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'AirPods Studio' rumored to feature head and neck detection

Apple's Beats Solo Pro headphones.

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Apple's widely rumored over-the-ear headphones, tentatively dubbed "AirPods Studio," will boast a few novel features including head and neck detection, according to a report on Monday.

Citing sources familiar with Apple's plans, 9to5Mac reports an upcoming "AirPods Studio" model will use embedded sensors to determine when and how the headphone is being worn.

Similar to in-ear detection on AirPods and AirPods Pro, the capability reportedly determines whether the unit is on a user's head or neck to allow for automatic content playback functions like pausing, restarting or shutting down the headset. For example, the headset might pause playback when a user places the device on their neck and resume playback when flipped back up to a head-mounted position.

A second set of sensors, presumably located in or near the rumored accessory's ear cups or on its headband, is able to discern a user's left and right ears for automatic stereo channel allocation. Whether the parts are proximity sensors, optical sensors or accelerometers is unknown. The implementation could mean there is no "wrong way" to wear the device.

Finally, the report claims pairing the headphones with an iPhone or Mac "unlocks," or triggers, customizable equalizer settings. Specifically, users can adjust frequency settings in three increments: low, medium, and high. While not as granular as other offerings, frequency customization would be a welcome addition for professional users looking for a more neutral frequency curve than current bass-heavy consumer configurations.

Today's report lines up with Apple's recently published patent covering ear detection, which details methods by which sensors can determine when a headphone is being worn on the ears. A second patent application published last August relies on capacitive sensors and machine learning algorithms to detect headphone orientation for automatically assigning left and right channel output.

Apple is widely expected to introduce a set of over-the-ear headphones under its own branding, and not that of Beats, later this year. Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was first to predict the move in 2018, saying the extension of the company's wearables business will build on wireless and noise canceling technology established by the popular AirPods line.

Subsequent rumors pegged a summer 2020 launch date for the supposed "AirPods Studio," with a retail price of $349.