Apple Music’s roll-out of lossless and Hi-Res lossless streaming has not exactly been smooth sailing so far. Not only do Apple’s best-selling range of AirPods earbuds and AirPods Max headphones not work with lossless streaming over Bluetooth but you need to follow some steps to make it work with your iOS, MacOS devices. The THX Onyx Dongle DAC which we recently reviewed is just one example.
We think rather highly of the THX Onyx (remember to turn down the volume the first time you try it with any source) and we reached out for a bit of a cheat sheet for users who may want to try their iPhone, iPad Pro, MacBook, or iMac with it and Apple Music Lossless streaming.
We’re increasingly convinced that Apple doesn’t care about Lossless streaming and that the entire exercise has been a marketing play to get you to enjoy music and movies using Spatial Audio.
THX Onyx with Apple Music/Lossless
Subscribe to Apple Music
Apple Music on MacOS
Connect Mac > Onyx > headphone
In Audio Midi Setup > THX Onyx USB Amplifier (0 ins / 2 outs), change format to 2ch, 24-bit, 176.4 kHz
In Apple Music, go to Music > Preferences > Playback
Under Audio Quality, click the box to enable Lossless audio
Under Audio Quality, change both streaming and download formats to High Resolution Lossless ALAC up to 24-bit / 192 kHz
Note: Apple Music for MacOS doesn’t have an exclusive mode, so the macOS audio output format is dominated by MacOS Audio Midi Setup. If you’ve chosen 24-bit 176.4 kHz per above, then all Apple Music playback will be up-sampled to that rate and Onyx will show gold LEDs. We recommend 176.4 kHz because it’s an integer multiple of 44.1 kHz and 88.2 kHz, to ensure lossless up-sampling.
Apple Music on iOS
Connect iPhone > Apple Slim Camera Adapter > USBA/USBC adapter > Onyx > headphone
In iOS, go to Settings > Music > Audio Quality
Check the box to Turn on Lossless
Under WiFi Streaming, select High-Resolution Lossless ALAC up to 24-bit / 192 kHz
Play the high bitrate song “Popular Song” by Mika and Ariana Grande and confirm the LEDs show gold. Note: many Apple Lossless songs are 44.1/48 kHz which corresponds to Onyx blue LEDs.
Needless to say, Apple has not made this easy for consumers and we think it’s kinda suspicious and almost telling how they feel about “lossless” streaming versus Spatial Audio that requires far fewer steps.