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Apple in October introduced the redesigned third-generation AirPods, which have an updated design, Adaptive EQ support, spatial audio, and other new features. To explain some of the design decisions Apple made with the AirPods 3, Apple's vice president of acoustics Gary Geaves sat down for an interview with What HiFi (via 9to5Mac), providing some interesting insight into the limitations of Bluetooth and the feature set of the AirPods 3.

AirPods-3-Feature-Red.jpg

According to Geaves, AirPods 3 were built entirely with custom-made components, using nothing "off the shelf." Apple is using a "complicated acoustic system," "carefully tuned bass port," and a "brand new, custom amplifier" all in the name of the best possible sound quality. Apple can optimize for sound with hardware components, but as What HiFi points out, Bluetooth is the real limitation.

When asked if Bluetooth is holding back Apple's hardware and "stifling sound quality," Geaves declined to say too much, but he said that Apple "concentrates very hard" on getting the most out of Bluetooth, and that "it's fair to say" that Apple would "like more bandwidth."
"Obviously the wireless technology is critical for the content delivery that you talk about", he says, "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", he smiles.
When conceptualizing the AirPods 3, Geaves said that the AirPods team "looked very closely" at the strengths of the second-generation AirPods. The "effortless open fit" that doesn't create a seal in the ear is a big draw of the AirPods, but designing around the lack of a seal "creates challenges for the audio team."

Because no two ears are the same, Geaves said that the sound people experience will be "significantly different, especially the bass," which is what led Apple's AirPods team to add Adaptive EQ, an AirPods Pro feature, to the AirPods 3. It's designed to provide a "consistent frequency response regardless of the level of fit that each person gets."

When designing audio hardware, Apple works from a "strong analytic foundation" and has done "extensive measurements" and "deep statistical research" to inform an "internal acoustic analytic response" that's taken into account. Geaves says that Apple also understands that listening to music "is an emotional experience which people connect with on a very deep level," so Apple works with an "expert team of critical listeners and tuners" as well. The team is from the pro audio industry, and refines the sound for each product, including the new AirPods 3.

The full interview with Geaves goes into more detail on the AirPods 3 and it's well worth a read for those interested.

Article Link: Apple's AirPods Team Wants 'More Bandwidth' Than Bluetooth Provides
 
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sw1tcher

macrumors 68040
Jan 6, 2004
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According to Geaves, AirPods 3 were built entirely with custom-made components, using nothing "off the shelf." Apple is using a "complicated acoustic system," "carefully tuned bass port," and a "brand new, custom amplifier" all in the name of the best possible sound quality. Apple can optimize for sound with hardware components, but as What HiFi points out, Bluetooth is the real limitation.
Apple's bringing back the 3.5mm jack!!!

Just like how they brought back MagSafe, HDMI, and SDXC card slot.

Can't innovate anymore, my ass!
 

827538

Cancelled
Jul 3, 2013
2,323
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My 3rd gen AirPods were definitely a big improvement in audio and mic quality over my 1st gen but I think the fit is far worse. They feel huge for my ears compared to the 1st/2nd gen AirPods, is the sacrifice worth the sound quality improvements? Probably, but it was definitely a step back for comfort and secure fit.

Also moving from a tap to a squeeze was an utterly stupid decision. I used to have no issues running and tapping my AirPods, now I have never been successful at skipping a track without then having to reposition the Airpod while running. I hate the squeeze to do something change and I hope they go back to a tap.
 

wigby

macrumors 68020
Jun 7, 2007
2,398
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I agree. I refuse to pay that much for headphones that can’t even do CD quality audio.

And yes, I can hear the difference.
I can't hear the difference (unless I really try with orchestral music) but I would still like Apple to produce a high bandwidth, proprietary wireless AirPod model and a standard bluetooth one for Android and iOS users that don't need more bandwidth. I always assumed that Beats would become that brand for most consumers and AirPods would be the brand only for iOS users but they ended up selling a lot more AirPods to everyone their way. Most people are like me and just can't hear the difference which is probably why Apple never bothered to bypass bluetooth.
 

SSDGUY

macrumors 65816
Jul 27, 2009
1,027
1,515
Apple should just bring back the 3.5 headphone jack back. This will eliminate all the problems with the bandwidth. There is only so much technology you can fit in the Air Pods.

