If you are an airpod user, specifically the newest airpod pro, then you may already know that Apple has had some issues as of late.
A swath of customers nationwide have reported certain problems with the new airpods, including persistent crackling or static sounds, frequency response issues and active noise cancellation either being defective or just not working at all.
Apple has come out and responded to these claims by creating a support page a short time ago that states airpod pros purchased or manufactured before October are valid to be replaced, either by Apple themselves, or select certified dealers.
These replacement offers are valid for two years after purchase, but will only apply to the pros, not any other version of airpods. This is an interesting development given that there have been rumors of airpod pro functionality issues stemming from all the way back in April according to forums on macrumors - which was hilariously dubbed rattlegate.
The issue was apparently fairly widespread, with lots of consumers citing very similar experiences - and some even describing the problem eventually recurring in the unit again after they had bought a replacement.
Now, it seems Apple is responding to this admirably quickly and effectively. However, with a new slate of airpods slated to replace both the standard edition and the pros in 2021, it begs the often repeated question which is - are airpods worth it?
For many audiophiles, the answer has long been no, and for a very simple reason: the audio quality.
Ever since the original version came out and quickly became the most popular earphone on the planet, some have been quick to note that airpods generally tend to deliver a much lower quality sonic performance than other competitors, all while charging a premium rate in terms of price. Often, the sound signature of airpods tends to be very mid range heavy, emphasizing loudness over clarity, with overcompensating bass turning into a kind of low end soup.
In short, this is...not good. But still, airpods quickly became ubiquitous as they still remain so now a few years later. Eventually, Apple sought to fix some of the issues with updates including these pro editions, and at first glance they appeared to close the gap of mediocrity airpods suffered when compared to other units.
The stems became a little shorter to provide for more practicality, there were finally silicone eartips and an adjusted shape for more ergonomics and comfort, there was a bit more customization, and these featured the heavily touted active noise cancellation.
And while many were pleased with this right away, eventually problems started to present themselves as they inevitably do. These are wide ranging. Obviously there was the issue with the active noise cancellation that I mentioned at the beginning here. There’s also those who claim the fit adjustment was for the worse -as many people complained that these kept falling out of their ears - to be fair I didn’t experience this personally, I’m always one to gripe about fit. And then there’s the battery life, which unit after unit never really provides an outstanding amount of time in a single charge.
All of this is to say that the elephant in the room when it comes to airpods is that despite their being consistently priced at a premium..they are not really the best in any measurable category
They do not have the best sound quality - as I described above.
They are not the best for workout - as their shape is not optimal for staying in and they have only minimal water/sweat resistance.
They are not the best active noise cancelling - as evidenced by the persistent problems since April, which are now so bad that Apple is offering free replacement.
They are not the best for traveling - since if you are using ANC in a situation like a flight, it’s only going to last 4 to 5 hours. This is not even the full length of coast to coast flight.
They don’t have the best features or customization, as others easily outclass them in this regard.
So why the enduring popularity? Well it’s probably down to one of the biggest factors - convenience. They work well with the apple ecosystem, it’s very handy if you use their other products and that goes a long way.
Now, if you’re being swayed by this, the fact of the matter is Apple is only going to make it easier and easier to be so. As I said, they are releasing even more airpods in the coming years. There’s also rumors that they’ll be developing an over ear headphone sometime in the future - as well as that upcoming phones may have no ports of any kind - incentivizing you to use all of their proprietary wireless products or be faced with some annoyance.
My recurring theme here has been that if you want to take the time and energy to seek them out, there are other true wireless earbud options that are cheaper or equally priced and perform a lot better.
Some of these I reviewed on the blog - one of these is the Grado GT 220 - these are a little more than the list price of the airpods pro, but they have a much longer battery life and the sound is way more detailed and balanced.
There’s also the Final Audio EVA 2020, which has monster battery life, really unique design, great functionality, and again just a more sophisticated sound signature.
And finally, you have the Sennhesier true wireless, including the momentum line and the new CX 400 BT, which may look a little funky if you’re so used to the airpod ubiquitous design, but these have by far the best customization, decent battery, and sound quality that is really unparalleled in most other true wireless earbuds
Clearly, airpods are very popular, which means that people like using them. I don’t aim to change anyone’s mind on the subject, as I am a firm believer in using what works for you. However, if you are on the market for something new, I urge you not to automatically go with what is most popular. There’s so many true wireless earbuds choices now, that if you take the time and energy to do some research, you can easily find some that perform much better for the purposes you need - often at an equal or even cheaper price.