(Pocket-lint) - There is a small mountain of evidence to suggest Apple is developing a pair of high-end, wireless over-ear headphones that will be released shortly. 

The over-ear headphones won't be Beats headphones. Instead, they'll be Apple-branded and may be called AirPods X or AirPods Studio (we've seen X Generation also used but that doesn't sound particularly Apple). 

There's been leaked iOS 14 code, reports from well-known Apple watchers, and even a Target listing all suggesting these headphones are real and coming soon.

What will they be called?

  • Maybe called AirPods Studio
  • We're calling them AirPods X
  • Might cost between $350 and $400

Listings for an unreleased pair of Apple headphones appeared in Target's store systems in February. The listing specifically called the headphones "the Apple AirPods (X Generation)", and indicated they'll cost $399.99.

With a price that high, they're likely a high-end pair of over-ear headphones given the top-of-the-range AirPods Pro cost $249.

Since the Target listing, other rumours suggest the headphones may end up being called AirPods Studio and will clock in at $349. 

For the purpose of this rumour guide, we will call Apple's upcoming headphones the AirPods Studio or AirPods X, short for AirPods (X Generation).

In an April 2020 tweet, Prosser claimed that AirPods X is actually the neckband version of the headphones, a little like the Beats X neckband series

Release date

  • Launch in 2020 possible
  • Suffered developmental challenges

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman claimed in early 2019 that Apple was planning to launch its over-ear headphones by the second half of the year, but that obviously never happened. He had originally said Apple wanted to introduce the headphones toward the end of 2018, but it faced development challenges.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo then advised investors in January 2020 (via 9to5Mac) that Apple's headphones were now expected to ship sometime in 2020 with the latest reports suggesting July. Of course, July has now been and gone and there's still no sign of the Apple-branded over-ear headphones.

The current global situation may have had a part to play in that though. Apple held a virtual Special Event on 15 September and 13 October, but no headphones were revealed at either. There is another virtual Special Event scheduled for 10 November however, so perhaps the headphones will finally appear then.

Design

  • Over-ears with cans
  • Probably available in light and dark colours
  • Will likely be minimal

Apple's AirPods Studio are said to be over-ear headphones, which means they'll be traditional headphones, complete with cans that sit over your ears.

We imagine Apple launching the Apple X in at least the colour white, especially since it only sells white versions of the AirPods and AirPods Pro. The headphones will likely also have a minimalist look and use premium materials and hardware.

9to5Mac

9to5Mac spotted icons within leaked iOS 14 code that purportedly represent the headphones. They're actually glyphs Apple uses to indicate battery and volume levels for connected headphones in iOS. 9to5Mac discovered both light and dark versions of the same glyphs, suggesting Apple could offer two colour options - perhaps white and black - for its new headphones.

Several Apple and Beats headphones, including AirPods Pro, PowerBeats Pro, and the PowerBeats 4, have leaked like this in the past.

Features 

  • We assume they'll have ANC
  • Use either way around? 
  • Custom equaliser settings

We suspect the headphones will be wireless and feature noise cancellation, of course. 

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo was first to report about Apple's plans to release a pair of over ears. In a research note from 2018 (via MacRumors), he called them Apple's "own-brand, high-end over-ear headphones" with an "all-new design". He also described them "as convenient as AirPods with better sound quality," which makes us think they would feature Apple's W1 chip (also used by the AirPods).

The headphones are expected to automatically pause and resume audio playback when you remove or wear them (as well as tell if they're on your neck or not). Another suggestion - which we'd take with a pinch of salt - says that you can use AirPods Studio either way around; the headphones will route the left and right channels accordingly. 

It also seems there will be custom equaliser settings with low, medium, and high-frequency adjustments available. 

And, if we had to dream, they'd come with a wireless charging stand. There's just no evidence to suggest that'll be the case, unfortunately.

Apple AirPods Studio X rumours: What's happened so far?

Here's everything we've heard about the AirPods X so far.

2 November 2020: Apple announces Special Event for 10 November

Apple sent out invites to another Special Event on 10 November. The invite says "One more thing" but there are no other hints to suggest what might launch at the event.

13 October 2020: Apple launches iPhone 12 series

Apple announced the iPhone 12 series at an event on 13 October 2020 but there was no sign of the headphones. 

6 October 2020: Apple sends invites out to next virtual Special Event

Apple sent invites out to its next Special Event, which will take place virtually on 13 October. The iPhone 12 models are expected, along with the AirTags and possibly the HomePod 2 and the Appel AirPods Studio X headphones.

6 October 2020: Apple stops selling other rival audio gear ahead of HomePod, AirPods Studio launches

Apple is reported to have pulled rival audio products from its stores ahead of new launches from the company, including the possible AirPods Studio.

15 September 2020: Apple holds September event, but no headphones revealed

Apple held its Time Flies Special Event on 15 September but no headphones were revealed. The event focused on iPad and Apple Watch, along with services.

8 September 2020: Apple announces September event

Apple announced it would be holding a virtual Special Event on 15 September. The company didn't confirm what would be revealed at the event, of course, but the AirPods X are a possibility.

3 June 2020: AirPods Studio now in production

Apple's AirPods Studio over-ear headphones have reportedly gone into production and will be released imminently. 

21 May 2020: AirPods Studio set to launch shortly

According to The Information, shipments of the new AirPods Studio headphones are set to begin in June or July, meaning a launch is just a few weeks away. 

12 May 2020: AirPods Studio will detect when you take them off

9to5Mac suggests the new headphones will be able to detect when they're on your neck as well - that seems to suggest that they'll still be on and ready, but music will be paused. It also seems there will be custom equaliser settings, too. 

11 May 2020: AirPods X actually could be AirPods Studio 

The new headphones may end up being called AirPods Studio and will clock in at $349. That's according to serial Apple leaker Jon Prosser. 

8 April 2020: Are AirPods X actually a cheaper pair of headphones? 

According to a new rumour by tech analyst Jon Prosser, AirPods X are Beats X-style neckband headphones for sports. They'll debut at the same time as the iPhone 12 most likely and will cost $200. The over-ear headphones are, as yet unnamed, and will launch earlier for $350.

9 March 2020: Apple's over-ear headphones pictured in leaked iOS 14 icons

9to5Mac spotted two icons representing light and dark versions of Apple’s high-end headphones in leaked iOS 14 code.

24 February 2020: AirPods X Generation listing hints at upcoming $400 headphones

It's been rumoured Apple is working on over-ear headphones, but could these be new Beats models?

24 January 2019: Apple might launch its own pair of wireless over-ear headphones soon

Apple is reportedly planning to release its own brand of over-ear headphones, and they could arrive as early as the second half of 2019.

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Editing by Britta O'Boyle.