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 launching this year 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 claims that Apple’s high-end over-ear headphones were due to enter mass production by mid-2020, and a late-May DigiTimes report which confirmed that the upcoming headphones are currently in mass production with a likely June release.
However, in an April tweet, Prosser claimed that Apple’s over-ear headphones were “aimed for WWDC”. Now that the keynote has aired, we know that no new hardware was announced, so it looks like for now the release date for the AirPods Studio is anyone's guess. It could still happen in July and be announced via a press release.
If this doesn't happen, the next big event in Apple's calendar is the iPhone 12 announcement, which is rumoured to happen around September/October time. That means there's a possibility that we may not see the AirPods Studio until Autumn of this year.
The only other source of release date information comes from a Bloomberg source that simply claims the AirPod-branded cans are due to be released “later this year” and claims that they’ve been in development since 2018.
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.
AirPods Studio design and features
While Jon Prosser has provided key details about the release and price of 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.
It’s not for the everyday consumer, but at $349/£349, it’s not an everyday consumer product. It’s something we imagine ‘prosumers’ and content creators would enjoy a lot more, and we can’t wait to find out more in the coming weeks.