The New York Times headline broadside on Apple AirPods

What the hell was the New York Times thinking with this headline:

How to Decide Which Headphones to Buy (Hint: Not Apple’s AirPods)

If you only saw the headline, which is the case for many people, there’s an obvious conclusion: Apple AirPods are not worth considering, not worth even a look.

From the article itself, here’s Wirecutter’s headphone editor (Wirecutter is owned by the NYT) Lauren Dragan:

Ah, the AirPods. The current working term for those kinds of headphones is “true wireless.” Aside from not having a cord to tangle and being decent at taking phone calls, the AirPods didn’t improve much over the corded EarPods. The sound quality is the same (which is to say, meh, with no bass). Plus the battery life is less than a full day at work, so you had better remember to charge them at lunch time. And this for $130 more than a replacement pair of EarPods? I don’t think they’re fully cooked yet.


This whole thing smacks of click-bait journalism. The New York Times ran that headline based on an interview with an owned site, without vetting those details. The opinion of the piece is one thing (I disagree with the battery conclusion, and it misses things like range, ease of pairing, and inserts bass bias, which is subjective) but the headline seems handcrafted to create controversy, pull in eyeballs.

  • JimCracky

    Nobody reads the NYT for tech news. They will end being the number 1 selling wireless headphones. And no, I don’t own them, won’t own them, and my participation will also not matter. I just don’t like earbuds.

    • I agree on all counts. Ease of use is worth something, it’s not all about sound quality and mega-bass.

    • “Nobody reads the NYT for tech news.”

      Sadly, lots of people do. Techies might know to take what they write with a grain of salt but the average person doesn’t.

      • dtj

        Or is it “Lots of people read the NYT and stumble over tech news”.

  • Gardner von Holt

    Dave, might be worth a note to Liz Spayd (the Ombudsman/Public Editor at the NY Times) asking about it. I tweeted her, asking if she was familiar with the controversy.

    • Dave Mark

      Great suggestion. Doing that right now!

      • GS

        I emailed the executive editors about this, I am a subscriber to the Times and no matter what section something appears in, it reflects poorly on the paper. Really poor judgment to run this, in my opinion. Sad, and Fake News comes to mind 😉

  • John Kordyback

    I only get the New York Times for the centerfold.

  • TWF

    So…normal day at the NYT then?

  • the NYT is an anti-Apple rag, has been for years tho i don’t know why they hate apple so much.

    the AirPods sound better than EarPods. and unless you don’t eat lunch or attend a single meeting during the day, you can certainly get 8 hours if you put the pods back in their charging case over lunch.

    but for me i use them for the gym, work calls, and media at bedtime. battery life is never, ever an issue.


  • Was Pogue with the NYT? Since he left, it seems they’ve been trying to “balance” by writing anti-Apple stuff. I suppose there was some when Pogue was in, but you had his enthusiasm/sycophancy (depending on your take) to counter it.

  • rick gregory

    mmmm… The Apple portion of that is just clickbait but they’re likely right in that if you care about sound, the AirPods aren’t all that good. What they omit is that NONE of the wireless/BT buds are really all that good and t they’re all mostly more expensive than the AirPods.

    If you look at the Wirecutter’s headphone section they have a bunch of different ‘best’ posts because of this – best for exercise is different from best for sound and best sound is different if you want Bluetooth headphones (not buds) vs wired. etc.

    • rogifan

      Isn’t it safe to say though that most people aren’t audiophiles? Does headphone quality even matter much when most audio people listen to is typical MP3 quality?

      • rick gregory

        Very possible that it doesn’t matter. Still useful to tell people that they arent getting significantly upgraded sound for 5x the price, they’re getting convenience and utility. That’s fine – each person can decide whether that’s a bargain worth making.

        I think the way The Wirecutter does headphones now is actually quote good – they do roundups based on different criteria with a main post talking about the differences between categories.

  • John Parkinson

    This makes me sad, because I felt I could generally trust The Wirecutter. Seeing their name be put to this is pretty disappointing.

  • RodoBobJon

    The NYTimes is extremely sensitive to accusations that they are the paper of the liberal, out-of-touch, coastal elites, and as such they often go overboard in the other direction to try to appease critics. During the 2016 election cycle, this resulted in absurdly overblown coverage of Hillary Clinton pseudo-scandals, conflicts of interest, etc. Who could forget when they devoted the entire above-the-fold of the front page with hysterical coverage of the Comey letter just days before the election, which turned out to be absolutely nothing?

    As the preferred consumer electronics brand of the liberal, out-of-touch, coastal elites, Apple gets the same treatment. The Times is a great paper, but they often overshoot in trying to prove how fair they are.

    Another aspect to this is the journalistic instinct to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Journalists feel like they need to go extra hard at the dominant players in society. This is almost always to the benefit of the NYTimes’ great reporting, but it can go wrong when you’re doing a simple product recommendation, in which case the dominance of the companies involved ought not be held against the products.

  • They’re asking The Wirecutter, which is supposed to choose the best product of a category, about AirPods, of course you’ll get that response. They’re terrible headphones! They’re thin, reedy little earbuds, just like the wired ones. It might be reasonable to use AirPods or any earbuds when jogging or whatever, but not for actively listening to music, or noise cancelling.

    I keep some substandard Apple earpods (the ones with the rubber dildo tips that don’t stay in) in my pocket when I go out, but at home I have Beats mixr (better for metal, industrial, and gaming, and best build quality of anything I’ve seen) and Sennheiser HD650 (former DJ, so I’ll likely choose Sennheiser for life) for anything else.

    I can’t fully comprehend someone choosing AirPods with BT latency and terrible sound for $130, but apparently some will pay $100 to not have wires on the tinny noises barely making it into their ears.

    • Actually, Lauren, that they interviewed for the NYT piece was the one who reviewed truly wireless headphones on Wirecutter and said they were the best.

      Also the AirPods have quite good sound for their size and I have had 0 bt latency. Of course when you are sitting at home it is easier to use wired large headphones, for me on the go, not so much.

      You should give them a try, you might be surprised.

  • Mo

    I agree with Gruber’s take on this. It smells like editorial meddling more than Wirecutter’s culture.

  • Trump is right. Fake news from a fake news agency.