Reviewing the AirPods 3 is simple: because you can compare them with anything you want. Still, if you use products from the Apple ecosystem, no other pair of truly wireless earphones will give you the same excellent user experience that Apple headphones bring. Like any other pair of AirPods, they are great earbuds, which become pretty much the only choice if you use more than one Apple product. With these new third-generation AirPods, Apple has brought practically all the Pro model features to its “base” headphones, except, of course, rubber pads and noise cancellation.
And therefore, whether to buy these AirPods 3 or AirPods Pro depends solely on your tastes, if you prefer earphones with rubber pads that block the ear canal or if you want headphones with an open design, which let the ear breathe. The important thing is that you remember that if you use products from the Apple ecosystem, nothing will give you more satisfaction than a pair of AirPods.
Sales package without surprises: inside, in addition to the AirPods 3, we find the USB-C / Lightning cable for charging and some manuals.
Construction And Comfort
Looking at a pair of third-generation AirPods, you can’t help but think they’re AirPods Pro with no rubber grommet. The design has radically changed compared to the previous generation: the old AirPods had longer stems and a more linear shape. In contrast, the new generation has a shorter stem , and the head of the earphones is slightly thicker and inclined. I find them more comfortable and stable in the ears.
Still, comfort is a highly personal matter, and reading online, I found a few users who have returned to the previous generation precisely for the design. The good news is that being AirPods, it won’t be challenging to try a couple before deciding if the new form factor is suitable for you or not. This new version also changes the case, which is very similar to the AirPods Pro and opens “horizontally”; it is slightly larger than that of the previous generation and somewhat smaller than that of the Pros.
Speaking of the case, MagSafe support is much appreciated. Unlike regular wireless charging (however supported), with MagSafe, the headphones are magnetically attached to the magazine without wasting time looking for the position of the coil. Splash resistance finally arrives on AirPods 3: we are talking about IPX4 certification on cases and earphones.
Compared to the previous generation, the audio sector also improves: the AirPods 3 have deeper bass and, in general, a more dense and full-bodied sound than in the past. The credit for this renewed audio quality likely goes to the Adaptive EQ. The new adaptive equalization system is included in the earphones. We had already seen it on AirPods Pro: it is a technology that automatically adapts the equalizer according to the shape of the ear. “Unfortunately,” it is not possible to disable this feature, so – despite the curiosity – we cannot say how much this system weighs on the sound quality.
The most significant limitations in terms of listening lie in the disproportionate amount of external noise they let through: having no rubber pads of any kind, they do not isolate the ear. The result is that you hear everything that happens around us. Mind you, this also happens with any other open design earphone model, but when comparing the AirPods Pro (which have great ANC) to these AirPods 3, the difference is abysmal.
AirPods don’t have a dedicated app, and all available features are built into iOS (and, consequently, not available on Android). One of the most important innovations for this new generation is the support for spatial audio with head tracking. Spatial audio simulates a surrounding environment: by activating it, one gets the impression that the sound does not come only from the two earphones but surrounds the listener.
Also, this is combined with head tracking, which brings a highly immersive effect when we watch movies or TV series that support surround sound. I must admit that I appreciated the spatial audio with films or TV series, while I found myself turning it off by listening to music because the effect did not always convince me. It changes a lot from song to song: while on some pieces, it helps immerse the listener in the music, in other cases, it ends up distracting.
In addition, with this third-generation comes support for the Where is an ecosystem: thanks to the app of the same name, it is possible to find lost AirPods, making them ring or finding the location on the map (which is updated every time a person with an iPhone passes by. lost headphones). You can also set an alert for when you are moving away from the earphones (to avoid forgetting them at the coffee shop or leaving the house without them) and select the lost mode to be notified when the earphones’ position is updated.
Bluetooth is version 5.0, and, as usual, open the case near an iPhone to see the popup that allows you to associate the AirPods. The connection is lightning fast and stable, and, of course, there are no lag issues when watching a video. The AirPods automatically pair with all Apple devices we have logged in to with iCloud, and, as always, one of the strengths of the AirPods is the automatic switch.
Apple headphones automatically change the device to which they are connected depending on where the audio is played: for example, if we are using the AirPods to listen to music on the iPhone but start a movie on the iPad, the AirPods automatically switch to the iPad. I will never tire of saying how valuable and delicious this feature is, which alone is a good reason why users inside the Apple ecosystem should not look to other earphones besides the AirPods.
The new AirPods 3 inherit the Force Touch controls already seen on AirPods Pro: to play music, change songs, and so on, you squash the temples. The controls are indifferent on the right and left earphones and are as follows:
- Click : Play / Pause
- Double click: Next track
- Triple-click: Previous track
- Long click: Siri
There is no lack of continuous support for the voice command Hey Siri, which allows us to interact with the voice assistant of the apple exclusively via voice. As always, the music pauses automatically when you remove a headset from your ear. However, there is a slight change from the past: these new third-generation AirPods have a skin detection sensor that does not restart playback until the headphones contact the skin.
Unlike the previous optical sensors, this means that if you put the AirPods in your jeans pocket (without case), despite the earphones being in contact with a surface, they do not resume playback (because the character in question is not the skin of the ‘ear). It’s a tiny gem, one that only Apple could have thought of. It’s a bit of a shame that Apple hasn’t introduced a long click-based volume control system.
Squeezing the AirPods Pro for a long time activates or deactivates the ANC. On these AirPods 3, there is no noise cancellation. It would have been nice to raise and lower the volume by squeezing the temples for a long time (also considering that Siri can be recalled with voice command).
The autonomy of the new third-generation AirPods is 6 hours with a recharge: a decent result, which does not shine compared to the competition but which is undoubtedly more than enough for all use cases. On the other hand, how many times have you used the earphones for more than six hours straight? The case provides around four full recharges, bringing the total autonomy to around 30 hours. Do not miss the fast charge, which guarantees an hour of listening after 5 minutes of charging.
Perfect microphones, which always guarantee clear calls even under challenging conditions. On the new third-generation AirPods, Apple has introduced a new windscreen, limiting air’s impact when you are against the wind. AirPods tend to cut background noises a lot to enhance the voice: in very noisy contexts (for example, in traffic), this can lead to slightly metallic audio, but always audible to the interlocutor. If you want to get an idea of how the microphones sound (and how they behave compared to the AirPods Pro), I refer you to the appropriate section of the video review.
The price of the AirPods is, as consistently, very high: the market has now accustomed us to earphones for two hundred euros and more, but this does not make these AirPods less expensive. On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend this amount on high-end earbuds and don’t like earbuds with rubber pads, you won’t find anything better than the new AirPods.
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