Apple Beats headphones could get cheaper — here's how

Beats headphones
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you own a recent pair of Beats headphones you might appreciate the its Apple W1 chip, which enables fast and seamless connectivity with iPhones and iPads. However, future Beats products could drop the W1, as Apple is reportedly tapping MediaTek to produce processors for some of its future audio releases.

That’s according to a report from Taiwanese outlet United Daily News, spotted by PhoneArena, that MediaTek has entered Apple’s supply chain via its subsidiary Airoha. Apple will supposedly receive shipments of the new chips “in February or March,” meaning we could see new Beats headphones in a matter of months.

While MediaTek is probably more famous for its cheap smartphone chips, both it and Airoha have extensive experience producing hardware that ends up in headphones. The impressive Sony WF-1000XM3 true wireless earbuds, for example, uses a Media MT2811 chip. This, in turn, heavily resembles a rebranded Airoha AB155x processor. More generally, Airoha’s specialization in wireless tech also lends itself particularly well to Bluetooth headphones, of which the Beats lineup is entirely comprised.

What does this all mean for you? Well, swapping the W1 chip for a MediaTek slice of silicon could lead to Apple creating cheaper Beats headphones. Think of these as an affordable but less capable take on the AirPods. Or perhaps even a pair of cheaper optional headphones you could bolt on to your next iPhone purchase, like the iPhone 13

The W1 could remain in higher-end Beats models while the more affordable headphones get a cheaper, if not as well-featured, Airoha chip. Despite Apple’s reputation for premium pricing, the Beats range does offer numerous low-cost headphones like the Beats Flex, which is currently part of our best workout headphones list. A lower-spec chip could open the door for even more affordable headphones.

Given that Beats remains an Apple brand, it seems unlikely that Cupertino would completely give up the iOS-specific benefits that come with the W1 chip — namely faster, more reliable connections and native compatibility with the AAC audio codec. So it could also be possible that MediaTek/Airoha is manufacturing the new chips to copy some or all of the W1’s specs, saving Apple the costs of producing its own processor in greater numbers.

Either way, we won’t know for sure until Apple officially reveals its next Beats headphones, which could also share tech with the rumored AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.