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Apple over-ear headphones: release date, leaks and all of the news

Apple over-ear headphones: release date, leaks and all of the news
(Image credit: Apple)

Evidence is building of a new pair of Apple wireless headphones. But unlike the firm's AirPods, these are over-ear headphones rather than in-ear.

Want proof? There's been a steady drip of clues in the past few weeks...

First came noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo's prediction that we would see the first pair of Apple over-ear headphones at the start of this year. Then US retailer Target listed a pair of 'Apple AirPods (X Generation)' headphones in its inventory. Coincidence? We think not.

So what can we expect from a pair of Apple over-ear headphones? When will they arrive? And how much will they cost? We've rounded up all the leaks and rumours to give you the best idea of what we'll see.

So without further ado, let's see what Apple has in store.

Apple over-ear headphones: price and release date

Apple over-ear headphones: release date, leaks and all of the news

(Image credit: Curved)

According to Kuo, we'll see the first pair of Apple over-ear wireless headphones early this year. Kuo released this info in a memo (spotted by 9to5Mac).

Kuo has a decent track record when it comes to predicting Apple launches. He was on the money when it came to the 2019 release date of the Apple AirPods Pro, and the 16-inch MacBook Pro. So when he speaks, it's worth listening.

Apple usually holds an event in March, but this year's as-yet unannounced launch is said to have been delayed because of the coronavirus. The firm is also rumoured to announce a new budget iPhone (a follow-up to 2016's iPhone SE) at the same event.

So how much can we expect to pay for this new pair of Apple wireless headphones? This is Apple, so don't expect them to come cheap. According to the listing for Apple AirPods (X Generation) that mysteriously popped up at Target recently, they'll retail for $399.99 (around £350/€350). That would place them in the same price bracket as the Sony WH-1000XM3 and Sennheiser Momentum 3 Wireless.

That's good company to keep. If Apple's new pair is anywhere near as well reviewed as either Sony's or Sennheiser's finest, they'll be some of the best wireless over-ears around.

Apple over-ear headphones: name

The question on everybody's lips: what will Apple's over-ear headphones be called?

The firm has had enormous success with its AirPods range of in-ear headphones, and chose to stick with for the AirPods Pro which launched last year. Apple claims AirPods are the most popular headphones in the world, so we would expect it to reuse such a recognisable name.

But AirPods (X Generation)? Really?

We don't think so. That name in the Target listing was just a placeholder - something to sit on the page until the real name is known. Apple is notoriously secretive about product details - the mobile networks find out about a new iPhone at the same time as the rest of us - so the chances of someone from Target having advanced details is slim to none.

Instead, we think something along the lines of 'AirPods Studio' or 'AirPods X' to emphasise that these offer a more rounded sound than the AirPods Pro.

Apple over-ear headphones: design

Apple over-ear headphones: release date, leaks and all of the news

(Image credit: 9to5Mac)

Apple prides itself on its intuitive and stylish designs, and expect its first pair of over-ear headphones to be no different.

At the moment, we only have concept images to go on - these are speculative mock-ups that people have created to give an idea of how they might look. They all feature a traditional over-ear design with wireless functionality and cushioned ear cups. Much like the Apple-owned Beats range of over-ear models, in fact.

We have more of an idea about colour schemes.

Icons spotted in iOS 14 source code reveal both a light and dark option, 9to5Mac reports. Whether those options are white and black, or more nuanced options such as space grey (as found on Apple's iPhones) remains to be seen, but chances are they'll come in more colour schemes than Apple's plain white AirPods.

Apple over-ear headphones: features and specs

Apple's over-ear headphones should be positioned above its Beats range, so expect a suitably premium feature set.

Wireless Bluetooth should come as standard, as should hands-free Siri compatibility. That would mean you could control music playback and retrieve useful information just by speaking.

We can expect some kind of touch controls on one of the ear cups, so you don't have to reach for your phone every time you want to skip a track.

Active noise-cancellation should also come as standard, to block out background noise. This has two benefits: it lets you hear your music more clearly without cranking it up to ear-splitting volume, and because it dulls background noise it helps you sleep even if you're not listening to music.

We would also expect a more grown-up sound quality than Apple's Beats stablemates. Beats headphones tend to be a bit bass-heavy at the expense of the rest of the frequency range, but we would expect more from an Apple-branded pair. Both the AirPods and the AirPods Pro can be bettered for sound, but they're still a cut above your average in-ear pair.

If Apple can marry such premium sound quality with its usual winning ease of use, it could well have a hit on its hands (and our ears).

Apple over-ear headphones vs AirPods Pro: which is better?

It's too soon to know how Apple's over-ear wireless headphones will compare with its AirPods and AirPods Pro models. But we can take an educated guess.

The extra space will allow Apple to use bigger, more advanced drivers for a fuller, more rounded sound. There will also be more room for noise-cancelling components, so expect more advanced active noise-cancellation.

Really, they will be completely different propositions: AirPods and AirPods Pro offer an in-ear experience, with all the benefits that entails (more portability, a less obtrusive look, lower price, etc.) while Apple's over-ear headphones should offer better sound quality, more bass and more effective noise-cancellation.

We're primed for an official announcement any day now. Watch this space.

  • Friesiansam
    "Icons spotted in iOS 14 source code reveal both a light and dark option, 9to5Mac reports. "

    The image could well be nothing more than generic headphone icons. Really clutching at straws to use it as a guide to what to expect from the new headphones.