AirPods. I laughed at them originally. Seeing people with white sticks poking out of their ears, I thought it would never catch on. Oh, how wrong I was.
However, I’m happy to have been wrong, having bought a pair of 1st Gen AirPods in 2019. As a professional creative, I’m often switching earphones from my laptop to my phone then back again, often picking my laptop up and walking somewhere with it, and having high quality, wireless earphones makes that so much easier. Heck, even on days when I’m heading to a shoot on the London Underground, not faffing around with the wires while listening to music or podcasts is so nice. Even my wife pinches them of an evening to do yoga. They’re brilliant, for non-audiophiles.
I’m not a fan of the in-ear style buds that are a part of the AirPods Pro design, so I held off from buying those, and with the really nice pricing on the newly released AirPods 3rd Gen, I decided it was time for an upgrade, so I picked up a pair on their launch back in late-October (and my wife can keep her YogaPods, everybody wins).
Look wise, the case is only a fraction smaller in width than the AirPods Pro case, and practically the same size as the OG case, just with the hinge to open on a different edge. In hand it feels virtually identical. The AirPods themselves are smaller, this time basically being the Pros minus their in-ear buds, making the AirPods 3 a real amalgamation of both the OG AirPods and AirPods Pro.
On trying out the AirPods 3, in comparison to the 1st Gen, the difference in sound quality is immediately apparent. The bass is more prominent than before, with the other frequencies being just a sharp still. The fit in the ear is very comfortable too, which I was hoping for but not expecting with the more inward design akin to the Pros. Another feature that comes from the Pro is Spatial Audio. The simple way to explain this is that it’s essentially a filter of sorts that makes your music sound as though you have speakers surrounding you in all directions, a 3D sound if you will. Personally, things didn’t really sound too different to me, but I may not have been listening to the most diverse songs and melodies to really make use of this feature (so if you have any suggestions, comment below!).
Now, I’m also not one to use active noise cancellation, so the fact that these don’t support that isn’t a big deal to me at all – however I know for some it is. The reason I don’t like ANC is simply that I like to have my wits about me when out and about. Simple as that. Sure, ANC is sometimes great for my tinnitus (fun fact – I thought everyone could hear their own pulse until I was in my mid-20s) but not being able to still be aware of my surroundings when on the London Underground, or walking the streets, is something I don’t feel comfortable with. I’m in the minority, I imagine, but it is what it is.
Moving onto the case, this was another reason I was ready to upgrade. The AirPods 3 case is MagSafe compatible, and I recently bought a MagSafe charger when I bought the iPhone 13 Mini. If anyone knows me, I’m a sucker for magnets, and this is no different. The ease of dropping the case on the charger, and seeing the charge indicator light up, is very neat. As convenient as the lightning connector is (and USB-C is still better), the lack of any fumbling around to get the tip of the cable is both a time saver and just feels cool. Dare I say, efn cool! Besides, with the noticeably improved battery life as well, I’m not having to charge the case too often anyway.
Price wise, these set me back £169. Personally, coming from the first generation of AirPods, I’m very happy with that price. Sure, you might say that they’re slightly overpriced considering their lack of ANC, but as someone whose work life and personal life is very much connected via the Apple ecosystem, the fluidity in functionality makes them worth that price tag to me.
So, to round things out – should you get these? Honestly it depends. Are you an iPhone and/or Mac user? Are you wanting ANC? Do you want the in-ear buds?
If you’ve got the Pro pair already, stick with those, but if you want a high quality set of wireless earbuds, that will work seamlessly with your current Apple devices, I’d say these are definitely worth the money. Especially coming off of the 1st Gen AirPods. However, if you’re a hardcore audiophile, you could probably get more bang for your buck elsewhere.