The AirPods are well-crafted headphones, that cram a lot of technology into a sleek, and stylish build. They sound decent and they're a lot more stable than the EarPods thanks to their truly wireless design. However, getting a tight fit may vary from person to person. They also barely block any ambient noise, which helps monitor your surroundings, but means they will struggle in loud, noisy environments.
- Great build quality.
- Amazingly portable design.
- Stable fit.
- Poor noise isolation.
- Limited control scheme.
Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.
The AirPods have the same look and feel as the EarPods but without the cumbersome cable. This makes them considerably more stable and less likely to fall out of your ears when running. They're super easy to carry around and come with a great charging case that fits into most pockets. However, the one size fit-all design is not ideal for everyone and may be less stable for some. Also, the control scheme is very limited and situational, as you won't always be able to use the Voice-enabled commands.
The Apple AirPods look almost identical to the EarPods without the cable. They're well-crafted headphones with a smooth plastic casing and brushed aluminum that gives the AirPods a premium appeal to match their price. However, they still have the long stalks that would usually be connected to the audio cables, which may look a bit awkward when protruding out of your ears.
The AirPods have a unique, open fit that barely exerts any pressure on the ear canal. The smooth finish and incredibly lightweight design make them barely noticeable once you have them on. Unfortunately, the AirPods have a one-size-fits-all design that will vary a bit in comfort and stability depending on the shape and size of your ears.
The AirPods have a limited control scheme that relies on Siri to access basic functions. Skipping tracks or adjusting the volume have to be done by voice, which is not always practical. You can manually change the touch-enabled voice controls to a touch sensitive call, and play/stop button (unless you're connected to an Android device, which defaults automatically to this control scheme). This makes the AirPods a bit cumbersome to use in a public setting or if you don't have your Bluetooth device close to you.
The absence of an audio cable makes the AirPods a lot more stable than the EarPods. Like the EarPods, they have a one-size-fits-all design, but without the cable, nothing is pulling on AirPods' stalks, so they stay in place. We tested the fit with multiple people in the office, and we conclude that if the fit works for you, they're stable enough to run with.
The AirPods are one of the smallest and most portable headphones we've reviewed so far. They have an outstandingly small footprint and are easy to carry around in any pocket or bag.You will most likely carry them in their charging case, but that too is quite small and easy to store on your person.
Comes with a sleek, well-designed charging case that doesn't add a lot of bulk to the already very portable AirPods. It will easily fit into most pockets and it's easy to carry around on your person. The case will protect the headphones against minor falls and scratches but not water damage.
The AirPods has a superbly designed and unique build that's made out of premium materials. The plastic casing feels high-end and durable and should be solid enough to withstand a few drops without getting damaged. They are well-made, sturdy headphones but they're still susceptible to cracking under enough force or falling from great distances. They're also not water or sweat proof so keep that in mind when using them at the gym.
The AirPods have a satisfactory sound that doesn't vary much from person to person and should please most listeners. They have a good Mid Range reproduction but lack a bit of low-end thump and rumble. The Treble Range pushes instruments and vocals a bit too forward in the mix which makes the overall sound a bit sharp. Also, although open sounding, they do not have much Soundstage and won't be the most immersive headphones for more critical listeners.
Average Bass Range performance. The AirPods were designed not to create a air-tight seal, and therefore, they lack quite a bit of low-bass. However, bass and high-bass are balanced and well-produced. This results in a relatively balanced Bass that lacks a bit of low-bass thump and rumble.
Good Mid Range performance. Low-mid and Mid are virtually flat, but high-mid shows about 5dB of over-emphasis. This tends to make the sound of these headphones forward and harsh, especially on voice and snare drums.
Average Treble Range performance. The 5dB over-emphasis of high-mid continues into low-treble, resulting in a noticeably bright sound that could border on being harsh if the source material is already bright. These headphones are also hyped in treble, making them noticeably sibilant.
The AirPods frequency response is surprisingly consistent across multiple re-seats, considering their earbud design. If you are able to get a stable and tight fit with the AirPods, then the deviation in Bass would be less than 2dB at 60Hz which is excellent. However, the Treble Range performs less consistently and shows about 5dB of deviation across re-seats at 5KHz which is quite noticeable.
Poor Soundstage. Due to their earbud design, the AirPods don't interact with the pinna and therefore their Soundstage tends to be perceived inside the listener's head as opposed to in-front. However, these earbuds are exceptionally open and as a result create a spacious and open Soundstage by letting the outside ambience be mixed with the music. On the other hand, their minimal leakage means that they don't excite their environment in a way that loud open over-ear headphones tend to do.
Average Imaging. The AirPods show significant phase shift below 100Hz and above 10KHz, which tends to skew the stereo image slightly. However, the L/R performance of our test unit was nicely matched especially the Treble Range phase-matching which is quite an issue with earbuds.
Average harmonic distortion performance. At 90dB SPL the AirPods perform very well across the spectrum. However, under heavier loads there is a significant rise in harmonic distortion below 100Hz which confirms the fact that open earbuds struggle with producing a lot of low-end at high volumes.
The AirPods have an open fit that doesn't isolate you from your environment. This makes them good headphones for runners or bikers that want to monitor their surroundings, but this also means that they won't be the ideal headphones to use in loud, noisy settings. They will let the noise of public transit or a lively office, seep into your audio but on the upside, they don't leak much. So even at higher volumes, they won't be too distracting to the people around you.
Poor isolation. These earbuds are not designed to create an air-tight seal, and therefore, isolate very little. They only start to attenuate outside noise at around 2KHz, achieving an average of 8dB of attenuation in the Treble Range which is quite poor.
Decent leakage performance. Although smaller headphones tend to leak less, earbuds tend to leak more than in-ears because of the lack of seal. In case of open earbuds, there is an additional leakage because of the open enclosure and sound ports. With AirPods, there is virtually no leakage below 1KHz, and the significant portion of the leakage sits between 2KHz and 10KHz which is relatively broad. The level of leakage is also relatively loud, especially around 5KHz. At loud volumes, people around you tend to hear a lot of sibilances (S and T sounds) leaking out of your AirPods.
- 100% SpNR
The AirPods have an impressive range, for completely wireless in-ear headphones. They reached a distance of about 40 ft when the Bluetooth source was placed in another room. They also have the W1 chip, which seamlessly connects with your other Apple devices provided you've synced the AirPods with your iCloud account. However, the latency is not the best. They perform admirably well for a non-Aptx low latency device, which should be fine for music but they won't be the most responsive headphones when gaming on your phone or watching videos. Also, we have yet to test for AAC, but that is more an audio quality codec than a low latency one.
These headphones have a unique battery life. The AirPods by themselves will last about 4.8 hours, when fully charged, which is decent for wireless in-ear headphones, but not much for an average user throughout the day. However, they come with a charging case that gives you up to 5 charges, each one taking about 20 % of the case's battery life when both AirPods are charging. They also only take about 28 mins to charge, but the fifth charge will bring the AirPods to 71-75% and will leave 5% of power in the case). Overall, this gives the AirPods 27 Hours of battery life when both the case and the AirPods are fully charged,
iOS has a built in interface for the AirPods. It's not an app, but it displays the battery status of the AirPods and the case, which is not available on Android. The interface pops up once the AirPods are synced with an Apple device and will reappear whenever you open the case. It doesn't do much else but shows the integration of the AirPods into the Apple environment, making the AirPods less than ideal to use on other non-iOS devices.
In the box
- Apple AirPods Headphones
- Charging Case
- USB Cable