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How does the sound quality of AirPods compare to EarPods?

  • Significantly better.

    Votes: 27 26.2%
  • A bit better.

    Votes: 47 45.6%
  • About the same.

    Votes: 21 20.4%
  • A bit worse.

    Votes: 3 2.9%
  • Significantly worse.

    Votes: 5 4.9%

  • Total voters
    103

MICHAELSD

macrumors 603
Original poster
Jul 13, 2008
5,424
3,426
NJ
The polarized opinions on the AirPods' sound quality is more than a little questionable. They vary from "significantly better" than EarPods to "a little worse." Considering there should be an objective sound difference between a $29 pair of wired earphones and a $159 pair of wireless earphones, let's settle this pool of mixed opinions.
 
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Phil A.

Moderator emeritus
Apr 2, 2006
5,800
3,100
Shropshire, UK
I think it depends on the type of music and the individual (which is why you're seeing so many different opinions)

Personally, I find bass pretty much identical, but the AirPods are cleaner on mid-range and vocals and also I've found I can pick out subtle sounds with AirPods that I miss with EarPods

Overall, I'd say AirPods are better but not by a huge margin and if you hate the sound of EarPods, you'll probably hate the spud of AirPods
 
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MICHAELSD

macrumors 603
Original poster
Jul 13, 2008
5,424
3,426
NJ
I think it depends on the type of music and the individual (which is why you're seeing so many different opinions)

Personally, I find bass pretty much identical, but the AirPods are cleaner on mid-range and vocals and also I've found I can pick out subtle sounds with AirPods that I miss with EarPods

Overall, I'd say AirPods are better but not by a huge margin and if you hate the sound of EarPods, you'll probably hate the spud of AirPods

It's funny because I find the Lightning EarPods to be cleaner on the the mid-range and to have a bit more subtlety in its sound than the 3.5mm EarPods, even though many say they're the same or that the 3.5mm are better. There is a lot of subjectivity here, but I'd like to think Apple would use a higher-quality driver in the $159 AirPods that would've undoubtedly made it superior.
 

Phil A.

Moderator emeritus
Apr 2, 2006
5,800
3,100
Shropshire, UK
It's funny because I find the Lightning EarPods to be cleaner on the the mid-range and to have a bit more subtlety in its sound than the 3.5mm EarPods, even though many say they're the same or that the 3.5mm are better. There is a lot of subjectivity here, but I'd like to think Apple would use a higher-quality driver in the $159 AirPods that would've undoubtedly made it superior.
I don't have any lightning EarPods to do a comparison with.

I personally don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the driver on the AirPods as it has decent frequency response and doesn't distort: a lot of the issues (particularly around bass) are down to the design of the AirPods being "loose fit" - without a seal against the ear, bass is always going to lose impact. I don't really listen to bass heavy music so it's never bothered me, but people who do are probably going to be more disappointed.

Price wise, £159 isn't excessive for a pair of fully wireless earphones - I certainly wouldn't expect audiophile quality at that price point
 
Last edited:

44267547

Cancelled
Jul 12, 2016
37,642
42,492
I think it depends on the type of music and the individual (which is why you're seeing so many different opinions)

Personally, I find bass pretty much identical, but the AirPods are cleaner on mid-range and vocals and also I've found I can pick out subtle sounds with AirPods that I miss with EarPods

Overall, I'd say AirPods are better but not by a huge margin and if you hate the sound of EarPods, you'll probably hate the spud of AirPods

From the reading reviews on the AirPods, I would say your review is fairly accurate. I think most who purchase the AirPods are pleased with the sound, but are nothing can compare to say Bose or any other high-end earbud.
 

MICHAELSD

macrumors 603
Original poster
Jul 13, 2008
5,424
3,426
NJ
I don't have any lightning EarPods to do a comparison with.

I personally don't think there's anything inherently wrong with the driver on the AirPods as it has decent frequency response and doesn't distort: a lot of the issues (particularly around bass) are down to the design of the AirPods being "loose fit" - without a seal against the ear, bass is always going to lose impact. I don't really listen to bass heavy music so it's never bothered me, but people who do are probably going to be more disappointed.

Price wise, £159 isn't excessive for a pair of fully wireless earphones - I certainly wouldn't expect audiophile quality at that price point

Not necessarily audiophile quality, but at the least some noticeable improvements in sound quality.

EarPods fit me quite well so bass, while lacking some definition, still has impact. It is about creating a more secure fit in more types of ears for better bass response, but more defined bass would also be an effect of a better driver.

The EarPods use a paper driver, which isn't just for cost-cutting. Curious if AirPods use a different material. Unlikely but I would've expected it.
 

