AirPods Sound Quality On Phone Calls

PD081

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 9, 2009
43
1
Hi all,

I received my AirPods yesterday. I tested them out on my iPhone 6s (on AT&T), the sound quality is great while listening to music. However, when using them on phone calls, there seems to be some noticeable static in the background. Certainly nothing that makes them unusable, but the faint static/hiss is definitely there. Again, this only happen on phone calls. On music, they sound crystal clear.

Has anyone else noticed this? I'm just wondering if this is just the nature of calls over Bluetooth, or if there is an issue with my AirPods.

Thanks!
 
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iMacDragon

macrumors 68000
Oct 18, 2008
1,696
278
UK
When on a call they drop to a lower quality bluetooth standard and codec, as the high quality playback protocols don't support return path for microphone.
 

Relentless Power

macrumors Nehalem
Jul 12, 2016
30,379
30,647
Hi all,

I received my AirPods yesterday. I tested them out on my iPhone 6s (on AT&T), the sound quality is great while listening to music. However, when using them on phone calls, there seems to be some noticeable static in the background. Certainly nothing that makes them unusable, but the faint static/hiss is definitely there. Again, this only happen on phone calls. On music, they sound crystal clear.

Has anyone else noticed this? I'm just wondering if this is just the nature of calls over Bluetooth, or if there is an issue with my AirPods.

Thanks!
Since the 3.5.1 update, I have had crystal clear calls. I made multiple calls today and they were flawless without distortion.
 

PD081

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 9, 2009
43
1
When on a call they drop to a lower quality bluetooth standard and codec, as the high quality playback protocols don't support return path for microphone.
That makes sense. Do you get the static/hiss sound as well?
[doublepost=1486136669][/doublepost]
Since the 3.5.1 update, I have had crystal clear calls. I made multiple calls today and they were flawless without distortion.
Hmm. I checked and I am on 3.5.1 as well.
 

rugmankc

Contributor
Sep 24, 2014
2,131
629
Just talked for an hour with my son wearing his AirPods. Perfectly clear. He and his wife are very happy with theirs. They are 20 year Apple customers. But, very picky. Will have mine next week.
 

blaine07

macrumors 68020
Nov 14, 2014
2,029
1,671
Oklahoma
Just talked for an hour with my son wearing his AirPods. Perfectly clear. He and his wife are very happy with theirs. They are 20 year Apple customers. But, very picky. Will have mine next week.
Just enjoy them for what they are. As with anything they'll improve with time.
 
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PD081

macrumors member
Original poster
Jun 9, 2009
43
1
Well I guess that I'll just give it some time and see if other users experience the same thing. I'm really not sure if this is just how they are, or if there's a problem with mine.

For phone calls, the standard wired Apple EarPods definitely don't have this background static/hiss.
 

57n

macrumors newbie
Feb 14, 2017
10
4
I've just stumbled across this page, it's the first finding I have of this issue! I have the exact same thing, but I can't find anywhere else where people have come across this issue...

The hiss / fuzz / buzzing / static is so faint, I can only hear it when I am in a quiet room, however that is when I mostly use the phone.

My experience is that I hear the hiss during phone calls on FaceTime, Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger. This happens on my iPhone 6 and MacBook Pro. I've tried to narrow down where the issue is and so I'll include all my tests here.

Music and other apps are not affected, just VoIP calls and regular phone calls. Although after some further testing I find that on my MacBook Pro, it's not just VoIP calls, but all audio that has a bit of hiss.

I can also confirm that when using my EarPods or other headphones, there is absolutely no hiss / static noise, so it's definitely not coming from the person I'm speaking to!

Oh and another thing, I noticed that the hiss / static only comes when the person is speaking. When they are not speaking, there is complete silence. Then when their microphone picks up audio and sends it to me, my AirPods start the hiss as they are speaking...

It's really odd, and for me it's a deal breaker if this is not resolved. I got these so that I can speak to my partner in the evenings but the hiss is so annoying that I actually end up using my wired EarPods...
 
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iMacDragon

macrumors 68000
Oct 18, 2008
1,696
278
UK
Anytime microphone on airpods is active the bluetooth protocol has to switch to HFP ( hands free profile ) which doesn't support AAC codec, only mono SBC at best. On mac it's even worse because it only supports older version of HFP.

Mac has sometimes been buggy for me and not switched protocols back to A2DP/AAC when microphone is finished with, you can check what protocol is being used in option key-bluetooth menu.

In short, it's impossible to make bluetooth headphones that sound as good when on a call as when listening to music.
 

