According to a new patent, Apple wants to create earbuds that detect when there’s a bad seal between the earbud and the wearer’s ear, and compensate for the difference in sound quality.
Why is having a good seal so important? Here’s what Apple had to say in the filing:
A poor seal generally results in poor earbud performance. For example, a poor seal may change the acoustic properties of the enclosed cavity in a way that disrupts the normal operation of the earbud speaker. Bass response may be significantly reduced. Noise cancellation performance may also suffer. A poorly sealed earbud may also sound much quieter to the user than a well sealed earbud, so a poor seal may adversely affect the balance between right and left channels during stereo playback.
If you’ve ever tried in-ear earbuds, you probably know exactly the sensation of having a seal come ever-so-slightly loose, just enough for one ear to be louder than the other. What Apple wants to do, according to this new patent, is use detection of a seal loss to automatically adjust volume, equalizer and noise cancellation settings. That way, even if an earbud is loose, you shouldn’t lose too much sound quality.
Ultimately, the tech won’t solve any underlying fit issues, which is why Apple’s patent also discusses a system for notifying the user that there’s a poor seal between the earbud and his or her ear.
What do you think: is this the future of earbuds?
Blair Hanley Frank is a technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked for Macworld, PCWorld and TechHive. He can be found on Twitter @belril.