AirPods 3 test, Apple improves the magic of its true wireless headphones … at a high price

Since 2016, Apple has three times defined its vision for headsets true wireless. By giving a clear framework to this new type of product, first of all, with its first generation of AirPods. By bringing them a slight update in June 2019, with a second generation able to charge its wireless case and invoke Siri, without having to touch the earbuds. Finally, the third time had been good with the introduction of AirPods Pro, a more compact model, in-ear and above all with an active noise reduction (ANC) function of exceptional quality. A model above all that defined a new hierarchy in the range of headphones true wireless Apple, before the introduction of the fairly expensive UFO that is theAirPods Max at the end of 2020.

A revised design, inspired by the best of AirPods

Two years later, after many rumors, more or less wise, more or less realistic, Apple therefore returns to the bedside of “classic” AirPods. It retains the principle of configuration in seconds, instant connection to your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, ease of use on a daily basis, everything that made the success of the first AirPods, and, of course, open ear cups. They are placed in the pavilion without obstructing the ear canal. This means that there is no sound insulation, even passive.

Moreover, these new true wireless borrow a little from AirPods Pro to renew themselves, and gain in appeal.

So its stems, which hang out of the ears, are shorter – 33%, if Apple is to be believed. If we turn to the technical sheet, we see that it measures only 3.079 cm high, against 4.05 cm previously. To the eye, in hand and in use, this shortening of the rods is rather good news, and does not interfere at all with the use of the headphones, either to take them out of their case or to slip them in. an ear. Better, the tip does not press more (or less) on the jaw, which was not necessarily the most pleasant.

In the pavilion, the new design sits securely in place, even when hopping, fidgeting or running. The slight gain in width (1.826 cm, against 1.65) and depth (1.921 cm, for 1.8 cm on AirPods 2e generation) ensures increased comfort and enhanced stability – at least in our ear.

The weight of each earbud increases slightly, but not significantly enough to cause any inconvenience or discomfort.
Apple has planned that these new AirPods accompany you during your sports sessions – outside the pool, of course. Its headphones (and their case) are sweat and water resistant. To be precise, they meet the IPX4 standard, with the 4 indicating that they are splash proof, but not submerged.

Finally, the AirPods 3 benefit from a new sensor, which happens to know if the headphones are in your ear or in your pocket. In addition to the proximity sensor, this optical sensor detects if it is close to your skin, if so, it will (re) automatically start playing paused when you remove the AirPods. If it detects that it is in a pocket fund, it will stop the music, if it is not done and put the earpiece on standby.

A new case, a new autonomy

To stick to this change in design, the case of the third generation AirPods is also seeing its shape evolve. Wider and wiry, it looks more like what we know with the AirPods Pro. Just like the AirPods, this small case is extremely well finished, gives an impression of solidity, and produces a small dry and pleasant noise when closed. The fun, like the devil, is always in the details.

As with all helmets true wireless, the case is essential. Not only does it allow you to store the headphones, and therefore avoid losing or damaging them, but also to recharge them.

Apple says the case offers five recharges to its headphones and advertises around 30 hours of total battery life. According to the American giant, its AirPods 3 can, in fact, last 6 hours in classic listening. We measured a much greater battery life at 7:09 a.m. – that’s 1 hour 57 minutes longer than the previous generation. It is therefore more than 35 hours of listening that should offer you this small set.

And since we are talking about autonomy, let’s talk a little about charging. The AirPods 3 case can be recharged via its usual Lightning socket, or wirelessly using Qi technology, like the previous generation. On the other hand, a small novelty, it is now possible to recharge the case of AirPods 3 thanks to a MagSafe charger. A small magnetic surface will then position it perfectly for an optimal charge. Too bad the iPhone 12 and 13, which are also compatible with this technology, cannot recharge them …

Small aside: the case of the AirPods Pro now on sale also benefits from this small improvement. Previous cases can also be recharged via MagSafe, but without magnetization, the positioning will have to be adjusted by the user.

A pleasant sound, but a lack …

The new design of this third generation is also accompanied by some internal improvements. The driver, the part that produces the air movement and therefore the sound, is still designed by Apple, of course. The engineers of the Californian giant have also added a microphone, turned towards the inside of the ear, to capture what is heard, and thus adjust the sound produced. This new feature is used in particular as the basis for Adaptive EQ, which adjusts mid and low frequencies in real time. The sound provided adapts to the shape of your ear, to any movements of the headset in the auricle and also to parasitic sounds.

However, without active or passive noise reduction, miracles should not be expected. In public transport, airplanes or a noisy environment, there will be no other solution than to push the sound to the maximum, or find a quieter place, if possible. However, when the background noise is homogeneous and not too strident, we will then be able to listen to a podcast or a audiobook without having to stop or rewind regularly. We will also note more nuance in the bass, especially for the vocals.

Moreover, the frequency response curves, resulting from our tests, show a slightly wider spectrum coverage on this third generation (80.7% against 80% on the second generation of AirPods). The new AirPods attack a bit earlier in the bass (46Hz vs. 111.8Hz, previously) and end up a bit further in the treble (16,174Hz, vs. 16,097Hz).

Nevertheless, we note that the curve oscillates. It collapses in the low mids and plunges into the treble as well. The bass and mids appear much more dominant, and in fact, it can be heard, felt.

To the ear, the treble is indeed lacking in presence. It is especially obvious in the complex pieces, in particular, that it is about jazz or classical. The dynamics are correct, the pleasure of listening to songs is there, of course.

The AirPods 3 provide very honest sound, without being exceptional. They cover 22.6% more frequencies than the average headset true wireless that we have tested for the past 24 months. Which in the end says a lot about the great diversity of quality of the offers on this market.

In a quiet or relatively calm environment, you will be able to enjoy your favorite songs. We can even try the spatial audio that Apple puts forward so much. If the rendering will not be as incredible as with a 9.1.4 installation, we will arrive by listening to this slightly intoxicating sensation of musical vertigo on certain tracks. Especially since AirPods 3 allow dynamic tracking of head movements.

From AirPods to‘call

This technology also applies to music as well as movies, if you watch them with the AirPods aimed at the ears, or your Group FaceTime calls. Because AirPods, like all their counterparts, are obviously not just for listening to music. They are also very practical for making or receiving calls, telephone or otherwise.

On this point, the microphones pick up the voice very well, even in a noisy environment, and especially even in a windy environment. These are the same microphones that will be in charge when you summon Apple’s assistant with a spirited “Hey, Siri”. As with all Apple devices, sometimes the magic phrase will work… and sometimes it won’t. It is therefore necessary to be patient or manually activate the assistant by pressing the pressure zone of one of the earphones. Ultimately, we especially appreciate the Apple assistant when he reads us an incoming message and asks us if we want to respond. This function, which can be deactivated, is very practical when you do not want to take your phone out of your pocket.

Either way, the audio quality of the calls is still great. Apple uses its AAC ELD codec, for HD sound. It is difficult to stick an SD, HD or other label to the sound provided, but it allows you to hear and understand your interlocutor, which is the main thing.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.