After ANC, what would be the subsequent audio innovation for wi-fi headphones and earphones?


Sitting on the sidelines of IFA 2022, I had the chance to speak with Christian Ern, head of Sennheiser’s shopper headphones and earphones catalog. We mentioned audiophilia, true wi-fi headphones, and “ambient consciousness” that are slated to be the following huge factor in shopper audio wearables after ANC.

NextPit Logo white on transparent Background


If I had been to say “wi-fi headphones” or “Bluetooth headphones“, you might consider Sennheiser, however different model names equivalent to Sony and Bose may even pop up. Sure, regardless of its many years of presence available on the market and its glorious repute amongst audiophiles and audio professionals worldwide, the German specialist continues to play the position of a challenger within the shopper market.

A lot in order that final 12 months, Sennheiser’s shopper audio division was taken over by its mum or dad firm, Sonova, to strengthen its place. On the similar time, in an period the place some reviewers and customers suppose that listening to an MP3 file on Spotify in AAC format on a pair of AirPods Professional is taken into account the head of audio achievement, does a producer like Sennheiser actually have a spot immediately?

If Sennheiser is to be believed, it is a huge sure, and one of many methods they’ve carried out that’s by growing a selected function: transparency mode. Sure, , it is the other of energetic noise discount (ANC), which consists in amplifying ambient noise. Why is that this ambient consciousness going to turn out to be increasingly prevalent in our headphones and earphones? I requested Christian Ern from Sennheiser to select his brains.

Sennheiser Christian Ern
Christian Ern is chargeable for Sennheiser’s headphones / © Sennheiser

Consolation is extra necessary than anything in Europe

If you happen to had been to go to Japan and ask a mean techie to indicate you his or her audio gear, she or he will most probably pull out a minimum of one DAC from his or her pocket, linked to his or her smartphone, in addition to a pair of HiFi wired headphones. Fiio, Meze, Shure, Hidizs, Thieaudio, or Klipsch, are manufacturers which might be far more mainstream than in Europe. A lot of them additionally carry a HiFi participant or a conveyable amp.

If we had been to do the identical in Europe, we usually tend to discover an outdated pair of AirPods from 2016 or, at greatest, a pair of AirPods Professional. Positive, audiophile gear is way from low-cost (even when you will get away with it on a decent funds), but it surely’s principally a matter of strategy to tech.

“In Europe, the consolation issue is far more necessary. In Japan, it is fairly loopy, and in a great way. Folks have turned audiophilia right into a science. It’s a must to have the proper headphones, the proper cable, the proper participant. It is nearly a gamification of the consumer expertise. In Europe, it is the consolation of use that is necessary,” explains Christian Ern.

This attachment to the “plug and play” facet, the place all it’s important to do is open your AirPods field they usually pair along with your iPhone, explains largely Apple’s success within the wi-fi headphone market. And that is exactly why producers like Sennheiser, Sony or Bose are working so onerous on deeper integration with Android smartphones.

“Google’s Quick Pair and Microsoft’s Straightforward Pair are the most recent notable examples,” Christian Ern reminded me. However even Quick Pair is struggling to be correctly applied by all producers. Personally, I am nonetheless shocked once I see the Quick Pair animation when pairing new headphones to my smartphone.

For me, that is THE greatest problem for manufacturers like Sennheiser. Managing to turn out to be accessible sufficient to turn out to be absolutely mainstream, and Christian Ern is just not going to take part on this rat race. It’s because demand from audiophiles, customers who’re extra demanding on audio high quality, exists. Nonetheless, it stays a really area of interest market.

After ANC, ambient consciousness to interrupt by means of to non-purists?

Think about that you’ve got learn all of Tolkien’s works. From The Silmarillion to The Kids of Húrin to Beren and Lúthien and The Unfinished Tales and Legends. You in all probability gritted your tooth whereas watching the primary two episodes of the Rings of Energy sequence on Amazon Prime over the weekend. Possibly you even grumbled at Peter Jackson’s trilogy (wrongly, however I am not judging you).

However these motion pictures, like this new sequence, will most definitely be a gateway for a lot of new followers to the, let’s face it, finally not very accessible Tolkien universe. Effectively, it is the identical for audiophilia. We do not all have the time nor the need to undergo fifteen comparisons to purchase the proper DAC, the proper DAP, the proper earphones, or the proper headphones.

“Sennheiser nonetheless has at its coronary heart the audio high quality for which we’re identified all around the world. We make our personal transducers, and it is this mastery and precision that units us aside. And since nobody must be strolling round with HD600s within the subway, we’re utilizing this expertise in additional accessible merchandise just like the Momentum 4, for instance,” says Christian Ern.

Sennheiser Momentum 4
The Sennheiser Momentum 4 is just not an audiophile headset, however it’s far more versatile than an HD600. / © NextPit

And this democratization, it additionally has to cross by means of the valley of innovation. We noticed it with the ANC, in any other case generally known as energetic noise cancellation. A function can turn out to be so fashionable that customers make it a decisive buying criterion, even when it means creating a brand new class of merchandise in its personal proper. Besides that creating merchandise which might be too situational can be counterproductive, as Christian Ern rightfully identified to me.

“We’re not going to make a product for each sort of state of affairs. That is why, for instance, increasingly headphones and earbuds are providing a transparency mode along with ANC.” The concept is to do all the pieces in order that you do not have to take your headphones or earbuds out of your ears.

Occurring the subway and wish to block out the group noise? You activate ANC. However while you get off the prepare and stroll down the road? You activate the transparency mode to listen to the automobiles coming and never get run over. The well-known transparency mode, this “ambient consciousness” is just not new, we’ve got been speaking about it for a number of years.

On the finish of the day, it’s about to turn out to be THE subsequent innovation vector on the audio market. In my Jabra Elite 5 assessment, for instance, I used to be raving concerning the capability to regulate the extent of ANC or transparency on every earpiece individually. I feel producers will proceed to take advantage of this.

“Effectively, we’re nonetheless removed from this versatility for audiophile merchandise. A smartphone cannot even correctly energy them now.

Nonetheless, this clear style stuff, which makes us neglect concerning the headphones and earbuds we’ve got on our ears, makes me suppose {that a} future the place audio wearables turn out to be a real intuitive and fluid multi-device interface is just not so far-off.