In 2016, Apple's AirPods burst onto the scene and changed the audio landscape forever. It remains the case today; head outside, count the ice-white 'Pods. And more tellingly, count the dupes – imitation is the sincerest from of flattery.
Cut to September 2022 however, over a year since Apple casually rolled out hi-res audio at no extra cost to Apple Music subscribers, and a new set of AirPods Pro arrives, still missing the key feature all Apple Music members want.
My beef with the new AirPods Pro? Lack of support for Apple Music's own Lossless and Hi-Res Lossless streams. It's a feature which no AirPods can currently relay in full – no, not even the flagship AirPods Max. I hoped that might change this time around, but no. It does feel as if Apple is continuing to snub its own loyal devotees here.
See, when Apple Music launched the free Music rollout, it simply told subscribers to use wired headphones for Lossless and to add a DAC for Hi-Res Lossless – adding that "Bluetooth connections aren't lossless".
The problem with this statement today? Other brands have managed it – see the excellent, $229 Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro, which can wirelessly stream 24-bit audio from services such Apple Music when connected to a recent Galaxy phone, using Bluetooth 5.3 and the new 'Samsung Seamless Codec'.
Then, there's the NuraTrue Pro, which included support for lossless Bluetooth audio even before any source device capable of delivering it had been released. Now, such devices are in existence – and the resulting audio made me doubt my hearing.
Where does all of this leave Apple? Well, a little behind the times… if the company changed tack and made the high-end wired headphones or portable DACs with which to enjoy its top-tier output, I would sing its praises. But Tim Cook's behemoth persists with wireless buds, and bizarrely, it seems to be struggling…
Opinion: I won't be switching until Lossless is on the menu
I applaud Apple for adding on-ear volume control to the newest AirPods Pro (even though it's tricky to get the hang of) and an extra-small ear tip option, but these are hardly cutting-edge advancements in 2022 – see the $20 JLab Go Air Pop.
The popularity of the Cupertino giant's AirPods is indisputable, despite their high price-tag and initially questionable audio credentials – both the originals and the updated AirPods (2019) gained 3.5 stars from us under review, thus nixing them from our best true wireless earbuds guide.
Now, there are improvements that ought to be celebrated – and celebrate them we have! Whether or not they're too ubiquitous to be cool, the noise cancellation is now excellent, thanks to a billion transistors. I've heard it, it's like the bottom simply drops out of the room and you're living only in your head.
And the Personalized Spatial Audio is inspired, adding an extra layer of insight through the mids during my time listening to them. If you own a set of AirPods Pro (either iteration) or AirPods Max and haven't set this up yet, I urge you to do so today.
All things considered though, it's all still a little… disappointing; shocking even, when you think of the manpower working at Apple Park. Perhaps it was wrong to get my hopes up for the second-gen. AirPods Pro, but if anyone can deliver wireless, lossless streaming of its own content, surely it's Apple?
Until I can get Apple Music Lossless from my iPhone to my AirPods, I'll be sticking to my old $30 EarPods.
Get daily insight, inspiration and deals in your inbox
Get the hottest deals available in your inbox plus news, reviews, opinion, analysis and more from the TechRadar team.
Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.