Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Gear Closet: Apple AirPods Wireless Earbud Review

Awhile back I took a look at an inexpensive pair of truly wireless earbuds from a company called Syllable. I found them to offer average sound quality and poor battery life, along with a frustrating charging system, but thought that they were still worth a look considering the $50 price point. The biggest thing I took away from testing those earphones was that I became a convert for the truly wireless movement, which is a style of earbuds that completely lack any wires whatsoever. So, after using the Syllable models for awhile I recently decided to invest in Apple's AirPods, a decidedly more expensive option that delivers much better performance in pretty much every category.

As with the other fully wireless earbuds that I've tested, the AirPods bring a true sense of freedom when listening to music, podcasts, or any other type of audio. I joined the wireless revolution sometime ago, and found it to be a great option when running in particular. But while my previous favorite earbuds eliminated the able running to my phone, they still had one running from ear-to-ear. That wasn't much of a bother however, until I learned that I didn't need it either. Now, I can't imagine ever going back to earbuds that use any cables at all.

When designing the AirPods, Apple pretty much got everything right. The tech giant developed a new chip designed specifically for use in headphones, and it does everything from manage battery life to make pairing with other devices a snap. In fact, if you simply open the AirPod's charging case near an iPhone, the mobile device will automatically prompt you to pair the two gadgets via Bluetooth. If you have other Apple devices, such as an iPad, Apple Watch, or Mac, the AirPods will automatically pair with those devices as well using your iCloud account. And when iOS 11 drops in a few weeks, it'll even pair with the AppleTV too. If you're not an Apple fan, never fear. You can use the AirPods too, you'll just have to pair them using the usual Bluetooth methods, which is pretty quick and painless too.


The sound quality on the AirPods is surprisingly great, offering more bass than I would have expected, not to mention a rich, deeper sound than anything I've heard out of an earbud before. Don't get me wrong, these audio devices aren't going to compete with a set of full, over the ear headphones that offer a larger range of audio reproduction, but for as small and lightweight as the AirPods are, their performance is pretty remarkable. In fact, when listening to music and podcasts with them, I pick up small details that I don't usually get when playback is over a speaker for instance. As I've stated in previous reviews, I'm no audiophile, but I am incredibly happy with the sound quality found here.

I'm also highly impressed with the AirPod's battery life. The earbuds themselves are capable of up to 5 hours of playback on a single charge, which is more than twice that of Syllable's model. Additionally, the Apple ships the AirPods with a cleverly designed case, that is used to recharge them. The case offers an additional 24 hours of charge while on the go, which makes the earbuds a great choice while traveling. And unlike the Syllable charging case, the AirPods slip perfectly into place every time, ensuring they are always charging and ready to go when you need them next.

This being a product from Apple, the AirPods have a number of other nice touches as well. For instance, if you pull one of them out of your ear while listening, it will automatically pause playback until you return it into position. Also, double tapping the AirPod will activate Siri, allowing you to ask the personal assistant the usual array of questions, while also having her pause playback, raise the volume, skip tracks, and so on. This is extremely handy while running when you don't want to stop to take your phone out of its case. The AirPods also have built-in microphones that allow you to take calls too, allowing them to act as a standard Bluetooth device in that regard.

As you can probably tell, I'm highly impressed with what Apple has delivered here. The AirPods have made my life easier when working out in particular, although I now find myself listening to them at other times as well, simply because they are so comfortable and convenient. I've come to appreciate how great they sound, and little things like having Siri read back my text messages or voicemails mid-run so I don't have to stop to look at my phone. It is all very seamless and easy, which is the way all tech products should work.

In the past, one of my biggest challenges with using any earbud was getting them to stay in my ears. No matter how many silicon tips of various sizes shipped with these products, I'd inevitably have issues, usually with my right ear. As a result, it was not uncommon to have them pop out while running, which would get annoying after awhile. That has not been the case at all with the AirPods, which despite my trepidations have never once come loose. At first I was worried I'd lose one of these expensive earbuds, but after weeks of running with them almost every day, those fears are long gone.

As mentioned, the AirPods are considerably pricier than the Syllable models that I had previously used. While those low-end devices cost about $50, Apple's offering sells for $159. That's actually fairly competitive with other high end wireless earbuds however, and there are plenty of others from other manufacturers that cost even more than that. Considering how well built and designed the AirPods are, not to mention all of the functionality that they deliver, I feel that they are well worth the cost, especially for someone who likes to listen to music and podcasts regularly. If you're anything like me, you'll be looking for excuses to use them even more.

The only downside of the Apple AirPods is actually being able to get your hands on them. The earbuds were first introduced by Apple way back in November of 2016, and for months they've been back ordered for up to six weeks. Recently, the shipping time has dropped to 2-3 weeks instead, which is a bit more bearable. Eventually, supply will catch up with demand, but for those looking to order now, patience will be a bit of a requirement. I promise they are worth the wait.

Find out more about the AirPods at Apple.com.

2 comments:

Rickyponting said...

Hi, I enjoyed your article but to be honest Airpods aren't a good choice for those who are looking the best quality at an affordable cost. Well, budget is the most important thing to consider while buying any product and I bet no one would like to spend a large amount on Airpods while they can buy the best quality earbuds at an affordable cost. I remember when I was looking one for my needs, I found a list of best wireless earbuds. I'm glad that I found the best one from this list.

Kraig Becker said...

I agree that AirPods run on the more expensive side, but they are worth the price as far as I'm concerned. I've used "budget" wireless earbuds and often you get what you pay for, particularly in the "true" wireless department. Having tested several models in this particular style, I can honestly say I have yet to come across anything that comes close to what Apple offers in terms of convenience, comfort, sounds quality, and battery life.