Lossless Apple Music streaming may not be available for your AirPods, but it will be for your smart speaker. Apple has pledged lossless support for the HomePod and HomePod mini with a “future software update,” according to 9to5Mac. The company didn’t say when this update would be available, or whether features like Dolby Atmos would be available on the original HomePod (which already supports Atmos for videos).
The same support document that mentioned HomePod support also states that users could use the AirPods Max with the Lightning to 3.5mm converter to listen to lossless audio, though the cable’s analogue-to-digital conversion would result in some audio fidelity loss. Via its 24-bit/48kHz DAC, the Lightning to 3.5mm adapter for the iPhone will allow lossless playback.
Because of the extra bandwidth provided by WiFi, Apple can offer lossless via HomePods. Apple claims that AirPods and other Bluetooth headphones lack the required capability.
Even if a user set up a stereo pair of HomePods, they wouldn’t expect a night-and-day difference in sound quality. There’s just so much a mainstream smart speaker can do in terms of replicating the finest details of an album. At the very least, lossless support ensures that any audio quality issues are due to the hardware rather than the source audio.