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Apple AirPods (third-gen) review: That singing feeling

Apple AirPods (third-gen) review: That singing feeling

Aabhas Sharma / Gadgets Now / Updated: Nov 30, 2021, 07:17PM IST
Apple AirPods third-gen review That singing feeling
critic rating

Top Features

Comfortable fit

Excellent battery life

Impressive audio

When it comes to the true wireless market, it does seem like that it is AirPods' world and everyone else is just living in it. Everyone and their uncles are wearing true wireless earbuds that are either AirPods, inspired by AirPods, look like AirPods, or are such blatant ripoffs of AirPods. Exceptions, of course, exist but you catch the drift. In the last five years since their debut, the AirPods have been a real game-changer in the truest sense. Apple hit it out of the park with the AirPods. Not only they have filled Apple’s coffers with aplomb, but the AirPods also started a mad rush in a category that shows no signs of slowing down.

It’s no surprise that the AirPods have been the best-selling true wireless earbuds for a while now and with the third-generation AirPods, Apple would be looking to take another leap in the market. The third-generation AirPods — for the sake of avoiding confusion we will refer to them as AirPods 3 in the review — bring in tow a new look, some new features and a lot more. Do the AirPods 3 have got what it takes to carry the legacy of AirPods? Read on to find out.
Apple AirPods (third-gen) review: Design
The new AirPods borrow the best of the AirPod Pro and retain some aesthetic of the second-gen AirPods. Even then you can’t mistake them for anything else but the AirPods. That’s until the copycat brigade gets active and starts blatantly ripping its design, the AirPods remain extremely recognisable as an Apple product. New colours may have been added to the iPads and even the iMacs but Apple refuses to do that with the AirPods. They still come in only white colour option.

The case is now shorter and wider but remains thin — unlike the AirPods Pro. The earbuds stem has been shortened drastically and looks very much like the AirPods Pro. You don’t get the silicone tips that come with the AirPods Pro. Unless you haven’t used the AirPods Pro, the fit will seem very nice. But if you have used the AirPods Pro then it takes some time to get used to the earbuds in your ear canal without the silicone tips. There’s no one size fits all approach to any true wireless earbuds and the AirPods aren’t any different. You will find a section of users who find the standard AirPods fit much better than those of the AirPods Pro. A lot of people don’t like the silicone ear tips and for them, the new AirPods are a delight.

No silicone tips mean that the AirPods 3 don’t block as much as external noise as we would have liked. But a lot of people like the external noise, so for them the ‘lose’ design works better. The AirPods 3 can stay in your ears for a long time without causing any fatigue. We binged a few episodes of The Morning Show while using the AirPods 3 and didn’t feel any sort of discomfort.

The AirPods 3 look more modern compared to the second-gen AirPods. Frankly, the second-gen AirPods now look a bit dated.

What else is new with the design? There’s the new skin detection sensor which is a rather cool addition. Older AirPods had an optical sensor that would tell whether the earbuds were placed in your ears or not. When you removed the AirPods, the music/audio would automatically pause and as soon as you put them back on, you could listen to it again. The skin detection sensor alters that as even if you have the AirPods in your pocket, the music/audio will not resume. Unless you put them in your ears, the content will not play. It comes in handy as we experienced with older AirPods that even if you kept the earbuds on the table, sometimes the content would play even if you didn’t want it to.

The AirPods 3 come with an IPX4 rating which means a few drops of rain, water and sweat isn’t a bother. However, if they get submerged in water then you can diddly squat about it.

Apple AirPods (third-gen) review: Battery and charging case
One of the standout features of the AirPods 3 is the battery life. It is undoubtedly the best Apple has done on any of its wireless headphones as these last for more than six years easily on a single charge. From AirPods Pro — that last close to four-and-a-half hours — that’s quite a significant upgrade. The AirPods 3 charging case gives another 30 hours, which is also six hours more than any other AirPods variant. So the battery is certainly a big win for AirPods 3 in our book as at times they could last close to 8 hours as well, of course with certain breaks.

