Apple revealed a newly redesigned AirPods 3 this week – with support for spatial audio.
The new AirPods 3 design is modeled after the AirPods Pro, with shorter stems. The design sits more in-ear and includes a newly designed battery case. The AirPods 3 have a universal fit rather than adjustable silicone tips. That means they do not feature active noise cancellation or transparency mode – only AirPods Pro and AirPods Max have those features.
“By combining the power of the H1 chip with an Apple-designed acoustic system, the new AirPods use computational audio to deliver breakthrough sound with Adaptive EQ,” Apple said during the event. “Users can enjoy spatial audio featuring Dolby Atmos in Apple Music, movies, and TV shows, along with dynamic head tracking across Apple devices.”
Apple says the extended battery life in the AirPods 3 offers up to 30 hours of listening time.
Pre-orders for the new AirPods started on October 18 for $179. The new earbuds will be released on October 26. Apple now has a series of hearables that all look similar. Offering spatial audio support on the basic AirPods 3 model will also help with adoption of the feature.
If everyone who buys a pair of AirPods can hear the difference between spatial audio and regular stereo, that’s a game changer. It means soundscapes rather than just music tracks will become more relevant than ever in future music production.
Spatial audio will do more to transform the music industry than lossless audio because you don’t need a pair of audiophiles ears to hear the difference. The average joe off the street can pick up a pair of AirPods 3 and instantly hear the difference.
Spatial audio is also important for creating virtual spaces that feel real. The idea of a metaverse where people hang out in a digital venue is being built right now, with early prototypes in games like Fortnite and Roblox.