Apple’s AirPods team wants “more bandwidth” than Bluetooth provides

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Apple introduced the redesigned third-generation AirPods in October, which have an updated design, adaptive EQ support, spatial audio, and other new features. To explain some of the design decisions Apple made with the AirPods 3, Apple VP of Acoustics Gary Geaves sat down for an interview with What HiFi (Going through 9to5Mac), offering an interesting overview of the limits of Bluetooth and the feature set of AirPods 3‌.

According to Geaves, the ‌AirPods 3‌ were built from the ground up with custom components, using nothing “out of the box.” Apple uses a “complicated sound system”, a “carefully tuned bass port” and a “brand new custom amplifier”, all in the name of the best possible sound quality. Apple can optimize sound with hardware components, but as What HiFi points out, bluetooth is the real limitation.

When asked if Bluetooth is holding back Apple’s hardware and “choking off the sound quality,” Geaves declined to say too much, but replied that Apple “is focusing really hard” on getting the most out of it. Bluetooth, and that “it’s fair to say” that Apple would like “more bandwidth”.

“Obviously, wireless technology is essential for delivering the content you’re talking about,” he says, “but also things like how much latency you get when you move your head, and if that’s too much. long, between moving your head and the sound changing or remaining static, you will feel very bad, so we have to focus really hard to get the most out of bluetooth, and there are a number of things we do can play to maximize or bypass some of the limitations of bluetooth. But it’s fair to say that we would like more bandwidth and … I’ll stop there. We would like more bandwidth, “he smiles.

While conceptualizing the “AirPods 3,” Geaves said the AirPods team “took a very close look” at the strengths of the second-generation AirPods. The “effortless open fit” that doesn’t create an in-ear seal is a big draw of AirPods, but the design around the no-seal “creates challenges for the audio team.”

Because no two ears are the same, Geaves said the sound people will experience will be “significantly different, especially the bass,” which led Apple’s AirPods team to add Adaptive EQ, an AirPods Pro feature, to “AirPods 3”. It is designed to provide a “consistent frequency response regardless of the level of fit each person obtains”.

When designing audio hardware, Apple works from a “solid analytical foundation” and has performed “extensive measurements” and “extensive statistical research” to inform an “internal acoustic analytical response” that is taken into account. Geaves says Apple also understands that listening to music “is an emotional experience that people connect with on a very deep level”, so Apple is also working with a “team of expert listeners and critical tuners.” . The team are drawn from the professional audio industry and fine-tune the sound for each product, including the new ‌AirPods 3‌.

the full interview with Geaves goes into more detail about ‌AirPods 3‌ and it’s worth reading for those who are interested.

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