The latest rumours suggest Apple is aiming for the high-end market, with the over-ear headphones offering unique features that could allow it to compete with the likes of Bose’s QC35II and Sony’s WH-1000XM3 for the title of best wireless headphones.
Here’s everything there is to know about Apple’s AirPods Studios, including release date, pricing and key features of the high-end cans. For more on upcoming AirPods products, we cover all the AirPods Apple is working on separately.
Why are they AirPods and not Beats?
Before we go into detail about the upcoming AirPods Studio, we first thought we’d try and explain the logic behind the branding - as best we can at a pre-release state, anyway.
You see, while many people assumed the ‘Pod’ branding of AirPods was related to the earbud design of the wireless buds, that’s not actually the case. When it comes to Apple, ‘Pod’ simply means music, with the branding found in other music-focused products including the infamous iPod. Forgot about that Pod, didn’t you?
With the Studio branding, which overlaps with the Beats Studio headphones, it’d make sense for Apple to simply continue to use the Beats brand. But, according to famed leaker Jon Prosser, Apple is actually looking to “phase out Beats” despite the huge popularity surrounding the brand. Could we see AirPod-branded Beats X in future? It’s a possibility.
The phase-out of the Apple-owned brand would certainly make things simpler for the company, but longtime Beats fans may be sad to see the infamous B logo finally put to bed.
AirPods Studio release date
Numerous sources originally indicated that the AirPods Studio would be coming mid-2020. These included a prediction from popular Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who claimed that Apple’s high-end over-ear headphones were due to enter mass production by mid-2020, and a late-May DigiTimes report claimed that the upcoming headphones were in mass production with a likely June release.
WWDC came and went, and the AirPods Studio didn't make an appearance, suggesting a change of internal plans.
A Bloomberg source simply claims the AirPod-branded cans are due to be released “later this year” and claims that they’ve been in development since 2018.
The elusive cans didn't make an appearance at the Time Flies event in September 2020, nor at the Hi, Speed event on 13 October.
This was despite a recent Apple Store development where the company removed competing audio products from Bose, Ultimate Ears and others from its storefront. It may seem unfair, but it's not unheard of - the company did something similar with fitness trackers from Jawbone and Nike when it released the Apple Watch.
Jon Prosser claims that Apple has run into a few hiccups with the AirPods Studio, and that the company "still need to work some things out" before the reveal and release.
The leaker remarked that it is still technically possible for Apple to announce in November (with an event rumoured for 17 November) and ship in December, but it's reliant on everything going smoothly from this point on. More likely, Prosser believes, is Apple deciding to push the release back to March 2021.
AirPods Studio price
In a May 2020 tweet, Jon Prosser revealed that the AirPods Studio are set to cost $349 in the US, and going by Apple’s direct conversion between USD and GBP, we’d expect that to translate to £349 in the UK.
Looks like Apple is sticking with the “AirPods” branding for their new over-ear headphones.— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) May 9, 2020
That price tag would put the AirPods Studio broadly in line with rivals including Sony’s WH-1000XM3 and Bose’s QC35 II, both featured among our selection of the best wireless headphones. It’s $100/£100 more than Apple’s high-end wireless AirPods Pro earbuds, suggesting the focus may be on ‘prosumers’ and content creators, and leaked features - discussed below - give this theory a little more weight.
However, in an October 2020 update, Prosser claimed that the high-end headphones could cost much more - as much as $599 for the metal and leather variant of the cans, renders of which Prosser shared previously. There will allegedly be a $349 variant, but it'll be made of much cheaper materials.
AirPods Studio design and features
While Prosser has provided key details about the upcoming AirPods Studio, the leaker hasn’t said a word about what the cans will offer.
Luckily, a Bloomberg source sheds some light on what to expect from the high-end headphones. As per the site, the AirPods Studio are set to feature active noise cancellation - a rather standard feature on headphones at this price - but what’s more interesting is the alleged modular design.
The source claims that the headphones will feature swappable ear pads, allowing users to “customise their headphones like they do with Apple Watch” and, theoretically, swap out comfortable memory foam cups for more breathable mesh cups when wanting to work out. Bloomberg details a possible premium leather variant alongside a fitness-focused variant set to be available for purchase.
Being an AirPod-branded product, it should come as no surprise that the AirPods Studio are set to come with the same easy pairing tech as the AirPods, alongside touch control and hands-free Hey Siri support too.
Another interesting rumour, this time from 9to5Mac, suggests the AirPods Studio could use sensors to detect when they’re being worn and can play/pause music accordingly. It’s one of the best features of the AirPods range, and Apple is allegedly taking it one step further with the over-ear cans, offering the ability to detect when they’re being worn around the neck.
This additional functionality would presumably keep the headphones connected to your phone, only disconnecting and putting itself to sleep when taken off completely.
The site also claims that, while you can use the AirPods Studio with any Bluetooth-enabled device, Apple products will be able to fine-tune the sound output using custom EQ settings. Sources claim users will be able to make low-, medium- and high-frequency adjustments to the sound.
When it comes to general design, Bloomberg claims that the Studio will sport a “retro look” complete with swivelling earcups and metallic arms, and leaked iOS 14 code suggests the cans will be available in both black and white colour options. The following renders were created based on a video of the unannounced headphones provided to Jon Prosser, giving us a good idea of what to expect:
AirPods Studio— Jon Prosser (@jon_prosser) September 16, 2020
- High quality leather / metal
- Magnetic ear cups
- Reversible - detects R/L ear
- No headphone jack
- USBC port
These are the renders we were making in order to protect the source. pic.twitter.com/6Abg2TgxiZ
However, in a follow-up tweet, Prosser explained that the renders are for the high-end variant of AirPods Studio, which could cost as much as $599 in the US. That's too much for the majority of consumers, and to remedy this, Apple is said to be working on a more affordable $349 variant of the Studio headphones made from cheaper materials, although we're yet to see what they look like.