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Apple AirPods (2019) review: Still the perfect audio companion for iPhones

By Kenny Yeo - 23 Jun 2019

Sound quality, wireless charging case & conclusion

Fair enough, so how does it sound?

Like any other earbud and IEM, the sound quality that you are going to get from the AirPods is going to be highly dependent on the quality of the seal that you can achieve with your ears. If you fail to get a good seal, the AirPods will sound soft, hollow, and lacking in bass. That said, the AirPods are earbuds and so won’t seal as well as IEMs (in-ear-monitors/earphones). Consequently, they also let in quite a bit of environmental noise, which can be a good and bad thing. Good because you are more aware of your surroundings; bad because it distracts you from your music. If noise isolation is important to you, you need to look elsewhere.

At any rate, if you can get a decent enough seal with the AirPods like I can, then you might be surprised to find that they actually sound quite good. Clarity and detail retrieval are good and the bass is surprisingly strong for earbuds this small. Mids are placed just right in the mix so vocals and most instruments have the right amount of body and presence. The highs, however, are significantly rolled off so the AirPods lack that bit of air and sparkle that would have made them great.

 

Tell me more about the new wireless charging case.

New case on the left, old one on the right. You can differentiate the two by the LED status indicator, which is now on the outside of the case.

The new wireless charging case supports the Qi standard - the same as the iPhone - so the charging pad that you use for your iPhones will work with this new case. It works best with flat charging pads since the charging coils on those fancy standing ones often won’t line up nicely with the wireless charging case because the case is too short.

There’s a small LED indicator on the front of the case that lights up when it is properly positioned on the wireless charging pad - orange means it’s charging and green means it’s fully charged. One odd thing about the indicator is that it goes off after a couple of seconds so it can be a bit unsettling to some users. Plus, it also means there’s no quick way of telling if the case is fully charged - you have to remove it and place it back on the pad.

It’s really slow to charge too. It charges at just 5W and when using a 7.5W charging pad, it took about 3 hours for me to get a full charge. If time is of the essence, using a Lightning cable is the wiser option. Fortunately, the AirPods don’t need a lot of juice and 15 minutes in the case is enough to give the AirPods three hours of listening time.

 

Do the new AirPods cost more?

They cost a dollar more. The new AirPods are S$239. The old ones were S$238. You can get the new AirPods with the new wireless charging case for S$299. On their own, the wireless charging case is S$119.

 

How does that compare to the competition?

The AirPods are actually not the priciest true wireless earbuds you can buy.

The AirPods are - surprise, surprise - actually one of the more affordable true wireless earbuds. Admittedly, Apple products are typically amongst the priciest in their respective categories but the AirPods are, I don’t want to say affordable, but at least they aren’t outright pricey. Don’t believe me? Check out how it compares against some rivals in the table below.

Price comparison
Apple AirPods S$239
B&O Play E8 S$429
Bose Soundsport Free S$319
JBL Free S$249
Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 S$249
RHA TrueConnect S$288
Samsung Galaxy Buds S$238
Sony WF-SP700N S$299
Yevo Labs Yevo1 S$368

 

Here’s the big one, should I upgrade if I already have the first-generation AirPods?

I don’t think so. Sound quality is more or less the same and while hands-free Siri is nice to have, you really have to ask yourself: is double-tapping really that troublesome? You should get the new AirPods only if your old ones are failing on you (the built-in batteries have a limited lifespan, after all), or you've not yet bought one.

 

What about the wireless charging case?

If the convenience of wireless charging is important to you, then the answer is yes. It’s nice to be able to charge the case just by putting it on a wireless charging pad, but it isn’t a huge deal if you ask me. Besides, and as I said earlier, it takes a long time to charge wirelessly. Plus, at S$119, it’s quite pricey, no?

 

Final thoughts?

The new AirPods are much like the old ones. It's still the best true wireless earbuds for the iPhone user.

If the iPhone is part of your daily arsenal and you want a pair of true wireless earbuds to go along, the new AirPods are easy to recommend. There’s a lot to like about them. Apart from being easy to set up and use, they are also compact, sound pretty great, have decent battery life, and have a distinctive design.

But the biggest reason why I recommend them over other true wireless earbuds is how well they stay connected to the iPhone. The biggest issue, for me, with many true wireless earbuds is the frequency of dropouts and jitter. In my opinion, nothing ruins my music more than a sudden drop or cut-out and I’m delighted to say that this issue hardly plagues the AirPods even in a crowded and noisy (in terms of wireless signals) environment. It is, in my view, the AirPods biggest advantage over its rivals.

However, if you've never really liked the AirPods design, here are some other options to consider:-

Read Next: True wireless earbuds shootout: Plantronics BackBeat Fit 3100 vs. RHA TrueConnect vs. Sony WF-SP700N

Discover Next: The best true wireless earbuds according to HWM + HWZ Editors

8.5
  • Design 8
  • Performance 8.5
  • Features 8.5
  • Value 8.5
The Good
Respectable sound quality
Small and compact
Works well with iOS devices
Wireless charging adds convenience
Decent battery life
The Bad
Poor noise isolation
Only connects to a single device
Not everyone will find them a good fit
Easy to misplace