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We've recently released our Test Bench 1.6 update for Headphones! Read the Latency R&D Article to learn more.

Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.6
Review updated Oct 03, 2023 at 10:25 am
Latest change: Writing modified Jan 26, 2024 at 02:19 pm
Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless Picture
6.9
Neutral Sound
5.9
Commute/Travel
7.8
Sports/Fitness
5.7
Office
5.3
Wireless Gaming
5.1
Wired Gaming
5.3
Phone Calls

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have a slightly different look than previous generations of AirPods and come with a few more features. Unlike previous generations, they have an 'Adaptive EQ' feature that Apple says optimizes their sound delivery to the shape of your ears. If you're using a supported iOS device, you can also access 'Spatial Audio', a virtual surround sound feature to help immerse you in your audio. The earbuds are bigger than the Apple AirPods (2nd generation) Truly Wireless, which is less comfortable for some people. Like previous AirPods, these open-back earbuds aren't designed to block out ambient sound.

Our Verdict

6.9 Neutral Sound

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are alright for neutral sound. They have an always-on 'Adaptive EQ' feature advertised to adjust their sound depending on your ear shape but lack sound customization features like an EQ. Their sound still lacks thump and rumble due to their open-back design. While the rest of the range is very well-balanced, ensuring that instruments and lead vocals are present and detailed, overemphasis in the treble makes some sounds a little harsh or piercing. Their soundstage also seems small and closed-off. They support Spatial Audio, though, which is a virtual surround sound feature that can make audio seem more immersive.

Pros
  • Spatial Audio feature available for a more immersive sound.
Cons
  • Sound profile lacks low-bass.
5.9 Commute/Travel

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are sub-par for commuting and travel. Unlike most Bluetooth earbuds, they have an open-back design, which blocks out very little ambient sound. Also, while they're decently comfortable, the buds are bigger than previous generations of AirPods and can put pressure on your ears, especially if you wear them for a long time. On the plus side, they feel sturdy and come with a solid case small enough to fit into most pockets.

Pros
  • Case stores five extra charges.
Cons
  • Βad noise isolation.
  • No volume controls.
7.8 Sports/Fitness

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are very good for sports and fitness. The earbuds and case are very light, small, and feel sturdy enough to withstand a few accidental drops and bumps. They're also rated IPX4 for resistance against being splashed with water. However, while they have adequate stability and have no problem staying in your ears during a light run, they can fall out with more intense movements. Their stability also depends on the shape of your ears since they have a one-size-fits-all design.

Pros
  • IPX4 rating for water resistance.
  • Great build quality.
Cons
  • No stability fins or ear tip options.
5.7 Office

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are disappointing for office use. They have a decently comfortable fit but can put pressure on your ears during long days at work. They block out virtually no ambient noise, so they won't isolate you from distractions like chatting coworkers or traffic outside your window. Their 6.8-hour continuous battery life won't quite last through a 9-5 workday without recharging. They come with a case with about five extra charges, so you can always top up the battery.

Pros
  • Case stores five extra charges.
Cons
  • Βad noise isolation.
  • No multi-device pairing with non-Apple devices.
5.3 Wireless Gaming

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation aren't suitable for wireless gaming. You can use them with Bluetooth-compatible PCs, but their latency is too high to be suitable for gaming. They also aren't compatible with Xbox or PlayStation consoles.

5.1 Wired Gaming

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are truly wireless headphones, and you can't use them wired.

5.3 Phone Calls

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are inadequate for phone calls when connected to a PC. Their mic makes your voice sound passably clear and natural, but it struggles to separate speech from background noise, even in moderately noisy environments. However, if you're using an iPhone, your voice sounds clearer, and the mic does a better job of noise handling. The earbuds also don't isolate you from background sound, though, so you may not hear your call well.

