The inexplicable failure of AirPods Max that no one understands

The AirPods Max are good headphones. Good sound, attractive design, quality of materials, compatibility with the entire Apple ecosystem, etc. Nevertheless, They have a bug, highly criticized, in the audio quality. And it is that, despite the fact that Apple presents them as premium headphones, they are not capable of reproducing Apple’s own high-resolution audio format. We explain what this bug consists of and how you can get the best performance out of it.

AirPods Max do not support Apple Loseless Audio

When Apple Music launched its big sound quality update, it incorporated new formats that, in addition to complementing the existing ones, offer greater resolution and clarity. The list of high resolution audio formats is as follows:

  • Dolby Atmos Technology
  • High Efficiency (HE-AAC)
  • High quality (AAC 256 kbps)
  • Lossless (ALAC up to 24bit/48kHZ)
  • Lossless Hi-Res (up to 24-bit/192kHz ALAC)

The ALAC audio format is proprietary to Apple, and its acronym stands for “Apple Loseless Audio Codec”. And it is a format that is found natively in Apple Music. However, AirPods Max being Bluetooth, are not compatible with Lossless and High Resolution Lossless qualities. That is to say, that by buying the highest quality headphones from Apple, we will not be able to listen to the highest quality that Apple offers in its own service. And it is not that it was a design made on purpose: Bluetooth connections are not compatible with these qualities. But neither on AirPods Max, nor on any other device.

To reproduce high-quality audio, as faithful as possible, via Bluetooth, it is necessary to acquire a wireless DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter), and that this has a suitable processor inside so that, when converting the digital audio signal , you can reproduce it with the highest quality, sharpness and depth possible. But in this case, AirPods Max are out of the equationsince these DACs are prepared to be connected to an amplification system with traditional speakers.

While it is true that, at the highest sound quality standards, the difference is in details. Like the depth that the music has, the silences, the reverberation, more range of tonalities (like those typical notes or chords that you hear for the first time, in a song that you already knew by heart). And, obviously, the higher the quality, the more sharpness and detail. However, if Apple champions the AirPods Max as its most premium headphones, they must live up to the most premium features of its services.

Apple has another problem with the Lightning connector

The way to get more performance out of AirPods Max, improving their audio quality is by connecting them by cable. In the world of audio, the cable makes all the difference. And yes, it is true that the sound quality can improve, as long as we buy the Apple-certified cable from Lightning to Jack (the only one compatible with AirPods Max). However, the problem is not so much with the cable, but with the iPhone and on the Lightning connector.

iPad 10 + AirPods Max

As the company itself indicates: “AirPods Max can be connected to devices that play lossless and high-resolution lossless recordings with exceptional quality. However, given the analog-to-digital conversion on the cable, playback will not be completely lossless.” In addition, they explain that the Lightning to Jack adapter for the iPhone only accepts “up to 24-bit/48kHz lossless audio.” And if we look again at the list at the beginning, the most premium audio format, it gets left out again. So, even though we buy the additional cable for AirPods Max, we will still not be able to listen to music in the highest resolution that Apple offers.