Ever since Neil Young remarked that he had talked to Steve Jobs about a high-resolution audio player before the Apple co-founder’s death, rumors have come and gone about the company making a foray into high-resolution audio. Now another similar rumor has arisen, though it doesn’t have anything to do with a standalone music player.
At the Portable Audio Festival in Tokyo this weekend, sources who were exhibiting products at the festival and were said to be familiar with Apple told the Japanese website Mac Otakara that the company was working on developing hi-res audio streaming. Aiming for a 2016 release, the technology will stream at 24bit/96hKz and would presumably be used for Apple Music.
Music streamed in this format couldn’t be listened to via a standard headphone jack, as it would be down-sampled to CD quality 16bit/44.1kHz, but there is already a solution in place. Earlier this year, Apple introduced the ability to transfer audio signals via the Lightning connector on its devices.
Several headphone manufacturers have already introduced headphones that take advantage of this capability, though there is a caveat: Currently, while Apple devices can play 24-bit audio over Lightning, it is limited to 48kHz.
This new functionality has led many to speculate that Apple intends to kill off the 3.5mm headphone jack on iPhones, and opt for a Lightning-only approach. Instead of only being compatible with Lightning-enabled headphones, such a connector could also allow standard headphones to be used with an adapter.
If Apple does intend to do away with the current headphone jack on some or all of its devices, promoting the use of high-resolution audio could be intended to be a way to take some of the sting away for consumers. Whether this would simply apply to Apple Music or to iTunes and other audio features as well remains a guessing game at the moment.