Consumer Reports says AirPods ‘just don’t sound great’

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AirPods wall display is on show in New York.
AirPods aren't good enough to get Consumer Reports' official recommendation.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

Apple’s AirPods are some of the top-selling earphones of all time. But according to Consumer Reports, they have a problem: “They just don’t sound great.”

In a series of tests, the consumer testing group pits the second-gen AirPods against Samsung’s Galaxy Buds. And, spoiler alert, their conclusions don’t come down in Cupertino’s favor.

Consumer Reports says that the AirPod “do a decent job of reproducing music and movie dialog.” However, they have some “obvious shortcomings when you listen with a critical ear.” One problem, the publication says, is with the bass, which lacks depth. There are issues with the “congested feel” of the midrange sounds, too. Oh, and those high ranges? Some of them come out “smeared.”

The report even goes so far as to say that the “AirPods’ audio is nearly identical to that of the $30 wired earbuds that used to come free with Apple iPhones.”

Not enough to get a recommendation

There’s also criticism of Apple’s choice to have the AirPods sit in the ear without creating a seal. This can make it difficult to hear audio. While the other features of the earphones, such as their ease of pairing are complimented, it’s a somewhat damning indictment of a device that’s intended to be used for providing audio.

The Galaxy Buds, on the other hand, are called slightly bassy, but overall “sound fantastic.” As a result, Consumer Reports thinks anyone looking for performance should opt for the Galaxy Buds.

It concludes that:

“The AirPods didn’t score well enough in our tests to earn a Consumer Reports recommendation, but many people will find the sound perfectly acceptable. And the AirPods have a convenient case, work really well for phone calls, and make life easy for Apple users. But the controls are disappointing when you’re using Android devices, and less functional than Galaxy Buds’ controls in general.”

Apple’s sound problem?

This isn’t the first time Consumer Reports has criticized the sound quality of Apple’s devices. Last year, the watchdog slammed the HomePod’s supposed superior sound quality. It wrote that:

“The HomePod will serve many music fans well, but CR testers did hear some flaws. The HomePod’s bass was a bit boomy and overemphasized. And the midrange tones were somewhat hazy, meaning that some of the nuance in vocals, guitars, and horns was lost: These elements of the music couldn’t be heard as distinctly as in more highly rated speakers. Treble sounds, like cymbals, were underemphasized.”

What do you make of Consumer Reports‘ conclusions? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: Consumer Reports