Apple iPod Max, AirPods Max 2 conceptualized for lossless playback
Apple may have introduced lossless audio on Apple Music along with its proprietary codec but folks at 9to5Mac noted that the Cupertino-based company doesn't have audiophile-grade headphones or players yet. Their concept envisions Apple launching lossless-audio capable iPod Max and AirPods Max 2, which stream audio over WiFi or the old-fashioned 3.5mm auxiliary audio jack. Here's a look at their concept.
Before we take a closer look at the concept proposed by José Adorno and Parker Ortolani from 9to5Mac, it's important to note that there are no reliable rumors suggesting Apple may go this route.
Apple may have launched Apple Music Lossless and Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC), but official support documentation explains that none of the current-generation AirPods, AirPods Pro, AirPods Max can play lossless music. That's because the aforementioned devices rely on plain-vanilla Bluetooth technology that can stream MP3 audio at 320 kbps only. Additionally, Apple itself clarified that lossless audio isn't supported over a Lightning cable.
Apple's support documentation recommends listening to lossless audio using your device's (iPhone/iPad/Mac) speakers or an external digital-to-analog converter (DAC). Apple TV 4K can stream lossless audio to AV receivers over HDMI. HomePod devices will receive an update soon that enables lossless playback.
Apple confirmed that the AirPods Max cannot play lossless audio even over a wired Lightning to 3.5 mm connection due to the analog to digital conversion in the cable. 9to5Mac suggested that since it's the original iPod's 20th anniversary, combined with the fact that Apple's flagship headphones aren't lossless audio capable, it's time to bring back the headphone jack on the AirPods Max 2.
Additionally, the concept also features the iPod Max. Reminiscent of the original iPod, the concept renders show off the device with a square display and the original iPod click wheel. The concept suggests the iPod Max could have Apple Music, Podcasts, Audiobooks, and Apple News. The Files app could help users curate a high-quality music library without adding them to the Music app.
One of the concept's creators, Ortolani, suggested that Apple could upgrade AirPlay so the AirPods Max 2 can receive a 24-bit, 48 kHz music stream over WiFi. For the iPod Max concept, the creators have outfitted it with a three-inch Retina display, an Apple S6 processor with a W3 chip, support for AirPlay 3, and 512GB of solid-state storage.
The Apple S6 chip is what powers the Apple Watch Series 6 and 512GB of storage should be adequate for around 50,000 lossless songs. However, Apple was the first to ditch the headphone jack and it is probably wishful thinking that it would revive that just for lossless audio. Nonetheless, Apple can certainly borrow some pointers from this concept.