Apple in October debuted its revamped third-generation AirPods wireless earbuds, which boast a new design, Adaptive EQ support, spatial audio, and more. Apple’s vice president of acoustics Gary Geaves recently sat down for an interview with What HiFi (via 9to5Mac) to discuss Apple’s AirPods 3 design decisions, the limitations of Bluetooth, and more.
Geaves said the AirPods 3 were built completely from custom-made components, using nothing that might qualify as “off the shelf.” Apple worked to bring the best possible sound quality to the new AirPods, using a “complicated acoustic system,” “carefully tuned bass port,” and a “brand new, custom amplifier.” However, Bluetooth still limited the sound quality.
When asked if Bluetooth is holding back Apple’s hardware and “stifling sound quality,” Geaves merely replied that Apple “concentrates very hard” on getting the most out of Bluetooth. However, he also said “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.
Geaves said that since no ear is exactly the same, 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.
The full interview with Geaves offers more details about the AirPods 3.