Apple Acoustics VP hints that Bluetooth could be holding back AirPods

Posted:
in General Discussion
Apple's AirPods team has offered new details about the development of the third-generation model -- and how Bluetooth could be holding back the popular accessory.

Apple's AirPods 3
Apple's AirPods 3


Gary Geaves, Apple's vice president of Acoustics, and Eric Treski of Apple's product marketing team recently sat down with What Hi-Fi to speak about the design and development of AirPods 3.

According to Geaves, AirPods 3 use an entirely new design with custom components. As Geaves put it, nothing that went into AirPods 3 came "off the shelf."

The third-generation AirPods use a "complicated acoustic system," a new amplifier, and a tuned bass port to deliver top-notch sound quality. Geaves said the "effortless open fit" of the non-pro models are a draw for consumers, but added that designing for an unsealed fit created "challenges" for the audio team.

That lack of seal wasn't the only limitation for AirPods. When asked if Bluetooth stifled sound quality, Geaves stopped short of openly criticizing the standard but noted that Apple would "like more bandwidth."
"Obviously the wireless technology is critical for the content delivery that you talk about, but also things like the amount of latency you get when you move your head, and if that's too long, between you moving your head and the sound changing or remaining static, it will make you feel quite ill, so we have to concentrate very hard on squeezing the most that we can out of the Bluetooth technology, and there's a number of tricks we can play to maximise or get around some of the limits of Bluetooth. But it's fair to say that we would like more bandwidth and... I'll stop right there. We would like more bandwidth."
As far as other tidbits, Geaves noted that the diversity in consumer ear shape led the team to bring Adaptive EQ -- an AirPods Pro feature -- to the base model AirPods. The feature provides a "consistent frequency response regardless of the level of fit that each person gets."

Apple's attention to detail extends to research, too. Geaves said Apple has leveraged ""extensive measurements" and "deep statistical research" in developing the new AirPods. In addition, Apple also worked with professional teams of critical tuners and listeners to design the device.

The full interview, which offers other details about AirPods 3 and Apple's audio design team, is worth a read for anyone interested in the company's Bluetooth headphones.

Read on AppleInsider
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    Ummmm, APT-X HD?!?!?!   Hello!!!
    williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 21
    BigMacGuy said:
    Ummmm, APT-X HD?!?!?!   Hello!!!
    He’s talking about the limitations of Bluetooth in its entirety, not the delivery codecs that work over Bluetooth. Like Apple’s VP of acoustics isn’t aware of this codec. Helloo!!!
    bageljoeywilliamlondonbaconstangmld53aMplsPwatto_cobraroundaboutnow
  • Reply 3 of 21
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Apple always pushing beyond the capabilities of standards. 
    edited December 2021 watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    Apple are in the Bluetooth Group, so they're only complaining about themselves.  Want more bandwidth?  Then submit improvements to the standard.
  • Reply 5 of 21
    What’s holding me back on buying airpods again is that the battery cannot be replaced.
    but all the vendors have the same limits on this product class. Life 
    williamlondonbaconstangAppleUfmyIwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 21
    Wait, you mean Bluetooth can't deliver the same audio quality as a wire?  I'm shocked!  Shocked, I say!

    :D

    williamlondonbaconstang
  • Reply 7 of 21
    darkvader said:
    Wait, you mean Bluetooth can't deliver the same audio quality as a wire?  I'm shocked!  Shocked, I say!

    :D

    It's pretty funny.  After all the ragging on the little 3.5mm TRS plug / jack combo, it's not the weak link Bluetooth is.
    edited December 2021 williamlondon
  • Reply 8 of 21
    I bought a pair of AirPods Pro but unfortunately they fall out of my ears. Obviously Powerbeats Pros can’t fall out of my ears but unfortunately they don’t have noise reduction which is what I need. The only thing that seems to work for me are the triple flange ear tips that fit inside the ear canal like ear plugs.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    crowley said:
    Apple are in the Bluetooth Group, so they're only complaining about themselves.  Want more bandwidth?  Then submit improvements to the standard.
    When Apple is too far ahead of everyone else, they would be forced to create a new standard (that no one else uses). We have seen that with Thunderbolt (2011), lightning (2012), or even PowerPC (1991). So obviously they are complaining about the standards set by others in the current Bluetooth group, perhaps even hinting at the creation of a new “LightningTooth.”
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    darkvader said:
    Wait, you mean Bluetooth can't deliver the same audio quality as a wire?  I'm shocked!  Shocked, I say!

