Apple’s AirPods have played a huge role in the personal audio segment, both technologically and culturally. While true wireless earphones existed before the launch of the first generation AirPods in late 2016, Apple’s product made the form factor undeniably popular around the world. The success of Airpods has prompted many brands to dive into the new product segment and even draw ideas from its iconic design. Today, while there are plenty of true wireless options from multiple brands, the AirPods stand out for their recognizable design and style.
Apple recently launched AirPods (3rd generation), priced at Rs. 18,500 in India. Although this headset is the successor to the AirPods (2nd generation), it has a completely reworked design that is similar to the Rs. 24,900 AirPods Pro. However, it lacks some of the features that set the company’s flagship headset apart. Are Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) the best true wireless headset you can buy under Rs. 20,000, and how well does it work? Find out in this review.
MagSafe Charging Case for Apple AirPods (3rd Generation)
With the third generation, Apple has adopted a new design for the AirPods, taking inspiration from the AirPods Pro. The earpiece stems are smaller, and there’s now a force-touch button on each earpiece for the same controls as the Pro headset. However, unlike the Pro, which has silicone ear tips to protect and isolate noise, the AirPods (3rd Gen) have the same outer-ear fit as the original AirPods.
The earpieces of the AirPods (3rd Gen) are also larger than those of the non-Pro AirPods, and have wider grilles. As a result, the Fit is more secure than the AirPods (2nd generation), but not as secure and noise-isolating as the AirPods Pro.
I heard a lot of ambient sounds while wearing the new AirPods, and that’s by design to make them suitable for outdoor use. As has become the norm for Apple’s true wireless earphones, the AirPods (3rd generation) are only available in white. The earpiece and charging case are rated for IPX4 water resistance, and will be able to handle a light splash of water and sweat.
One major change is the addition of force-touch controls on the Apple AirPods (3rd generation). Unlike the less precise touch controls on the first and second generation AirPods, force-touch requires a very deliberate gesture, similar to pressing a button, and the feedback from the headset also makes you feel as if these are mechanical buttons. , even if they aren’t.
The controls allow you to play and pause music, skip to the next or previous track, and answer calls, as well as invoke Siri without using your smartphone. Although you can’t control the volume directly from the headset, you can use Siri voice commands to adjust it.
To accommodate the size of the new earpiece, the charging case of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) is shorter and wider than the 2nd gen variant. The Lightning port for charging is at the bottom, the pairing button is at the back, and the indicator light is on the front. The case supports Qi wireless charging with MagSafe compatibility for supported accessories.
Apple continues to use the Bluetooth 5 and AAC Bluetooth codecs as default options when paired with an Apple source device, although there is also SBC codec support. AirPods (3rd generation) use Apple’s in-house H1 chip, which allows for fast pairing and makes connectivity work well with other Apple devices. There’s also a skin-detection sensor, which lets the headset control automatic playback and stop functions to let you know when it’s in your ears. There’s no active noise cancellation on the AirPods (3rd generation), and only a USB Type-C to Lightning charging cable is included in the sale package.
The battery life of the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) is better than that of the second generation or Pro models; I was able to get a little over 5 hours of use on the earpiece with both music and calls. The charging case holds enough power to charge the earpiece four times, giving me a total battery life of around 25-26 hours per charge cycle. This is great considering the feature set of AirPods (3rd generation).
Spatial Audio and Full Siri on AirPods (3rd Generation)
Apple introduced spatial audio with the Apple TV, and rolled it out to Apple Music in mid-2021. The AirPods (3rd generation), like the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, support spatial audio along with head-tracking for supported services.
The Siri voice assistant is also supported on AirPods (3rd generation), with the option to enable the hands-free ‘Hey Siri’ wake phrase. It works just like it does on an iPhone or HomePod, though the headset needs to be paired with an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to be connected to the Internet. Siri can read incoming notifications, adjust volume and control playback, receive specific content, call contacts, and more, all without touching the source device directly from the headset, and it Everything works as expected for me.
Other key features include Apple’s Quick Pairing and Setup, which detects AirPods (3rd generation) and associates it with your Apple ID, so you can automatically pair and switch between your other Apple devices. It also allows for enhanced functionality with the Find My app on iOS. Find My functionality includes local tracking and notifications when the headset is left behind – just as you get with the Apple AirTag.
Of course, you can pair AirPods (3rd generation) with other devices such as Android phones using standard Bluetooth. However, the advanced features you get when using the headset with Apple devices will not be available.