The Game 161

macrumors Nehalem
Dec 15, 2010
30,466
19,695
UK
i would say bit better but nothing to certainly notice for me. Depends what music you listen to as well though.
 

AppleRobert

macrumors 603
Nov 12, 2012
5,726
1,132
It's funny because I find the Lightning EarPods to be cleaner on the the mid-range and to have a bit more subtlety in its sound than the 3.5mm EarPods, even though many say they're the same or that the 3.5mm are better. There is a lot of subjectivity here, but I'd like to think Apple would use a higher-quality driver in the $159 AirPods that would've undoubtedly made it superior.

The driver is fine, problem is iPhones/iPod touches cannot drive airpods efficiently enough with some music. Try an android smartphone, go to any store and pair with one. You will see what I mean.

We are talking Bluetooth so maybe some limitation there. Does not seem to be any on the android side with that though.
 

MICHAELSD

macrumors 603
Original poster
Jul 13, 2008
5,424
3,426
NJ
The driver is fine, problem is iPhones/iPod touches cannot drive airpods efficiently enough with some music. Try an android smartphone, go to any store and pair with one. You will see what I mean.

We are talking Bluetooth so maybe some limitation there. Does not seem to be any on the android side with that though.

It's more about the type of file you're using. AAC from an iPhone will work perfectly with AirPods, or any Bluetooth headphones that support AAC.
 

AppleRobert

macrumors 603
Nov 12, 2012
5,726
1,132
It's more about the type of file you're using. AAC from an iPhone will work perfectly with AirPods, or any Bluetooth headphones that support AAC.

One of my favorite jazz albums on YouTube is Paul Desmond's East Of The Sun by Rare Jazz Records. A $99 ZTE smartphone I have plays it much more efficiently than my iPhone. I would not know what type of file it is.
 

MICHAELSD

macrumors 603
Original poster
Jul 13, 2008
5,424
3,426
NJ
One of my favorite jazz albums on YouTube is Paul Desmond's East Of The Sun by Rare Jazz Records. A $99 ZTE smartphone I have plays it much more efficiently than my iPhone. I would not know what type of file it is.

That wouldn't be encoded in AAC, so the sound will be poor. You'll want to only listen to AAC files with the AirPods, but YouTube's audio quality is poor to begin with. Try a song from Apple Music or even an iTunes sample.
 

Binarymix

macrumors 65816
Nov 1, 2007
1,121
353
I find the Bass to be a little better, and the highs to be cleaner.

Siri on the other hand, sounds like she's trapped in a tin can.
 
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eroslws

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2011
385
555
I'm not an audiophile and I listen to 90% indie/soft pop. These sound maybe a bit better if not identical to my EarPods, can't really tell.
 
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turbineseaplane

macrumors P6
Mar 19, 2008
15,385
33,282
I really can't seem to hear much difference.

I'm doing all the same things I used to do with EarPods and it seems basically the same to me.

That said..

Wireless = Awesome
(until I need to change volume...happens a lot w/ Podcasts & context switching)
 

AppleRobert

macrumors 603
Nov 12, 2012
5,726
1,132
That wouldn't be encoded in AAC, so the sound will be poor. You'll want to only listen to AAC files with the AirPods, but YouTube's audio quality is poor to begin with. Try a song from Apple Music or even an iTunes sample.

I have much I listen to on YouTube and the audio quality is not poor, really just the opposite.

That is a serious limitation (AAC) and it must be within iPhones and Touches cause the sound with the airpods is great when I listen to that same music with my android smartphones. AND much louder.
 

Sanlitun

macrumors 6502a
Sep 19, 2014
555
565
127.0.0.1
I wound up with two pairs of these when my local Apple store got stock and I didn't want to wait for shipping. As soon as I got the one pair the other arrived the next day. So of course I compared them against each other, my earpods and a few other pairs of open phones I have.

As far as music playback goes I would rate them as noticeably better than the lightning earpods. I shot them out with some other open phones such as the vintage Sony MDR-888LP and would say the Airpods are close to being as good.

If you really want to listen to music then you will probably be doing it a different way then through Airpods and an iPhone. But for open earphones these are pretty good. When you factor in everything else they do then they are certainly outstanding.
 

AppleRobert

macrumors 603
Nov 12, 2012
5,726
1,132
Try EarPods versus airpods for yt music.
You should immediately notice a volume difference. Probably for Apple Music and iTunes as well.
 

Lennyvalentin

macrumors 65816
Apr 25, 2011
1,431
793
A poll like this is completely unscientific (IE: worthless) because of confirmation bias; only a blind study could be anything approaching reliable in nature.
 
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