    :D

    It's pretty funny.  After all the ragging on the the little 3.5mm TRS plug / jack combo, it's not the weak link Bluetooth is.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but a TRS jack/plug will give you a stereo headphone output only.

    Apple used TRRS jacks and plugs, as that gives you stereo headphone output AND mono microphone input.

    All Apple wired earbuds that came with an iPhone have a microphone.

    I actually wish the 3.5mm (1/8th on an inch) connector would make a comeback (like vinyl records did) on future iPhones.

    Having only a lightning connector sucks when you want to use and charge your iPhone at the same time. The included 3.5mm adapter has good sound quality but no splitter, so it is either power cable or 3.5mm adapter. I tried various lightning splitters and charge + 3.5mm socket combos...  The ones with 3.5mm socket all sounded terrible, some had hissing or buzzing in the background all the time. Lightning only splitter with Apple supplied 3.5mm adapter and charging cable sounds good, but is cumbersome and not comfortable to hold for extended periods.

    Why not rather create a modern digital headphone connector and socket? It could become a worldwide standard and hopefully in future become as ubiquitous on audio equipment as the 3.5mm jack.

    Or failing that, consider reintroducing 3.5mm sockets on future "plus model" iPhones. The larger iPhones have more internal space and it should be possible to squeeze a 3.5mm socket in there without any noticeable impact on battery life for example.
    baconstangsandorwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    darkvader said:
    Wait, you mean Bluetooth can't deliver the same audio quality as a wire?  I'm shocked!  Shocked, I say!

    :D

    It's pretty funny.  After all the ragging on the the little 3.5mm TRS plug / jack combo, it's not the weak link Bluetooth is.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but a TRS jack/plug will give you a stereo headphone output only.

    Apple used TRRS jacks and plugs, as that gives you stereo headphone output AND mono microphone input.

    All Apple wired earbuds that came with an iPhone have a microphone.

    I actually wish the 3.5mm (1/8th on an inch) connector would make a comeback (like vinyl records did) on future iPhones.

    Having only a lightning connector sucks when you want to use and charge your iPhone at the same time. The included 3.5mm adapter has good sound quality but no splitter, so it is either power cable or 3.5mm adapter. I tried various lightning splitters and charge + 3.5mm socket combos...  The ones with 3.5mm socket all sounded terrible, some had hissing or buzzing in the background all the time. Lightning only splitter with Apple supplied 3.5mm adapter and charging cable sounds good, but is cumbersome and not comfortable to hold for extended periods.

    Why not rather create a modern digital headphone connector and socket? It could become a worldwide standard and hopefully in future become as ubiquitous on audio equipment as the 3.5mm jack.

    Or failing that, consider reintroducing 3.5mm sockets on future "plus model" iPhones. The larger iPhones have more internal space and it should be possible to squeeze a 3.5mm socket in there without any noticeable impact on battery life for example.
    I don't give a RA about the microphone, since I don't use the buds for phone calls.  But yeah, the headphone jack was a non-issue.  They seem to have found it to be important enough to keep on all the laptops.  
    I don't think another different jack would really help.
  • Reply 12 of 21
    Give me a ‘U’. 
    Give me a ‘W’. 
    Give me a ‘B’. 
    What does it spell?
    UWB. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 21
    What’s holding me back on buying airpods again is that the battery cannot be replaced.
    but all the vendors have the same limits on this product class. Life 
    Agree!  I have a hard time just throwing them out after a few years.  I would really like to replace my batteries in my AirPods (1) since they still sound so good.  In comparison, my wired Sure EC2 have lasted me over 20 years.  Pleas make the batteries replaceable and stop creating e-waste.   
    baconstangsandorad931
  • Reply 14 of 21
    Give me a ‘U’. 
    Give me a ‘W’. 
    Give me a ‘B’. 
    What does it spell?
    UWB. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra wide BAND. Not Beam. 
    leavingthebiggMplsPwatto_cobrasphericroundaboutnowfastasleep
  • Reply 15 of 21
    mld53a said:
    Give me a ‘U’. 
    Give me a ‘W’. 
    Give me a ‘B’. 
    What does it spell?
    UWB. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra-Wide Beam. 
    Ultra wide BAND. Not Beam. 
    💯 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 21
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,966member
    crowley said:
    Apple are in the Bluetooth Group, so they're only complaining about themselves.  Want more bandwidth?  Then submit improvements to the standard.
    They may be IN the BT group, but they are not the entire group and even if they have a proposal it needs to be approved and the technical details reviewed and vetted before it can be incorporated as part of the standard.

