Apple has managed to significantly improve the sound quality of the AirPods Pro 2 without lossless audio support — and in a new interview, Apple engineer Esge Andersen reveals some secrets about how that happened.
In short, it’s all about airflow, Andersen said Which Hi-Fi? (opens in new tab) in a wide discussion. Andersen works for Apple’s acoustics team and describes how the company wanted to give everyone “an AirPods Max in their pocket.”
While the overall design of the AirPods Pro 2 is nearly identical to that of the original AirPods Pro, they feature redesigned vents to optimize airflow for the audio drivers, which was apparently key to improving the sound.
“How We Move the Sky”
“When we talk about good sound it’s about how we move the air in the product – which is a bit weird because it’s not about the case or the way it looks – but it’s about making sure we also design for airflow,” says Andersen (opens in new tab).
There was apparently a particular focus on improving high frequency response, but the AirPods Pro 2 offer both cleaner highs and deeper, more accurate bass. There is also delicate tuning at each volume level.
Andersen also revealed how the earbuds are designed to work slightly differently depending on the device they’re connected to – and that there’s a panel of “expert listeners” who make sure the sound is as impressive as possible.
Analysis: The AirPods standard
Apple has been developing its AirPods wireless earbuds since 2016, and the introduction of the first pair sparked a new wave of technology: Virtually every manufacturer now has a pair of wireless earbuds for sale.
Despite there being a lot of competition in the space right now, the AirPods remain the technology to beat here, not least because of the high reliability and superior response of the AirPods Pro 2 (which we gave four and a half stars out of five too) .
Add to that the more affordable AirPods 3 and more expensive AirPods Max, and consumers are well covered in terms of what they can pick up – although Andersen admits in this latest interview that it’s impossible to get the audio output perfect for every listener.
The next step would be that support for lossless audio (which is available in Apple Music, don’t forget). Apple has previously said it may need to develop its own alternative to the Bluetooth codec to make its headphones and earbuds lossless-ready.