Apple will use 'U1' in 'AirPods Studio' to sense how headphones are worn

in Future Apple Hardware
The "AirPods Studio" will contain the U1 chip, according to a prominent leaker, with the wireless chip capable of giving the rumored personal audio device extra features, such as determining how the headphones are being worn.

A render of the 'AirPods Studio' based on a video leak [via Jon Prosser]
A render of the 'AirPods Studio' based on a video leak [via Jon Prosser]

In tweets early on Sunday, "L0vetodream" made a series of posts about the "AirPods Studio," Apple's long-rumored premium headphones. The tweets centered primarily around the use of the U1 chip, which is used by Apple for Ultra Wideband communications for spatially-aware functionality, such as improved device detection for AirDrop in the iPhone 11.

In the first of the series of tweets, the account simply posted "u1 for studio," which plainly indicates the headphones will use the chip and Ultra Wideband technology. A second tweet in Chinese translates to "The Internet of Everything starts with u1," referencing the wider form of the so-called "Internet of Things" where devices openly communicate with each other.

u1 for studio

A lengthy third tweet, also in Chinese, claims the account made a prediction month os ago about the U1 chip becoming an important part of Apple's overall ecosystem, intended for use in determining distance and direction. For the "AirPods Studio," it is claimed the use of U1 will allow the headphones to "automatically recognize the left and right positioning of the headset."

Determining how headphones are being worn can open up a number of areas relating to design and usability. Knowing if the headband is at the top of the head or another position will allow for the headphones to take into account the rotation when providing gesture-based touch controls on the earcups.

The automatic recognition of which way the headphones are worn will also mean there won't be any need for a user to determine which earcup is for which ear. Knowing what ear is being used with which earcup can allow the headphones to switch the audio channels around, so the left channel always goes to the left ear, and the right stereo channel to the right ear.

"L0vetodream" is a relatively reliable leaker, with a good track record on product launches and features, which points to the details probably being correct. However, there are no guarantees about products or services until Apple actually launches them to the public for the first time.

The "AirPods Studio" are expected to be a departure from the existing AirPods and AirPods Pro lines, but ones that include many of the features its stablemates already offer, including Active Noise Cancellation. On September 16, renders of the headphones based on a video leak were revealed, indicating the use of square-ish earcups and a wide headband.

Speculation has the "AirPods Studio" priced at around $350.


  • Reply 1 of 7
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    Having a symmetrical shape to allow them to be worn either way would seem to be comprimising on fit.  Putting headphones on the right way round is hardly onerous, so I’m not sure I like the sound of this. 

    Although saying that, a lot of their competitors also have a symmetrical shape, so maybe it’s ok.
  • Reply 2 of 7
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,408moderator
    crowley said:
    Having a symmetrical shape to allow them to be worn either way would seem to be comprimising on fit.  Putting headphones on the right way round is hardly onerous, so I’m not sure I like the sound of this. 

    Although saying that, a lot of their competitors also have a symmetrical shape, so maybe it’s ok.
    As long as the earpieces swivel, it should be comfortable. When the earpieces are fixed straight, they press harder into the back of the ear due to the shape of the ear and head.

    Sony headphones either swivel the earpieces or use uneven padding. If the design is like in the photo, those have cylindrical parts connecting the earpieces so they should be able to swivel. Ideally they'd swivel all the way flat so they can be packed more easily.

    Accommodating either direction also allows the USB-C charging cable to be connected on either side while wearing them.

    The only thing I'd prefer in the design shown is a tapered, possibly narrower headband. The sides don't offer much in the way of stability as it only contacts a small part of the top of the head so it's just visual bulk. The wider it is at the top, the more surface area contacts the head, which causes more heat and produces an itchy feeling over prolonged use.

    Some of the shape there is used in the Bowers & Wilkins P3, though this design is a bit more compact:

    A feature that would be nice is to be able to tune the sound output for all audio, for example adjust it from an iPhone and it changes in the headphone itself - the software equalizers adjust the audio stream and introduces artifacts. Some people prefer heavier bass, others prefer more accurate sound reproduction, some prefer open-back, others closed-back. It's annoying having to choose a pair of headphones that is already tuned to the preferred sound style.

    If they ship with 40mm+ drivers, that will give them decent volume and audio depth. They could potentially use advanced tech like electrostatic drivers mentioned in those articles. Apple often brings expensive technology to mainstream products because they can sell at premium prices in high volume, which is unlike most manufacturers. Over-ear headphones give a lot more room than buds to add some audio tech.

    This may be the first post-Jony Ive design out of Apple, I guess the Apple Silicon Macs will be to an extent but those have a design history.
  • Reply 3 of 7
    Maybe this has already been discussed elsewhere but...with U1 in the headphone that would allow for a spatial audio experience either by the sending unit altering the audio stream sent to the cans or (more ideal) the cans having some brains and process the audio received and, based on headset orientation, direct spatial audio to the correct earpiece.  This is above and beyond the nice feature mentioned in the article of always having audio meant for left or right ear sent to the correct side to achieve this.  Neat idea. Might be a little bit of putting cart before the horse as there isn’t a stable of immersive experiences to explore with such a setup.  Cant say I’m in the target demographic though.
  • Reply 4 of 7
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    I've said it several times since this was patented and will say it again:

    NO, this will now trigger Siri to say "You're wearing them wrong!"  This will allow people to finally place them on their heads and not worry about which side is where because it will auto-calibrate the stereo channels, This is great. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people wearing headphones wrong.

    A lack of imagination is a pet peeve of mine.
  • Reply 5 of 7
    I wear my headphones differently while lying down in bed then I do sitting up in a chair or jogging!
  • Reply 6 of 7
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,542member
    There is nothing about the rendering that makes these immediately desirable to me, but that’s just my personal opinion. They look industrial, rigid, and heavy, almost like an appliance or lab instrument. They are however very clean looking, with no flopping wires, exposed mechanicals, or visible controls. The headband is very wide, which may mean it’s super comfy or it’s a sweat (inducing) band. We’ll see.  

    The bottom line for all personal-use headphones is that they have to be very comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Headphones are essentially head-shoes. All the technology in the world won’t mean a thing if they are not comfortable to wear, and for lots of folks, stylish and a fashion statement. If they are super comfortable and can be “tuned” to fit multiple listening and even noise suppression profiles they may easily earn their keep. 
  • Reply 7 of 7
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,787member
    Unless they have zero-latency using the name 'Studio' is misleading. If they are zero latency...  my card is ready.  Perhaps they can be either wireless or wired?
    edited September 2020 watto_cobra
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