This week, Apple's iTunes Music Store began selling some songs in a new audio format that the company says has two advantages over its previous offerings: The tracks are free of digital rights management (DRM) restrictions, meaning you can play them on devices other than an iPod, and they have higher audio quality. The new iTunes Plus tracks also come at a premium: $1.29 compared with $0.99 for the old format.
The excitement of the anti-DRM crowd was dampened when it came out that Apple is embedding personal information about the buyer, including name and e-mail address, in each purchased song. But the question we wanted to consider is this: Can you really hear a difference between tracks encoded at 128 kbps (Apple's old format) and 256 kbps (the new format)? Back in April, the Explainer said probably not. For a different verdict, we offer this video by Scott Blaszak: