The AirPods Studio look imminent, and it sounds like they're the new wireless headphones to beat. Apple is tipped to be working on a high-end set of cans that could give the best noise-cancelling headphones a serious run for their money.
Apple already dominates the wireless earbuds market with its highly popular AirPods and AirPods Pro, but a dedicated pair of premium cans could help it compete with the likes of the Bose 700 — and the excellent new Sony WH-1000xM4.
Apple has yet to officially reveal the AirPods Studio, but they could launch as soon as this fall alongside the iPhone 12 and Apple Watch 6. Here’s everything we know so far about the AirPods Studio, including its expected price, release date, features and more.
AirPods Studio news (updated November 13.)
- The iOS 14.3 beta features an icon representing the AirPods Studio, giving us a glimpse of an alternate design
- Apple has delayed the AirPods Studio, meaning they likely won't be arriving before the end of 2020.
AirPods Studio release date
The AirPods Studio had been expected to launch this fall, but the headphones' actual release date appears to be a moving target.
Frequent Apple leaker Jon Prosser says that the AirPods Studio hit major production hiccups and will be released in December "at best." However, the headphones could be pushed all the way back to March 2021. He also says features have been cut but doesn't specify which ones.
Prosser initially claimed that the AirPods Studio won't complete mass production until October 20. He also speculated that the headphones would be revealed via press release at the end of October, similar to the latest MacBook Air and iPad Pro, though it never happened. It’s possible that Apple will debut the headphones or bring attention to their existence at the upcoming “One More Thing” event on November 10th, though Prosser believes they will be the “headliner” announcement at Apple’s next major event on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
Okay, how about “One More Thing” ? After this November ARM Mac event, the next Apple Event (currently a digital event) will happen on Tuesday, March 16, 2021 🗓Event headliner will be AirPods Studio (B515) https://t.co/UxqQr6je1c pic.twitter.com/oCxVhg3owbOctober 16, 2020
A new report also has the AirPods Studio delayed, likely until 2021. A source familiar with Apple's headphone work has said that problems with the AirPods Studio's headband has forced Apple to push back the release of its over-ear headphones.
AirPods Studio price
You'll want to sit down for this. The latest leak from Prosser suggests that the AirPods Studio could retail for a whopping $599, which would be around $200 more expensive than top noise-cancelling models like the Sony WH-1000XM4 and Bose 700. Prosser also suggests that there could be a sport-focused model available for a cheaper $349.
AirPods Studio 🎧 The renders that I shared last month seem to be the luxury variant — made of leather/metal.I’m being told they’ll retail for.... $599 😳There will be another sport-like variant made of cheaper materials for $350.They WILL NOT be at the October 13 event. https://t.co/awunRlGrD4 pic.twitter.com/le2cfmlC9POctober 9, 2020
Interestingly, that $349 price tag also appeared in a previous leak from May 2020. So, it appears that at least one version of the AirPods Studio will have a pretty standard price tag for a pair of ANC headphones -- the real question is whether this purported $599 premium model really exists.
Looks like Apple is sticking with the “AirPods” branding for their new over-ear headphones. AirPods StudioCodename: B515$349May 9, 2020
AirPods Studio features and specs
The AirPods Studio are tipped to feature active noise-cancellation as well as a Transparency mode for hearing the world around you, similar to the AirPods Pro. But here’s where they could really stand out.
According to a report in 9to5Mac, the AirPods Studio will feature head and neck detection. So, playback could be automatically paused when you place the headphones on your neck and automatically resume when you put them back on your head. There’s also the possibility of these headphones featuring wind cancellation, a feature that is listed in a patent discovered by Patently Apple; this was granted to Apple in November 2018.
In addition, the AirPods Studio will reportedly feature automatic ear detection, which would automatically route audio to the correct ear. In other words, there would be no wrong way to wear the headphones.
Adding weight to these rumors of head and ear detection are a tip from leaker l0vetodream that suggests that the AirPods Studio will feature Apple's U1 chip that's currently found in the iPhone 11. In addition to better positional tracking, this chip could also theoretically make it easy to find your lost AirPods Studio via your iPhone.
In a first for Apple headphones, 9to5Mac also reports that the AirPods Studio will have a custom equalizer. This would be available on iOS devices and Mac computers, with low, medium and high frequency adjustments.
The AirPods Studio are also expected to have the same pairing tech as the AirPods Pro (which means the H1 chip may return), as well as touch controls and Siri support.
AirPods Studio design
In terms of design, Bloomberg claims that the headphones will have a “retro look” with swiveling earcups and metallic arms. In a fuzzy-looking video that just leaked out, we could see fixtures that resemble those for swiveling earcups.
Jon Prosser tweeted out 5 design details, including that they'll have no headphone jack — but there's a USB-C port — and that they will be made out of "High quality leather [and] metal." He also included 5 renders, created in collaboration with @cconceptcreator.
More images 👇 pic.twitter.com/kRI0M5eSF4September 16, 2020
More important, Apple’s new headphones will feature swappable ear pads, allowing owners to “customize their headphones like they do with Apple Watch.”
This could theoretically let you swap in a specific pair of pads for working out, and then switch to a more comfort-focused fit when relaxing at home. Bloomberg also notes that the headphones may be sold in a premium leather variation as well as a more fitness-minded configuration.
Apple leaker, Fudge, also tweeted a grainy photo showing what he believes is a sporty version of the AirPods Studio. Look closely and you can see that the headband padding and ear cushions are covered in a HomePod-inspired mesh material that should provide great comfort and breathability.
Probably Sport variant of Apples headphonesPersonally not impressed, looks too much like 2 Palm Pre's attached to 2 tuning forks :/ hard to unseeLooks a lot like what @markgurman described in April, but with homepod mesh pic.twitter.com/dzAufRRl7mSeptember 16, 2020
A new patent from Apple suggests that the AirPods Studio could have a design that's both "circumaural" — which covers the external part of the ear — and "supra-aural," which rest on the ears without covering them completely. Such a design would seemingly tread the line between noise isolation and avoiding bulky ear cans. The patent also hints at a design that would allow the AirPods Studio to be easily folded away in a bag or carry case.
The iOS 14.3 beta also includes an icon assumed to represent the HomePods Studio, though this features larger earpads than the designs we've seen so far. It could be that this is the alternate model we've heard about, or possibly just a generalised icon that people will recognise.
AirPods Studio: What we want
With noise cancellation and swappable earcups for a Bose-beating price, the AirPods Studio could be a hit. But we’d like to see the headphones get these features to truly compete with the best headphones out there.
Great battery life: Apple’s AirPods earbuds have a history of relatively low battery life compared to the competition (usually lasting around 5 hours), so we’d like to see the AirPods Studio step things up. The Bose 700 is rated for 20 hours, so we’re hoping the AirPods Studio can at least match that, as well as offer the option to disable the feature for battery preservation.
Transparency mode: Transparency mode is one of the AirPods Pro’s best features, allowing you to let in noise from the outside world with a quick press. This feature would be a natural fit for the AirPods Studio and could rival the Full Transparency mode found on the Bose 700. Apple may even want to see how it can blend ANC and Transparency modes together, much like Bose did on the QuietComfort Earbuds noise-cancelling earbuds, which makes ambient noises sound clearer and more distinct.
Companion app and customization: Bose and Sony offer companion apps for their headphones loaded with sound customization features, which would make a great compliment to the AirPods Studio. We already expect the headphones to have plenty of physical customization -- a tweakable EQ for audiophiles would make them even better.
Even better microphones: As good as the AirPods Pro are, using them for conference calls can be a pain, as we've found that we have to speak loudly in order to be heard clearly. The AirPods Studio will hopefully feature stronger mics for better voice performance.
AirPods Studio Service Program: Apple just launched a service program for the AirPods Pro to fix any major audio problems you experience with the buds, free of charge. This covers issues like crackling/static noises and ANC not working properly. With the AirPods Studio likely carrying a hefty price tag, it would feel reassuring to know that Apple is willing to fix any broken headphones.