Apple’s Hidden AirPod Upgrade Gives Users More Control Over Noise Cancellation

A customizable Adaptive Audio feature is coming to AirPods Pro 2.
A customizable Adaptive Audio feature is coming to AirPods Pro 2.

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Now you decide when to tune out and when to tune in.

AirPods users are set to enjoy a bunch of new features with a firmware update expected to launch this fall. But while Apple announced most new features at the WWDC 2024, it kept one gem hidden: the Customizable Adaptive Audio feature.

Found in the new AirPods firmware beta, this upgrade promises to change the way we hear audio in different environments.

How Will the Customizable Adaptive Audio Work?

Turning on the Adaptive Audio setting for AirPods Pro 2.
Turning on the Adaptive Audio setting for AirPods Pro 2.

Adaptive Audio itself isn’t new. This feature has been introduced exclusively to AirPods Pro 2 since 2023.

Apple defines it as:

“A new listening mode that dynamically blends Transparency mode and Active Noise Cancellation together based on the conditions of a user’s environment to deliver the best experience at the moment. This will seamlessly tailor the noise control experience while users move between environments and interactions that are constantly changing throughout the day.”

Currently, the feature automatically adjusts the Transparency mode and Active Noise Cancellation based on your surroundings. It’s like having a smart audio assistant that knows when to let outside sounds through, when to block out unwanted noise, and by how much.

But it’s not always perfect. Sometimes the AirPods will automatically reduce the noise cancellation even when the users don’t want them to.

That’s the problem that the new firmware aims to fix.

This upgrade gives users more control over how strong their noise cancellation should be.

With this, you can either “remove more noise” or “remove less noise” to fit your specific needs.

For example, in a noisy office, you can command your AirPods to “remove more noise” so you can focus on your work without distractions.

On the other hand, when you’re outside, you can tell them to “reduce less noise”. This way, you can know what’s going on around you while still enjoying your music or podcasts.

In short, the older version is automatic while this upgrade gives you manual control.

Additional Features and Enhancements

Users can soon just shake their heads to reject calls so they won't have to speak in public. (From: YouTube/Apple)
Users can soon just shake their heads to reject calls so they won’t have to speak in public. (From: YouTube/Apple)

Besides the customizable noise cancellation, Apple is adding several other features in the upcoming firmware update for AirPods.

Here are the new AirPod features announced at the recent WWDC 2024:

  • Head gesture detection: Users will be able to interact with Siri by nodding to say “yes” or shaking their head to say “no.”
  • Better voice isolation for calls: This will improve call clarity in noisy places. AirPods Pro already has a voice isolation feature. But this will have better isolation and wind noise reduction with the help of the H2 chip and machine learning.
  • Spatial Audio for gaming: Personalized Spatial Audio with dynamic head tracking will be added to games. To do this, Apple is releasing an API so developers can add personalized spatial audio and high-quality 16-bit, 48kHz audio for gaming chats with AirPods.
One of the first games to support this feature will be Need for Speed Mobile on iOS.

Expected Release and Compatibility

The new features are expected to come out this fall with iOS 18, likely alongside the launch of the iPhone 16.

However, not all AirPods models will be able to take advantage of these enhancements.

Spatial audio for games, better voice isolation for calls, and head gesture detection will be available for AirPods (3rd generation), AirPods Pro, and AirPods Max. Yet, the customizable Adaptive Audio feature will be an AirPods Pro 2 exclusive.

If you wish to get ahead, the latest firmware is currently available for developer beta testers, with the full rollout anticipated later this year.

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