57n

macrumors newbie
Feb 14, 2017
10
4
Update regarding my last post: I've just spoken to Apple Support in the UK and have been told to go ahead and return my AirPods to get new ones... However the lady wasn't technical,
Anytime microphone on airpods is active the bluetooth protocol has to switch to HFP ( hands free profile ) which doesn't support AAC codec, only mono SBC at best. On mac it's even worse because it only supports older version of HFP.

Mac has sometimes been buggy for me and not switched protocols back to A2DP/AAC when microphone is finished with, you can check what protocol is being used in option key-bluetooth menu.

In short, it's impossible to make bluetooth headphones that sound as good when on a call as when listening to music.
Yeah that's what I was assuming was going on, but what confuses me is why there is such a bad hissing / static white noise sound... I wouldn't mind mono audio that's lower quality, but the hissing is really off offputting!
 

iMacDragon

macrumors 68000
Oct 18, 2008
1,696
278
UK
I presume because when silence is being received the airpods know not to actually play anything.
 

57n

macrumors newbie
Feb 14, 2017
10
4
I got replacement AirPods from the Apple Store but it's still happening. The genius guy said that there is no way it should be hissing like that, but even the new ones do it, so I'm lost :/ Maybe I'm just a fussy person.
 
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bollocksgreatamaerica

macrumors newbie
Dec 7, 2016
1
0
Seattle
I got replacement AirPods from the Apple Store but it's still happening. The genius guy said that there is no way it should be hissing like that, but even the new ones do it, so I'm lost :/ Maybe I'm just a fussy person.
[doublepost=1490293827][/doublepost]I have the same issue, had the AirPods replaced, use with iPhone 7+ on ATT. Very frustrating. Did you get any resolution?
 

57n

macrumors newbie
Feb 14, 2017
10
4
[doublepost=1490293827][/doublepost]I have the same issue, had the AirPods replaced, use with iPhone 7+ on ATT. Very frustrating. Did you get any resolution?
Never solved the issue... it seems that it's just the way Bluetooth works for audio calls :( it's just odd that no review ever mentioned this fact! I never got anyone technical enough at Apple support, so no one even had a clue what I was referring to when I asked if they switch between different Bluetooth profiles.
 

Ralfi

macrumors 68030
Dec 22, 2016
2,887
1,886
Australia
I wonder if a firmware update can fix this?

& if it can, would that mean battery drain would increase since it's using the higher quality codec?

btw, I don't get the static so much, but just a lower quality call than when using the corded Earpods.

I wonder if the heavier static some are getting is due to their carrier settings at all?
 

iMacDragon

macrumors 68000
Oct 18, 2008
1,696
278
UK
No, it can't get any better. "Version 1.6 adds optional support for wide band speech with the mSBC codec, a 16 kHz monaural configuration of the SBC codec mandated by the A2DP profile" vs AAC stereo in higher bit rate 44kHz when listening to audio. bluetooth spec just doesn't allow better quality when communication is bidirectional.
 

57n

macrumors newbie
Feb 14, 2017
10
4
No, it can't get any better. "Version 1.6 adds optional support for wide band speech with the mSBC codec, a 16 kHz monaural configuration of the SBC codec mandated by the A2DP profile" vs AAC stereo in higher bit rate 44kHz when listening to audio. bluetooth spec just doesn't allow better quality when communication is bidirectional.
I was hoping they would come up with some proprietary or open spec that they build on top of Bluetooth, they could market it using their W1 chip blah blah, but make the bi-directional quality better! Fingers crossed!
 

redman042

macrumors 68030
Jun 13, 2008
2,895
1,324
I'm having a different issue. When making a call, sometimes the sound is highly distorted. It sounds like someone speaking in severe slow-motion. If I cancel the call and try again, it's fine. This happens about 20% of the time for a call attempted after I take a pod out of its case.

I just in-paired and re-paired my AirPods. Will see if that helps.

Anyone else have this problem?
 
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redman042

macrumors 68030
Jun 13, 2008
2,895
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They sound much better if you are on facetime audio call.
I can't be calling my clients with FaceTime (assuming they even have an iPhone). It rings differently and most people never use FaceTime. It would just throw them off. They would probably think I was trying to video call them, which would just weird them out.

My AT&T service has HD audio. Normally my call quality over AirPods is very good. Just gets glitchy sometimes as described above.
 

MrMaxwell

macrumors newbie
Jul 17, 2016
24
23
DownUnder
My AT&T service has HD audio. Normally my call quality over AirPods is very good. Just gets glitchy sometimes as described above.
Are the AirPods compatible with HD voice? It seems voice quality is being left behind in the pursuit for lossless music! Eventually most users are going to be upset switching from great quality music audio to mono 8khz SBC voice quality when making calls.