Monday, January 3, 2022

Squeezing the Most Out of Bluetooth

Tom Parsons (Hacker News):

As I discovered during a recent conversation with Geaves and Eric Treski from the Product Marketing Team, much of the work in designing the new AirPods 3 revolved around trying to solve problems inherent in the brief to come up with a true-wireless in-ear headphone that crams into its tiny form next-gen technology such as Spatial Audio and ups the sound quality ante without resorting to a burrowing or noise-isolating design.


The so-called ‘Transparency’ modes of the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max are very impressive (as are many similar features offered by rival noise-cancelling headphones) but they can never sound as natural as a true open design. What’s more, an in-ear headphone that sits outside the ear canal is always going to be more comfortable than one that’s wedged into it. Personally speaking, I’m therefore glad that Apple has stuck with the non-burrowing design for the AirPods 3, even though doing so presented lots of challenges for Geaves and his team.


“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.

Nick Heer:

Given that AirPods Max and Apple Music’s lossless audio option were announced within six months of each other, yet were incompatible for bandwidth reasons, it seemed like something had to give. It felt like a plot hole in both products’ respective stories.

José Adorno:

If analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is right, Apple is probably adopting a new standard to offer Lossless support with AirPods Pro 2.


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