Apple Acoustics VP Suggests that Bluetooth is Stifling AirPods’ Sound Quality

BY Anu Joy

Published 31 Dec 2021

Apple’s VP of Acoustics, Gary Geaves, and Head of AirPods Product Marketing, Eric Treski spoke with What Hi-Fi about the development of AirPods 3. In the interview, Geaves pointed out the limitations of Bluetooth and also provided some interesting insight on the development of AirPods 3.

When Geaves was asked if Bluetooth was holding back AirPods hardware and “stifling sound quality”, he tried to skirt around the question, but did eventually admit that Bluetooth had its limitations. He also stressed 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.”

Built From the Ground Up

Geaves detailed how the AirPods 3 were “built from the ground up,” without using off the shelf components. The loudspeaker consists of a “complicated acoustic system” to minimize distortion as well as pressure in the ear canal. It also features a well-tuned bass port for better sound quality.

The Acoustics VP explained how ear shape and even the width and shape of your head affect how sound is perceived. These factors can be captured mathematically by the Head Related Transfer Function (HRTF). Apple’s Acoustic Team “captured thousands of HRTFs” to derive the best HRTF that’s the closest to everybody’s audio response.

He added that the AirPods team analyzed the strengths of the AirPods 2 and concluded that many prefer an open fit that doesn’t create a seal in the ear. However, designing it is quite challenging because no two ears are the same. This led to the AirPods Pro and AirPods 3 getting the Adaptive EQ feature, which intends to “deliver a really consistent frequency response regardless of the level of fit that each person gets”.

Geaves also highlighted that the team understood how music is an “emotional experience which people connect with on a very deep level”. He said that Apple works with “an expert team of critical listeners and tuners” to deliver a more natural-sounding experience.

The full interview provides a behind-the-scenes look into how Apple’s Acoustics team worked on the AirPods. You can check out What Hi-Fi to read it in its entirety.

[Via What Hi-Fi]