AirPod reviews outside the Apple bubble

I’m a fan of M. G. Siegler’s writing, so I was interested in his take on the Apple AirPods:

In my mind, without question, they are the best new product Apple has done in years. Are they perfect? No. But they’re so good at their core purpose: wireless earbuds, that it’s honestly hard to complain about a single thing.

And:

I use them with my iPhone, my iPad, and my MacBook. They’re so seamless to use it’s honestly frustrating to think about using anything else.

And:

Pairing, thanks to the W1 chip, could not be easier. It makes pairing any other non-W1 Bluetooth device seem like a farce. And believe me, I’ve paired a lot of Bluetooth devices over the years. That it took this many years to perfect such a task, only for Apple to come along and do it seemingly overnight, seems like a joke. A really bad joke. Everyone else who has played in the Bluetooth game for a long time should be ashamed.

This is a love letter. And not the first AirPods love letter I’ve encountered.

With that as background, I’ve been talking to non-Apple folks about the AirPods and, almost universally, they tell me they’ve read that the AirPods are mediocre. This is mystifying to me, since the only negative I’ve heard has been from people whose ears are not a great fit.

I started doing my own digging and, sure enough, the internet is filled with one-off reviews that seem ambivalent about AirPods. Some of the reviews were clearly about poor ear fit, some complaining about the lack of an attaching cable (pull an AirPod out of your ear and it will fall to the ground), and the ease with which they can be lost.

I turned to Amazon to read their reviews. Problem there? The only Apple AirPods on Amazon.com are outrageously priced markups sold by a third party. And the negative reviews are all about the price. But without digging further, the appearance is that the AirPods are mediocre.

Finally, I found a crowdsourced set of reviews that felt genuine, on Best Buy’s web site. Unlike Amazon, Best Buy sells AirPods direct from Apple. They are backordered until Feb 24th (as of this writing), but the reviews are almost universally positive.

So if someone asks, I’d send them the Best Buy link and tell them about the issue of ear fit, make sure they buy them from somewhere with a pain-free return policy.



  • The technology is very good, but the sound quality is crappy at best. I like them a lot to use when I walk on a treadmill, when I make phone calls in my home office, and to listen to podcasts. I wouldn’t use them for any music listening other than when walking.

    And I’ve not found pairing BT headphones to be a big problem in the past. The only difference here is that your settings get synced to your devices. It’s no easier to pair the AirPods to my Mac when they’ve been paired to my iPhone than it is to pair any other BT headphones.

    • galtenberg

      The sound quality is great. My expensive Bose gear is rarely touched anymore. And this is rock/metal where my bass demands are outside the norm – very happy with AirPods here.

    • puggsly

      I have to disagree as well with the sound quality statement. These are not going to match high quality over ear cans, but they are some of the best in ear headphones I’ve heard.

    • GFYantiapplezealots

      Bull$hit, the sound quality is great!!!

    • griffd

      They are not “crappy at best”. They are pretty great. Maybe not “great” but “pretty great”. I’m comparing them to several pair of highly rated headphones that cost 3x as much and for their price, they impress . Maybe you don’t have a good fit? Or maybe you don’t even own a pair?

        • griffd

          OK i did and clearly you do own them, sorry for suggesting that you might not. BUT your experience with the sound goes against SOOO many others, including my own, so I am betting it has to do with your fit (everyone’s ears are different). Bass is NOT a problem with these, in fact, I think they are TOO heavy in roughly the 100-400 hertz range, so you might want to mention that in your review that your experience on sound quality doesn’t seem to match the general consensus. Btw they don’t fit me either, they fall out, and i could never use the Ear Pods myself, BUT the bass response is heavy with both in my ears.

    • Everyone said they sound better than the EarPods, but I disagree – they’re just as flat and muffled. For some reason, people get really touchy when you talk about AirPod sound quality. If you think they’re terrible then you’re some sort of audiophile with your pinkie in the air. It’s an opinion people. If you like them – GREAT, I’m glad you’re enjoying them. If you don’t, that’s fine too.

      • I find that they’re better than wired EarPods, but not by much. EarPods sound like AM radio; AirPods like FM.

        • luxetlibertas

          I imagine, the sound depends a lot on the way they fit. I might be lucky, I’m almost able to forget that I’m wearing them and the issue of sound quality does not even occur to me. That’s my definition of good enough. When it’s quiet, it is only me and the music.

