It’s not quite official yet, but Apple will be coming out with self-branded, over-the-ear headphones dubbed the Apple AirPods Studio, possibly within the next few weeks or days.
Past tweets and leaks all point in this direction, and with a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) application for “totally wireless high-performance earphones” being approved, it’s only a matter of time. The question now is, “When?” Also, we can’t help but wonder what they’ll look like, the features they’ll have, and how much they’ll cost.
Here’s everything we know about Apple’s rumored headphones.
There are some discrepancies about when exactly these new Apple cans could be released. Before Apple’s September 15 event, at which it launched new iPads, Apple Watches, and a fitness subscription service, expectations were high that the AirPods Studio would also take a bow. That didn’t happen, which makes Apple’s upcoming October 13 iPhone event the most likely place for an AirPods Studio reveal.
It’s easy to assume that the next Apple event will herald the launch of a rumored product, and as we’ve seen, it doesn’t always pan out that way. But this time is looking different: At the end of September, Apple quietly began removing third-party audio products from the online Apple Store as well as the company’s many brick-and-mortar locations.
It’s not a guarantee that we’ll see the AirPods Studio debut, but this is as close to a smoking gun as it gets. It’s also consistent with a Bloomberg report based on an anonymous source which suggests that the AirPods Studio will be released in October alongside several other Apple products.
Just how these new Apple headphones are going to look is an interesting subject. On April 7, tech analyst Jon Prosser leaked details about the headphones, saying that they’d be similar to Beats’ over-ears or the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
Around the same time, a Bloomberg report indicated that Apple could be planning a customizable approach, with ear cushions and headband pads that will be magnetically attached and thus easily swappable.
You ready for this? ????
Apple Over-Ear Headphones
(Think Beats 700)
Aimed for WWDC
(think Beats X)
Aimed for Sept/Oct
☝️ Probably what DigiTimes thought was “AirsPods Pro Lite”
End goal: phase out Beats ????
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) April 7, 2020
In May, Prosser tweeted out the reportedly official name for the new over-ear headphones: The AirPods Studio. This, plus leaked icons spotted earlier in the year, supports the claim that Apple will opt for a Bose-like aesthetic.
Looks like Apple is sticking with the “AirPods” branding for their new over-ear headphones.
— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) May 9, 2020
Several additional, unconfirmed leaks surfaced in September with more clues about the design. Self-proclaimed Apple leaker/analyst Jioriku posted a Twitter thread suggesting design elements like a “high-quality soft-touch finish,” linear adjustment to aid fitment, and earcups that fold inward to be stored in an Apple-branded carry bag.
Alright I spoke with someone who has had some hands on time with final prototypes of the AirPods Studio. According to his individual judgement, if you’re dead set on using Siri (why do you like hurting yourself?) then DON’T by any Sony WX offerings (1)
— Jiorīku ???? (@Jioriku) September 2, 2020
None of this is official, of course, meaning it’s the words of Apple leakers against the silence of the company itself. A recent US patent application first spotted by Apple Insider seems to back up the leaked information, however, detailing features like the ability to “automatically (detect) the orientation of the headphones on a user’s head.”
Website 9to5Mac has reported on a number of alleged specs for the AirPods Studio, citing multiple unnamed sources close to the project. Among these, features like neck detection and active noise cancellation (ANC) stand out.
According to 9to5Mac, the AirPods Studio will be able to detect when they’re being placed on your head and play or pause content accordingly. Neck detection will allow the headphones to stay on when you have the device around your neck with the music paused.
The site also says the AirPods Studio will have active noise cancellation, plus a transparency mode to be able to let outside noise in when appropriate. We expected this because Apple won’t be able to compete with industry leaders like the Sony WH-1000XM4 without both of these features.
Revisiting the leak tweets from Jioriku, the headphones may also have native NFC pairing for non-Apple devices, capacitive touch gestures on the earcups, and an earcup cupping gesture that enables an ambient sound mode, which would mirror many of Sony’s features.
His unit was set up to use one hand over either left or right ear cups to activate the mode that boosts outside audio and turns music down. Brand new chip for even faster pairing and longer battery life. Expect over a day with normal use, moderate is one day and heavy is 8h (7)
— Jiorīku ???? (@Jioriku) September 2, 2020
One more feature that’s being reported is custom equalizer settings when paired with a Mac or iOS device, allowing listeners to adjust low, medium, and high frequencies to their liking.
It’s also highly likely that Apple will give the AirPods Studio the same spatial audio feature that was just added to the AirPods Pro, which increases the sense of realism and depth when watching movies that have at least 5.1 surround soundtracks.
That’s it as far as we know in terms of leaked specs, but we have a few more items on our AirPods Studio wish list…
Sony’s over-ears can last up to 30 hours on a single charge, which sets the bar fairly high for what kind of juice premium headphones need to have. Very few ANC-equipped headphones last longer than this, but wireless battery life, in general, is on the upswing.
Apple’s track record in the true wireless earbud space has been to deliver just enough battery life to keep its customers happy, which likely means we won’t see a new endurance record with the AirPods Studio.
There are even fewer details about the audio quality of the Apple headphones than there are about features. But Apple has a solid track record in the audio landscape, and anything it comes out with is expected to sound great.
In his tweets, Prosser said the new Apple headphones will cost $350. If this is true, they’ll be firmly in the price range of the $400 Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 and the $350 Sony WH-1000XM4, as well as other solid options like the Shure Aonic 50. That’s exactly where Apple has enjoyed playing in both the headphone and true wireless earbuds spaces so far: Not quite the most expensive option, but very close.