Since Apple Music offers us the possibility of listening to its entire catalog in Lossless quality, either in 48 KHz or 192 KHz, we have been talking about a topic: And how do I listen to that quality on AirPods? Well, right now the only way to enjoy the highest sound quality that the platform offers us, it is through wired headphonesand not all models, moreover.
The bandwidth of the bluetooth signal that AirPods use to receive audio from our iPhone or iPad is pointed out as one of those responsible for this limitation, but it seems that Apple has another opinion on the matter. Here’s what Apple’s acoustic team engineer Esge Andersen tells us.
Quality improvements even with existing codecs
First of all let us briefly understand the topic of music quality in digital. Music is an analog wave with billions of values and a gentle slope between two contiguous points, while its digital representation is a kind of ladder that goes up and down like the wave, but in finite amounts. There is, therefore, two variables when it comes to guaranteeing maximum similarity between the digital and analog waveformsthe width of the wave in the horizontal direction in terms of how many values I could throw (the bits) and how many times in a second we measure that position of the wave (the KHz).
What we can understand as horizontal resolution and vertical resolution gives, subsequently, a quantity of information. The higher the resolution of the wave, and therefore the higher the quality of the resistant sound, more amount of information we must transmit from the device to the headphones. And this is where the Bluetooth issue comes into play.
However, speaking in an interview with What Hi-Fi? Andersen explains that Apple does not believe that current Bluetooth technology is a limiting factor in the audio quality of AirPods. He claims that even with current Bluetooth technology and codecs, Apple can improve audio quality. He comments, however, that currently the focus of attention is on the reliability of the connection.
“It’s important to understand that we can still make great strides without changing the codec. And the choice of codec we have today is more about reliability. It’s about making something robust in all environments.”
“We want to push sound quality, and we can do that with many other elements. We don’t believe that the codec is currently the limitation of audio quality in Bluetooth products.”
In this sense, it is worth remembering the approach that HomePod mini brought us. A speaker that due to its size and physics it should sound much worse than it does, but that through an artificial intelligence engine equalizes the music to get the most out of that hardware. A resource that has since expanded to more of the company’s products and that could mean improvements to AirPods.
In fact, this is how the AirPods Pro 2 were developed, according to Andersen, since Apple formed a panel of “sound experts” giving feedback on audio quality to engineers. As Andersen himself acknowledges, “in the end, there’s some compromise, because you still can’t make it perfect for everyone.”
From this interview it can be expected that Apple can surprise us at any time in terms of sound quality. You may even be able to do it through a firmware update of the devices we already have with us. News that is undoubtedly welcome and that shows us that in the field of wireless digital sound we have not yet heard the last word (pun intended).
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