AirPods fail to make the grade in latest Consumer Reports testing

AirPods (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Consumer Reports said it cannot recommend the AirPods.
  • The report cited sound as one of the biggest negatives.
  • Consumer Reports said consumers should check out Samsung's Galaxy Buds instead.

Apple's AirPods are one of the company's most successful products, becoming an overnight hit following their release in 2016. Despite their popularity, Consumer Reports still won't recommended them.

In new sound quality testing between AirPods and Samsung's Galaxy Buds, the publication compares things like sound quality, form and fit, features, and ease of use. On almost every occasion Consumer Reports says the Galaxy Buds are better, especially when it comes to sound quality.

One weak spot is bass. The AirPods deliver the physical thump you get from percussive low sounds like a kick drum, but the earphones lack depth. Think of the acoustic base on Miles Davis' "So What." The bass is there, but you miss the round, satisfying rumble of the low notes. The midrange has problems as well. Passages with a lot of instruments blur together for a congested feel, making it more difficult to pick out individual sounds.And while the treble is detailed overall, some delicate high sounds, like the vibrating hiss of a cymbal, come out smeared. In fact, our testers say the AirPods' audio is nearly identical to that of the $30 wire earbuds that used to come free with Apple iPhones.

Consumer Reports also notes the design of the AirPods as a negative, saying their looser fit makes audio difficult to hear in louder environments. The report also lamented the AirPods' limited controls, especially when connected to an Android device.

Some praise was reserved for AirPods, such as the easy pairing with other Apple devices and call quality. Ultimately, however, Consumer Reports concluded that the wireless headphones aren't good enough to warrant a recommendation, despite saying sound is perfectly acceptable, pairing is convenient, and call quality is excellent.

Apple likely doesn't need approval from Consumer Reports. Although Apple doesn't reveal how many AirPods are sold each quarter, they're becoming increasingly important to the company's bottom line. During its Q3 2019 earnings report, the company noted that when its services and wearables, home, and accessories divisions are combined, they approach the size of a Fortune 50 company.

Apple this year introduced the second-generation AirPods and is rumored to launch a high-end version of the headphones with noise cancellation next year.

Brandon Russell