Are AirPods worth it?

Apple is one of the most desirable tech brands in the world, without a doubt. Whenever they release a new product, even one they’ve never tried before, you can be sure that people will line up to buy it.

This worship is also not taken seriously. There are many products from the wizards of Cupertino that we love. However, that doesn’t mean Apple is untouchable. Especially since their products are ridiculously expensive. As they joined the ranks of headphone makers, the entry price was (and remains) high.

So, are AirPods worth it? Let’s break it down into the basics.

Benefits of the Apple Family

Before we take a look at each of the three AirPods models that you can buy individually, there are some general benefits that you can enjoy regardless of which option you choose.

The key factor in the AirPods value equation depends on your investment in the Apple ecosystem. If you use AirPods with any Apple device that supports it, you’ll get exceptional performance and functionality. Thanks to the advanced audio processing chips in the AirPods, they can pair almost instantly with Apple devices.

Benefits of the Apple Family

You can seamlessly switch between your Mac and iPhone, for example. Audio latency is also very low when using AirPods with Apple hardware. If you want to use your AirPods with anything that isn’t Apple, you’ll lose most of that shine, making the experience a bit more mediocre.

Don’t forget about spatial sound

AirPods Pro and AirPods Max also feature Apple’s new spatial audio technology. Sadly, the base model lacks this feature. To us, this is one of the coolest features of AirPods, but you need the right combination of hardware and software to enjoy it.

This feature uses the hardware in your AirPods and the device you’re using to determine their relative positions to each other. If you are listening to multi-channel audio that is normally played through surround speakers, the system creates virtual speakers.

Spatial Sound Window

Those virtual sound sources are always positioned relative to your head. So if you turn your head around, you’ll hear the surround channels stay where they are. The result is an experience very similar to a multi-speaker theater setup.

Currently, it only works with iPhone 7 and later. It also works with iPad Pro 12.9” 3rd generation and newer tablets. It works with iPad Pro 11” and iPad 6th generation or later. Even the 5th generation iPad Mini is included.

Unfortunately, no current Apple TV models or any Macs support this feature. Probably because they lack the geolocation technology to make it work. Finally, the applications themselves need to support spatial audio functionality. The list of compatible third-party apps is small, but growing.

The low-end AirPods product is now in its second generation, but the difference between the two generations is negligible. They sound and look the same, with most of the improvements being enhanced by chip upgrades.

As for the AirPods themselves, they’ve proven to be one of the most popular products Apple has ever made. People love them and the design is unlike anything else out there.

The first thing you should know is that the playback quality is very low. Because AirPods don’t cushion your ear canal, you can hear everything going on around you. That’s a good feature from a safety perspective.

Of course, wireless headphones like the Galaxy Buds + and other similar products offer transparency mode. This allows you to hear what’s going on around you as you choose.

AirPods also have an average battery life of 5 hours and are not water or sweat resistant. Is the base model of the AirPods worth it? We don’t think so.

Our recommended non-Apple alternative: Samsung Galaxy Buds+ ($149)

AirPods Pro are the buds that Apple should have released, to begin with. They should also be priced closer to the base model, but at least with the AirPods Pro, Apple has fixed most of the issues we had with the AirPods.

Since the AirPods Pro use a more traditional silicone tip design, you’ll get a good pad with the ear canal. This in itself ensures a much better audio experience. AirPods Pro also features active noise cancellation, transparency mode, and liquid resistance.

Apple AirPods Pro

Then here are the wireless buds that offer features on par with the competition. However, that still makes the price higher than other similar devices from other brands. The sound quality from the AirPods Pro will be good enough for non-audiophiles. However, we can say the same for most competing shoots. Products like the Sony WF-1000XM3s offer better sound and better noise cancellation at a much lower price point.

So why buy AirPods Pro? Apple’s low audio latency, spatial audio, and iOS integration will be our biggest appeal. If those factors are not important to you, then the AirPods Pro are not worth owning.

Our recommended non-Apple alternative: Still the Samsung Galaxy Buds+ ($149)

Now we come to the big Kahuna. Apple’s recently released AirPods Max is an over-ear design with quite a few improvements. For example, the ear cups can be removed easily because they are held together by magnets. So installing new ones takes seconds without any frustration.

The all-metal design promises to last for years. The tactile metal control crown is a great idea. Touch controls on the headphones are generally terrible, and having something you can manipulate by feel is a big bonus.

Apple AirPods Max

We haven’t had a chance to listen to the AirPods Max yet, but everyone who has listened has enjoyed the sound. These are not high-end reference headphones, but as wireless headphones, they occupy a very high-end space. The point is that Sony’s WH-1000XM4 offers incredible noise cancellation and comparable sound quality for $200 less.

Our recommended non-Apple alternative: Sony WH-1000XM4 $349

Apple can do better

This is Apple’s first attempt at producing headphones. If you keep that in mind, they’ve done a pretty amazing job. We don’t think anyone would be disappointed with the performance of any of the AirPods models, but we’d be more likely to recommend them if they were a little cheaper.

As it stands, the AirPods aren’t worth the price in the sense that the price doesn’t seem right. However, if money is not important to you and you are immersed in the Apple ecosystem, they enrich the experience.

In 2021, we expect Apple to launch a new generation of AirPods. These are probably the things you should buy, so if you can keep going until the shiny new product ships, you should. After all, history has shown that Apple usually gets their products right on the second try, and we expect AirPods to do the same.

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