The easiest way to stream hi-res audio from Apple Music

In my earlier put up on hi-res audio on Apple Music, I detailed how Apple’s ‘hi-res lossless’ content material – 24bit/96kHz or 24bit/192kHz streams – could be downsampled or resampled by the playback {hardware} earlier than it reaches the DAC, typically unbeknownst to the end-user. To recap briefly: AirPlay and Apple TV OS are restricted to 24bit/48kHz, macOS doesn’t provide computerized pattern charge switching, Android resamples all audio to 48kHz and Google Chromecast doesn’t do gapless playback.

That leaves us with one solution to faucet Apple Music’s ‘hi-res lossless’ content material: an iPad, linked to a USB DAC with Apple’s Lightning-to-USB adapter. The latter is typically known as the Digital camera Connection Equipment or CCK. iPad Professional and 2020 iPad Air customers whose units rock a USB-C port can skip out on the CCK.

What follows will even work with an iPhone however I feel the iPad’s bigger touchscreen is healthier suited to hifi system hookups, largely as a result of Apple Music’s album cowl artwork show is extra simply seen from the listening place. (Let’s get it out of the way in which early: the Apple Distant app can’t management Apple Music streaming, solely domestically saved audio.)

Earlier than we hook up the {hardware}, we should replace to iOS 14.6 after which activate the ‘hi-res lossless’ possibility within the Apple Music settings pane: search for the drop-down menu merchandise that signifies entry to 24bit/96kHz and 24bit/192kHz content material. The following step is to seek out a few of that hi-res lossless content material. Apple Music offers us no solution to slice their catalogue by pattern charge so now we have to go a-huntin’ and a-peckin’. Neil Younger is an efficient place to begin however just a few of his albums are marked as ‘hi-res lossless’.

If you happen to’re annoyed by the paucity of hi-res audio content material on Apple Music, contemplate this: there may be no such factor as a hi-res streaming service. There are solely lossless (CD-quality) streaming companies with a sprinkling of hi-res-encoded titles — sometimes lower than 10% of the overall library. Apple Music isn’t any exception.

Punching in Neil Younger’s Rust By no means Sleeps places Apple’s ‘hi-res lossless’ emblem on the Now Taking part in display but it surely tells us nothing in regards to the stream’s pattern charge or bit depth till we press that emblem. Whats up 24bit/192kHz. The AudioQuest DragonFly’s LED color coded LED glows magenta to point 96kHz.

With out Tidal Masters’ MQA-powered audio origami, AudioQuest’s DragonFly collection of dongle DACs are capped at 96kHz. They downsample 24bit/192kHz to 24bit/96kHz to as a substitute give precedence to pocketability and sufficiently low energy draw to not want slipstreamed energy when paired with a smartphone or pill. That makes them a great selection for anybody seeking to take Apple Music’s hi-res feed (as much as 24bit/96kHz) out into the road with an iPhone.

That’s as shut as we get to a gotcha. Again with the hifi at house, connecting the iPad + CCK to a different USB DAC – one with 24bit/192kHz assist – would put a second prong on any Apple Music-aimed hi-res fork.

Slicing over to Harvest Moon turns the DragonFly Black’s LED inexperienced to point a) a CD-quality stream but additionally b) iOS’s computerized pattern charge switching (which we don’t get from macOS). Dwell Rust‘s crowd noise isn’t audibly interrupted by monitor transitions to remind us that playback is gapless too.

That Apple’s iPad and iPhone (+ CCK + USB DAC) are the one units that make it potential to stream something above 24bit/48kHz from Apple Music with out a ‘gotcha’ is a sober reminder that chasing the only a few releases out there in 24bit/96kHz (and even fewer in 24bit/192kHz) is an uber area of interest pursuit, even for audiophiles.

Additional data: Apple Music

Further ideas:

1. Selecting music in accordance with its pattern charge is a traditional case of the tail wagging the canine. In a great streaming world, we’d hit play on an album and be served one of the best out there model, invisibly and robotically.

2. Mastering high quality impacts sound high quality excess of the audio stream’s pattern charge or bit depth. The place a number of (re)masters of an album exist, streaming companies are likely to favour essentially the most recently-issued model, which, sadly for anybody who cares about sound high quality, is usually essentially the most dynamically compressed. I’m taking a look at you, Combined Up (by The Remedy). This one motive to hold on to your authentic CDs!

3. Apple Music is at present within the strategy of strolling again its enthusiasm for (hi-res) lossless audio. It now sees Spatial Audio as the way forward for music streaming as a result of it apparently delivers a extra rapid affect to the listener. Nonetheless, each Spatial Audio launch requires a studio engineer to create the combination. Meaning we could possibly be in for a really lengthy wait earlier than the format good points sufficient momentum for audiophiles (like yours actually) to view it as a severe proposition. Many people keep in mind the mid-noughties and the music trade’s preliminary pleasure for DVD-A encompass sound mixes. After which pleasure once more for DSD within the early 2010s. After which Blu-Ray Audio just a few years later. The place are they now?

4. One may argue that the appearance of the iTunes retailer in 2003 and its AAC lossy compressed recordsdata cemented the demise of CD-quality audio and that Apple Music changing its 70 million-strong library to CD-quality this yr is successfully giving us again what we as soon as had (and have) as a matter in fact with CDs.

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