AirPods 3 review roundup: Sounds great!

By

AirPods 3
The new AirPods are resistant to both sweat and water, with an IPX4 rating for both the earbuds and the case.
Photo: Apple

The first wave of AirPods 3 reviews just came out, and they’re full of good news for those considering Apple’s latest truly wireless earbuds. Sound quality draws praise, as does battery life. But reviewers don’t seem as happy about the lack of active noise cancellation. And some would have preferred silicone ear tips.

Read on for reviewers’ specific comments about AirPods 3.

AirPods 3 audio quality

Let’s start with audio quality because you won’t care about the design if you don’t like the sound. Fortunately, there’s good news.

Tim Gideon from PCMag said, “Simply, the new AirPods offer a balanced, clear sound with solid anchoring in the lows and definition in the highs.”

Todd Haselton from CNBC talked about the “nice rich deep bass and balanced audio. When it was quiet at home, I often thought that I was still wearing my $249 AirPods Pro.”

But you might not want to toss out your old earbuds quite yet. BuzzFeed News’ Katie Notopoulos wrote, “AirPods 3 do sound better than the AirPods 2, but if you’re not an audiophile, the difference may not be significant.”

Spatial Audio is … OK

A feature that sets the third-generation version apart from its predecessor is spatial audio. This offers a surround sound-like experience with just two earbuds.

Brian Heater from TechCrunch talked up the real-world advantages, saying, “Spatial audio, meanwhile, is a nifty feature. On a FaceTime call with multiple people, their voices are assigned locations based on where their boxes sit on the call.”

But, in general, reviewers don’t sound wowed. PCMag said, “At worst, the feature is harmless and easily turned off, and at best, the effect is kind of cool. But we have yet to find a better use for Spatial Audio than slowly spinning around in a chair so that it sounds like the music is moving around our heads.”

AirPods 3 vs. AirPods Pro

AirPods 3 don’t come with the removable silicone tips of AirPods Pro. Brian Heater from TechCruch isn’t a fan, saying, “The more contoured third-generation buds are unquestionably more comfortable than their predecessors, but the gulf between them and the Pros feels like night and day.”

CNBC’s reviewer said, “I think the AirPods Pro are more comfortable since I happen to like rubber ear tips, but I wore these [AirPods 3] for many hours on end without any issues.“

Just about all reviewers missed active noise cancellation in AirPods 3 after long use of AirPods Pro. But they also pointed out that at $179, AirPods 3 cost $70 less — which makes the Pro model nearly 40% more expensive.

On the other hand, the third-gen AirPods beat the AirPods Pro on battery life. “The battery life is really good,” wrote CNBC. “Apple promises six hours of music before you have to return the AirPods to the case for another charge, and that’s close to what I was getting.”  That’s better than any previous AirPods, no matter the price.

AirPods 3 vs. AirPods 2

A noticeable difference between the latest version and AirPods 2 is shorter stems. Katie Notopoulos from BuzzFeed News likes the updated design. “They’re less apt to get pulled out when you put on or take off your face mask,” she wrote.

AirPods 2 remain in Apple’s product lineup at $129. But the case they come in does not offer convenient wireless charging. The charging case for AirPods 3, in contrast, offers Apple’s an improved form of wireless charging — now with magnets. The Verge reviewer wrote, “Apple says the new AirPods case is designed to work with the company’s MagSafe chargers. And sure enough, it grabs onto the circular MagSafe charging pad with the same perfect alignment as an iPhone 12 or 13.”