Pros
  • Mic's recording quality isn't bad.
Cons
  • Βad noise isolation.
  • Mic has sub-par noise handling.
  • 6.9 Neutral Sound
  • 5.9 Commute/Travel
  • 7.8 Sports/Fitness
  • 5.7 Office
  • 5.3 Wireless Gaming
  • 5.1 Wired Gaming
  • 5.3 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Jan 26, 2024: The following test group has been updated following TB 1.6: Bluetooth Connection. There have also been text changes made throughout the review, including to the usages and product comparisons to match these results.
  2. Updated Jan 26, 2024: We've converted this review to Test Bench 1.6 , which updates how we measure latency. We've updated and renamed the following test groups: Wired Connection, Bluetooth Connection, and Wireless Connection (Dongle). We've also added new codec latency measurements and provided an audio sample of recorded latency.
  3. Updated Oct 03, 2023: Made minor edits to the text to bring it up to date.
  4. Updated Mar 30, 2023: We've added a comparison to the Status Between Pro True Wireless in the Battery box.
  5. Updated Jan 17, 2023: We've added a comparison with these headphones and the Nothing Ear (stick) Truly Wireless in Comfort.
  6. Updated Apr 28, 2022: We can't find our original unit and have replaced them with a new pair. The replacement unit matches our original results, so there hasn't been a change in our review. You can find a photo of both labels in the 'Variants' box.
  7. Updated Nov 26, 2021: Tested microphone performance with AAC codec.
  8. Updated Nov 22, 2021: Review published.
  9. Updated Nov 10, 2021: Early access published.
  10. Updated Oct 29, 2021: Our testers have started testing this product.
  11. Updated Oct 27, 2021: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  12. Updated Oct 23, 2021: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation only come in white. You can see the label for the unit we tested here. This review currently reflects the performance of our original model, which we don't have anymore. That said, we've purchased a second model, which matches the performance of our first unit. If there's a difference in performance during future retests, we will update the review accordingly. You can see our new unit's label here.

If you encounter another variant, please let us know in the forums, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The Apple AirPods 3 follow the Apple AirPods (2nd generation) Truly Wireless and the Apple AirPods (1st generation) Truly Wireless but come with more features, like Spatial Audio surround sound for Apple users and wireless MagSafe charging for the case. They also offer an improved continuous battery life of just under seven hours. Like the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, they have shorter stems than the 1st and 2nd gen AirPods but retain the one-size-fits-all design without silicone tips. They have an open-back design and, as a result, block out very little background noise and don't reproduce much bass, similar to other open buds like the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless.

If you want different headphones, check out our lists of the best wireless Bluetooth earbuds, the best wireless earbuds for iPhone, and the best AirPods alternatives.

Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless. The Pro have a much more neutral sound profile and a great ANC feature. They come with differently-sized ear tips and are much more comfortable and stable once you find a good fit. On the other hand, the 3rd generation have a longer continuous battery life, and their mic has a better recording quality. They also block out very little ambient sound, which you may prefer if you want to hear your surroundings.

Beats Fit Pro True Wireless

The Beats Fit Pro True Wireless are better in-ears than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless. The Beats have a more stable in-ear fit and have an ANC system that helps block more ambient noise around you, and their mic offers somewhat better performance. However, the Apple are more comfortable and better built. They also have a better battery performance.

Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless

You may prefer the Sony WH-1000XM4 Wireless or the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless, depending on the type of headphones you're looking for. The Sony are over-ear headphones with ANC and have a much better noise isolation performance. Their sound profile is more bass-heavy, which some may prefer, and their app has sound customization features. They also have a longer continuous battery life. On the other hand, the Apple are much more compact earbuds. Their case can fit in most pockets, and they have an open design that lets you hear your surroundings.

Beats Studio Buds True Wireless

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless are better than the Beats Studio Buds True Wireless. The Apple headphones have better build quality, better overall mic performance, and a longer continuous battery life. However, the Βeats are more comfortable, have a more stable fit, and block out much more noise⁠—though their ANC feature doesn't perform very well.

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless

The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds Truly Wireless are better than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless for most purposes. The Bose have a longer continuous battery life and much better noise isolation, thanks to their ANC feature. Their mic has a better recording quality, and the headphones also have a more neutral sound profile that some may prefer. However, you may prefer the Apple's open design, which lets you hear your surroundings. Apple users may also prefer them because they have a few iOS-only features, like an Η1 chip for easier pairing.

