Everything points to Apple taking sound quality very seriously with the AirPods 3, and all of its modern-day audio products for that matter, and the recent launches of Lossless, Hi-Res Lossless and (in a slightly different way) Spatial Audio point to a real push towards higher audio quality. But there’s a catch, as far as I can see it – a bottle-neck that’s been preventing real qualitative leaps in the sound of wireless headphones essentially since wireless headphones came into being. I’m talking about Bluetooth, of course, which almost all wireless headphones, including AirPods, rely upon and which doesn’t have the data rate for hi-res or even lossless audio. I ask Geaves whether the use of Bluetooth is holding back his hardware and stifling sound quality.
“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.