With the early 2024 release of Vision Pro quickly approaching, Apple is steadily updating its products to prepare for the new headset.

In addition to an upcoming spatial capture feature on iPhone 15 Pro, Apple also says its latest AirPods Pro wireless earbuds (2nd-gen, now with USB-C) will support lossless audio with ‘ultra-low latency’ to ensure that what you see and what you hear are closely synchronized for an immersive experience.

What Apple is calling a “groundbreaking wireless audio protocol” is powered by the H2 chip in the AirPods Pro 2 and Vision Pro. The specifics of the protocol haven’t been divulged, but the company says it will deliver 20-bit, 48 kHz lossless audio with a “massive reduction in audio latency.”

Image courtesy Apple

Low latency in XR is important because a headset’s visuals need to be as low latency as possible in order to keep users comfortable. Having audio that’s just as responsive (in order to keep sight and sounds in sync) sometimes comes at the cost of quality. The audio protocol Apple is now touting seems designed specifically to maintain lossless audio while also keeping latency as low as possible.

The AirPods Pro 2 have been out for a while, but when the company revealed its latest phones earlier this month with USB-C connectors for the first time, it also took the time to release the refreshed version of the Airpods Pro 2, now with USB-C as well.

This is also when we saw the first mention of the new low latency audio protocol; though considering that the original AirPods Pro 2 (with lightning connector) also has an H2 chip, we certainly hope it will also support the new protocol. As for the non-Pro version of AirPods—which only have an H1 chip—it isn’t clear if they will get support. We’ve reached out to Apple for more clarity on which devices will be supported.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • JanO

    When I already have something as cumbersome as an HMD on my head, why exactly would I need wireless earbuds?

    • ViRGiN

      To hear indie devs choice of marketplace soundpacks.
      Valve Index users loves it.

  • Foreign Devil

    What’s another $350 when you shell out 5K or whatever for the HMD right? Really at that price point they should be including the airpods pro or ultra.

  • and the reason only the new model supports it: “Huang revealed that the H2 chip in the USB-C AirPods Pro supports the 5GHz band of wireless frequencies for ultra-low latency and less interference, while the H2 chip in the original second-generation AirPods Pro with a Lightning case is limited to the 2.4GHz band. Apple says it is this 5GHz support that enables the updated AirPods Pro to support lossless audio with the Vision Pro, which is slated for release in the U.S. in early 2024.”

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    There’s not enough bandwidth for Bluetooth to transmit 20bit lossless audio. Apple is making a new wireless protocol – which has the bandwidth of Wifi but uses minimal power like Bluetooth.

    I think this AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C is the first Apple device to have this built-in. Next year when Apple refreshes all their Macs, iPad, iPhone, HomePod, AppleTV, etc they will all have this new wireless protocol.

    They will then follow up with Airpods Max 2 and AirPods Pro 3 with this wireless protocol and make a big announcement – they are not talking about it now because none of their devices support it yet. It will fall back to BT with older Apple devices or PC/Android but going forward – Apple ecosystem will be using lossless audio.

    • ViRGiN

      oh come on.
      everyone knows lossless =/= uncompressed.
      and only tethered headphones can provide the true high end audio experience.
      tethered will always have lower latency.

  • xyzs

    Good to see for very rich people.

    Are they bypassing the horrible Bluetooth protocol to reach that low latency or it’s still relying on it with a custom LC3 like codec ?

  • UroRocks

    Finally, something over which I can agree with ViRGiN here.
    Why waste computing, bandwith and costlier technology resources or run into compatibility issues, when simple, tethered (cheap or expensive, small or big, your choice) headphones do the trick?