Apple AirPods (2nd generation) Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless and the Apple AirPods (2nd generation) Truly Wireless have different strengths, so you may prefer either depending on what you're looking for. The 3rd generation have a longer continuous battery life and button-like controls that are easier to use than the 2nd generation's touch-sensitive surfaces. With iOS devices, they support Spatial Audio and head tracking for virtual surround sound, and their 'Adaptive EQ' adjusts the sound profile depending on how they fit you. Their bulkier design may put pressure on the inside of your ears, but both versions have a one-size-fits-all design, meaning you may prefer either, depending on the shape of your ears. On the other hand, the 2nd generation have a better overall mic performance.

Apple EarPods

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Apple EarPods. The AirPods are truly wireless earbuds with better build quality, a more stable fit, and an IPX4 rating for water resistance. They also come with a more compact, sturdier case and have more extra features for Apple users, like virtual surround sound and head tracking. However, some may prefer the EarPods’ wired design. They have volume controls, unlike the AirPods, and their mic has a much better overall performance.

Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds2 Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless. The Samsung are closed-back earbuds with ANC, blocking out more noise and leaking less audio. They’re more comfortable and stable and deliver a more bass-rich sound, which some may prefer. Their app has sound customization features but only works on Android devices. Meanwhile, the Apple have a better overall battery performance.

Nothing Ear (stick) Truly Wireless

Depending on your preferences, you may prefer either the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless or the Nothing Ear (stick) Truly Wireless. The Apple headphones offer a lot more features like Spatial Audio and an H1 chip for seamless pairing with other devices in your Apple ecosystem. Their battery life is better too. However, if you're an Android or Nothing user, you'll enjoy the Nothing, which have a more comfortable fit, better overall mic performance, and more customization features via their companion app.

Apple AirPods (1st generation) Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Apple AirPods (1st generation) Truly Wireless. The 3rd generation have a longer continuous battery life, a better control scheme, and an IPX4 rating for water resistance. They support Spatial Audio and head tracking for virtual surround sound and also come with a case that supports wireless charging. They may also be less comfortable since they have a bulkier design that can put pressure on the inside of your ears. Ηowever, both versions have a one-size-fits-all design, so it depends on the size and shape of your ears.

Apple AirPods Max Wireless

The Apple AirPods Max Wireless and the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless have different strengths, and you may prefer either. The Max are over-ear headphones with ANC. Their noise isolation performance is much better, and they have a longer continuous battery life, and a more neutral bass response that some may prefer. On the other hand, the 3rd generation are earbuds with a much more portable design. They come with a charging case and have an IPX4 rating for water resistance.

Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless

The Sony WF-1000XM4 Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless. The Sony have a longer continuous battery life, onboard call and music controls, and a great ANC feature. Their default sound profile delivers much more bass, which some may prefer, and it can be customized in the companion app with a graphic EQ and presets, unlike the Apple headphones. On the other hand, some may prefer that the Apple headphones' open design lets you hear your surroundings. They also have features that only work with Apple devices, like an Η1 chip for easy pairing and Spatial Audio, a virtual surround sound feature, which iOS users may appreciate.

Anker SoundCore Life P3 Truly Wireless

The Anker SoundCore Life P3 Truly Wireless and the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless have different strengths. The Anker are closed-back earbuds with a great ANC feature. Their sound is much more bass-rich, which some may prefer. They also have a more comfortable fit and a better overall mic performance. On the other hand, some may prefer the Apple's open design, which lets you hear ambient sound. They have a better battery performance and features for Apple users like virtual surround sound and an Η1 chip for easier pairing.

Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless

The Sony WF-1000XM3 Truly Wireless are better than the  Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless. The Sony have ANC and a much better noise isolation performance, a better overall mic performance, a more stable fit, and a more neutral default sound profile, which some may prefer. Their app also has sound customization features. On the other hand, the Apple come with a better case that holds more extra charges and supports wireless charging. Some may also prefer their open design, which lets you hear ambient sound.

Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds+ Truly Wireless are better for most uses than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless, although you may prefer either if you're an iPhone user or like open-back headphones. The Samsung are more comfortable and stable, have a better overall mic performance, block out more noise, and last longer on a single charge. They also have a more neutral sound profile, which some may prefer. On the other hand, the Apple have a virtual surround sound feature with supported iOS devices, and they don't block out ambient sound, so you can hear what's going on around you.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro Truly Wireless are better than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless for most purposes. The Samsung have a more comfortable, stable fit and a higher IPX7 rating for water resistance. They also have ANC and block out much more ambient sound. On the other hand, the Apple's open design allows you to hear your surroundings, and they offer a better overall battery performance. Also, both headphones have some OS-specific features, so you may prefer either depending on what device you use. The Samsung's virtual surround sound feature only works on Android, while the Apple's only works on iOS.

Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Live Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless. They have a much better noise isolation performance, a longer continuous battery life, and a more stable fit. You can also customize their sound profile with a graphic EQ and presets in their companion app. Ηowever, the Apple's case is smaller and holds more extra charges. The earbuds have a higher IPX4 rating for water resistance and an open design that some may prefer. In addition, both have some OS-specific features, including a lower-latency Gaming Mode that works on Android for the Samsung, and virtual surround sound features on iOS devices for the Apple.

Jabra Elite 85t Truly Wireless

The Jabra Elite 85t Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless. The Jabra have a more comfortable, stable fit and a more neutral default sound profile, which some may prefer. Their app has sound customization features, and they support multi-device pairing. They also have ANC and isolate you from much more noise. However, the Apple come with a more compact case that holds a greater number of charges. They also don't isolate you from ambient sound so that you can hear your surroundings.

Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless are better for most purposes than the Sony LinkBuds Truly Wireless. The Apple headphones are much more comfortable for most people, are better built, and have a more neutral sound profile, which some may prefer. Their case also holds a greater number of extra charges. The Sony headphones have a better overall mic performance. While it can be hard to get a good fit, they come with several silicone sleeves in different sizes, while the Apple are one-size-fits-all.

TOZO T6 Truly Wireless

The TOZO T6 Truly Wireless and the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless have different strengths. The Apple headphones have a much better build quality and a longer continuous battery life. They have an Η1 chip for easier pairing with Apple devices and Spatial Audio for virtual surround sound on supported iOS devices. Ηowever, they have an open design, so they block out virtually no ambient noise. Their sound also lacks bass. On the other hand, the TOZO have a slightly bass-rich sound profile and an ANC feature that blocks out a good amount of noise.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II/QC35 II Wireless 2018 and the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless are very different headphones, and you may prefer either depending on what you're looking for. The Βose are over-ears with a superb ANC feature, a much more neutral sound profile, and a longer continuous battery life. They're also much more comfortable. On the other hand, the Apple are smaller, more portable earbuds. They also have significantly better build quality, an IPX4 rating for water resistance, and a longer total battery life, thanks to their compact charging case.

Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro Truly Wireless

The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro Truly Wireless and the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless have different strengths, and you may prefer either depending on what you're looking for. The Anker have ANC and a much better noise isolation performance. They also have a more stable fit, and you can customize their sound profile with a graphic EQ and presets in their companion app. On the other hand, the Apple's open design lets you hear ambient sound, which some may prefer. Their battery performance is also much better overall.

Sony Float Run Wireless

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless and the Sony Float Run Wireless are differently designed open-back headphones. The Apple are in-ears and thus have better comfort but worse stability. They also have a slightly deeper bass extension, which people who like to run while listening to hip-hop or EDM will like. Their H1 chip also allows for seamless pairing with other Apple devices. The Sony have a longer continuous battery life and better controls. Their open-ear design also creates a more open passive soundstage and stable fit than the in-ear AirPods, which can be prone to stability issues during intense workouts. Ultimately, your preference between their two design styles will determine which of these headphones is best for you.

