2023 saw some great new headphones and earbuds from Apple, Bose, Sony and Jabra. What have headphone manufacturers got in store for 2024?

As we come to the end of 2023, it seems like tech and audio companies have got a solid offering of wireless headphones and earbuds. With a range of options, it’s not too hard to find a good pair of headphones with a comfy design, a stable connection, solid battery life, good audio quality and smart features, like active noise cancelling and ambient sound modes.

2023 saw new headphones like the new top-end Bose QuietComfort Ultra earbuds and headphones, updated Jabra Elite earbuds, and AirPods Pro with a new USB-C charging case and some neat new software updates.

The Verge has dived into several reports, rumours and leaks to pull together a rough overview of where headphones could go in 2024. Please note, the information below is largely based on rumours and leaks, and therefore cannot be 100% accurate.

New Apple AirPods

Apple is thought to replace the third-generation AirPods (the cheaper, non-Pro model) with two new models. The third-generation AirPods were released in October 2021, so they are due an update soon. One of the two new models is thought to gain active noise cancellation, which is currently only available on the Pro model. These will no doubt also get USB-C, as Apple continue replacing the port on their existing Lightning products, such as phones, tablets and accessories.

The new AirPods will likely feature the same one-size-fits-most design, rather than the in-ear design of the AirPods Pro. While the Pro design does improve passive noise cancelling, for some, the in-ear design isn’t as comfortable. AirPods Pro aren’t expecting an update, after they were quietly refreshed in September with USB-C.

Image Credit: Apple

Sonos’ first headphones

After years of rumours, acquisition and patent filings, Sonos may finally make their first step into headphones, the one big product category they are yet to make a move in. They won’t come cheap. Sonos are expected to go head-to-head with the top pairs from Apple and Bose, with a heafty $400 to $500 price mark! We are yet to see how Sonos will stand out from the crowd with their pair. They will likely play nice with their existing wireless speakers. I’m imagining some neat hand off features between the headphones and speakers when you arrive/leave home.

Samsung Galaxy Buds 3 Pro

The Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro were a well-received pair of earbuds when they were released in August 2022. As we approach two years since their release, we could well see an update here, although The Verge does point out there haven’t been many rumours around this product recently.

Image Credit: Samsung

Qualcomm Wi-Fi headphones

Qualcomm’s upcoming S7 Pro chip for headphones uses micro-power Wi-Fi instead of Bluetooth. There are several benefits to using Wi-Fi over Bluetooth, including true lossless audio, improved stability while in busy environments, and range, so the music can keep playing even when the headphones lose Bluetooth connectivity.

This technology would require a compatible Android phone and compatible headphones too, the first of which we are expecting to see in 2024. If this tech proves successful, we will certainly see Apple integrate something similar in the near future. Apple currently big up their lossless audio support on Apple Music, but few devices can actually make use of it.

Image Credit: Qualcomm

Improvements to Spatial Audio

This one is more of a wishlist item than rumoured. Over the last three years, we’ve seen updates to many headphones and streaming services to support Dolby Atmos and other spatial audio tech. If you’re using Apple Music, on an Apple phone, with Apple headphones, the experience is fantastic. The benefits of Apple’s ecosystem just makes it all work automatically, to ensure the music is sounding as good as it can based on the devices you’re using. The issues arise when you start mixing different brands, who all seem to have their own take on implementing the tech, therefore unfortunately not all brands are compatible with each other.

It would be great to see a standardised system so that all brands of headphones, smartphones and streaming services work well together. However, the current method helps brands lock-in users to their own ecosystems.

Image Credit: Apple