The Apple AirPods are decent-sounding truly wireless earbuds with a sturdy and stylish design. They're compact, breathable and more stable than the EarPods making them a suitable option for sports. However, getting a tight fit may vary from person to person. They also barely block any ambient noise, which helps you monitor your surroundings, but also means they will struggle in loud, noisy environments.
- Great build quality.
- Amazingly portable design.
- Stable fit.
- Poor noise isolation.
- Limited control scheme.
Update 9/28/2017: The microphone has been tested with our new methodology, as explained here
Update 8/10/2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1. Learn more about our new versioned test bench system here.
The Apple 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.
They 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 earbuds 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 Apple AirPods Wireless 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, they have a one-size-fits-all design which means comfort and stability will vary a bit depending on the shape and size of your ears.
The Apple Wireless 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 practical. You can manually change the touch-enabled voice controls to a touch-sensitive call, and play/stop button (not available on Android devices. Defaults automatically to voice-enabled control scheme). This makes them a bit cumbersome to use in a public setting and it's often easier to just change the volume and tracks directly on your phone or Bluetooth device
These are incredibly breathable headphones. They have no tips and there's barely any points of contact with your ear. Although this means they're a bit less stable than other truly wireless headphones like the Jaybird Run or the Samsung Gear IconX, they're also slightly more breathable.
The Apple AirPods are one of the 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. However, you will most likely carry them in their charging case, which fortunately is also is quite compact and fits in almost any pocket.
The Apple Air Pods come with a sleek, well-designed charging case that doesn't add a lot of bulk to the earbuds, unlike some of the other truly wireless charging cases. It easily fits 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.
They 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 absence of an audio cable makes the Apple 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 the 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, then they should stable enough to run with.
The Apple AirPods are a below-average sounding pair of open-back earbuds. Their bass, although punchy, lacks low-end thump and rumble, which make them unsuitable for bassheads and music that has a lot of sub-bass. However, their mid-range is quite good and they also have a decent treble, which is a bit forward and bright sounding. They also have a very good imaging performance and overall would be quite adequate for music that is not very bass-heavy like classical music, 70's rock, and podcasts/audiobooks. But, because of their earbud design, they are prone to inconsistencies in their bass delivery due to positioning, and they lack a large and out-of-head soundstage.
The bass performance is mediocre. Their low-frequency extension (LFE) is at 64Hz, suggesting that they won't be able to produce low thump and rumbles. This is also shown in their low-bass, which is lacking by 11dB. Mid-bass and high-bass, responsible for the punch of basses and kicks, are quite flat and within less than 2dB of target. Since lack of low-bass is especially hard to hear on headphones, the overall bass range will be light on thump and rumble, but punchy-enough to be adequate for music that doesn't have a lot of sub-bass (like classical music, music recorded before the 1980's, and podcasts/audiobooks).
The Apple AirPods have a good mid-range response. Low-mid and mid-mid are very flat and within 2dB of our target response. This means the higher harmonics of basses/kicks, and lower harmonics of vocals/leads will sound well-balanced (not too thin and not muddy/thick). However, high-mid shows more than 3.5dB of overemphasis, which adds a bit of intensity to the higher partials of vocals/leads. The overall mid-range profile is slightly forward sounding.
The AirPods have an average sounding treble. Low-treble and mid-treble are overemphasized by more than 4dB. However, since they are quite flat, they only add a bit of excess brightness and presence to the sound. However, the 10dB bump around 10KHz, could make siblances (S and T sounds) slightly harsh and piercing on overly-bright tracks. The overall treble profile is well-balanced, but definitely on the bright and sibilant side.
The frequency response consistency is mediocre. However, the results are rather impressive, considering their earbud design. If you are able to get a stable and tight fit, then the deviation in the bass range 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.
The Apple AirPods have very good imaging. Their group delay doesn't cross our audibility threshold, which is excellent. Especially when compared to the Google Pixel Buds which have a very similar design and form factor. This means that the bass produced (even though not very deep), will be tight and fast. Additionally, our test unit showed very good matching between the L/R drivers, which suggests good ergonomics and quality control.
The Apple AirPods, like most other in-ears and earbuds, have a poor soundstage. This is mainly due to their lack of interaction with the pinna, which is a key factor in giving the sense of a large and in-front soundstage. However, because of their open design, they tend to have a more open and spacious soundstage than closed-back headphones. Overall, they will sound open and spacious, but small and inside-the-head.
The harmonic distortion performance is very good. In the mid and treble range, their total harmonic distortion is within very good limits. This ensures a clean sound reproduction. In the bass range though, they show and increase in THD as the volume increases. This suggests that similar to other open-back earbuds, like the Google Pixel Buds, they will struggle to produce bass at very high volumes. This is also means that the Apple Air Pods won't be very responsive to EQ for increasing their bass.
The Apple 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 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. On the upside, they don't leak too much. They will be slightly audible at really high volumes, especially in the higher frequency range, but in most cases, they shouldn't be too distracting to those around.