Jabra Elite 75t Truly Wireless

The Jabra Elite 75t Truly Wireless are better earbuds than the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless for most purposes. The Jabra have a more comfortable fit, better onboard controls, significantly better noise isolation, and better overall mic performance. Their app also includes a graphic EQ for sound customization. On the other hand, the Apple have an open design that some may prefer. Their case also holds more extra charges, and you can use one earbud at once.

Beats Solo Pro Wireless

The Beats Solo Pro Wireless and the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless are very different, and you may prefer either depending on what you're looking for. The Beats are on-ear headphones with a longer continuous battery life and a more accurate bass response, which some may prefer. They also have a significantly better noise isolation performance. On the other hand, the Apple are much more portable earbuds. Their design lets you hear ambient sound, and their total battery life is longer, thanks to their charging case.

Status Between Pro True Wireless

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) Truly Wireless and the Status Between Pro True Wireless are very similar headphones. While the Status buds' closed-back build helps them deliver much more low-bass, the AirPods have a much more neutral treble range. Neither headphones have ANC or sound customization options, but the AirPods feature Spatial Audio. Additionally, their H1 chip allows for seamless pairing and integration with other products in Apple's ecosystem. However, Status' buds are more stable than the AirPods and passively block out more background noise, making them better for commuting and fitness.

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Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Type Earbuds
Enclosure Open-Back
Wireless Truly Wireless
Transducer Dynamic

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation have a different shape from the Apple AirPods (2nd generation) Truly Wireless and Apple AirPods (1st generation) Truly Wireless. Like the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, the stems are shorter. The buds are also bigger and are angled downwards. Still, they have the same smooth plastic casing and brushed aluminum accents. They only come in white.

7.0
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.02 lbs
Clamping Force
N/A

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are decently comfortable for most people. The buds are bulkier than previous models, which can hurt your inner ear after a while. The stem also sits at more of an angle compared to the 2nd generation. However, like other one-size-fits-all earbuds like the Nothing Ear (stick) Truly Wireless, how comfortable you find them depends on the size and shape of your ears. There are mixed reports from users online, as you can see here and here. Still, they're light and don't enter your ear canal very deeply, so they avoid the plunger-like fit that you sometimes get with in-ears with silicone tips.

5.5
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
Not OS specific
Ease Of Use Great
Feedback Good
Call/Music Control Yes
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls Voice Assistant

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation have a limited control scheme, but it's easy to use. Similar to the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, each stem has a 'force sensor,' a small indented surface that you squeeze to register a command. Your audio pauses automatically when you take one earbud out and starts playing again when you put it back in. It also pauses when you take both earbuds out, and in that case, you have to squeeze one of the force sensors for it to start playing again. You can disable 'Ear Detection' in the Βluetooth settings if you're using an iOS device.

Every command works on either earbud, and you hear a clicking sound when you press either force sensor. There are also beeps when they connect with a device, but you don't hear any voice prompts, which is typical for Apple products. Unfortunately, there's no way to adjust the volume. While most of the controls work on iOS or Android phones, Apple only includes a way to answer and end calls if you're using an iOS device. The voice assistant function also only works with Siri.

On either stem's force sensor:

  • Single press: Plays and pauses audio. If connected to an iOS device, it answers and ends a call.
  • Double press: Skips the track forward. On iOS devices only, reject a call.
  • Triple press: Skips the track backward.
  • Press and hold: Activates Siri (doesn't work for other voice assistants).

9.7
Design
Portability
L 1.2" (3.1 cm)
W 0.8" (2.1 cm)
H 0.6" (1.6 cm)
Volume 0.62 in³ (10.20 cm³)
Transmitter Required No

They're very portable, like most in-ear headphones. The earbuds and case are small enough to easily slip into most pockets and bags.

8.5
Design
Case
Type Hard case
L 2.1" (5.4 cm)
W 1.8" (4.6 cm)
H 0.8" (2.1 cm)
Volume 3.28 in³ (53.80 cm³)

The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) have an excellent case. It's a bit bigger than the Apple AirPods (2nd generation) Truly Wireless' case and opens horizontally instead of vertically. It clicks shut securely and feels sturdy enough to protect the earbuds from being dropped or crushed, but it isn't rated for water resistance. There's a small battery indicator light on its front side, and it supports wireless charging via MagSafe and Qi charging. It also has a Lightning port for its charging cable.

