Yahama has announced a new pair of over-ear headphones, complete with premium 3D sound features that could give the Apple AirPods Max a run for its money.
In addition to active noise cancellation (ANC), the Yamaha YH-L700A’s party trick is a combination of 3D sound and built-in head tracking. This sounds a lot like Apple’s spatial audio feature, which works with head tracking on the AirPods Max — except the YH-L700A makes the feature available on both iOS and Android.
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Whereas spatial audio relies on music and movie soundtracks being mastered for Dolby Atmos, another 360-degree sound format, Yamaha’s 3D Sound Field tech uses the company’s own Cinema DSP processing. This converts stereo sound into multi-channel audio to produce more a more immersive, 360-degree surround sound effect.
With the Yamaha YH-L700A’s head tracking, you should be able to move around while the origin points of certain sounds — like a particular instrument track, or a one-off sound effect — retains its original position in the 3D space.
Again, this sounds a lot like how head tracking works on the AirPods Max and AirPods Pro. But because all of the processing takes place on the YH-L700A, it’s not just limited to iOS like spatial audio is; Android users will be able to use head tracking too. As for compatible content, Yamaha says "virtually any source" of stereo audio will suffice.
3D Sound Field could therefore fix two current problems with spatial audio. First, it could have a much wider range of supporting content; spatial audio in Apple Music doesn’t currently take advantage of head tracking, leaving only certain Atmos-compatible videos for the AirPods Max to really flex its capabilities.
Secondly, 3D Sound Field’s mobile OS agnosticism will make the YH-L700A the first pair of mainstream consumer headphones to offer 3D head tracking on Android. And speaking of wider attainability, the YH-L700A will cost less than the AirPods Max: U.S. pricing hasn’t yet been confirmed, but the YH-L700A will cost £449 when it launches in the U.K. this August. That’s £100 less than the AirPods Max’s launch price.
This is still a pricey pair of cans — it’s rare for even the best over-ear headphones to tip over £300/$300. But with head tracking, ANC and even sound optimization that adjusts output to your head shape, the Yamaha YH-L700A may be worth it.
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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.