AirPods 3 also come with MagSafe support. While other AirPods also could be charged with MagSafe chargers, they lack magnetic support. AirPods 3 work seamlessly with the MagSafe chargers.

Apple AirPods (third-gen) review: Performance
From the very first AirPods, Apple has improved the audio experience on AirPods. The AirPods Pro for a while have been a benchmark for true wireless earbuds audio quality. The AirPods 3 aren’t in the same league but offer a signature audio experience that’s hard to find. Apple has put in a new chip and custom drivers which makes a difference when compared to the AirPods second generation. The bass experience is much better and that could be down to the size of earbuds being increased. If you are into EDM or even hard rock, the AirPods 3 are truly music to ears. What has always made the AirPods stand out is the consistent audio quality they deliver. You could be listening Diljit Dosanjh’s “Lover” or Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” and the audio output is impressive. The mids and highs are clear and crisp, with instrument separation handled deftly. Vocals sound clear and overall it’s a really pleasant experience with any kind of genre of music. Just don’t go comparing them with the AirPods Pro and that could be a problem for Apple as the AirPods Pro can be purchased for just over Rs 20,000 whereas the AirPods 3 cost Rs 18,500.

Calls are handled exceptionally well on the AirPods 3. Apple hasn’t added ANC or active noise cancellation, which is a rather big miss. More so as every brand it will face competition from for the AirPods 3 is bound to have that feature. Did we miss ANC? Yes, after being accustomed to the tech, it’s rather odd not to have them in true wireless earbuds that cost as much as the AirPods 3. The other problem which we had was that if you are listening to music on high volume — which you shouldn’t do too much — then the noise leaks quite a lot.

Apple has added Spatial Audio to the AirPods 3. And if you aren’t familiar with it, then here’s how it works: Spatial Audio basically is like 3D sound which comes from all around you when you are at a fixed point. For example, if you are watching a movie and you are facing the screen then the dialogues will come right from the front. But there could be sound effects that could come from behind, left, right or even above. With Spatial Audio, they sound like exactly where they are coming from the screen. So if you turn your head to the left, then the audio shifts with you. Keep moving your head to the right and the sound shifts to the right. The feature is rather cool and has to be experienced to get how it really works. The feature works with iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. While using the AirPods3, spatial audio works best with the Apple TV. The head tracking with Apple TV is really impressive and it is a very unique experience.

It works really well with Apple Music as well. Apple has added spatial audio to many tracks in its library and a good song — among 1000s on Apple Music — to test the feature is Memories by Maroon 5. The Doors’ Riders on the Storm is another song that sounds fantastic with Spatial Audio. As we said it is a feature that you really have to use to understand how cool it can be. Perhaps there will be some who might not like it but for us, it’s a big plus in the favour of AirPods 3 purchase decision.

Apple is betting on a lot of other cool features that it has baked in the AirPods 3. AirPods 3, of course, work the best for those who are permanent inhabitants of the Apple ecosystem. Like the Find My support comes with AirPods 3 as well. But Apple hasn’t added Conversation Boost as it remains exclusive to AirPods Pro.

Apple AirPods (third-gen) review: Verdict
On most counts, the AirPods 3 are excellent true wireless earbuds. AirPods 3 will appeal to almost every buyer out there but depending on what they really want. Do you want silicone tips in your earbuds? Then perhaps not the one for you. If you want long battery life, then these are the best AirPods you can buy as Apple has upped the game on that front. Spatial Audio is a great feature that you won’t find in too many earbuds out there. No active noise cancellation is a bummer but that’s reserved for the AirPods Pro. This brings us to the AirPods 3’s biggest competition. At Rs 18500, the AirPods 3’s biggest competition is the AirPods Pro. At least for those in the Apple ecosystem. AirPods Pro still remain Apple’s best wireless earbuds. But the AirPods 3 are extremely cool and if you buy them you will like them a lot. After all they are AirPods and you really can’t go wrong with them.


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