        • griffd

          Now you are comparing them to AM and FM radio? Come on, it’s not even close. The high frequencies are reproduced much better in both cases. Again, your fit may be ruining the experience for you, and for that I am sympathetic, but please be careful not to misrepresent them to others. They aren’t fantastic. but they sound a lot better to many people than you give them credit for. Anyway, not looking for a debate, just adding my two cents. Peace.

    • Roderik Oranje

      I don’t understand. After some ‘running in’, which is a normal thing to do with all speakers, the Airpods sound very well. In some respects even better than my Sennheiser in-ear Momentums or B&W C5’s. And I haven’t been listening to classical music alone. Lou Reed, Blood Sweat and Tears, Beatles, Paolo Conte for example sounded excellent, crystal clear with more than enough well defined bass tones. It may be that these Airpods fit very well in my ears and therefore sound better there than in other less well formed ears, but I think most people will be very satisfied with the sound of these things. And I consider myself to be an audiophile……

    • the sound quality is crappy at best

      completely untrue. the quality is fine, slightly better than EarPods which were better than the old freebies in the box. it’s not audiophile gear, but it’s more than suitable for my uses — work calls, the gym, and office listening.

      also, traditional BT pairing is def a PITA — especially switching your headphones from phone to watch. dont ask me why, but its tricky and doesnt work half the time.

  • galtenberg

    I’ve found that switching between devices is not as seamless as hoped and portrayed. Every day there’s at least one occasion where I have to try 3-4 times when switching to a different device – and frequently I have to go to the previous device to force it to let go of the AirPods.

    (Let’s not even talk about Apple TV, which is old-style pairing. Not bothering to try that again.)

    But once they work, oh such sweetness, I never want to take them out.

    • i am disappointed the ATV doesnt have the same love as the other devices, not sure why that is. however, i haven’t had much trouble switching devices. I’ve never had to disconnect from the previous device.

  • Adam Bodnar

    I love mine. I used to never listen to something while I walk my dog, but because the ease of use, I grab them anytime I take him out.

    I’ve found no issues with the sound, but I don’t think I have the discerning ear like others do. Or I’m just not listening to the right type of audio.

    Pairing has been pretty much flawless. I did have one instance where the AirPods bounced back to another device, but when I issued the request again, I had no problems.

    The one thing I wish they did was give an audio cue as to which device it connects to when you put them in your ears. This would be useful as I don’t know if it’s connected to my MacBook Pro or my iPhone.

  • JohnK

    Man, I really wish I could get into these. I’ve been searching for bluetooth headphones to wear while running and haven’t had any success…even the Jaybird X2’s I had provided only a mediocre fit before they broke in 2 weeks. The wired Apple Ear Buds fit my ears nicely and I’m sure the Air Pods would as well, but the lack of touch controls for volume and track skipping is a non-starter for me…the last thing I want to do when mid-run is talk to Siri. I’d love to see the ability to tap the left ear for volume control and right ear for track skipping added to the next version. As confusing as this might be, it’s still better than nothing at all.

    • luxetlibertas

      Try to get hold of an Apple Watch, even the original version is a fine companion-device. Much better than trying Morse code on EarPods.

      • JohnK

        Thanks for the tip. Would an Apple Watch allow me to skip tracks and adjust volume if I’m playing music through Spotify on my iPhone?

        • luxetlibertas

          I just tried, and Spotify has not (yet) made this possible, status as of 2016-08-15 is: ‘Not Right Now’. There are 3rd party apps like ‘Playlist: Spotify for Apple Watch’ (free app). Apple Music and downloaded music (iPhone or Apple Watch stand alone) work work fine (music info + controls). Adjusting sound volume is always available.

          • JohnK

            Now that you mention it, I did look into that when the new Apple Watch was released and Spotify didn’t have a watch app, which was surprising to me. I assume that the Apple Music watch app has the controls?

          • luxetlibertas

            Yes, I use the ‘Modular’ watch face. With a glance I see what’s playing, and the Watch’s Music app and its controls are one tap away. A third party app instead of Apple’s Music app could also provide the same functionality.

  • invinciblegod

    So Bestbuy, the company you always hate, is a website of trusted reviews? This just sounds like you are cherry picking to find review validation.

    • Mo

      Or, it’s the only place Dave could find reviews that weren’t primarily written by someone else’s marketing sockpuppets.

    • TheMacAdvocate

      The people reviewing their purchases have nothing to do with why Best Buy sucks.