There are many people out there who would still prefer the 3.5 headphone jack in today's world.
YES. YES. YES. One of the best features of the iPhone from the beginning was using my phone in live sound environments where quick & convenient bumper music or aux tracks are needed. In these situations bluetooth is simply not a convenient or reliable option, or even available most of the time. Having to keep a dongle hanging on the end of input cables or on the end of my phone all night has been major bummer.
 
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SpringKid

macrumors 6502
May 17, 2019
254
547
Apple should just bring back the 3.5 headphone jack back. This will eliminate all the problems with the bandwidth. There is only so much technology you can fit in the Air Pods.

There are many people out there who would still prefer the 3.5 headphone jack in today's world.
I have multiple expensive "audiophile" headphones, which I love and spend a lot of time with, but there's just no way I'd go back to wired headphones when out and about. I'd rather compromise on audio quality then than on convenience.
 

wigby

macrumors 68020
Jun 7, 2007
2,398
2,200
Also moving from a tap to a squeeze was an utterly stupid decision. I used to have no issues running and tapping my AirPods, now I have never been successful at skipping a track without then having to reposition the Airpod while running. I hate the squeeze to do something change and I hope they go back to a tap.
The only problem with tap is that every time I would reposition the AirPods in my ears, it would think I wanted to pause or skip tracks. There's no perfect solution and while they have improved Siri's ability to hear and execute my commands, Siri is still far from perfect as well.
 

Relentless Power

macrumors Westmere
Jul 12, 2016
37,630
42,422
My 3rd gen AirPods were definitely a big improvement in audio and mic quality over my 1st gen but I think the fit is far worse. They feel huge for my ears compared to the 1st/2nd gen AirPods, is the sacrifice worth the sound quality improvements? Probably, but it was definitely a step back for comfort and secure fit.
Of course, fitment is very subjective for a lot of people, but I do agree with you, that that was the ultimate factor of why I had to return the latest AirPods because of the in-ear design versus outer-ear design. I understand the execution with in-ear design, you secure more sound in, but I found that the inner ear design was causing discomfort at the 30 minute mark where I could not wear them anymore. That’s not Apple‘s problem personally, because they can’t custom fit every pair of AirPods to every user.

Also moving from a tap to a squeeze was an utterly stupid decision. I used to have no issues running and tapping my AirPods, now I have never been successful at skipping a track without then having to reposition the Airpod while running. I hate the squeeze to do something change and I hope they go back to a tap.
I agree here. I really liked the ‘tap’, it works about 95% of the time for me and it just seemed a little bit quicker, where as the ‘squeeze’, almost manipulated the AirPod in your ear and slides around if you were walking/jogging, where it needs to be readjusted because of the grip with the squeeze.

The tap, didn’t require any hand gripping with the squeeze, and only requires one finger for quick adjustments.
 
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perplx

macrumors member
Aug 2, 2013
55
145
I agree. I refuse to pay that much for headphones that can’t even do CD quality audio.

And yes, I can hear the difference.
Agreed.

It's crazy that cd audio is over 40 years old now and bluetooth doesn't have the bandwidth for it. It's only ~1.4 Mbit/s meanwhile we have gigabit wifi.

Thats not even mentioning 2 way bluetooth for calls that get downgraded even more and sounds like a tin can with string.
 

Tagbert

macrumors 68020
Jun 22, 2011
2,270
2,315
Seattle
Smells like a potential proprietary solution - that would be bad.
As long as they still support Bluetooth too, having an extended connection mode would not be so bad.

Logitech has their own wireless connection for mice that is far better than Bluetooth. If Apple did create an extended wireless protocol, they might be able to submit it To the bluetooth group as a proposal for a next gen protocol.
 

Relentless Power

macrumors Westmere
Jul 12, 2016
37,630
42,422
The only problem with tap is that every time I would reposition the AirPods in my ears, it would think I wanted to pause or skip tracks. There's no perfect solution and while they have improved Siri's ability to hear and execute my commands, Siri is still far from perfect as well.
As much as I find Siri useful, I think we’re at a point where they can only improve/utilize Siri with so much potential, because of ambient noises-loud environments. So naturally, that’s going to cause a distraction for triggering Siri and deciphering what the user is saying based the noise level of the surrounding environment.
 
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