Apple's push into the market for noise-cancelling headphones has, for several years, been a matter of when rather than if– and it seems that 'when' could be June 22, when the tech giant kicks off its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
Said to carry the 'AirPod Studio' brand, the headphones would extend the noise-cancelling technology and 'transparency mode' of the current Airpods Pro earbuds into a more conventional over-ear model.
According to people familiar with the project, a 'premium version' will boast leather-like materials while a 'fitness version' will use lighter and more breathable materials. Both the ear pads and the headband padding would be interchangeable, similar to the modular design of the Apple Watch.
It's also said that a sensor in each earcup will detect if it's sitting over your left or right ear, and then automatically route the appropriate audio channel – so you won't even need to look for those L or R symbols before slipping the headphones on.
A companion MacOS and iOS app would unlock custom equaliser settings for low, medium, and high frequency adjustments.
As with the AirPods and AirPods Pro, the AirPods Studios would feature effortless wireless pairing with Apple laptops, smartphones and tablets, with Siri taking the helm for voice control.
Apple dials up its audio ambition
Headphones targetting the top of the market would replicate Apple’s approach with the HomePod speaker, which has received glowing reviews for its sound quality, with a follow-up also tipped for a WWDC debut.
The new HomePod speaker is believed to be about half the size of the original, while keeping a similar design and a lower price tag.
Bose, Sennheiser, Sony and Apple's own Beats division are the leading players in a highly competitive space which business intelligence firm Research and Markets estimates will be valued at $18 million this year.
Apple launched its first AirPods earphones in 2016 when it removed the iPhone’s headphone jack. The product powered the company’s wearables sales, giving it a key growth driver beyond the iPhone. The AirPods were updated with a new version in 2019 and the upgraded AirPods Pro with noise-cancellation were released in October.
The Apple headphones and AirPods are part of a broader audio product strategy that also includes the HomePod speaker and Beats headphones. Other products in the company’s pipeline include new iPhones with 5G connectivity, a Tags location accessory, lower-cost iPads and new Macs.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg