The Apple AirPods 3rd Generation Hands-On deserves some credit. For the first time since their introduction in 2016, Apple’s AirPods have a completely new design.
The third-generation AirPods is said to bear a much closer resemblance to the AirPods Pro than the long-stemmed original and second-gen pairs.
Apple has advanced their sound, added new features like spatial audio head tracking, making them more durable with IPX4 water resistance, and lengthened their battery life.
Apple AirPods 3rd Generation Hands-On
What remains unchanged about the AirPods is their ease of use and deep integration with Apple’s ecosystem of devices including the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch.
If you’re living in Apple’s world, you still get exclusive features like the intuitive, just-hold-them-near-your-iPhone setup, audio sharing, automatic device switching, and other software tricks that have helped the AirPods stay atop the true wireless earbuds market by a wide margin.
The third-generation AirPods also gain more extensive Find My support to help you locate them if they go missing.
Apple Refreshed its Airpods Standard
According to the verge, the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max didn’t even exist the last time Apple refreshed its standard AirPods. So the third-gen earbuds also establish more feature parity across the entire lineup.
There are definitely still reasons to pick those products instead of active noise cancellation, namely but anyone who’s ready to upgrade their original AirPods will find a lot to like with the new ones.
These AirPods basically look like the AirPods Pro with their ear tips chopped off. They share similar contours, especially now that Apple has shortened the stems by 33 percent. There are also grilled black speakers, mics, and vents around each earbud.
These hardware elements have become so prominent that I’m surprised Apple isn’t offering the new AirPods in black to help camouflage them.
But nope: they still only come in white. Since their design is now so similar, Apple carried over the “force sensor” controls from the AirPods Pro, with an indent on each stem that designates where to press. The tap gestures from the old AirPods are gone.
Apple’s non-remappable controls handle media playback, and you can summon Siri with a long press. But you’ve also got hands-free “Hey Siri” voice commands at your disposal for adjusting the volume or changing up the playlist.
No Silicone Ear Tips for a Customizable Fit
Unlike the Pros, there are no silicone ear tips for a customizable fit: as with its previous standard AirPods, Apple sticks with a one-size-fits-most hard plastic design. They’re open-style earbuds that rest in your ears instead of extending deep into the ear canal.
A lot of people love the barely-there comfort of the AirPods. The main side effect of their open design is that they let in a ton of outside noise.
For me, that’s always been a significant turnoff. But again, others value having the added awareness be it for personal safety reasons or otherwise, and view this as an upside.
Familiar Controls, Automatic Pairing
Although the stems of the new AirPods are much smaller, the on-ear controls still work well. They are prone to accidental presses whenever you adjust the in-ear fit, however. One squeeze of the stem produces a clicking sound and controls playback and call management.
Double-click to skip to the next track and triple-click to navigate backward. A long press and hold summons Siri manually, but, of course, you can also just say “Hey Siri.”
These controls are the same for each earbud and work via an indented force sensor that relies on both touch and pressure; while this means you can control the AirPods with gloves on, you may have trouble doing so because of the small size and slipperiness of their material. As is typical for AirPods (except for the AirPods Max headphones), there are no on-ear volume controls.
Adaptive EQ Means Better Balance
According to PC, at its core, Apple’s Adaptive EQ is an example of existing technology digital signal processing (DSP) renamed to sound like a groundbreaking feature. Without DSP, nearly every pair of wireless in-ears (and over-ears) would distort at higher volumes on tracks with deep bass.
That said, DSP is about more than just preventing distortion. Apple and other manufacturers use it to apply an EQ curve to the audio and sculpt headphones’ unique sound signatures.
Bass response, in particular, requires adjustments to both compensate for perceived lower responses at lower volumes and to prevent distortion at higher volumes.