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Earlier AirPods and AirPods Pro models send audio over 256kbps AAC.

As I use Tidal HiFi (lossless streaming) and some offline flac/wav files, I still need to use wired headphones, and I need to get 3-4 lightning to 3.5mm jack adapters each year, as they go off often.

I'm thinking about buying the AirPods Max, but I won't buy it if it's still limited to the same 256kbps AAC recompression as the earlier AirPods.

It seems it uses Bluetooth 5.0 which by itself supports up to 2Mbps, also it may have it's own wireless chip again, so I see the chance, but I'm awaiting confirmation as Apple's marketing page didn't convince me if it's supported or not: https://www.apple.com/uk/airpods-max/

Question: Does someone know if AirPods Max support lossless audio over wireless?

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    Side note: I applied gradually increasing diameters of heat-shrink tubing around a Lightning > 3.5mm adapter to make it more rugged. I've been using one daily for about 2 years and it has not broken. It becomes a solid, inflexible cylinder. – IconDaemon Dec 8 '20 at 18:51
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It does not. Apple's current implementation of the bluetooth 5.0 specification does not allow for support of any lossless codec. And in any case the real world performance of the bluetooth chipset can not sustain 2 Mbps beyond very short ranges so you may as well use a long cable to connect it.

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There isn't any such thing as lossless Bluetooth for audio... Even Sony's LDAC is 900 Kbps. I'm listening to a 11.2 Mbps DSD Pink Floyd album as I type this on my Audeze wired headphones. With LDAC bluetooth, I'd lose 92% of the quality.

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  • Not precisely 92% of the quality though. Information have importance and the most important ones are preserved according to the codec documentation. – Joy Jin Feb 6 at 7:48
  • Yes good point my friend... – Steve Feb 7 at 15:27
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Misconceptions

256 kbps AAC files are compressed by transcoding causing further information loss to AirPods when streaming from an Apple Device.

The Reality

There is no 256 kbps AAC compression to AirPods.

Some insights

The idea can easily be called "lossless" audio because AAC audio files are not transcoded and then decoded by various Bluetooth specifications; they are simply transmitted and decoded without the transcode step.

What lossless means in this sense is that the AAC file is delivered bit-for-bit to your AirPods. Any other format will first need to be transcoded on the fly to be shrunk down to the bandwidth limitations of arbitrary audio formats like mp3.

Charts and references

You can see this in how bitrates are transcoded to constant or have encode-decode lag in transmission: Bluetooth Audio Transcoders Transcoding a 256 kbps AAC file to a higher kbps file will cause even more information to be lost as transcoding is a lossy compression technique.

For AAC, again, there is no encoding performed on the original audio, and thus the only decoding done is of the original audio stream.

More data dispelling false idea that AAC is transcoding from Apple device to Apple BT devices2: Reference: W Series Chips

References

Ref 1: AptX Variants

Ref 2: Apple Designed Processors > W series

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  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – nohillside Apr 13 at 19:05
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    Important side notes to summarise: iOS does not support aptX (only macOS does). Apple Music 256k AAC is sent without re-encoding, but Tidal MQA+/flac and seem to be re-encoded to 256kbps AAC before being sent to AirPods (the question was asked to confirm if this happens, and I asked it right after the release announcement). Also Spotify Premium 320kbps ogg sounds seems to become audible on AirPods after two lossy compressions (first the ogg, then the aac). So the "no recompression" part only applies to AAC source files including Apple Music – dszakal Apr 27 at 7:36

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