Good sound on Apple AirPods, but poor noise isolation (3rd generation)
This generational change for AirPods goes far beyond mere design; The AirPods (3rd generation) have some of the key features of the AirPods Pro that set it apart from the 2nd Gen models. These include Adaptive EQ, the company’s custom high-excursion drivers and high dynamic range amplifiers, and spatial audio support. All of these give the new AirPods a sound that’s close to that of the more expensive AirPods Pro, albeit without the active noise cancellation.
The lack of ANC is both an advantage and a drawback over the AirPods (3rd generation); The actual audio signal is ‘unadulterated’, so to speak, but at the same time, you are hearing music as well as ambient sound which can hinder the listening experience. That said, the earphones are loud and clear which provide a decent listening experience even in some noisy environments.
Apple’s Adaptive EQ feature – also seen on the more expensive AirPods Pro and AirPods Max – is present on AirPods (3rd generation), aided by microphones inside the earpiece that allow automatic equalizer adjustments according to the size of the user . , In fact, I found the sound to be more similar to the AirPods Pro than to the second-generation AirPods; The Sonic Signature seemed able to adjust itself to different styles and tracks on the fly.
Starting with Snitch by Netsky and Aloe Blake, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) made for a sound that was instantly catchy and well-calibrated for the track, giving every part of the frequency range its due attention. The beginning of the track was detailed, with Aloe Black’s vocals sharp and clear. This punchy, synthesized electronic track sounded impressive, with the AirPods (3rd generation) swaying almost effortlessly.
While more aggressive and fast tracks like Holdin’ On (Skrillex and Nero Remix) by Monsta sounded cohesive and attacking, the AirPods (3rd generation) manage to keep up with the constant change in tempo in the track, switching between gentler vocals. Done and aggressive bass. With a slower and more refined Truth by Kamasi Washington, the earphones managed to bring out the details in jazz instruments, while slowly and calculatingly adjusting to subtle changes in tempo and vocals.
Performance was also great with the audiobook’s speech-only audio, though I needed to turn the volume down to nearly max to even out ambient sounds. Overall, the Apple AirPods (3rd generation) offer an immersive listening experience, and have been able to tailor themselves to play in style and track. Sound is just as good as that of the AirPods Pro, but obviously a little different due to the lack of active noise cancellation and the ability to hear a fair amount of what’s going on in the background.
Although spatial audio with support for Dolby Atmos and head tracking isn’t even new to the AirPods range, it’s become a lot more relevant since it arrived in Apple Music in mid-2021. AirPods (3rd generation) support all of these features of Apple TV and Apple Music when used with a compatible source device.
Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio performance is as good as the AirPods Pro, with the earphones able to emulate a surround sound experience despite the obvious limitations of two-channel audio. Head tracking is impressive too; Turning your head while listening to certain tracks resulted in the music “staying in place”; Vocals in Dolby Atmos-enabled tracks usually sounded like they were originating from the direction of the source device, even though my head was facing a different direction.
Apple has its own way of reducing wind and other ambient sounds on calls, using an acoustic mesh that surrounds the microphone. While it’s hard to tell how much of a difference this is making in the overall experience, I had good experiences with calls on AirPods (3rd generation) both indoors and outdoors. Still, the lack of active noise cancellation and noise isolation significantly affected my ability to focus on calls if I wasn’t in a quiet place.
There is also support for a new AAC-ELD codec, which is said to improve voice performance on FaceTime calls. However, I didn’t notice much difference beforehand.
18,500 in India, the Apple AirPods (3rd Gen) are an expensive pair of true wireless earphones considering there is no active noise cancellation. However, in all other respects, it is a good pair of earphones. It works great with Apple devices and accessories, sounds great, and offers an all-round usage experience that’s in line with iOS, Siri, and Apple Music. Although not as good as AirPods Pro naturally, it is the next best option especially if you have a budget of less than Rs. 20,000.
Many competing options around this price and even less offer better passive noise isolation (unless you prefer the outer-ear fit) and active noise cancellation, but the AirPods (3rd generation) are well placed within the Apple ecosystem. is designed to work. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you’ll want to consider AirPods (3rd generation) over alternatives from competing brands, purely because of how well they work together. That said, with huge discounts on the AirPods Pro at the time of sale, you might be able to buy it for a slightly higher price than the AirPods (3rd generation).