Apple AirPods 3 review, one step away from the Pro

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About three weeks ago, after endless rumors and dozens and dozens of previews, Apple finally made the new ones official Third generation AirPods . A substantial update, which brings many Pro functions on what until now has been the basic model and thus significantly raises the entry bar in the line-up of the bitten apple. All this at a fairly high price but which remains in line with that of previous generations.

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At first glance it seems to have in the hands of the AirPods Pro without rubber pads and with an open-fit design and in practice we don’t go there far away. But then which model makes the most sense to buy and what are the real differences, form factor aside, between the last two Apple TWS? Stay connected because I’ll tell you everything in the next lines.

SUMMARY

DESIGN AND COMFORT

As always, let’s start talking about design and ergonomics, a fundamental topic when we talk about headphones and, more generally, about wearables. Let’s say noticing the similarities between these third generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro is pretty simple and at first glance the impression is that it is exactly the same product but with a different form factor. In short, it is as if Apple had taken the stem and structure of the AirPods Pro and had attached the headset of the second generation Airpods to it. Obviously simplifying the concept a lot, in reality it is certainly not that simple.

The single earphone is lighter than to the Pro model of about one gram . It may seem little, and actually in absolute value it is, but when you wear them for several hours consecutively even the details make the difference and this lower weight is all in favor of greater comfort.

Speaking instead of fit I can tell you that the my opinion is absolutely positive . I’ve never been a lover of in-ear headphones; except for some rare exceptions, after a few minutes I am forced to remove them to rest my ear, which has never happened with these third generation AirPods. Indeed, given their lightness and comfort there have been some situations in which I completely forgot I was wearing them.



A comfort that however does not affect stability. At least as far as I’m concerned, the headphones remain firmly inside the ear canal even when making sudden movements with the head. I tried to run without encountering any problems in this sense.

But don’t take my consideration as a universal judgment . As we all know, the shape of the ear is not the same for everyone and, as for previous generations, there will be users who will have no problems wearing them and others who will not be able to keep them in their ear even for a second. The advice is therefore to try them, if you can, before buying them.



Compared to the previous generation there is also the IPX4 certification which certifies its resistance to sweat and the infiltration of any raindrops. Certification that is also present for the charging case , a detail that differentiates them from the Pro model where waterproofing is limited to headphones.

The case has dimensions and lower weight than both the Pro model and previous Airpods. The design is always very similar: we are talking about a parallelepiped with rounded edges but the measurements are 54 mm wide by 46 mm in height and 21 mm thick, while the weight is 38 grams that become 46 with the earphones inserted inside. There is a small status LED on the front as well as, unfortunately, the Lightning connector for charging at the base.

TOUCH CONTROLS AND VOICE ASSISTANT

Another of the elements that these AirPods inherit from the Pro model are the touch controls that are activated by “squeezing” the stem . The recognition of the touch , or rather of the pressure, is always precise and depending on the number of touches the headphones respond to different commands. In my view it is a fairly comfortable interaction system, especially if it works as well as in the case of these AirPods.

A single touch starts or pauses the playing a song, the double tap allows you to go to the next song while three consecutive taps take you back to the previous song. Finally, holding the bar down for a few seconds activates the Siri assistant which can also be called up with the usual command vowel “Hey Siri” .



The interaction is the classic one that we can have even when it is activated on the iPhone. But does it make sense to have the voice assistant available when wearing headphones? I would say yes, perhaps more than on the smartphone. Being able to reply to a message on Telegram or Whatsapp or start a call without taking the phone out of your pocket are operations that are always useful; especially because it often happens to wear headphones for convenience, just to avoid having to hold the smartphone in hand.

In addition to the touch controls this year Apple has inserted a new sensor to recognize the moment when we wear them or take them off the ears. Compared to previous models it is no longer a proximity sensor but we are talking about a sensor that recognizes contact with the skin . There are not many technical details about it and we don’t know exactly how it works but I can tell you that the operation is perfect and I have never had problems from this point of view.

AUDIO QUALITY

And here we are talking about sound quality which is undoubtedly the most important part of the judgment of a pair of earphones, of any kind or type you talk about. As I said in the introduction, these third generation AirPods have come closer to the Pro model than we probably expected. Here too we find the chip H1 and the Adaptive EQ : a sort of virtual equalizer which, by recording the sound produced by the headphones thanks to a microphone facing the inside of the ear, analyzes the audio picked up and adjusts frequencies automatically to always get the best possible audio experience.

This virtual equalizer is always active and cannot be deactivated: therefore I cannot tell you how much it actually impacts on the I listen but I can assure you that the sound quality has always seemed excellent to me and I have never noticed a clear and distorted prevalence of certain frequencies. Whatever the type of song we listen to and the platform used, I have always had the impression of having a well-balanced and absolutely pleasant audio

.

