There's been much talk around the future of Apple's AirPods, which are rumored to be getting noice cancellation features in the near future. The new wireless Beats headphones may reveal exactly what that technology sounds like, and hint at the future of Apple's hearable ambitions as it continues to bring Beats into the fold.
The new Beats Solo aren't a smart hearable that we'd usually cover on Wareable, but in a short demo we were able to see how the new headphones lay out the next step of Apple's hearable journey.
Now five years into the acquisition, Beats and Apple say they have a combined audio roadmap, and while the Beats brand will keep chugging along, it's clearly influencing the future of Apple's audio ambitions.
Read this: Apple AirPods 3 – everything we know so far
One of the key features of the Beats Pro is the active noise-cancellation technology – Pure Adaptive Noise Cancelling (Pure ANC) – which continually monitors the surrounding environment and adjusts to block out ambient noise. It also accommodates for leakage from head movement, trapped hair, earrings etc.
There's a new passthrough technology here too, so with the push of a button you can allow sound to pass into the ear. It uses the external mic to leak the sound in, and the company says there's zero lag on this.
We actually gave this a demo and it's much more subtle than passthrough features we've tried on most other hearables, less of an audibly dramatic switch as you let the rest of the world in. However, it remains to be seen if it's good enough for holding a conversation – that's the real test of this type of technology, if you ask us – but we were able to hear a flight announcement in a TV-simulated airport experience Apple played during our demo.
And of course, alongside various audio improvements, Beats has boosted the voice pickup to make talking to Siri smoother on Solo Pro. Thanks to the inclusion of the same H1 chip found on the AirPods and Powerbeats Pro, the connection with an iPhone is seamless, and you can use iOS 13's new audio sharing feature with these too.
Battery life is good too, at 22 hours and up to 40 if you're not using the noise cancellation.
Tech companies want to own your ears, and the battle for this space is heating up. Yet we've seen several major casualties in this space – Doppler Labs and Bragi to name two – with startups trying to build too many smarts into one device.
It seems more likely the hearable future will be built on good headphones, rather than vice versa, and Apple clearly wants in. The new $300 Beats Pro may looks like another pair of headphones, but they also feel like a roadmap, and if there are new AirPods with noise cancellation on the horizon, as rumored, then you can expect they'll be sharing the same technology.
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