this out:

 

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I’m not bothered about anything over 16/44 as I just don’t buy the hires thing. I’ve tried a lot it on some decent DACs and Amp (Arcam, Linn etc) wired from a NAS and can hear no difference.

 

I’ve kept my main Monitor Audio speakers but now use Sonos Amp and soundbars / subs  around the house because it just works and has the best app and Apple compatibility - we’re a heavy  Apple household and everyone needs easy access.

 

But - would be a shame to learn that AAC is all that’s available as I do believe there is a difference to 16/44

 I just don’t buy the hires thing.

But - would be a shame to learn that AAC is all that’s available as I do believe there is a difference to 16/44

There I agree with you, where Hi Res is concerned. As to the second, Apple themselves say that there is no difference in a level matched blind test between Apple lossless and lossy, that their engineers can hear. There are some reports though, that Apple lossless streams run a little hotter so as to deliver a slightly higher sound level at the same volume control setting on the kit. If so, that will make an audible difference, but that is easy to fix.

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I also have a Yamaha WXA50 here to test and its MusicCast app shows the bit / sampling rate on any incoming audio from a NAS / Radio EXCEPT when you use Airplay, where it just goes blank. 

I also have a Yamaha WXA50 here to test and its MusicCast app shows the bit / sampling rate on any incoming audio from a NAS / Radio EXCEPT when you use Airplay, where it just goes blank. 

… which is not relevant to Sonos. Airplay encoding will depend on the characteristics of the target. Unless one can peek inside the system via the diagnostics (off limits to users) the stream bandwidth is the best, probably only, guide.

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I also have a Yamaha WXA50 here to test and its MusicCast app shows the bit / sampling rate on any incoming audio from a NAS / Radio EXCEPT when you use Airplay, where it just goes blank. 

… which is not relevant to Sonos. Airplay encoding will depend on the characteristics of the target. Unless one can peek inside the system via the diagnostics (off limits to users) the stream bandwidth is the best, probably only, guide.

This is fascinating. Can you confirm that AirPlay alters it’s bitrate depending on the target then? What if I access Apple Music from within the Sonos app - wouldn’t that cut iOS out of handling the stream?

 

I also have a Yamaha WXA50 here to test and its MusicCast app shows the bit / sampling rate on any incoming audio from a NAS / Radio EXCEPT when you use Airplay, where it just goes blank. 

… which is not relevant to Sonos. Airplay encoding will depend on the characteristics of the target. Unless one can peek inside the system via the diagnostics (off limits to users) the stream bandwidth is the best, probably only, guide.

This is fascinating. Can you confirm that AirPlay alters it’s bitrate depending on the target then?

So I’m led to believe, but I'm not really a dedicated iPerson.

 

What if I access Apple Music from within the Sonos app - wouldn’t that cut iOS out of handling the stream?

Certainly. But at present Sonos doesn’t support Apple Music Lossless … hence this thread.

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I also have a Yamaha WXA50 here to test and its MusicCast app shows the bit / sampling rate on any incoming audio from a NAS / Radio EXCEPT when you use Airplay, where it just goes blank. 

… which is not relevant to Sonos. Airplay encoding will depend on the characteristics of the target. Unless one can peek inside the system via the diagnostics (off limits to users) the stream bandwidth is the best, probably only, guide.

This is fascinating. Can you confirm that AirPlay alters it’s bitrate depending on the target then?

So I’m led to believe, but I'm not really a dedicated iPerson.

 

What if I access Apple Music from within the Sonos app - wouldn’t that cut iOS out of handling the stream?

Certainly. But at present Sonos doesn’t support Apple Music Lossless … hence this thread.

Why is Sonos fully ‘in with Apple’ by offering AP2 and now supports ‘hi res’ audio but then wouldn’t support Apple Lossless?

Anybody from Sonos on this forum that can clarify?

Why is Sonos fully ‘in with Apple’ by offering AP2 and now supports ‘hi res’ audio but then wouldn’t support Apple Lossless?

Anybody from Sonos on this forum that can clarify?

We don’t need further clarification. See https://support.sonos.com/s/article/3282

What is the streaming rate and streaming format for Apple Music on Sonos?
64kbps HE-AAC, 128kbps AAC, 256kbps AAC

 

As for when or if Apple Music Lossless will be supported that would be dependent on Apple. It’s the service which works to Sonos’ API.

If the parties are working on it you certainly wouldn’t have that confirmed here by Sonos staff. They don’t pre-announce. Rather like Apple in fact.

‘Hi res’ (so-called, in this case 24-bit) audio is available from Amazon and Qobuz because they made it so.

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Why is Sonos fully ‘in with Apple’ by offering AP2 and now supports ‘hi res’ audio but then wouldn’t support Apple Lossless?

Anybody from Sonos on this forum that can clarify?

We don’t need further clarification. See https://support.sonos.com/s/article/3282

What is the streaming rate and streaming format for Apple Music on Sonos?
64kbps HE-AAC, 128kbps AAC, 256kbps AAC

 

As for when or if Apple Music Lossless will be supported that would be dependent on Apple. It’s the service which works to Sonos’ API.

If the parties are working on it you certainly wouldn’t have that confirmed here by Sonos staff. They don’t pre-announce. Rather like Apple in fact.

‘Hi res’ (so-called, in this case 24-bit) audio is available from Amazon and Qobuz because they made it so.

Appreciate your responses.

 

Bizarre that Apple wouldn’t make lossless available on such a popular and premium brand like Sonos. Crazy in fact.

Bizarre that Apple wouldn’t make lossless available on such a popular and premium brand like Sonos. Crazy in fact.

I have a different issue with Apple Music, it won’t let me use the native app - which I prefer to the one in the Sonos app - with either Sonos or Echo in such a way that the music stream switches to those devices once selected on the native app, bypassing the phone once that is done, for music play. Both Amazon Music and Spotify allow this, so I just moved over to Spotify and in few days, I got used to that native app and now prefer it. As far as music libraries are concerned, I suspect all three would be pretty much the same.

I can’t hear any difference between Spotify or Apple lossy streams, or, for that matter, when I play the same albums ripped in Apple lossless format from my CD collection, so sound quality isn't a concern.

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Bizarre that Apple wouldn’t make lossless available on such a popular and premium brand like Sonos. Crazy in fact.

I have a different issue with Apple Music, it won’t let me use the native app - which I prefer to the one in the Sonos app - with either Sonos or Echo in such a way that the music stream switches to those devices once selected on the native app, bypassing the phone once that is done, for music play. Both Amazon Music and Spotify allow this, so I just moved over to Spotify and in few days, I got used to that native app and now prefer it. As far as music libraries are concerned, I suspect all three would be pretty much the same.

I can’t hear any difference between Spotify or Apple lossy streams, or, for that matter, when I play the same albums ripped in Apple lossless format from my CD collection, so sound quality isn't a concern.

What’s your audio setup?

What’s your audio setup?

Some zones have Connect Amps driving Quad/KEF speakers, while one zone is a Sonos play 1 pair + Sub. The Echo Show units are to confer voice command when needed, as well as album art, wired to Sonos line in jacks because the Sonos Alexa integration will probably never make it to India.