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Apple may debut over-ear headphones with advanced noise cancellation

The internet is awash with rumors claiming that Apple is working on a set of high-end, over-ear headphones, and there’s a (50/50?) chance we could see them unveiled at the company’s event at its Cupertino, California headquarters on September 10.

Naturally, the speculation is about as far-fetched as can be, with some so-called sources — or rather, teenagers taking to Reddit — claiming the cans could use movement to charge and could double as a teleportation pad. OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but there are some bold rumors out there.

So, what should we expect from Apple’s first foray into the world of over-ear headphones that don’t come with a Beats logo? Quite a lot, actually; the tech behemoth is said to be prioritizing form and function over branding.

In a nutshell, that means Apple wants to create a product that serves an actual purpose, rather than just adding on to its collection for the sake of it (cough, Apple Card, cough) — and that’s fantastic news for Apple fans and naysayers alike.

Look out Bose?

One department in which Apple is hoping to set itself aside from the competition is noise-canceling. According to a recent patent filing, the company is working on an innovative new system that’s a lot safer than the existing ANC standard.

The way it works is simple: The headphone will be home to a host of external and internal microphones, which are driven by a special algorithm designed to pass through certain sounds, such as a car horn, so you can still react to your surroundings.

Just one concept render that imagines the design of the headphone.

Obviously, you wouldn’t have to keep the feature enabled. Just like you can disable ambient sound in plenty of currently available headphones, Apple would give customers the option to turn off selective noise-canceling from their iPad, iPod, or iPhone.

The patent also notes that such a system, thanks to the mixture of internal and external microphones, would allow the cans to measure how much sound is seeping in and adjust levels accordingly to deliver total solitude.

Creating such a feature that actually works effectively is easier said than done, of course, and in any event, it will be difficult for Apple to roll out a pair of headphones that best (or even compete with) the top names in noise-canceling, including Sony and Bose, the latter of which has been in the noise-canceling business for decades.

Button-free? You betcha

As a company that made its fortune on minimalism, you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple’s over-ear headphone will be button-free — likely relying on touch gestures or Siri to control the volume, enable noise-canceling, and skip tracks.

If the cans are powered by the Apple H1 processor — like the AirPods 2  — you’ll also be able to launch Siri by mumbling the magic phrase, “Hey Siri.” No touching, tapping, stroking, squeezing, or tickling required.

Again, none of this is confirmed. But considering most, if not all, of the rumors we’ve caught wind of to date claim the headphones would launch in 2019, we shouldn’t have to wait much longer to find out all the juicy details.

If the announcement isn’t made on September 10, when Apple is also said to be taking the wraps off three new iPhones and a new iPad Pro among other hardware, it could be launched alongside Apple TV Plus in November.

We’ll be updating this post and following the news closely during Apple’s live event tomorrow. For now, we’ll have to wait and see.

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Josh Levenson
Having spent half a decade writing about the latest AV, mobile and social news for some of the world’s largest…
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