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What the Tech: Apple Music’s lossless audio pledge isn’t as good as it sounds

Apple Music has promised lossless audio, with no extra cost to the monthly subscription fee – but there’s still a catch. Are you listening closely?

Even Apple’s most obsequious fan and believe me, that would be one hell of a tough contest would struggle to persuade you that the brand represents good value for money. The most egregious example of its profiteering is surely the Mac Pro metal stand that costs $999 (£949), but even more recently the Apple AirTag case (necessary for attaching the device to keys) is more expensive than the tracker itself.

So when it was announced earlier this week that Apple Music would upgrade its audio streaming quality to lossless levels with no price increase, Apple fans must have done a spit-take with their kale smoothie.

Enjoy the elation while it lasts, because as you mop down the screen of your iPad Pro, I’m here to rub salt in the wound by telling you why this deal is nowhere near as good as it sounds. You’re welcome.

The first ‘catch’ is not a criticism of Apple, but rather of the prestige attached to the concept of “lossless audio” itself. Few humans are actually capable of distinguishing and appreciating the difference between lossless and high-quality audio. While you might believe that you’re about to be treated to a far superior service than you could have imagined, in fact it’s unlikely you’ll actually tell the difference at all. After a busy day at the fashion parade, I can only presume that the mythical nude emperor enjoyed nothing more than listening to lossless streamed music.

Of course, lossless audio by itself is not an empty promise for everyone. If you’re an audiophile who can truly appreciate the difference, surely this is still a boon for you even if those of inferior hearing won’t reap the benefits? (And after all, you can say anything you like about them – they can’t hear you).

Actually, this really brings us to the crux of the argument: No current Apple AirPods device supports lossless audio. Not even the premium over-ear AirPods Max that cost a scarcely credible £549. None of them.

In a strange twist of fate, the most devoted followers of the church of Apple are the ones who have been the most let down by this superficially super deal; even if you have the gift of great hearing and the money to buy half-a-grand headphones, this Apple Music upgrade will mean nothing to you because of the hardware limitations. I bet that’s not music to your ears.

 

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