Airpods 3 Early Review

Airpods 3
Do you have perfect ears?

The Sound

No hi-fi here, but I’m connected to Spotify downloaded songs at the max quality on my iPhone 13 Pro, and the AirPods 3 sound great! They don’t have noise cancellation or provide as much natural isolation as the rubber tips on the Pros, but typically with earbuds, I want to be aware of my surroundings, so I don’t miss those features. Apple claims to have automagic calibration to customize the sound for each person, so who knows if everyone will have the same experience but I can say they have a much fuller sound than the previous generations and have a reasonably flat sound signature. My reference headphones are Audio Technica ATH-R70x’s. Obviously, AirPods will not compete with those open-back studio reference over-ear headphones, but they are the most neutral headphones around, and the Airpods 3 have a similar sound signature.


The microphone does sound quite good, although the overall quality is still limited by Bluetooth. Here is a sample recording using the Voice Memo app on the iPhone 13 Pro.

The Fit

While they look thicc, they fit very much like the previous generations of AirPods. If you are lucky enough to have those perfect ears, they fit great. My first impressions were that they would slip out of my ears, however after using them for a bit and giving them the old headbang test, they stuck in just fine. I’m not too fond of the rubber tips that you find on the Pros and most other earbuds, so I’m limited for earbud options, and these are my new daily drivers. I’ve been using them for a few hours at a time with no discomfort, but your mileage may vary.


The Airpods 3 get a similar stem to the Pros, which allows you to squeeze them in different ways for different actions. The previous generations provided settings to configure the shortcuts inside the Bluetooth settings on iOS, but no settings are to be found for these (at least not yet). We get a single squeeze for pause play, double for skip track, triple for previous track, and hold for Siri activation. I prefer this tenfold over the tap of prior generations.


Of course, they magically pair with your Apple devices. Open them up near the device, and you will be prompted to connect. If you want to connect them to other devices, you will have to first make sure they are not connected to an Apple product or not go into pairing mode. You then open the lid with both pods in the case and hold the button down on the back. I will note I could connect them to my Windows desktop, but playback was not working. This could just be an issue with compatibility for my PC, but it is worth noting. I was able to connect them to my Nintendo Switch. You can read more about that here . They also connected right up with my Android phone.

Airpods 3 for Android

They paired flawlessly with my phone running Android 9 (keep in mind that is a few versions of Android behind at this point). The in-ear detection seemed to be failing for me, and my music did not stop playing until I put both pods in the case and closed the lid for a few seconds, at which point they disconnected. The pause and play gestures worked as expected, but it would not trigger Google assistant with a long press (this may work with a newer version of Android). I have the Dolby Atmos Equalizer app installed by default on my phone, and they did respond to adjustments there, so I would assume other EQ apps would work too!


The biggest miss for me is in the lightning port. Apparently, USB-C is only for the Pros, not us plebs… Everything else in my life is USB-C except for my phone and now these pods. Most of the time, it is not an issue since I keep a wireless charger on my desk, but keeping an extra cable around while traveling is slightly irritating. I purchased a USB-C cable with a lightning adapter attached, but honestly, I would spend more money on a “Pro” case for my Airpods 3 if it had USB-C. I will need to test them a bit longer to report on battery life.


Latency is not usually an issue for media consumption, but if you want to play some games, you may want to know how much latency you are dealing with. Nothing is worse than swinging a sword and hearing it swing 2 seconds later. I played a couple games of Pokemon Unite on the iPhone 13 Pro, Razer Phone 1, and Nintendo Switch. There was almost no distinguishable latency on the iPhone! The latency on the Switch was tolerable, but surprisingly the worst performer was the Razer Phone despite the Switch having Bluetooth 4.1 and the Razer Phone having Bluetooth 4.2. I would say all were tolerable for all but the most action-packed games.


Should you buy the Airpods 3? If you are in the “ecosystem,” you like the fit of previous generations, and maybe you are still using the first generation, then yes, these might be good for you. If you are still content with prior generations’ sound and battery life, or if the previous generations didn’t fit your ears nicely, then you might just hold off on the AirPods 3.