Apple says lossless audio on the USB-C AirPods Pro requires both the updated H2 chip and support for the faster 5GZ wireless frequencies.
Only the updated second-generation AirPods Pro with a USB-C charging case sport a new version of the H2 headphone chip in each earbud, which brings support for the faster 5GHz wireless band that’s required for lossless audio. Faster wireless allows more data to be transferred, which equals better audio quality.
The Apple H2 chip in the previous second-generation AirPods Pro and the H1 chip in the original model are limited to the slower 2.4GHz band. In other words, you need both the newer H2 chip and the faster 5GHZ wireless networking to enjoy lossless audio on the USB-C AirPods Pro in conjunction with the Vision Pro headset.
Why only USB-C AirPods Pro support lossless audio
Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of Sensing and Connectivity, and his colleague Eric Treski, a director of Product Marketing, explained the situation in a video interview with Brian Tong published on YouTube.
To bring in lossless and ultra low latency audio to Vision Pro, many things have to work. Shorter latency lossless means bigger bandwidth. So you need a much more pristine wireless pipe to communicate between the two. And with the new AirPods Pro, we are able to run it at 5 gigahertz.
If you think back, Bluetooth typically runs at 2.4 gigahertz, which is quite a messy and noisy airspace. And so, Apple Vision Pro and AirPods Pro are now able to communicate at 5 gigahertz. In addition to H2 allowing us to build a new audio protocol, it’s also the cleaner airspace that allows us to to do that and USB-C AirPods are now 5GHz capable.
So there you have it…
Apple H1 vs. Apple H2
You can enjoy lossless audio on Apple Music via your iPhone, iPad or Mac through a pair of wired headphones or the built-in speakers (including on the HomePod) at up to 24 bits at 192 kilohertz. By comparison, lossless audio on the USB-C AirPods Pro is a bit less than that at 20 bits and 48 kilohertz.
The first AirPods Pro with the H1 chip were released in October 2019 in the United States, featuring Bluetooth 5.1 and the 2.4GHz band of wireless frequencies.
Three years later, Apple launched the second-generation AirPods Pro with the same H2 chip as before and Bluetooth 5.3 support. In 2023, the company launched an updated second-generation AirPods Pro. Aside from a USB-C charging case, these earbuds use Apple’s updated H2 chip with support for the 5GHz wireless band.
Other Apple devices lack a headphone chip
As Apple’s executives mentioned in the interview, the Vision Pro headset also has the H2 chip so people can stream lossless audio from their headset to the earbuds.
Because the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch lack this headphone chip, you cannot stream lossless audio from the latest iPhone 15 to the USB-C AirPods Pro.