Apple preps high-end noise-canceling, over-ear headphones

“Apple Inc.’s AirPods earphones have been a surprise hit,” Mark Gurman and Debby Wu report for Bloomberg. “Now, the company is planning a push into the high end of the market.”

MacDailyNews Take: Who was surprised? We weren’t.

“The Cupertino, California-based technology giant is working on noise-canceling, over-ear headphones that rival headsets from market leaders like Bose and even the company’s own Beats by Dre brand, according to people familiar with the product’s development,” Gurman and Wu report. “The company plans to launch the headphones as early as the end of this year, but has faced development challenges that might push back the release, the people said.”

“The latest plans call for headphones targeting the high-end of the market, replicating Apple’s approach with the $349 HomePod speaker, released earlier this year,” Gurman and Wu report. “In addition to noise-canceling capabilities, Apple plans to include similar wireless pairing functionality to the AirPods.”

“So far, the AirPods have been a key driver of newfound success for Apple’s Other Products segment,” Gurman and Wu report. “The category, which includes AirPods, Beats headphones, the Apple Watch, Apple TV and iPad accessories, generated more than $5 billion in revenue for the first time in the company’s fiscal first quarter, representing 36 percent year-over-year growth. Within that category, wearable product sales, which include the Watch, AirPods, and Beats headphones, surged 70 percent last year, Apple said on a recent earnings call.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s safe to say that Apple’s $3 billion Beats acquisition has easily paid for itself many times over.

As we wrote last month, “With HomePod as evidence, we believe Apple can deliver the headphones that are of higher quality than competitors at their price point. Factor in the seamlessness of the Apple W2 chip-equippend AirPods and these new Apple headphones will be hot sellers.”

We love our Apple AirPods, but there are times when we long for Apple AirCans instead.

Ming-Chi Kuo: Apple developing high-end over-ear headphones as convenient as AirPods with better sound quality – February 26, 2018
Apple plans upgrades to popular AirPods wireless earbuds – February 22, 2018


  1. Indeed perhaps The much maligned Cook (by myself too at times) can be seen to have had a little better vision than many of his critics in the case of Beats, with plenty more scope for benefits to come I suspect. Not that one would expect those critics to consider themselves to be erroneous on this one (or indeed any one I guess). But deserves to be said.

  2. I usually choose over the ear headphones and have at least a dozen high quality ones, mostly Sennheiser, Beyer and AKG. I would certainly be interested in some Apple ones so long as it’s possible to feed them with audio from non-Apple sources and that there is no noticeable delay so that I can use them while monitoring live recordings.

    When working as a sound recordist, the amount of time spent actually listening through the headphones is a relatively small proportion of the working day. Therefore one important but often overlooked aspect of how useful a given pair of headphones might be is how comfortably they can be worn around the neck while waiting for other people to get ready for a recording. It’s also important that when putting them on in a hurry that it’s obvious which is the left and right ear. Cabled headphones with the lead emerging from one side are excellent in that respect and some BlueTooth headphones are easy to orientate, but many aren’t.

    I’ve bought some expensive and fabulous sounding headphones and then stopped using them for my work after a day or two because they are too bulky and uncomfortable to wear around the neck.

    My needs are certainly a little different to most, but that’s true of most people using any sort of Apple equipment in a professional context. I hope that Apple have been thinking beyond the idea of them being just an iPhone accessory.

    1. I wouldn’t hold my breath.
      Thinking about this, over the ear headphones can take a much bigger battery – so no wires and Bluetooth. They also provide the space for sound modelling the inner ear to improve quality a là Homepod. Miniaturise it. A new on board processor. Throw in Apple Music. They’d sell millions at premium prices.

    2. I understand the need but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
      Thinking about this, over the ear headphones can take a much bigger battery – so no wires and Bluetooth. They also provide the space for sound modelling the inner ear to improve quality a là Homepod. Miniaturise it. A new on board processor. Throw in Apple Music. They’d sell millions at premium prices.

    1. Silicone sleeves on ear buds can provide a more secure fit and greatly improve noise isolation. Without noise isolation, noise cancellation is of little value.

      I have seen aftermarket silicon sleeves for AirPods, but the complaint has been that the AirPods no longer fit in the charging case. So, in order to recharge them, you have to peel off the silicone covers and store them somewhere without losing them. Eventually, after a number of charging cycles, you are either going to tear or lose them. Apple needs to find a way to make customizable silicone AirPod adapters work with the charger case.

    2. There is often some confusion with terminology.

      Over-the-ear headphones are different to on-the-ear headphones. The difference is that over-the-ear headphones have a larger padded cup which presses against the skull, with the ear being totally inside it. On-the-ear headphones have a smaller cup which presses against the ear, which in turn is pushed against the skull.

      Over-ear headphones are usually larger and many of the best quality headphones are over-ear styles. On-ear headphones tend to be smaller and lighter, but can still be superb.

      As for which is more comfortable, it’s down to personal preference and also depends on the particular headphones. I have some on-the-ear headphones which I find more comfortable than other ever-the-ear headphones and also have some over-the-ear headphones which are more comfortable than a different type of on-the-ear ones.

      Generally speaking I prefer over the ear headphones for listening indoors, so long as my ear can fit within the cup without being crumpled up ( which is not always the case ), but high quality, lightweight on-the-ear headphones such as Senheisser HD25-1 II are my preferred choice when working outside. For a professional, they also have the advantage of spare parts being readily available and can take a hell of a lot of abuse before spare parts become necessary.

      In a working environment, total acoustic isolation isn’t always beneficial because when things go wrong, you need to be aware of it. So while tremendous isolation is great for listening at home, perfect isolation can have it’s downsides outside in the real world. The answer is to use headphones with reasonably good isolation and to become accustomed to which sounds are leaking into the headphones and which sounds are being reproduced by them. Similar considerations apply to people wearing headphones in the street, especially if doing things like cycling. If you are unaware of what’s happening around you, you’re more likely to end up dead.

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