Tired of your AirPods' terrible call quality? It seems Apple's quietly fixed it

Close up of lady wearing a pair of Apple AirPods
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Ever felt like your AirPods don’t deliver on the call audio front? You’re not alone. After years of purported air traffic control call quality, it seems Apple is finally tackling the problem head-on with a new firmware update. Exciting as it sounds, we don’t know whether this will be available for all AirPods generations, or if it’ll just work with newer models such as the AirPods 3 and AirPods Pro 2

Owners of AirPods have oft highlighted the issues they’ve experienced when it comes to taking calls using their earbuds, with many drawing the comparison to calls sounding ‘underwater’. With new AirPods beta firmware, Apple aims to fix it, with an update that should promote clear audio quality when the microphone is switched on during calls – as first reported by our friends at iMore.

While it’s yet to be widely rolled out, the latest Mac and AirPods firmware beta was spotted by user @hrolnd on X (formerly Twitter), where he shared a short video of his findings. Roland continued to say that Apple had mastered its improved AirPods call quality by maintaining the same 48000kHz sampling rate when the mic is being used in headset mode, saying that it would be a “game changer” when introduced to the iPhone.  

His video takes it even further, showing how Apple has uniquely approached its codec switching when the microphone is turned on. A recent Headphonesty report points out that some users believe this could involve proprietary hardware, but another user on X, @gssp_acc, quoted Roland’s post but suggested it’s more to do with smart engineering (read: reducing stereo inputs to a mono input and thus, the three-channel setup to two).  

Despite a few minor imperfections in the firmware pointed out by Roland, there’s no doubt that this update will be a major improvement to the Bluetooth call experience once it’s rolled out to iPhones. 

Analysis: call quality is the new focus  

the apple airpods 3 next to their wireless charging case

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Back in 2015, Onkyo released its W800BT earbuds which were widely regarded as the first true wireless earbuds. One mic in each bud was seen as revolutionary at the time, but now, most wireless earbuds often contain the standard three beam-forming mics per earpiece, which help handle features such as active noise cancellation and ambient noise features using proprietary antiphase technology. This phase cancellation can quash background noise, amplify your voice and cut out blustery wind interference – all of which help to improve Bluetooth call quality. 

We’ve noticed a stark rise in interest when it comes to call quality in the best wireless earbuds. As a result, we’re adding methodology sections to our reviews and buying guides on TechRadar. This means that we now conduct specific mic tests where we record our own voices to get a gist of how well a set of earbuds can capture and deliver spoken word. 

In recent news, Apple AirPods have officially been deemed as ‘vintage’. This classification generally occurs when an Apple product hasn’t been sold for five or more years. But for the remaining (admittedly ageing) current AirPods lineup, finally fixing that ‘underwater’ call quality would certainly extend the longevity. And with Amazon Prime Day 2024 on the horizon, a discounted price on a good pair of AirPods will still be worth it. 

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Editorial Associate

Rowan is an Editorial Associate and Apprentice Writer for TechRadar. A recent addition to the news team, he is involved in generating stories for topics that spread across TechRadar's categories. His interests in audio tech and knowledge in entertainment culture help bring the latest updates in tech news to our readers.