The AirPods have poor noise isolation. This is due to their open-back design (very similar to the Pixel Buds). Therefore, they do not isolate in the bass and mid ranges. In the treble range, they reduce outside noise by only 9dB, which is quite poor and barely noticeable. However, this makes them a very suitable option for situations where you would like to hear your surroundings, like going for a jog and wanting to hear the cars passing by.
The leakage performance of the AirPods is decent. Because of the open design, they show significant leakage in the treble range, around 5KHz. However, due to the earbuds design (i.e. small drivers), the overall level of their leakage is not very loud. The resulting leakage will include mainly S and T sounds (sibilances), but it may be audible to people around you at high volumes in a quiet environment.
The performance of the Apple AirPods' integrated mic is mediocre. Speech recorded or transmitted with the microphone will sound thin, and lacking in brightness and air. However, it will be easily intelligible in quiet environments. In louder environments though, they will struggle to separate speech from background noise even in moderately loud situations like a busy street.
The recording quality of AirPods' microphone is mediocre. The LFE (low-frequency extension) of 354Hz suggests that voice transmitted with the mic will sound thin. They are also limited in high-frequency extension, resulting in a speech that lacks presence and brilliance. However, this is a limitation of the Bluetooth protocol and doesn't affect speech intelligibility significantly. Also, the region between LFE and HFE is captured decently.
- 100% SpNR
The microphone has mediocre noise handling capabilities. In our noise handling test, they achieved a speech-to-noise ratio value of 15dB, which is below-average. This means that they will struggle in transmitting a clear and noise-free speech even in moderately loud environments.
The Apple AirPods have an above-average battery life that provides up to 4.8 hours of continuous listening with 5 additional charges from their case. This gives them a total of 27 hours if you take breaks during your listening sessions. Unfortunately, although they have a few features on iOS, they lack a fully-featured app with customization options, which is a little disappointing.
These headphones have a unique battery life. By themselves, they 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 earbuds to 71-75% and will leave 5% of power in the case). Overall, this gives them 27 hours of battery life when both the case and the earbuds 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 earbuds and the case, which is not available on Android. The interface pops up once the earbuds are synced with an Apple device and will reappear whenever you open the case. It doesn't do much else but shows the integration into the Apple environment, making them less than ideal to use on other non-iOS devices.
- 10% Bluetooth
- 32% Wired
- 10% Base/Dock
- 22% Wireless Range
- 25% Latency
The AirPods only connect via Bluetooth. They pair with their charging case but can be used independently once paired. Unfortunately, like most Bluetooth headphones, they're not ideal for watching a lot of video content due to their relatively high latency although on iOS, they have a bit less noticeable sync issues.
- 79% Multi-Device Pairing
- 20% NFC
- 0% PS4 Compatible
- 0% Xbox One Compatible
The AirPods only connect to other devices via Bluetooth. Unfortunately, they can only pair with one device simultaneously but do keep multiple iOS devices in memory for easy pairing when you open the case.
- 13% Analog
- 9% USB
- 26% PS4 Compatible
- 26% Xbox One Compatible
- 26% PC Compatible
They do not have an audio cable. If you want the same design with a wired option, then consider the Apple EarPods.
- 4% Optical Input
- 22% Line In
- 4% Line Out
- 22% USB Input
- 4% RCA Input
- 9% PS4 Compatible
- 9% Xbox One Compatible
- 9% PC Compatible
- 2% Power Supply
- 13% Dock Charging
The Apple AirPods have a charging case that provides up to 5 additional charges when the earbuds are docked. However, it has no inputs or outputs and is only used to charge or pair the headphones.
The Apple 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 earbuds with your iCloud account.
Like most Bluetooth headsets, the latency is not ideal for watching movies and videos. 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 a lot of video content. Also, we have yet to test for AAC, but that is more an audio quality codec than a low latency one.
In the box
- Apple AirPods Headphones
- Charging Case
- USB Cable
Compared to other Headphones
The Apple AirPods are truly wireless headphones with a decent sound and good active features. However, they're more optimized for iOS so they won't be as good for Android users and they're also not as stable due to their one-size-fits-all design.
The BeatsX are versatile and good all-around wireless in-ears. They also have the W1 chip, which makes their latency and range surprisingly great. If you need a bit more bass and isolation and do not mind the in-ear, around-the-neck design of the beats X then they're a great alternative to the AirPods but they're not truly wireless.
The Jaybird X3 are good sports headphones that are more stable than the AirPods but are also not truly wireless. They sound a bit better and come with a good app that lets you customize their sound profile. If you need a stable wireless headphone to take to the gym then they're a great choice but they won't be as comfortable as the AirPods for everyday casual use.
The Google Pixel Buds, like the AirPods, have an open fit. They're a bit more stable for sports and have a few unique features on Android which makes them stand out. They also have a good battery life and a decent wireless range but, unfortunately, they sound a bit worse and are not truly wireless.
The Jaybird Run are great, truly wireless sports headphones that are more stable for physical activity than the AirPods. They're slightly more comfortable than the Jaybird X3 and a little less cumbersome. Unfortunately, they have a lot of latency so if you watch a lot of videos than the AirPods would be the better choice, especially for iOS users.