    darkvader said:
    Wait, you mean Bluetooth can't deliver the same audio quality as a wire?  I'm shocked!  Shocked, I say!

    :D

    It's pretty funny.  After all the ragging on the the little 3.5mm TRS plug / jack combo, it's not the weak link Bluetooth is.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but a TRS jack/plug will give you a stereo headphone output only.

    Apple used TRRS jacks and plugs, as that gives you stereo headphone output AND mono microphone input.

    All Apple wired earbuds that came with an iPhone have a microphone.

    I actually wish the 3.5mm (1/8th on an inch) connector would make a comeback (like vinyl records did) on future iPhones.

    Having only a lightning connector sucks when you want to use and charge your iPhone at the same time. The included 3.5mm adapter has good sound quality but no splitter, so it is either power cable or 3.5mm adapter. I tried various lightning splitters and charge + 3.5mm socket combos...  The ones with 3.5mm socket all sounded terrible, some had hissing or buzzing in the background all the time. Lightning only splitter with Apple supplied 3.5mm adapter and charging cable sounds good, but is cumbersome and not comfortable to hold for extended periods.

    Why not rather create a modern digital headphone connector and socket? It could become a worldwide standard and hopefully in future become as ubiquitous on audio equipment as the 3.5mm jack.

    Or failing that, consider reintroducing 3.5mm sockets on future "plus model" iPhones. The larger iPhones have more internal space and it should be possible to squeeze a 3.5mm socket in there without any noticeable impact on battery life for example.
    I don't give a RA about the microphone, since I don't use the buds for phone calls.  But yeah, the headphone jack was a non-issue.  They seem to have found it to be important enough to keep on all the laptops.  
    I don't think another different jack would really help.
    Agreed - I still miss the simplicity and security of plugging in headphones. I can't count the number of times I've had to dick around with my AirPods to get them to connect to the correct device. 

    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    MplsP said:
    crowley said:
    Apple are in the Bluetooth Group, so they're only complaining about themselves.  Want more bandwidth?  Then submit improvements to the standard.
    They may be IN the BT group, but they are not the entire group and even if they have a proposal it needs to be approved and the technical details reviewed and vetted before it can be incorporated as part of the standard.

    darkvader said:
    Wait, you mean Bluetooth can't deliver the same audio quality as a wire?  I'm shocked!  Shocked, I say!

    :D

    It's pretty funny.  After all the ragging on the the little 3.5mm TRS plug / jack combo, it's not the weak link Bluetooth is.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but a TRS jack/plug will give you a stereo headphone output only.

    Apple used TRRS jacks and plugs, as that gives you stereo headphone output AND mono microphone input.

    All Apple wired earbuds that came with an iPhone have a microphone.

    I actually wish the 3.5mm (1/8th on an inch) connector would make a comeback (like vinyl records did) on future iPhones.

    Having only a lightning connector sucks when you want to use and charge your iPhone at the same time. The included 3.5mm adapter has good sound quality but no splitter, so it is either power cable or 3.5mm adapter. I tried various lightning splitters and charge + 3.5mm socket combos...  The ones with 3.5mm socket all sounded terrible, some had hissing or buzzing in the background all the time. Lightning only splitter with Apple supplied 3.5mm adapter and charging cable sounds good, but is cumbersome and not comfortable to hold for extended periods.