8.0
Design
Build Quality

They have a great build quality. The glossy plastic feels sturdy and durable, and they feel like they can withstand a few accidental bumps and drops without sustaining much damage. Like the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless, they're rated IPX4 for resistance against being splashed with water.

6.5
Design
Stability

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation are adequately stable headphones. They'll easily stay in place when you're at your desk or out for a walk, but they can move or fall out of your ears during something like a dance workout. Since they have a one-size-fits-all design, they aren't as stable as earbuds that come with a selection of ear tips or stability fins, like the Jaybird Vista 2 Truly Wireless or Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Apple AirPods 3rd generation headphones
  • Charging case
  • USB-C to Lightning cable
  • Manuals

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-9.08 dB
Treble Amount
-1.2 dB

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation have an Adaptive EQ feature advertised to adjust the earbuds' sound to how they fit in your ears. There's no way to switch it off, so our usual method for testing with sweeps didn't work. We tried testing using pink noise with only one earbud at a time, which didn't produce consistent results. Ultimately, the frequency response was tested with both earbuds at once by playing music for 30 seconds and the sweeps immediately afterward. The results varied a lot depending on the earbuds' positioning, especially as the 3rd gen also fit differently in our test rig's ears than the 2nd gen. However, the final results match our subjective experience with the Apple AirPods 3 more closely than our Early Access results.

Because of their open-back design, they struggle to reproduce the thump and rumble of low bass. The rest of the range is quite well-balanced and bright, with present and detailed voices and lead instruments, although sibilants like S and T sounds are somewhat harsh or piercing. Their sound is fairly well-suited for content like audiobooks or podcasts, as well as non-bass-heavy types of music like classical, but genres like EDM or hip-hop sound hollow or empty. Like previous generations, the app doesn't include an EQ or presets. However, if you're using an iOS device, you can make some adjustments to the sound in the 'Accessibility' tab.

7.5
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.5 dB

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation have good frequency response consistency. Their bass delivery depends on how they fit and position in your ears. However, if you take the time to adjust them each time you use them, they'll deliver audio more consistently.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
5.3
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
7.4 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
80 Hz
Low-Bass
-14.78 dB
Mid-Bass
-2.24 dB
High-Bass
3.7 dB

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation have poor bass accuracy. Their open design means they struggle to reproduce a thumpy and rumbly low-bass. The mid-bass is also underemphasized, so in songs like David Bowie's 'Under Pressure', the bassline lacks some body and punch. However, overemphasis in the high-bass range helps instruments still sound full and warm. These headphones also deliver bass somewhat inconsistently, so you may have a different experience depending on their fit, positioning, and seal in your ears.

8.5
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
2.06 dB
Low-Mid
1.47 dB
Mid-Mid
0.18 dB
High-Mid
2.92 dB

They have excellent mid accuracy. The low and mid-mid are very neutral, so vocals and lead instruments are present and accurate. A bump in the high-mid increases the clarity and intensity of these sounds, although it also adds some harshness.

8.8
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.79 dB
Low-Treble
1.29 dB
Mid-Treble
2.35 dB
High-Treble
-5.8 dB

They have excellent treble accuracy. The response is flat but slightly overemphasized, so instruments and lead vocals are bright and detailed but sometimes slightly harsh. Sibilants like S and T sounds are slightly piercing as well.

7.1
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
2.1 dB
Dips
1 dB

They control their sound profile decently well. There's a big peak from the mid-bass to low-mid, which adds punch and boom to mixes but can also make them sound muddy. A dip in the mid-mid nudges vocals and lead instruments to the back of the mix, while a peak in the high-mid makes them sound harsh. There are also peaks in the mid-treble that make sibilant sounds like cymbals seem piercing.

