Rumors have been circulating about the new design of AirPods for a long time. (Many still call them AirPods 3, but there never was an AirPods 2). Depending on who you listen to, these will arrive at WWDC in the fall or next week. They were supposed to accompany the new Apple Music subscription that launched on Monday, but they didn’t.
While a new design for AirPods is welcome, this subscription premium Apple Music is not. Hifi music has always been pure marketing, a way to attract audiophiles and their money. It never stops curdling, mainly because it’s not necessary.
Now that Amazon and Spotify have also added hi-fi plans to their services, it’s no wonder Apple has added a new option. lossless to Apple Music, but I wish it hadn’t, even if it didn’t cost more.
The graveyard of high fidelity audio
Apple isn’t the first company to try to convince music lovers to need high fidelity sound. Not the second. Not the fifth. High fidelity, high resolution digital audio has been a part of our lives since before the iPod, when there was a format war between DVD-Audio and Super Audio CD to see who would replace your CD player and most of your music without it. right.
Music lovers record CDs in formats lossless like FLAC. Apple even has its own ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec), which is now open source and royalty-free. Although these formats have been on the market for a long time, they never became to integrate.
Do you remember Neil Young’s PonoPlayer? Or from Tidal, the artist-owned service known to ask you more for hi-fi streams? Spotify is launching a HiFi plan, which could be why Apple is doing the Apple Music Lossless thing. Oh.
There are many reasons why music products and services fail, but it seems like everyone who claims to deliver “superior sound” ends up coming to an end.
Almost no one can hear the difference
There is a good reason. And it is that modern lossy music compression is very good at removing only the audio information that we cannot hear. The truth is, when you test it, most people cannot tell the difference between lossless audio and lossy audio (e.g. 256kbps ACC, currently offered by Apple Music) .
Maybe one in a thousand people have a good ear that has been trained enough to hear the differences. Even if this is the case for you, you will need a device that can faithfully reproduce these small differences: set-top boxes, amplifiers, speakers or headphones. Oh, and you’ll also need the perfect environment to listen well.
Biological, environmental and tech stars must line up for the music lossless Hi-Fi may sound slightly better than modern music with high quality loss.
People like to convince themselves that they are one of those few, as if you are better to be able to appreciate the music lossless Hifi stereo. You’re not special, that’s okay, and modern lossy audio compression is amazing.
Do you want to try it for yourself? Take the Digital Feed ABX test. This is the best measurement for testing the audio quality that I have seen. Don’t feel bad if this indicates that you probably can’t tell the difference between lossy audio and lossy audio. Almost no one can!
A solution in search of a problem
Hi-Fi music, or lossless, or high resolution, or whatever the last term of marketing it fails because it is not a problem that needs to be solved.
Every now and then a new product will appear in that space and you’ll read flowery reviews from audiophiles that say it “keeps the heat in”, or sounds “spacious and detailed,” or “crunchy,” or some other odd combination of Adjectives . What you won’t see are the analysts doing a blind test.
When we know that we are listening to sophisticated sound, we can convince ourselves that it sounds better. Tell someone that they are going to listen to a $ 10,000 amplifier and that they will be delighted with the quality.
By doing a blind test, we will see that the Emperor is not wearing any costume. Modern compressed audio is capable of reaching the limits of human perception and the sound reproduction capabilities of very expensive devices (such as AirPods Max).
The second part of Apple’s announcement, on the other hand, is fantastic. Allowing 3D spatial sound in music and applying it to all AirPods and Beat headphones with H1 or W1 chip will benefit subscribers.
While the catalog of lossless High resolution will be limited to output, Apple will be able to use it to recreate spacious sound (especially useful for live recordings) that is only possible on Apple Music and Apple headphones. This is a real benefit that users will notice.
But following Spotify and others on the path to “hi-fi music” is the same unnecessary marketing strategy. This road leads to a ravine and it still is.
Original article published in igamesnews US.