New headphones bring cord free enjoyment

Whether you think Apple’s AirPod headphones make you look goofy or not, the demanding questions are: Are they actually good quality headphones? And, are they worth buying when put up against other wireless models? 

With AirPods being one of the most popular gifts this past holiday season, the number of people to own them keeps increasing. When walking down the hallways after Winter break, it was almost impossible not to catch a pair or two in someone’s ears everywhere I’d walk.

Seamless pairing: 

Apple’s custom Bluetooth chip, the W1, is designed to allow for automatic pairing with Apple devices running iOS 10 or later, WatchOS 3 or later, or MacOS Sierra or later. All you have to do is place the headphones near your compatible device and they’ll automatically be detected and ask for pairing, no diving into your settings is needed. 

You can also transition easily between Apple devices, such as to and from the sound of your computer to that of your iPhone or iPad. For Apple Watch owners, that seamless transition between Watch and iPhone is critical, and it’s one reason that AirPods are something of an appealing accessory for Watch owners. 

Yes, AirPods work with non-Apple Bluetooth audio devices, but you can’t access their special features.

Special features: 

The AirPods work very well as a stereo or mono headset—if you want, you can use only one bud, left or right. According to Apple, they’re equipped with a pair of “beamforming microphones to focus on the sound of your voice.” I’ve made several calls with friends and family, and the people I spoke to were generally impressed with the quality of the call.

Thanks to dual optical sensors in each earpiece, the connected device (iPhone, iPad or MacBook) knows when the AirPods are in your ears and will pause your music when one or both of them are removed. Depending on the music app you’re listening to, they’ll unpause your music when you put them back in your ears.

Not surprisingly, everything works flawlessly with Apple Music, but with Spotify, when I took both AirPods out of my ears, the music had to be restarted manually.


The Apple AirPods are very lightweight and stayed in my ears better than Apple’s default wired headphones that they include with every iPhone you purchase. Although the AirPods look similar to their wired siblings, they have some small design upgrades that are supposed to help create a better fit. 

The basic headphone cords are small, but still add weight to the buds to cause them to slip out if your ears aren’t a perfect match. With nothing dragging them down, the AirPods fit snugly and the risk of them falling out is much less. I also found them very easy to get in and out of my ears and very comfortable to wear, thanks to how light they are.

Double-tap enhancements: 

Unlike the inline remotes with volume and play/pause controls that you’re used to on traditional wired headphones, the only control that the AirPods initially had was the ability to access Siri with a double tap. You can give voice commands to Siri to advance tracks forward and back, but those commands are designed to work with Apple Music and not rival streaming services like Spotify and Tidal. You can also use your Apple Watch as a remote, but not everybody has an Apple Watch.

When Apple released iOS 11, it came with a small but important AirPod enhancement: you could now program the double-tap functionality of each bud separately (go into the Bluetooth setting on your Apple device and click on the “info” button to get into the AirPod settings).

When I double-tap on the right bud, it advances the track no matter what music service I’m using. Double-tapping on the left bud pauses and plays my music. I could have have assigned either to any of these: “Previous track,” “Play/Pause,” “Next track”, “Off” or “Siri” to it. It’s worth noting how quickly the track advances when you double tap. There’s virtually no delay.

It’d be nice to have touch volume controls on the buds, but it’s not as important as being able to advance tracks quickly without pulling out your phone. 

Audio/video sync: 

Bluetooth headphones, in general, are known for having an issue with audio lag when watching a video or playing games. The AirPods aren’t 100 percent immune to this problem, but they’re most definitely among the better Bluetooth headphones when it comes to staying in sync.

I tested the AirPods with YouTube, Netflix and a movie from Amazon. When I was streaming an episode of “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix, there was a slight delay, but if you pause the show for about 15 seconds, everything should sync up. There was no problem with YouTube or the movie I watched. I was using an iPhone X with iOS 11. Your iPhone is supposed to compensate for the Bluetooth audio lag by delaying the video.

The charging case and battery life: 

The AirPods slide flawlessly into a charging case and magnetically click into place. The case also seals shut magnetically. It’s pretty sweet. The case is about the size of a container of dental floss (and looks like one, too). The case and AirPods charge through a basic charging cord you’d use for your phone. The five-hour battery life of the buds may not be exceptional for all day use, but thanks to the charging case, it’s not a drawback. I rarely had the buds in my ears for more than a couple of hours at a time, and when I took them out, I placed them in their charging case, where they charged rapidly. Apple says a 15-minute charge will give you three hours of battery life, and that’s close to what I get.

Noise isolation: 

While the AirPods’ open design has pluses, it does allow for a lot of ambient noise to leak in and compete with what you’re listening to. It can be convenient if you want background music playing, but still need to be able to hear what’s taking place around you. All in all, total sound isolation only comes in a quieter or near silent environment—that is unless you have the volume turned up quite high, so I can’t say these were the best headphones to tune things out with.

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