9.2
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.25
Weighted Phase Mismatch
1.69
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.24
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.18

The Apple AirPods 3 have a fantastic imaging performance. Most Apple products we've tested have good imaging performances, indicating the brand's quality control and ergonomics. The group delay for our unit falls below the audibility threshold for the entire range, resulting in tight bass and transparent treble reproduction. Also, the L/R drivers of our model are very well-matched in terms of amplitude, frequency, and phase response, which is important for the accurate placement of objects, like voices and instruments, in the stereo image. However, keep in mind that imaging can vary from unit to unit.

3.0
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
N/A
PRTF Size (Avg.)
N/A
PRTF Distance
N/A
Openness
9.7
Acoustic Space Excitation
3.4

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation have a bad passive soundstage. Like most earbuds headphones, their sound doesn't interact with your outer ear, so it seems to come from inside your head rather than speakers in the room around you. However, their open-back design gives them a more open and spacious soundstage than most closed-back headphones.

2.9
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
On/Off
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
On/Off
Virtual Surround
Spatial Audio

They have a 'Spatial Audio' virtual surround sound feature that can help give your audio a more immersive, 3D feel. However, it's only supported on iOS 15 or later and on certain Apple devices, including iPhone 7 or later. Enabling it also turns on head tracking, which reorients the virtual soundstage when you move your head or device. You can turn Spatial Audio on or off in your iPhone's Bluetooth settings.

7.6
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.405
WHD @ 100
0.127

They have a good weighted harmonic distortion performance. The bump in the high treble is at too high a frequency to be audible for most people, and otherwise, all frequencies fall within good limits, resulting in clean and pure audio reproduction.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
4B61
Power
On
Connection
Bluetooth 5.0
Codec
SBC, 16-bit, 44.1kHz
EQ
Adaptive EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
Integrated

These are the settings used to test the Apple AirPods 3. Our results are only valid when using these settings.

Isolation
0.8
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-1.27 dB
Noise Cancelling No
Bass
0.06 dB
Mid
1.12 dB
Treble
-4.76 dB

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation have a bad noise isolation performance. Because of their open-back design, they block out virtually no sound in the bass or mid ranges, so you aren't isolated from noises like rumbling bus and plane engines or background chatter. They also barely cut down high-pitched noises like humming A/C units. While they aren't ideal for blocking distractions, you may appreciate this performance if you like to stay aware of your surroundings while wearing headphones.

7.0
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
39.46 dB

Their open-back design means they leak quite a bit of audio, so if you're listening to music at high volumes somewhere moderately noisy, like an office, people sitting nearby can hear a bit of it. However, the sound that escapes is mostly in the treble range, so it sounds thin.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
Yes
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
Mic Yes
6.0
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
LFE
67.27 Hz
FR Std. Dev.
3.25 dB
HFE
1,659.96 Hz
Weighted THD
3.887
Gain
18.34 dB

The mic has a mediocre recording quality with the SBC codec. Recorded speech is clear and full-bodied but lacks brightness and sounds closed-off.

These results reflect the mic's performance with the SBC codec, which Bluetooth headphones use almost universally. However, we also retested the mic with the AAC Bluetooth codec, the license-free standard for Apple devices, to see if there was a difference in performance. Our testing PC doesn't support AAC, but we were able to conduct this microphone retest while the headphones were on our test head and connected to an iPhone 11, which supports AAC. To retest 'Recording Quality', we played the same 'Recorded Speech' audio clip through our test head. While Bluetooth codecs aren't the sole factor in microphone performance, using the AAC codec, the voice sounds clearer than when connected to our test PC and using the SBC codec. You can hear our results here.

5.5
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
12.16 dB
Noise Gate
Always On
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
5.5
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
5.5
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample

The microphone has a sub-par noise handling performance using the SBC codec. In moderately noisy environments, background noise is much more present and distracting than with the previous generation. With very loud background noise, like a train in a subway station, your voice is barely audible but not understandable.

They're advertised to have an acoustic mesh over the mic on each earbud to help reduce wind noise during calls. We tested it by standing near a fan and found that it blocks out most of the wind sound, but it's still audible when someone's talking. Someone talking nearby is still audible over the wind sound.

