Apple TV: Poor Audio Quality

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Apple’s specs do not indicate sampling frequency conversion. In fact, they don’t even mention sampling frequency (kHz) with regard to audio formats. The specs for video formats indicate that only 48kHz is supported. Indeed, it appears that 48kHz is the supported sampling frequency for audio. That’s very odd, as music downloaded from iTunes is 44.1kHz.

This seems par for the course as Apple becomes more consumer oriented. Perhaps most average consumers will not notice this. If you listen to modern popular music, mastered with oodles of program compression, you might not be able to hear this. If you listen to classic/progressive rock, classical and jazz, or other music with a wide dynamic range, you will hear these artifacts.

Thank goodness I didn’t sell my Amphony system. I once again use it to play music on my stereo. I use Apple’s Remote Control app for iOS to control my iTunes library with my iPhone or iPad. I don’t see the album art on my TV. Instead, I turn off the picture on my TV and turn off the display on my Mac. It saves electricity. Of course, if I wanted the album art, or the iTunes visualizer, I could use AirParrot to display it on the big screen.

The Apple Remote app displays the album art on your iOS device. If you want to beam the visualizer onto your TV with AirParrot, you can press a “button” on the Apple Remote app to turn the visualizer on. There’s no need to go into the other room or use a remote desktop app to control the Mac, which would just add more complexity. I prefer to keep it simple. I just play my music onto my stereo via the Amphony transmitter, and turn my TV and Mac monitor off. In the end, the audio quality is what matters. It is disappointing that Apple TV 2 and 3 offer an inferior music listening experience. This is nothing new for Apple. I stayed away from iTunes until they offered music in the 256kbps AAC format. Instead, I bought CDs and ripped them into iTunes using the Apple Lossless converter. Apple is a consumer electronics company. Their motto should be “give me convenience or give me death”. Apple has no problem sacrificing quality for convenience. (continue…)

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2 comments

  1. You are so right about the poor sound quality. This terrible practice of converting audio needlessly from one format to another (some iteration of PCM in this case) continues on with the Apple TV 4K version.
    And it degrades the sound from streamed movies and TV shows too, not just from music!
    Unless a streamed video is in Atmos, any Dolby Digital Plus audio is converted to whatever
    lackluster sounding PCM format Apple TV uses, and the conversion is very poorly done. The highs are stepped on and the dynamics are severely reduced.
    I’ve done A/B comparisons against a plethora of other streaming players and the native Dolby Digital Plus from programs or movies played on other devices ALWAYS blows the Apple TV’s converted-to-PCM version of the audio out of the water!
    The build quality of the Apple TV is excellent compared to most streamers, but Apple’s we-know-better (even though they don’t) attitude exerts itself once again by their insistence on needlessly converting ALL audio (except Atmos) to PCM–and doing it badly.
    Apple’s only rather lamely offered alternative is to turn ALL audio to compressed Dolby Digital, which sounds very lackluster from this device anyway, so there’s really no point–and which also stupidly prevents hearing ANY Atmos at all, the ONLY audio format it would otherwise play right!
    How truly idiotic!
    Other streamers, from the inexpensive Roku to the spectacular (but as costly as an Apple TV) Nvidia Shield 4K, from bluray players with streaming apps to the built-in streaming apps on TV sets, ALL sound better than ANYTHING you can get from an Apple TV. Honestly, even the Atmos doesn’t sound as punchy or dynamic as it does from most other players (but that is a different subject altogether).
    Other players ALL let you play the program or movie’s NATIVE audio (some players come out of the box set to convert the audio, but ALL I’ve tested except Apple TV let you bypass this function in the menus if you care about the sound, which I do–I honestly wouldn’t have co-invented the DVD Audio music disc format once upon a time if I didn’t care about sound quality).
    Apple, as usual, doesn’t give you the option. That would actually give the control to THE USER instead of to Apple–and we know how Apple hates to do that.
    Apple must always be different from the rest of the industry too. But, it never seems to occur to Apple that maybe everyone else in the industry decided to do something a certain way for a reason. In this case they did. It’s too bad nobody at Apple seems to have ever realized it–otherwise this idiotic practice would not have continued through SO MANY different generations of the product.
    Well, their egotistical attitude of insisting that that always know better, or that giving the user more choice would only result in their screwing things up, takes it’s toll by destroying the actual PERFORMANCE of what would otherwise be a really great product.
    Too bad they won’t accept reality and fix it. It would probably only require a simple firmware update to do–yet, they never have and probably never will offer such an update.
    Oh well, that’s Apple for you.
    Buy an Nvidia if you want the best picture and sound quality, buy the Apple TV if performance doesn’t matter to you, but you like the Apple operating system or want it to mesh with your other Apple device’s infrastructure.
    Just keep in mind that if you have a great sound system, and care about the sound, you should prepare to be underwhelmed by the audio from the Apple TV.

    1. Well said. Apple has always been mediocre or worse when it comes to audio quality. The iPod was never an audiophile device. Apple Music has the worst audio quality of any music subscription service. I use Amazon Music HD.

      Audio distortion with Apple TV has been a problem for a decade. They don’t seem to be able to fix it. I thought it was my TV, then I set up my mom’s Apple TV and hers had the same issue. Even the sound effects are distorted. It’s like they got Skinny Puppy to do sound design. (Actually, Kevin would do a much better job.)

      They’ll just spend time on marketing it as revolutionary. Tim Cook is a marketing guy. I always wished Steve put Craig in charge of the company. I think Apple would have been so much better off.

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