Active noise cancellation is missing that we have instead on the AirPods Pro. Let’s say that it is a function that is always very appreciated and that it is now also present on cheaper earphones but if Apple had inserted it here it would have been really difficult to justify the 80 euros that separate the list price of AirPods 3 from that of the Pro model. Did I miss it? Yes, although on far fewer occasions than I would have imagined.



Apple then equipped the AirPods with new drivers from 11 mm , slightly smaller than the previous ones but with a greater excursion and therefore able to move a greater volume of air, increasing compression and improving bass rendering . We are not yet at the level of the Pro model or the Sony WF – 660 XM4, which are considered the reference of the sector when we talk about quality, but let’s say that among the proposals with open design -fit AirPods 3 probably mark a new standard .

The difference compared to in-ear models is however due mainly due to the conformation, with the latter guaranteeing greater insulation and therefore an overall better quality. The leap compared to the previous AirPods, however, remains absolutely evident and the yield is in general of a much higher level.

I particularly appreciated the cleanliness of the mid and high frequencies that make the synthesizer of the Eurythmics in “Sweet Dreams” and the guitar arpeggio of “Should Have the best” Known Better “by Sufjan Stevens. More generally we say that everything that is Pop and acoustic finds bread for its teeth while when you face songs where the bass plays a fundamental role you feel the lack of body in the frequencies below i 200 Hz . Big Pimpin ‘by Jay-Z, for example, sounds a bit castrated, with the mids and highs often covering the lows.



Speaking instead of audio in call I can tell you that the input quality is excellent thanks to the ability to optimally reproduce the medium and high frequencies, notoriously the most useful when we are dealing with the voice. As anticipated we do not have the active noise cancellation that we find instead on the Pro. It is not a huge problem given the still excellent playback volume, certainly in very noisy environments it can happen to be distracted by external confusion but you will never fail to be able to hear your interlocutor.

The real strength of these Airpods, however, are the microphones , the call performance is of a very high level, perhaps even better than the Airpods Pro. The merit is certainly of the cleaning work. It is made up of the algorithms, the H1 chip and the new AAC-ELD codec, but also the new texture of the microphones coating, specifically designed to better break the wind and minimize noise. The result is really excellent, probably at the top of the category, the timbre is always faithful and the voice arrives crisp and crystal clear to those who are listening to us in practically every situation.



The connection to the smartphone or to any other device is via Bluetooth 5.0 , it is always stable and in the absence of obstacles it allows us to move away up to 10 – 15 meters from the source.

And I close the chapter related to audio quality by talking about spatial audio or Spatial Audio , as Apple calls it. What is it about? It is not so simple to explain but to simplify I can tell you that the feeling is that of having a more enveloping sound, a little more distant from the listener and directional. Yes, you got it right, if you activate head tracking mode by moving around the room or even just turning your head, the audio seems to pass from ear to ear in the direction of the source. An immersive effect, but that’s definitely not why I’d buy these Airpods instead of one of the dozen alternatives.

AUTONOMY

How long does it last the battery of these third generation AirPods? Apple claims 6 hours of audio playback and 4 hours of talk time; an estimate that can vary based on various factors such as the listening volume and the quality of the Bluetooth connection but which, in general, was quite close to what my experience in real use has been. With a mixed use, conversation and musical reproduction, we are instead around 5 hours and 15 of autonomy.

To this duration must then be added the energy supplied by the case which, when fully charged, guarantees up to 25 hours of further use. Case that recharges with the cable, unfortunately still Lightning, or via MagSafe with a compatible pad. Qi standard chargers can also be used while reverse charging from iPhone does not work.

CONCLUSIONS

We arrive at the moment to draw conclusions and it is obvious to speak first of all of the price. The Apple price list offers the third generation AirPods at 199 euro and if let’s look at the other proposals we still have the previous model a 149 euro and the AirPods Pro a 279 EUR. I have already told you that the leap over the AirPods 2 is significant, which is why I would only buy them at a price below 100 EUR; above this figure it is no longer worth it.

Speaking instead of the Pros and their street price we must underline how it is now very easy to find them constantly around the 200 euro, basically the same price as the new AirPods 3. Which ones to choose then while waiting for the price of the latter to drop? The Pro model offers more noise cancellation but the new AirPods have greater battery life, a waterproof case, better audio on call and a smaller size and weight. In my view, therefore, it all boils down to a matter of convenience linked to the different form-factor . Prefer in-ear headphones or open-fit ones, choose and you will have your answer.

PROS AND CONS

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