We also tested the mic's performance using the AAC codec. With the headphones placed on our test head and connected to an iPhone 11, we played the 'Speech + Pink Noise' and 'Speech + Subway Noise' audio clips. Using the AAC codec, there's a noticeable improvement when it comes to blocking out pink noise from speech. The mic can also block more loud noise in the subway recording when connected to an iPhone versus a PC.

Active Features
7.2
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
Rechargable
Continuous Battery Life
6.8 hrs
Additional Charges
5.0
Total Battery Life
40.8 hrs
Charge Time
0.8 hrs
Power-Saving Feature
Standby mode
Audio While Charging
Yes
Passive Playback
No
Charging Port Lightning

They have a decent battery performance. They provide nearly seven hours of continuous use from a single charge with Spatial Audio (a virtual surround sound feature) on, which is better than the previous generation and longer than the manufacturer's advertised battery life of five hours with Spatial Audio on or six hours with it off. However, battery performance varies depending on use.

The case stores about five additional charges. The earbuds charge fully in under an hour, which is quick, and Apple says a five-minute charge in the case gives them enough power for 30 minutes of playback. They don't have an adjustable auto-off timer, but audio pauses automatically when you remove them from your ears. You can also use one earbud while the other charges in the case. If you're looking for in-ears with a longer continuous battery life, check out the Status Between Pro True Wireless.

5.0
Active Features
App Support
App Name iOS Interface
iOS Yes
Android No
macOS Yes
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
Yes

The Apple AirPods 3rd Gen don't have a dedicated app, but if you're using an iOS device, you can access some settings in the Bluetooth menu. You can toggle ear detection and Spatial Audio on and off, choose which earbud's mic to use, and optimize battery charging. You can also enable battery optimization and turn on 'Find My Network', which offers features for finding your headphones if you misplace them. Some features, like the earbuds playing a sound when inside their case or marking them as lost so others can't use them, are only available for this generation when using this specific feature.

There are some additional settings in the Accessibility tab on iOS devices. You can choose to 'boost' certain sounds, like vocal frequencies, to make voices over the phone or dialogue in a movie easier to understand. However, this feature is also supported by the 2nd generation and the Apple AirPods Pro Truly Wireless. You can also change how quickly you need to press the earbud stems to register a double or triple tap and adjust how long you need to hold the sensor down for a long press. However, we don't consider these 'Accessibility' settings part of the app.

Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Wired Connection
Analog Audio
No
USB Audio
No
Detachable
No
Length
N/A
Connector
No Wired Option
Latency - Analog
N/A
Latency - USB
N/A
Recorded Latency
N/A
Recorded Latency Connection No Wired Audio

You can't use these headphones wired. There's a USB-C to Lightning cable for charging the case.

7.2
Connectivity
Bluetooth Connection
Bluetooth Version
5.0+H1 chip
Multi-Device Pairing
No
Quick Pair (Android)
No
Quick Pair (iOS)
Yes
Line Of Sight Range
205.05 ft (62.50 m)
Latency - SBC
184 ms
Latency - aptX
N/A
Latency - aptX Adaptive (High Quality)
N/A
Latency - aptX Adaptive (Low Latency)
N/A
Latency - LDAC
N/A
Recorded Latency
Recorded Latency Codec SBC
AAC Support
Yes

They have decent Bluetooth connectivity. They have an H1 chip for very easy pairing with Apple products, and they can connect with two Apple devices at once. However, they don't support multi-device pairing with Android phones or other devices. They also have high latency with PCs via SBC codec, making them less than ideal for streaming video or gaming on your computer. It's worth mentioning that some apps and devices compensate for latency, though.

0
Connectivity
Wireless Connection (Dongle)
Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Latency - Dongle
N/A
Recorded Latency
N/A
Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
No
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No

These headphones are fully compatible with Bluetooth-enabled PCs. However, they can't connect any other way.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
No
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
No
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No
Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
No
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
No
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No
2.2
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
Charging Case
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
Yes
Power Supply
Lightning

The Apple AirPods 3rd generation come with a very small charging case that holds about five additional charges. It doesn't have any inputs other than a Lightning port for charging. It also supports wireless charging via Qi or MagSafe.