Five new Over-Ear Headphone Patents cover Magnetic Assemblies for Removable Earpieces, Textiles Boosting Acoustic Resistance & more
In mid-December 2019 Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple Invents a Secondary Audio System for its Future Mixed Reality Headset that Includes Detachable Speakers." They system described how the detachable speaker cups were magnetically attached to a future HMD.
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a series of five new patent applications from Apple relating to the future over-ear headphones that covers a wide range of new features from removable earpieces to magnetic sensors to new textiles used on the cups to boost acoustic resistance and more.
Apple notes that headphones have been in production for many years, but numerous design problems remain. For example, the functionality of headbands associated with headphones has generally been limited to a mechanical connection functioning only to maintain the earpieces of the headphones over the ears of a user and provide an electrical connection between the earpieces.
Furthermore, the incorporation of headphones into other types of portable listening devices, such as augmented reality and virtual reality headsets has also been slow due to an unwillingness to adapt headphones to new and improved form factors.
The headband tends to add substantially to the bulk of the headphones, thereby making storage of the headphones problematic. Stems connecting the headband to the earpieces that are designed to accommodate adjustment of an orientation of the earpieces with respect to a user's ears also add bulk to the headphones.
Stems connecting the headband to the earpieces that accommodate elongation of the headband generally allow a central portion of the headband to shift to one side of a user's head. This shifted configuration can look somewhat odd and depending on the design of the headphones can also make the headphones less comfortable to wear.
While some improvements such as wireless delivery of media content to the headphones has alleviated the problem of cord tangle, this type of technology introduces its own batch of problems. For example, because wireless headphones require battery power to operate, a user who leaves the wireless headphones turned on could inadvertently exhaust the battery of the wireless headphones, making them unusable until a new battery can be installed or for the device to be recharged.
Another design problem with many headphones is that a user must generally figure out which earpiece corresponds to which ear to prevent the situation in which the left audio channel is presented to the right ear and the right audio channel is presented to the left ear.
Apple's series of five patent applications on their future over-ear headphones details the depth of changes Apple is intent on bringing to market. The late 2019 report that we linked to at the top of our report, covers Apple's work on removable ear pieces in a unique Head Mounted Display system for Mixed Reality.
Each of the five patents published today have a common base of information. They then present added specificity to each patent covering a new feature. In total, Apple presents in excess of 100 images supporting each new facet of the invention.
The Five Over-Ear Headphone Patents
Below is a list of the five over-ear patents published today by the U.S. Patent Office that covers a broad and deep overview of the ideas, features and systems that Apple will be employing in their headset to overcome some of the shortcomings of today's headphones.
01: "Headphones with Removable Earpieces."
02: Headphones with Telescoping Stem Assembly
03: Headphones with Magnetic Sensor
04: Headphone Earpads with Textile Layer having a Low Porosity Region
05: Headphones with Increased Back Volume
Each of the patents published today present unique aspects of Apple's future over-ear headphones. For instance, in patent 04 linked to above titled "Headphone Earpads with Textile Layer having a Low Porosity Region," Apple notes the following:
The "Earpad can be covered by a textile material to provide a pleasant feel to the portion of earpad assembly contacting the user. In some embodiments, various treatments can be applied to the textile material to improve the acoustic isolation provided by the textile material.
For example, a heat treatment could be applied to at least the portion of the textile material most likely to contact the user's head in order to reduce a pore size of the textile material, thereby boosting acoustic resistance."
There are many other tiny features like this that you could discover when exploring today's five patent applications.
A Few Key Headphone Patent Figures
Apple's five Headphone patents present well over 100 patent figures. Below you'll find just a sampling of some of what you'll find when reviewing today's five patents.
While the timing of such a product and its many features outlined in today's five patents is unknown at this time, there have been rumors that suggest that they could be coming to market this fall.
However, Apple's over-ear headphones were originally rumored to be coming to market last fall when out of nowhere Microsoft introduced their "Surface headphones" with innovative touch controls on the outside of the earcups, something that an Apple patent had shown (below) back in November 2019, though filed for in 2016. Apple's headphones were a no-show for Q4 2019.
Whether Microsoft's Surface Headphones surprise launch spooked Apple to delay their product or a last minute glitch cancelled its debut is unknown at this time.
Will we finally get to see Apple's over-ear headphones this year? We hope so, but only time will tell.