It’s fair to say that most laptops don’t ship with great speakers. But Apple’s MacBook Pro has made great audio a real emphasis, and now Apple’s bringing a key component of this to its latest 15-inch MacBook Air: six speakers.
Even laptops that are known for good sound (Microsoft’s Surface Laptop Studio comes to mind) usually have four speakers: two tweeters and two woofers. Adding a third speaker to either side means a dedicated speaker for the low, midrange, and highest frequency ranges, improving the overall audio quality immensely.
Until now, Apple has reserved this feature for the MacBook Pro, which commands an Apple-like price of above $2,000. But Apple announced a 15-inch version of the Air on Monday, and lo and behold — it has six speakers, too, alongside three noise-cancelling mics. Even better, the 15-inch Air is priced at just $1,299 for the base model, though additional options will push it higher than that.
The key takeaway, however, is that Apple is moving a six-speaker configuration into a mainstream, (relatively) affordable laptop model, and that’s good news for the laptop market in general. While the 13-inch MacBook Air only includes two speakers (owing to its smaller size, presumably), Apple took pains to note that the 13-inch Air is the world’s highest-selling laptop model. That’s something that rivals certainly take note of, and will carefully watch to see how the 15-inch Air sells, too.
Apple’s new 15-inch Air is just 11.5mm thin, Apple says. That’s impressive, given that thin laptops like the Samsung Galaxy Book Book3 Pro 360 are a sliver thicker, at 12.7mm thick, and only have four speakers. Inside the Apple 15-inch MacBook Air you’ll have a choice of either 256GB ($1,299) or 512GB ($1,499) of storage, running alongside Apple’s M2 chip. The display measures 15.3 inches, outputs 500 nits of luminance, and the laptop ships with MagSafe charging and two Thunderbolt ports.
It’s possible that Apple is continuing to play the same sort of semantic games that it has in the past. In 2021, Apple’s iMac introduced “force-cancelling woofers,” the same technology that Apple claims is in the new MacBook Air. What a “force-cancelling woofer” does is use a pair of woofers, firing in opposite directions, and mounted directly over one another. These woofers “cancel” any vibrations and help the audio sound clearer. It’s not clear whether Apple is characterizing these as a pair of woofers, or just one.
Again, laptop speakers haven’t been as much of an issue in recent years, given that the last thing anyone wants to hear in a crowded office is any additional background noise, whether it be music, video, or a video call. At home, however, the enforced isolation of the pandemic helped thrust the audio quality of laptop speakers into the limelight — suddenly it became just fine to blast Taylor Swift in the privacy of your home office.
Combine the popularity of the MacBook Air and its upgraded speaker system, and it seems reasonable to expect more premium speaker systems to creep into Windows PCs. Laptop makers are always looking to differentiate themselves, and three speakers are always better than two, right? Give credit where credit is due, though: This trend should benefit more than just Apple.