    Why not rather create a modern digital headphone connector and socket? It could become a worldwide standard and hopefully in future become as ubiquitous on audio equipment as the 3.5mm jack.

    Or failing that, consider reintroducing 3.5mm sockets on future "plus model" iPhones. The larger iPhones have more internal space and it should be possible to squeeze a 3.5mm socket in there without any noticeable impact on battery life for example.
    I don't give a RA about the microphone, since I don't use the buds for phone calls.  But yeah, the headphone jack was a non-issue.  They seem to have found it to be important enough to keep on all the laptops.  
    I don't think another different jack would really help.
    Agreed - I still miss the simplicity and security of plugging in headphones. I can't count the number of times I've had to dick around with my AirPods to get them to connect to the correct device. 

    They are in the BT group yes, but perhaps it is because they understand the perils of designing something by committee, that not much seems to be happening.
  • Reply 18 of 21
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 7,903member
    gordoncy said:
    crowley said:
    Apple are in the Bluetooth Group, so they're only complaining about themselves.  Want more bandwidth?  Then submit improvements to the standard.
    When Apple is too far ahead of everyone else, they would be forced intoto create a new standard (that no one else uses). We have seen that with Thunderbolt (2011), lightning (2012), or even PowerPC (1991). So obviously they are complaining about the standards set by others in the current Bluetooth group, perhaps even hinting at the creation of a new “LightningTooth.”
    Apple isn't actually ahead in this case (or wasn't the last time I checked the AirPods against Huawei's offerings).

    Huawei (Kirin A1) was directly comparing to Apple (H1) in its product presentation on general latency, open fit intelligent noise cancellation (which could be 'tuned' to the users preference), true isochronous dual channel transmission, higher resolution audio, faster transmission speeds (up to 6.5 Mbps), Bone Voice ID, AI for voice enhancement (including mic duct technology to enhance call quality in windy conditions), chip size, ultra low latency gaming audio etc.

    It was able to do that by using the very latest version of Bluetooth at the time (BT 5.1LTE) , and adding to it for use on its own devices.

    So for example, for 'high definition' (BT-UHD) audio they had to be paired to a Huawei phone but they would still work with other non-Huawei Bluetooth devices. That's how they could push things up to 2.3Mbps in the case of audio. 

    They did exactly the same with WiFi which led to Huawei's WiFi 5 outpacing Apple's Wi-Fi 6.

    They also made Wifi 6 faster (again, for its own phones, routers and networking gear) by providing Wifi 6+ (which levers its own 5G technologies). 

    The point is, all those products were also fully compliant with standard Bluetooth and WiFi devices.

    And this was back in 2019. 

    Apple could have easily gone the same route (just as it has in the past) but without sacrificing interoperability. It simply chose not to. Just like it chooses not to include the necessary profiles for Bluetooth file transmission on iPhones, chose to make Bluetooth 'less open' on HomePods. 
  • Reply 19 of 21
    sphericspheric Posts: 2,626member
    crowley said:
    Apple are in the Bluetooth Group, so they're only complaining about themselves.  Want more bandwidth?  Then submit improvements to the standard.
    Have you thought about why he may have stopped himself mid-answer? 

    Apple’s policy is to never talk about unreleased products. 

    What do you think would happen to AirPod sales if Apple came out and stated that they’ve successfully introduced higher-bandwidth Lossless Bluetooth audio spec for 7.0, perhaps on the condition that they be the first to announce it? 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 21
    crowleycrowley Posts: 10,453member
    spheric said:
    crowley said:
    Apple are in the Bluetooth Group, so they're only complaining about themselves.  Want more bandwidth?  Then submit improvements to the standard.
    Have you thought about why he may have stopped himself mid-answer? 

    Apple’s policy is to never talk about unreleased products. 

    What do you think would happen to AirPod sales if Apple came out and stated that they’ve successfully introduced higher-bandwidth Lossless Bluetooth audio spec for 7.0, perhaps on the condition that they be the first to announce it? 
    Probably would have been better to not say anything at all then.
    muthuk_vanalingam
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