Apple Finally Solves the Bad AirPods Call Quality That’s Been Plaguing Users for Years

No more 'underwater'-ish audio when using AirPods on calls!
No more ‘underwater’-ish audio when using AirPods on calls!

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Users can soon expect better quality audio while using their mic.

Apple is fixing the call quality problems with AirPods through a firmware update. This solves long-time issues by maintaining the audio quality even when the microphone is on, greatly improving the Bluetooth call experience for millions of users.

Firmware Update Details and Impact

Roland, a computer engineer, first spotted the update in the latest Mac and AirPods firmware beta and shared his findings on his X account. He said Apple has managed to maintain a 48000kHz sampling rate while the microphone is in use—a feat akin to “black magic.”

The OP said this development means users no longer have to endure the “air traffic control audio quality dips” when both the mic and audio are active.

The update shows Apple’s novel approach to manage the codec switching that occurs when a microphone is activated, which some users think might involve proprietary hardware.

Apple maintains a 48000kHz sampling rate in AirPods while the microphone is in use. (From: X/@hrolnd)
Apple maintains a 48000kHz sampling rate in AirPods while the microphone is in use. (From: X/@hrolnd)

Yet, one user said it’s more about smart engineering.

“Clever design, not black magic. They swapped the stereo inputs for a mono input, reducing the total channels from 3 (2in, 1out) to 2 (1in, 1out),” said wik-æ — e/acc.

“This is a good decision, and for voice calls this makes perfect sense. Mono (and centered) sounds more natural for human voices (this is why film dialogue is mixed this way). It does contradict some of the Spatial Audio decisions they’ve made previously to go this new direction, but it is a better direction imo.”

While the update has been tested on AirPods, Roland said there are still a few kinks in the update.

Some kinks in the update still need to be ironed out. (From: X/@hrolnd)
Some kinks in the update still need to be ironed out. (From: X/@hrolnd)

Nevertheless, this update is expected to be a game changer if extended to iPhones and other Apple devices.

How Bluetooth Limitations Affect Sound Quality

Bluetooth’s inherent limitations, particularly in its A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile) and HFP (Hands-Free Profile) standards, have long dictated the quality of wireless audio devices.

A2DP allows for high-quality audio streaming but does not support microphone use, ideal for listening to music. In contrast, HFP, which supports microphone use for calls, compromises on audio quality to accommodate voice data.

Wireless headphone users have expressed frustration with audio quality degradation during voice calls. This is due to the need to switch Bluetooth profiles since Bluetooth headphones can only use one profile at any given time.

Community Feedback and Technical Insights

The reaction from the AirPods user community over the new update has been very positive. Many shared their experiences and discussed the technical details of the update.

Positive community comments (From: X)
Positive community comments (From: X)

Some users noted that similar technologies have existed on platforms like Linux, a claim that Roland was quick to correct.

“I don’t believe this is a thing anywhere else yet (dual channel full-quality simultaneous input+output that is). Wired and 2.4ghz yea, but not Bluetooth that I know,’’ the OP said.

Others discussed how this update affects them. One commenter asked if the improved quality affected both the audio heard by the user and the caller, while another said that this would likely improve the audio quality for the user.

Community comments. (From: X)
Community comments. (From: X)

X user, Marek, confirmed that the update could allow people to use AirPods when recording vocals on professional software like Ableton or Logic Pro. Others surmised that the update could be related to Apple’s new voice isolation feature in iOS 18, which improves call quality even more.

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