Debates over whether you can hear the difference between 256 kbps or 320 kbps lossy compression and uncompressed CD quality (or hi-res) will likely go on forever, with plenty of AB/X test evidence to indicate it makes no real difference for most music and most listeners, nevertheless Wednesday May 17 2021 will mark the 'beginning of the end' to the lossy compression era of music.

Ultimately, Apple's domination of the headphones market (it also owns Beats) and its longtime involvement in downloadable, and then streaming digital music (iPod was the catalyst), puts the company in a position to dictate when and what the next big shift in personal music consumption looks like. And what it looks like, is an embrace of Spatial Audio, and in particular the Dolby Atmos flavor of 3D immersive sound for music. And, it looks like offering the entire catalog of music on iTunes as lossless streams.

At no extra cost for subscribers. Which is the real whopper. We'll see how it shakes out, but by making these features part of the package everyone subscribes to, Apple has drawn a line in the sand... no longer is lossless and 360 sound a premium tier subscription, what you need (of course) is the hardware to actually use it. And that is where one can expect Apple to truly flex its muscles and score a win off this move.

Time will tell, but it looks like Apple's dominance in the headphones market is not going anywhere. After all, Apple's Airpods Pro are compatible with spatial audio and these days sell for (just) under $200.

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Apple AirPods Pro

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A truly impressive feat of design and engineering, the Apple Airpods Pro is a tour de force in terms of True Wireless earbuds. They are comfortable, sound great, are feature-packed. Usually offered some sort of discount, the price is actually quite good for what you get. Apple hit a home run with the AirPods Pro, and while they work best with iOS, they are also a great choice for any other Bluetooth source (like an Android phone).

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  • Includes three sizes of silicone eartips
  • Adaptive EQ adjusts to the shape of your ear
  • Effective noise canceling
  • Sounds great
  • Over 24 hours of battery life with included charging case
  • Water resistant