  • Michael Babiuk

    As one of the lucky owners of AirPods, I would categorize myself as falling in the middle of the Bell Shaped Curve of highly pleased AirPod users. They fit my ears (left better than right) and their sound quality is surprisingly and notably better than the wired Apple Ear Pods that shipped with my iPhone 7 Plus. The Bluetooth pairing of the AirPods across all my Apple products was achieved as advertized. Finally, I have had no adverse issues, for example with excessive battery drain, noted by a segment of users. Still, I am somewhat annoyed, due perhaps to my inner Apple Fanboy biases, when I read about how the AirPods are faulted for not duplicating features found on other devices. Apple products form an integrated ecosystem. My Apple Watch’s remote app handles the AirPods volume adjustments superbly thereby eliminating the need for an AirPod touch based volume adjustment feature as does my iPhone, for that matter. The AirPods are NOT a stand-alone product. They are designed to work with other devices that have more extensive volume and play selection controls, features that the AirPod user can optionally use.

    • yes using the AW’s Music app to control them is pretty easy — simply turn the crown up or down to adjust volume. i do this at the gym all the time

  • GFYantiapplezealots

    My AirPods are AMAZING! Anyone who says otherwise are either anti-Apple zealots or their ears aren’t shaped for them to be comfortable. I actually find it “magical” to be hearing stuff in my ears when I can almost not tell that there’s something in my ears. The only thing that will make these perfect are when I can say “Hey Siri” instead of having to tap them.

  • This is probably exacerbated by the (relative) AirPods shortage. Hopefully, this smoothes out over time.

    I really want a pair, but I’m not sure I want white earbuds after years of wearing black headphones. I don’t think Apple has any incentive to release black ones, but it’d be really cool to buy a next-gen Jet Black iPhone with matching AirPods.

  • Collin

    When they’re working properly, the AirPods are almost perfect to me. The frequency of them dropping the connection while on calls though is enough I’ve started to wonder if I got a bad pair or there’s something wrong with my phone though. Switching between devices is also a bit hit and miss.

    • I haven’t had dropped calls, but I have noticed that the sound is weird sometimes when I make phone calls. It sounds like the two buds are slightly out of sync.

      • sounds like your pair is defective. I’ve experience NO sync issues on two different pairs. nor have i read of this as a problem.

  • Rudy

    Why are they so hard to come by? In Europe they are nowhere to be seen. Same as the Watch v2. Bizar. Somewhere some people are making consistent mistakes lately.

    • because theyre in high demand? Cook said they’ll selling them as fast as they can make them. we all know they were delayed, what do you want them to do, go back in time?

  • Stefan Schubert-Peters

    Don’t know how you mean it, but I’d argue that MG Siegler always had been part of the Apple bubble, at least as a writer at Tech Crunch. So to me the story and the title are a little bit off 🙂

    (I know, nitpicky)

    • StruckPaper

      I agree. At best, Siegler is near the surface of the Apple bubble, but definitely inside.

    • IMO Siegler was more of an Apple nitpicker critic than fanboy. not surprisingly he works for Google.

  • Costa K

    David Pogue reviewed the AirPods on Yahoo. Sadly, he also posted a video review to accompany his written piece.

    What did Pogue do? In the first minute he dropped an AirPod as he was taking it out of his ear and loses it. Embarrassed, he then laughs a lot before going on and talking about how great AirPods are. To make things worse he filmed the whole thing in portrait mode.

    Needless to say the comments were scathing. Firstly towards Pogue and how shoddy he seemed. And secondly towards the AirPods. His well written review was completely overshadowed by that video.

    Why Pogue thought it was a good idea to include the video or to not bother editing or reshooting beggars belief. Whatever the case, his video did a lot to cement in the minds of many that the AirPods are easy to lose and just another piece of tech that only an Apple fanboy could love.

    So disappointed from a tech writer many admire.

    • lost respect for Pogue years ago. his best work is behind him.

  • ggruber66

    I thought that the sound quality was fine. Not fantastic, but if I’m looking for critical listening, I’m not using in-ear headphones of any sort. Sadly, I am one of the people who didn’t have a good ear fit. They only fell out once, but always felt precariously perched in my ears, so I returned them. I do think that Apple is remiss to not include any sort of tips or ear wings to help with fit across a larger segment of the population.

    I also have a small complaint regarding pairing across devices. It did work pretty easily, but as you switched devices, the air pods didn’t figure out which device was active and you had to manually re-connect them each time. Seems short of the promise of the magical experience.

    • you dont have to reconnect, but you do have to tape the Output icon and select your desired audio output, in this case AirPods. i have many tho, such the Apple TV and BT speakers in the house. if you have both your phone and tablet next to you and put the AirPods in your ears, I’m not sure how they could know which device to make active.