New AirPods Beta firmware improves sound quality during a call — "black f****ing magic"

AirPods Pro 2 with the lid open
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

Apple’s new beta software has been making the rounds, and users are finding hidden bits and bobs that Apple didn’t mention during WWDC. One such feature just cropped up in macOS Sequoia and the latest AirPods firmware beta, and it brings improvements to the audio quality of your AirPods.

Previously, audio quality would drop the moment that the mic gets involved with the show. That means that voices during calls might not have sounded the best, and music would sound even worse. Now, somehow, Apple has managed to allow for sampling rates of up to 48000 KHz even while the microphone is in use — which will mean better quality audio while on a call, during those boring team-wide meetings where you need to have your camera on, or so that your mom sounds better when you have a quick catch up.

Blood magic and sacrifices?

How does it all actually work, why was it an issue in the first place, and, perhaps most pertinently, why is it so impressive that Apple has managed it? It’s all down to the Bluetooth connection that keeps your AirPods connected to your iPhone or Mac. See, Bluetooth only has a certain amount of bandwidth, and when you’re using it to listen to music, you’re using every single bit available. Now, when the microphone gets involved, you have to share that bandwidth with some different audio — so quality in both gets nerfed so that they can both use the same connection.

That’s why any wireless headphones sound worse the moment you go on a call or try to record something. It’s a limitation with the connection itself, rather than the audio hardware inside — so the fact that Apple seems to have solved the issue with little more than a software update is extremely impressive. How has Apple done it? X user @hrolnd reckons it’s “black f****ing magic”. We’d be inclined to agree, Roland — but it's probably, in part, the same clever tech that Apple has used to connect AirPods Pro 2 to Apple Vision Pro and pump hi-res audio into your ears, also something generally considered impossible over Bluetooth.

Will we see the feature come to the best iPhones? With some luck, maybe, although don’t hold out much hope. If it does, it will likely come later to iPhone models down the line — although we might see it with the iPhone 16 later this year. Either way, Zoom calls on Mac with AirPods Pro 2 just got a whole lot better.

AirPods Pro 2 | $249$229 at B&H Photo

AirPods Pro 2 | $249 $229 at B&H Photo

Almost everywhere, the AirPods Pro 2 have gone back up to full price — but there's still a $20 saving on them if you head over to B&H Photo.

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Tammy Rogers
Senior Staff Writer

As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.